All About Knots

Ropes and Knots are something that most of us no longer use in our everyday modern life. If you lived a hundred years ago, most of us would have at least a rudimentary understanding of ropes and knots.  In talking to people, it is amazing to me on how many people don’t know how to tie even a simple square knot.  In the past knots were used to make shelters, set snares, haul materials and secure items.

Ropes and knots are a skill that every one of us should learn.  It is a perishable skill as I recently found out; needing to secure an item, I found that it took me a few minutes to remember how to tie the right type of knot.  We should be able to tie important knots without thinking.

On the fire department, we were taught a knot should meet three different criteria’s.

  • Simple to tie.
  • Simple to untie
  • Serve the purpose

If you don’t know a few good basic knots learn at least the eight basic knots taught by the Boy Scouts.  These are.

The Bowline is one of the most used loop knots.  At the end of a rope, the bowline forms a strong loop that will not slip or jam.

The Square Knot is probably the best-known and most widely used knot.  It serves to join the ends of two ropes, and has the advantage of strength and ease of tying and untying.  It slips or jams only if pulled around a corner.  People use square knots to tie packages and to fasten towing lines, it is also called the “first aid knot.”  An improperly tied square knot is called a granny knot. A granny knot may come loose under pressure and should not be used.

Two Half Hitches are used to fasten a rope temporarily to a post, hook, or ring.  The Boy Scout book says this is a good knot for tying your tent down, or for tying a clothesline to hang wet clothes and towels.  This knot is usually used because of its slip feature.  The knot slides with the greatest of ease, to make the loop bigger or smaller.

See also  More on EMP Protection

The Sheet Bend was a knot that sailors use on their ships.  They tied the sails together, which were sheets.  This is a good choice when tying two ropes together, especially when the ropes are different sizes.

The Taut-line Hitch.  This is a remarkably useful knot; it’s adjustable and trustworthy.  Anyone who uses a tent should know this knot.  It is the best way to adjust your lines to the tent-poles.  It is the most simple of the adjustable knot family.

The Clove Hitch.  This is a very important knot, especially in your lashings.  Make sure you work it up properly; pull lengthwise only at both ends.  If you pull the knot at different angles, it’s likely to become unreliable.  If you use it, be sure that both ends are pulled straight out.

The Timber Hitch is used to attach a rope to a log.  This knot tightens under strain, but comes undone extremely easily when the rope is slack.  So be sure to keep it tight.  The timber hitch is very useful for dragging logs back to the campfire, or clearing forest.

The Figure Eight.  This knot is larger, stronger and easier to untie stop knot.

If you go on the site Animated Knots by Grog  you will find the instructions for tying these knots and many others.  The Boy Scout merit badge book is a good source of instructional material on knots.  If you know an eagle scout, they should be able to help you learn your knots.

Tomorrow I will cover the care and maintenance of ropes and in the future I will address a few select knots..


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4 thoughts on “All About Knots”

  1. Nice review. Though I wonder if you have any advice for wrapping rope for quick deployment? My loop…well….it is lacking.

    On a side note: I’m still new to this whole survival/prepper concept (thanks to Neil Strauss and then Rawles), and I wanted to take some training. I found a Surival school nearby and wondered if anyone here has heard anything about it? It is called Sigma III. Here is their page:

    Thanks for any feedback!

    1. An old post, however I suggest you look up the “butterfly coil”, or “french coil”.

      What you are probably doing is called a “mountain coil” or sometimes (wrongly) the “alpine coil”, which is the classic bunch of climbing rope that is hung over the shoulders. The issue is that the mountain coil is best for older ropes which were made of several strands wound together. This generally created a natural right hand twist in the rope. Modern ropes generally don’t have this twist, so making a mountain coil puts twist into the rope.

  2. So many knots! Some great advice here. When I first started looking at survival techniques I was lucky to be able to tie my shoelaces! I think it is an underrated part of being prepared. There are some great resources (like that can help people learn all of this stuff (though after reading this the knots are covered!

    – k

  3. Just a suggestion, learn to tie the bowline with one (either) hand, as it is a useful rescue, knot. Also a whole series of knots are built around the bowline (water bowline, double bowline). Once you learn one the rest are easy

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