SBM photos and video

With its webbing coiled around a spring-loaded drum, the Quickloader makes a tidy package when not in use.

A friend of mine demystified ratchet straps for me last summer. I had given her a dinghy, and when she came to pick it up, she walked me through using the straps she’d brought. I know and trust knots so I’d always preferred to keep a length of line in my trunk for tie-downs, but I liked how the flat straps can be cranked down so quickly and snugly. Keeping the strap from getting twisted was annoying; the tail end had to be tucked away to keep it from flapping in the wind, and, when not in use, the straps didn’t coil as tidily as rope. It wasn’t until I tried Quickloader ratchet straps that I was convinced to make the switch from rope and knots for securing cartop loads.

When the ratchet release (just to the right of the handle) is pulled, the handle can be fully extended, letting the drum unwind and the webbing run free.

Quickloader Retractable ratchet straps are thoughtfully engineered and simple. The QL15 model has two black, rubber-coated metal S-hooks, one of which is on a 9-1/2″ piece of 1″ polyester webbing, and the other is at the end is a neatly coiled 1″ polyester webbing stored around a spring-loaded core. Fully extended, the Quickloader has a reach of 12′. The strap feeds out and retracts like a tape measure so there’s never any slack to get knotted, tangled, or twisted. A loop sewn into the webbing limits the extension so the spring-loaded coiler isn’t damaged. The self-coiling tail end is a great advantage over common ratchet straps; I don’t have to worry about extra strap material getting loose, potentially dragging under a trailer tire or flapping in the wind. The QL115M has a 500-lb working load and a 1,500-lb breaking strength.

The ratcheting mechanism is of high-quality steel with a slightly iridescent finish and a powder-coated texture. The Quickloader’s action instills confidence; the ratchet’s clicks are distinct and reassuring. The handle is 6-1/8″ out from the center of the barrel and with a few wraps of webbing around the barrel, the handle has a 16:1 advantage. A video on the Quickloader YouTube channel shows a Quickloader used as a come-along to drag a boat, and while the device has plenty of power, the distance you can drag anything is limited to about 14″ by the number of wraps the barrel can take before the webbing binds against the frame.

When the two S-hooks are attached, the drum takes up the slack with a single turn. The webbing is then locked on the drum and ready to be tensioned.

The ratchet release located at the end of the handle and is easy to operate. Pulling the ratchet release and fully opening the handle unlocks the ratchet so the barrel can spin to let the strap run free. If the webbing gets bound up between the barrel and the frame, there’s a wing on one end of the barrel you can easily twist to free the strap.

The wing just outside of the ratchet makes it easy to unwind the drum if there is too much webbing on it. This Quickloader has a piece of leather, attached with a cable tie, to keep the metal frame from damaging whatever is being strapped down.

If the Quickloader is pressed up against the hull of a boat, the metal could scratch the finish or gouge the wood, a problem with any ratchet, so I may attach a bit of soft foam or fabric to the device’s back side. For now, I carry a pad of soft material to tuck between the Quickloader and an easily marred surface.
After tying a dinghy down on my roof rack, I pushed and pulled on the boat in all directions and it was solid as heck, ready for a 65-mph trip down the interstate. I totally dig my Quickloader Retractable ratchet straps. They’re easy to use, hold tight, and stow neatly.

Anne Bryant is associate editor of Small Boats Magazine.

The QL115M goes for about $23 and Quickloader’s array of retractable ratchet straps is available from various online retailers.

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