Whether you are going back home or moving towards being more self-sufficient you will greatly benefit from the use of rope, cordage and knots. Without hitches and bends, loads fall expensive resources can go missing, a boat goes adrift, and hoisting food away from hungry predators that would take advantage of any ground food would be an afterthought.
Before you start to learn basic knotcraft, a brief summary of rope or cordage vocabulary is appropriate.
Bitter/Workgin End: The end of a rope that’s being manipulated.
Standing Part: the segment of the rope that you aren’t currently using.
Bight: a curve or arc in the rope. This can be a semicircle or a loose loop through which the working end may run.
With the following 10 useful knots in your kit — you’ll be able to handle just about any situation that requires you to fasten two objects together, secure one line to another, or tie a rope to a solid object.
As we go along, practice with ropes of your own until your memory has mastered these often essential knots.
The 10 Best Knots
1. Overhand Knot:Just bitter/working end over and under the bight. The overhand is used as a temporary stopper to prevent a rope from unraveling or passing through a ring, eye, or pulley. It’s also thee starting point for other knots, including the reef or square-knot.
2.Figure-Eight Knot: The figure eight is a better stopper knot than the overhand, because it’s easier to untie after the rope has been pulled tight. Form a bight with the working/bitter end over the standing part, run the bitter end under the standing part to form a second bight, finally put the bitter end through the first bight. The result resembles a sideways number
3. Square (Reef) Knot:Use this one to lash two objects together with one line, or to join two separate ropes. Please note, the reef knot can often slip under strain if when the ropes are of two different diameters.In reality, the square knot is two overhand knots, one on top of the other, with the second tied in the opposite direction than the first. When the knot is formed, the bitter/working ends and standing parts of each line will be together inside the two bights. (Please note, the granny knot looks similar to a reef knot, but the bitter ends will be on opposite sides of the bights from the standing parts. Take caution as the granny knot will slip under load.)
4.Sheet (Becket) Bend:You should use this knot to join cordage of different diameters. It’s much stronger and less slip-prone than the square knot. It can be easily untied no matter how wet and tight it may be. Just form a bight (big enough to work with) in the larger of the two lines. Run the working end of the smaller line through the loop, around the doubled heavier cord, back over its own standing part, then under the bight in the larger line. Always snug the sheet bend up by hand before you put any strain on it.
5.Carrick Bend: Less well known than the reef or sheet bend, and stronger than either of them. Also just as easy to loosen, even after a sustained, hard pull. Form a loop in one rope, with the working end crossing under the standing end. Then, pass the bitter end of the other cord beneath this bight, over the first rope’s standing end, down under its working end, over one side of the loop, under its own (the second rope’s) standing end, and — lastly — over the second side of the loop. The carrick bend requires practice before it becomes second nature.
6.Bowline:The purpose of the bowline is to form a secure loop in the end of a line. It can be tied quickly and is easily loosened, even under strain. Simply form a closed bight in the rope (leaving an ample working end, which will form the loop), bring the bitter end up through the bight, around the standing end, back down through the bight again, and pull tight. Caution: the bowline may slip when tied with some synthetic lines.
7.Clove Hitch:The clove hitch will not be secure unless there’s a load acting on both ends of the knot, and should only be considered as a general utility hitch for temporary use. Roll a bight around a pole, pipe, or post and then across the standing part. Next, make a second turn around the pole and pass the bitter end under the last bight. You can tie a clove hitch before you need it — so the hoop can be passed over a post, or the knot can be put in with a loop-the-loop operation while tension is held on the standing part of the rope. Nicknamed a “jam” knot, because the more severe the strain it takes, the tighter the knot becomes, yet it can be slipped the second the stress is removed.
8.Timber Hitch:This knot is designed to roll around a tree to hold a temporary strain or pull. Loop the bitter end of the rope around a tree, timber, or log, then turn it around the standing part, and twist it back along the bight for as few as two or as many as eight turns. (The more turns, the less likely the knot is to slip under strain.)Pull or strain on the standing part will tighten the timber hitch and jam the turns of the rope against the surface of whatever is being lifted, dragged, or towed. When stress on the standing part is eased, the timber hitch can easily be unwound and released.
9.Taut-Line Hitch:The taut-line hitch will slide up and down to provide a climber with freedom of movement, should he or she slip, it will tighten up and stop the fall. This hitch is also the one used to securely tie a tarp to a stake.Begin by throwing a rope over a branch the object so that two lines hang parallel to each other. The longer end is called a ground line. The other end of the rope should be looped (twice) through a ring in a special climber’s belt, leaving a working end of about two feet in length.Take the 24-inch tail and pass its working end around the ground line in a clockwise direction to form two complete tight loops, the second below the first. Then, form two more clockwise loops ,also around the ground line, but at a point above the first two and with the difference that—each time the leading end is brought around the ground line to complete these coils — it must pass under its own bight. The complete knot includes four tight loops, side-by-side, around the ground line, and resembles four rings on a post.Counting from the top downward, the loops of a correct hitch are tied in this order: 3, 4, 1, 2 the top was the third to be tied, the second from the top was the last to be tied, etc.In the complete knot, the leading end should remain sticking out approximately 10 inches and should have a figure-eight knot tied to its end to prevent it from accidentally slipping through the loop of the taut-line hitch.
10.Sheepshank:This is a special-purpose knot that’s useful when you have too much rope and do not want to cut your line.To make the sheepshank, lay two long bights (in the standing part) side-by-side like a wide letter S, then secure both loops with half hitches. This knot can be used to bypass an area in a rope that’s been weakened. Shake the knot loose when the strain is released.
There are any number of other knots you’ll find just as useful as our the above. Do not stop once you have mastered these few starters. There are many kinds of specialized knots that are as useful in specific situations as these are in general settings.