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A strap running through a buckle is typically easy to loosen and tighten as desired. Usually, it stays in place. Sometimes, however, it slowly (or quickly) works its way loose, as though the thickness or smoothness of the webbing doesn't quite match the size or shape of the buckle. What can I do to make the strap more grippy?

The specific problem I have is with a new backpack (no wear and tear), and it happens in dry conditions (not wet and slippery). The straps even have cloth-elastic bands wrapped around, right next to the buckles.

One method could be to add a separate clasp, as per this question. Also, I imagine I could intentionally soak it in sea water and then not rinse it, leaving the salt crystals to gum up the works (I know this happens to kayak gear and it's usually a nuisance). Other techniques? I consider replacing either the strap or the buckle to be too drastic a solution.

  • can you replace the strap? (or the buckle?) – njzk2 Oct 1 at 1:08
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    I don't think it's salt water that does it on kayaks. The back rest straps on my old WW boat became so stiff to adjust that I broke a buckle. I think I used it in the sea once ever, for surfing. – Chris H Oct 1 at 6:03
  • In my experience, we just have to learn to deal with it. Especially when the straps are wet, they get more slippery. Plus the buckle itself gets worn over time and grips less. I haven't found any solution that helps for more than a few days, like sharpening the teeth in the buckle, or lightly roughing up the strap with a rasp. – Gabriel C. Oct 1 at 15:41
  • an alligator clip on the strap and the excess may work – Jonathan Landrum Oct 2 at 13:34
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    @ChrisH: Maybe not salt but silt, algae, etc (river gunk). – Martin F Oct 2 at 19:55
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The solution on my backpack/bike helmet is a rubber band/hair tie like cord around the straps just below the buckle. In order to readjust the buckle you have to loosen the elastic cord around the straps and pull it away from the buckle.

Not sure exactly why this works, but I haven't had any problems with my helmet coming loose or backpack straps loosening either.

  • The hip belt of my backpack already has elastic built around the strap, and wedged up against the buckle, but it still slips. – Martin F Oct 1 at 5:45
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    Strangely enough, all the bike helmets I've had that use this approach tend to work loose wire than backpack straps. I reckon this is because there are two straps going through one buckle. The rubber band is more successful at keeping the straps from flapping in the wind – Chris H Oct 1 at 6:01
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If you've got the strap to the perfect length and want to maintain that length, you can sew a small fold in the strap, similar to what's used at the end to stop the whole strap running through. Slitting the stitches means you can change your mind later. Realistically this won't help for a waist belt that needs to adjust to different clothing, except as a backstop to limit the slippage.

These buckles work by friction between the two layers of webbing that want to move in opposite directions, so you need to increase the friction, probably by increasing the pressure. One way to do this is to sew another layer of webbing on the outside, but this could be a fairly tedious task if the region that needs building up is long. You'd probably need to find lighter webbing of the same width as the existing strap. You may be able to test this by just threading a length of webbing through the buckle with the strap, and pinning it.

Another way (that I haven't tried) should be to build up the buckle itself. Depending on the shape, a couple of cable ties around the past that presses together the two straps should be enough.

  • I might be able to have a play with that last point on the train to work later this morning – Chris H Oct 1 at 6:14
  • My buckles would need a little filing to make cable ties stay in place. I'd do that on a slipping strap but couldn't test it on my backpack – Chris H Oct 1 at 7:14
  • Some good points there (despite all the typos). Sewing a fold won't be good because it is the hip belt which definitely will need adjustability. Did you try adding another layer of webbing? Sounds like a could work. – Martin F Oct 2 at 4:11
  • @MartinF I've put a spare length through to pack the buckle out, which helped. I didn't sew it, because I have the mens with me at the time, and didn't need to keep adjusting it. Sewing would be needed to allow it to adjust nicely without getting caught up, but a couple of safety pins could be used to try it out. My own backpacks haven't been too bad, but my daughter has had a couple where the shoulder straps come loose – Chris H Oct 2 at 5:57
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I find that simply tying a half knot below the buckle keeps it from slipping:

half knot below buckle

  • Albeit slow to adjust. – Martin F Oct 4 at 18:56
  • @MartinF, right. But if it gets adjusted frequently, it likely won't slip much between adjustments. This is a suggestion for what to do after (semi-)permanent adjustments. – Ray Butterworth Oct 4 at 18:59

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