Ripstop Nylon

An Ideal Kite Sail Material

This is just an overview of ripstop nylon, focusing on what it is and it's various uses. Particularly for kites of course, like that Delta down there! As far as history goes, there's not much to be found online.

Apart from the fact that this material replaced silk as the cloth of choice for military parachutes. That was back during WW2. The 1940s. Being synthetic, it was easy to produce nylon cloth in large volumes and thus production was cheap compared to using silk.

You can buy light-weight Nylon rip-stop fabric from Amazon, in many different colors.

The World Of Ripstop

A typical retail Delta kite, with a ripstop nylon sail.Typical nylon-sailed kite

By the way, it's not limited to nylon, but let's stick to the topic at hand...

Nylon itself is used in a massive array of everyday items, so I won't even mention any here. You can probably think of a quite a few yourself, without doing any research at all!

Even the ripstop variety of nylon cloth has many, many uses in the 21st Century. This is not common knowledge, so I will list a few here....

  • Outdoor gear such as tents and weather-proof covers.
  • Colorful, light-weight and durable clothing. And accessories such as bags.
  • Engine-less aviation sectors such as balloons, hang-gliders, paragliders and parasails.
  • KITES! Thank goodness for that.

Ripstop. That's quite descriptive, because larger diameter threads are woven into the fabric at regular intervals. Typically 5 mm to 8 mm (1/5" to 1/4"). This results in a pattern of small squares, which are visible if you look at the material closely. Any small hole or tear tends to stop at the first larger thread it comes to. The rip stops.

There wouldn't be much left if you took all the ripstop nylon away from a typical kite festival!

In a nutshell, this kite sail material is very light and very durable. Also, it is made with zero porosity which means air and water cannot penetrate it. It's almost like it was made for kites in the first place!

For some other applications, the porosity is not zero. Enough said.

Coloring The World
With Ripstop Nylon

These days, nylon kite sail material is dyed in the factory. Not painted. Hence many bright colors are available straight 'off the shelf'. However, it's still possible to home-dye plain ripstop nylon cloth. Some have even done a tie-dye job on their kite sail! Ah, the 70s...

Dye products from the Dylon company can be used to successfully and permanently change the color of the fabric. The process involves soaking the cloth in a hot but not boiling dye solution. Very thorough rinsing with cold water afterwards is necessary. Otherwise, any dye left on the surface could start to run, if the kite gets wet! OK I guess if all the panels are the same color, but otherwise it could really be a disaster.

Here are a couple of nice kite photos, representing the small and big end of the retail kite spectrum. I'm pretty sure they both employ ripstop nylon cloth! A small inflatable-sparred Sled on the left, and a positively giant sized inflatable show kite on the right...

A Word On Weights

The great majority of shop kites these days seem to use either 1/2 ounce or 3/4 ounce ripstop nylon. That's the weight per square yard of material. 1.5 ounce is less common, and there is even a smattering of other odd sizes like 0.6 ounce.

Hang on, why 'square yards' in this Metric age? To get more precise about it, in the U.S. they use ounces per "sailmaker's yard" which is 36 by 28.5 inches. The Brits use the standard Imperial yard. Finally, and most sensibly, the rest of Europe uses grams per square meter.

1 ounce American equals 1.26 ounces British and 42.8 grams per square meter. So when you buy a kite, the meaning of the cloth weight figure (if given) depends on the country of manufacture of the ripstop cloth.

We saw a Cody Box kite once at a kite festival, aloft in a very light breeze. Huh? Well, it was covered in 1/2 ounce ripstop nylon apparently, and I'm guessing it had graphite spars as well! Box kites ain't what they used to be.

Perhaps the massive kite-selling activity in the U.S. is the reason this non-metric measure seems to persist when people talk and write about sail weight.

Not sure abut the exact weight of this Nylon rip-stop fabric from Amazon, but it should be suitable for medium sized kites. Say around a meter or two in span (3 to 7 feet).

E-book special of the month (25% off)...

The Dopero is someone's clever idea to combine 2 Roller kites! Double Pearson Roller is where the name comes from. The resulting flat portion of sail in the middle makes this a very efficient design in light wind.

Even more so than the Roller before it, this kite has an attractive aircraft-like appearance in the air. This MBK version also excels in light winds.

If you have made Diamonds before, this kite takes somewhat more time to make. With the help of my instructions, it's still do-able by a beginner.

Get the e-book for making the MBK Dowel Dopero kite. After making your first one in plastic and seeing how it performs, you can try soft Tyvek or rip-stop nylon for your next build.

This Dopero can fly in quite a wide range of wind speeds thanks to the 4-pont bridle. The bridle lines keep the frame more rigid than a 2-point bridle could. Tail(s) are entirely optional, but may be added for looks.

The e-book is a PDF file - which means printable instructions to refer to while you make the kite. It also means convenient off-line access if that suits you better.

What's New!

  1. Dual Line Parafoil Kites

    Mar 29, 17 09:00 AM

    A previously published page which introduces the beginner to dual-line parafoils. Soft stunt kites in other words...

    Read More


Plenty of fun kite info, photos and videos - there's definitely too much here for only one visit! Feel free to leave your impressions of this site or just this page, below...

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This one's FREE
Download it now!

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Wind Speeds

Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7