Kite strings, or kite lines in hobbyist groups, comes in various different thicknesses, lengths, weights, and construction. Think of your kite line as the central nervous system of the human body, which transmit messages from your brain to the rest of your body. Your kite line helps you to control how your kite moves.
If your line is too light or isn’t able to carry enough weight, it may break, causing either damage to your kite, yourself, or others. If you have a line that is too heavy in relation to your kite, your kite may respond more sluggishly, or reduce your control of it, or your kite could completely not take off at all.
Different types of kite lines are manufactured differently – some will stretch and then stay stretched, while others will stretch with pressure, but then return back to their original form. Some types of lines are slippery and will slide against themselves if twisted, and some may tend to form knots instead. There are also twisted lines, and braided lines.
The length of your kite line can also affect how responsive your kite is. Similar to the line’s weight – a longer line reduces the responsiveness of your kite, while a shorter line makes for lively movement.
In this article, we will look at the 5 of the best types of kite lines, and why you should take into consideration the above factors when purchasing kite line.
5 of the Best Types of Kite Strings/Lines
The topic of kite lines can be very subjective – everyone has a preference for a certain type of line material, or when flying a kite with a lot of pull (which is affected by the angle of attack of the kite), a heavier line may be chosen. Others choose based on the diameter of the line, which makes it easier to grip. Below are 5 of the most common types of material used for kite lines, ranked by how easy it is for beginners to use.
1. Polyester aka Dacron
In the world of kites, you may hear the name Dacron used frequently, and so you should. The name Dacron is a registered name for polyester under a company. It is so popular now that people tend to call polyester lines Dacron instead.
Polyester is popular even outside of kite flying – fabrics woven from polyester thread is commonly found in apparel such as shirts, jackets, pants; polyester can also be used to make plastic bags, bottles, tarpaulin, or even to finish guitars and pianos.
Pros of Polyester aka Dacron lines
Why is polyester or Dacron so popular? One of its biggest strengths is that it is stronger than other cheaper types of lines like cotton or nylon of the same strength. It is also relatively inexpensive to purchase, and is the most widely used type of line for single-line kites.
With its high melting point, Dacron is also able to better resist friction and abrasion. This means that if your polyester/Dacron kite line does get tangled with someone else’s, yours is less likely to break.
While Dacron stretches easily, it also tends to return to its original length with little or no lasting stretch. This makes it easy and cheap for beginners to maintain over time.
Finally, Dacron or polyester does not tend to slide against itself, and as such, does not require special sleeving for knots. Each knot that you make on your kite line presents a place for friction, which reduces the overall strength of your kite line. Sleeving minimizes the chance of your kite line breaking at the knot, and also makes for easier removal of the knot.
Dacron also tends to be thicker than most other lines, which can provide a better grip for those who are new to this hobby.
Cons of Polyester aka Dacron Lines
Polyester lines, as they are thicker, can be heavy. This in turn reduces the responsiveness of the line. This can be an advantage to someone who is learning to fly a kite, but can also create a disadvantage by making the kite seem sluggish when it is not.
Dacron/Polyester lines are considered light to medium weight and are not recommended for power kites (i.e. kites that can lift a person) as they cannot lift large amounts. This material is also not recommended for dual- or quad-line stunt kites, and should only be used for single-line kites.
As mentioned, the stretch of polyester or Dacron lines is a double-edged sword. As these types of lines have high elasticity, they can break much sooner than other types of line. When lines are stretched, they can also affect the performance and responsiveness of your kite as your kite will take longer to respond with a longer line.
Dacron is larger in diameter than other types of line – again a double-edged sword – and can reduce the responsiveness of a kite. Larger diameters mean that it is generally easier for beginners to hold on to, but advanced kite fliers may feel that the kite is less responsive.
2. Spectra Blend
“Spectra” is a registered trade-name for a very high molecular density form of polyethylene. Polyethylene is the most widely-used plastic on Earth – it is found most commonly as plastic bags.
Spectra Blend, or Blended Spectra as you may find, is usually a Spectra core line with polyester weave, hence the word “blend” in its name. This provides more strength than Dacron/polyester lines, and while slightly more expensive than Dacron/polyester, is still relatively inexpensive.
Spectra Blend lines are a great way for those who want to get more out of kite flying without spending a lot of money buying specialized equipment for this hobby. Spectra Blend lines are generally used on dual line kites and larger single line kites.
Pros of Spectra Blend Lines
Spectra Blend lines are slightly more expensive than Dacron/polyester lines due to the addition of Spectra, but are still inexpensive compared to a full-Spectra line. As this is strong than Dacron, Spectra Blend lines are a close competitor of Dacron lines.
Spectra Blend lines are less stretchy than Dacron, but also have minimal memory, which means that it’s less likely that Spectra Blend lines will return to their original length after a number of kite-flying sessions.
While slicker than Dacron, but less slippery than full Spectra lines, Spectra Blend lines do not need to be sleeved for knots, which makes this type of line popular with kite fliers who are wanting a bit more out of their kite. This also means that Spectra Blend lines hold knots fairly well.
This type of line is also smaller in diameter than Dacron, but larger than full Spectra lines, which means that it is more responsive than Dacron lines, but also allows for easy grip on the line.
Cons of Spectra Blend Lines
As this line is a blend, it is not as strong as a full Spectra line, which we will discuss later in this article.
Spectra Blend lines are still considered heavy as compared to Spectra lines. In the kite-flying community, this means that Spectra Blend lines are not recommended for zero- , light-wind or indoor kites as it would weigh the kite down (and defeat the purpose of those kites).
Compared to a full Spectra line, Spectra Blends are not as responsive due to its larger diameter and weight.
Finally, Spectra Blend lines are not recommended for power kites (like the picture below), large stunt kites, or quad-line kites.
As you can see, most of these disadvantages stem from Spectra Blend lines being compared to full Spectra lines, which is next on our list.
Spectra lines are one of the most popular types of lines for experts and those who participate in competitive kite flying. Spectra line has a hollow core, which makes it lightweight and produces little to no stretch.
It can be used with any sort of kite, although its cost may be high for a beginner. You will find Spectra lines on larger kites in general, alongside power kites, stunt kites, dual- and quad-line kites, and most definitely on indoor or zero- or light-wind kites. This is a kite line that is built for maximum performance in the world of kite-flying.
Do note that Spectra lines will require sleeving! You should buy a sleeving kit when buying Spectra lines; we have sourced videos on how to sleeve kite lines later in this article.
Pros of Spectra Lines
For its diameter (much smaller than most other types of lines), Spectra is much stronger than other types of lines. For example, Spectra is approximately a third (1/3) of the diameter of nylon line with the same breaking strain. This is why Spectra is usually used in altitude record attempts in kite-flying. This small diameter of Spectra lines also creates little drag.
The light weight of Spectra also makes it an excellent choice for zero-, light-wind, or indoor kites.
Spectra has little stretch to it, which is important when used in flying stunt kites, especially those with multiple lines. This also means that Spectra line is high in responsiveness.
The slipperiness of Spectra is a double-edged sword: this attribute makes for excellent stunt kite flying with little inhibition to the control of the kite when lines are crossed, meaning that it can be twisted around itself multiple times without losing control of the kite or line. However, due to its slipperiness, Spectra lines do not hold knots well, and should be sleeved for strength and to prevent breakages.
Finally, as mentioned above, Spectra lines have a hollow core, which means that you can repair breaks in your line without having to tie knots. This is done by weaving or splicing the 2 broken sections together – see the illustration below:
Below is a video that shows how to splice Spectra fishing line – the concept is the same for mending broken Spectra line for kites.
Cons of Spectra Lines
One of the first things that you may notice when searching on the Internet for Spectra line is how expensive it is compared to the rest of the other types of kite lines. If you are considering seriously learning to fly stunt, power, or multi-line kites, then our recommendation is to invest in some Spectra line, and a sleeving kit.
A disadvantage that Spectra has is its low melting point – due to friction, Spectra lines tend break more easily at its knots. You should also note that if a Spectra line is crossed or tangled with a Dacron or cotton line, the Spectra line will melt where the lines connect, breaking the line completely.
Spectra line has no memory, and will stretch under high stress. This happens most frequently when used with power kites, or with large stunt kites. A good habit to have regardless of what type of kite lines you use is to check your lines for any stretched areas before and after a kite flying session; from here you can then adjust your lines for proper length to prevent your kite from flying crookedly, crashing mid-flight, or not flying at all.
With nylon kite lines, you may see 3 common types: twisted, braided, and fishing line. Nylon by itself is a common choice for many small single line kites. It’s cheap to purchase, and is easy to handle.
Twisted nylon is the most common out of these 3 types of nylon lines. You can use thin butcher’s twine to fly a kite in a pinch. Often these are also brightly coloured for aesthetics. However, twisted nylon lines tend to easily tangle. Over time, it will also tend to unwind or untwist itself, leading to an overall weaker line.
Twisted nylon lines can be easily purchased, and are fairly cheap. Being lightweight, this type of line is great for beginners to learn how to fly a kite with.
Braided nylon lines are stronger than twisted nylon lines due to the way it is constructed. Many lines are usually braided around a single core of line to give strength – a bit like the Spectra Blend lines we have previously discussed. These are not as cheap as twisted nylon, since more material is used in its making. Note that the really cheap ones can have no core in them, which can lead to the line stretching over time.
You might be thinking: “Does more material mean that this type of line is heavier?” The answer is YES! Due to the amount of material used in making this type of line, it is much heavier which can mean that your kite setup can feel a bit more slow or sluggish. If you buy braided nylon that’s too thick, it can also weigh down your kite and prevent it from taking off.
Nylon Fishing Line
Nylon fishing line is usually the first type of line that most casual kite fliers use when flying their first handmade kite. It is cheap to purchase. However, it is not strong enough in both diameter and weight. It is also smooth, which can make it slippery when handling.
The line strength of nylon fishing lines is often inconsistently labelled across different brands. In turn, this makes it difficult to trust the specifications on the label. You should also note that nylon fishing lines have an extreme stretch before they break, which is vastly different from the kite lines that we’ve previously mentioned.
All-in-all, I would not recommend using nylon fishing line as a kite line due to how much it can stretch, its lack of ‘grip’, and a lack of standard specifications across brands.
Cotton strings are often sold with cheap beginner kites, or in kite-making kits for kids. It is cheap, easily available, and fairly strong for its weight. However, it will tangle and knot easily if you are not careful. Do note that some speciality kites shops will not sell cotton lines.
Cotton twine or string is soft and fuzzy, making it easy for children to hold on to. However, if the wind picks up, it is best to transfer the kite line to a reel to prevent abrasions or ‘rope burn’.
In a pinch, you can also twist together cotton thread to make a thicker cotton kite line. However, keep in mind that it can easily unravel, or tangle and twist around itself, which can cause breakage of the line.
Other Noteworthy Materials Used to Make Kite Lines
Dyneema – Dyneema is a registered name by a company in the Netherlands called DSM. It is virtually the same as the Spectra type of kite line, except that it is usually cheaper, and more commonly known in Europe. Similar to Spectra, Dyneema lines have a fairly low melting point, so it is very important to sleeve lines when using knots. Dyneema is also very slippery. And again, similar to Spectra lines, Dyneema is used mainly for dual- and quad-line kites. When used in sheathed lines, Dyneema lines can be used for big display kites where tensions can exceed hundreds of pounds and more.
Kevlar – While Kelvar is a stronger line material than nylon or Dacron. it is up to 40% weaker than Spectra. Kevlar is quite abrasive and is heat resistant. As such, it will very quickly cut through other types of kite lines when crossed or tangled with them – if you use this, it can make you very unpopular very quickly with other kite fliers in the area.
Hemp – As the world is becoming more eco-conscious, hemp is more and more popular due to the wide range of useful products that it can be made into. You may be familiar with hemp rope or textiles. Hemp fibres are often blended with other fibers such as cotton, silk, or flax to make furnishings or textiles. As such, in a pinch, you could also use a hemp cord to fly a kite. Keep in mind that hemp can twist and tangle against itself as well.
Now that you are more knowledgeable about the different materials used to make kite lines, we hope that you will be able to make an informed decision. Remember to keep your kite lines in good condition by keeping them dry and clean, and inspecting them before and after a kite-flying session. If you see any wear and tear, replace the line as quickly as possible. Make safety a priority when flying a kite, so that you and everyone around you can have an enjoyable time.