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Survival Skills: Tying Knots That Work

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November 29, 2011
Survival Skills: Tying Knots That Work - 12

You may have heard the phrase, “If you don’t know knots, tie lots.” I wish it was that easy, but when it comes to reliable, dependable knot tying, more twists and turns won’t always guarantee a better knot.

While most woodsmen, lumberjacks, Boy Scouts and sailors probably know dozens of knots that they could tie blindfolded, I prefer quality over quantity. But which knots are the most useful?

The Most Useful Knots

The list of knots that I use on camping trips and when performing outdoor skills is pretty short. I just stick to my tried and true favorites, and leave the rest as a fun hobby.

Square Knot

Whether you are tying two ropes together to make a longer rope, or you are tying up a bundle of firewood to carry, the square knot is a winner. It’s much more secure and stable than its cousin the granny knot. The granny tends to drift and roll, untying itself a little bit at a time as you use it.

You can tie a solid square knot by lapping right over left, and then tying again in the reverse direction—left over right.

Sheet Bend

This one is a little weird, but nothing works better for tying different types of material and different thicknesses of rope together.

With the sheet bend, you bend the thicker or more slippery rope into a “j” shape (like a fish hook). You then pass the other rope through the fish hook from behind, wrap around the entire fishhook once and then tuck the smaller line under itself.

If all this sounds too confusing, don’t worry, there’s help available. You can receive excellent tutorials with step by step animation at www.animatedknots.com.

The Worst Knots

Granny Knot

This is a very common knot, but it doesn’t like to stay tied, especially with a slippery rope like 550 cord.

It’s like a square knot, but you tie the same right-over-left twice. The resulting knot is far from heavy duty.

Hope Knot

Although this one is mostly a joke, I’ve seen it employed far too many times for my comfort. Throwing a bunch of wraps around something and “hoping” that it holds won’t get you very far, especially with something like a tent or, worse, a hammock. Interestingly, I had a hard time coming up with a fake knot that wouldn’t work for this picture!

Got a favorite go-to knot, bend or hitch? Let us know in the comments.

 

Comments (12)

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from Tioughnioga 8/15/2013 at 01:57pm

The clove hitch and bowline meet most of my needs. I also tie a noose knot when I catch a rustler.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob Hansen 1/18/2012 at 05:13pm

Hi...

I always appreciate articles on knots, as I use several knots in the Survival Woodsmanship class that I occasionally host.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from gmarkum 12/1/2011 at 04:10pm

As an ex-sailor and current firefighter, knots are just a part of life. In my experience I seem to always come back to the family of 8 knots and the clove hitch with an occasional sheet bend thrown in the mix. To this day it takes me a couple of tries to get a bowline to work for me. The 8s are very simple and versatile.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from danny61 12/1/2011 at 01:25pm

The sheepshank is handy for shortening lines.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from cooreva 12/1/2011 at 12:48pm

Other knot I use quite often too is the 'bowline', that if you look closely, is basically the same knot as the 'sheet bend'. So if you learn only 'two knots' this should be one of them; you'll need the 'square' to tie your shoes, so you are covered.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from techmech2 12/1/2011 at 10:08am

Thanks for revisiting one of the survival basics. I have to agree that most of the time a few knots are all I need. I have always been partial to the square knot as it is easy to tie and untie no matter how tight the knot seems to be. I have seen a lot of paracord survival bracelets ( http://www.squidoo.com/paracordsurvivalbracelet ) this year and when I ask the owners how many knots they can tie, they kind of blink and seem a bit taken aback by the question. Practicing the basics like knot tying, creating a shelter, and fire building can mean the difference when caught in a day trip or hike gone bad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog 11/30/2011 at 08:56am

Puffy, that bowline loop is very useful. The sheet bend is one I use occassionally but should probably use more.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kzink 11/29/2011 at 09:34pm

I would say the taunt line and the clove hitch are some of my most used.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Yoda 11/29/2011 at 07:29pm

Truckers hitch works great for tying things down quickly.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM1993 11/29/2011 at 03:19pm

I learned these when I was young, and it has definetely been handy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from puffy 11/29/2011 at 03:10pm

The Bowline is definitely worth a mention as there as thousands of uses for a loop that won’t slip, particularly in rescue. Props to the Sheet Bend; a real go-to for mending/joining.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DanC 11/29/2011 at 02:10pm

The Butterfly knot is a great knot to tie because it forms a loop and you don't need an end to tie it. Also the rolling hitch is great for things such as tent or tarp lines because you can adjust the tension, but it still holds securely.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Write a Comment Your comment (200 characters or less):

from DanC 11/29/2011 at 02:10pm

The Butterfly knot is a great knot to tie because it forms a loop and you don't need an end to tie it. Also the rolling hitch is great for things such as tent or tarp lines because you can adjust the tension, but it still holds securely.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from puffy 11/29/2011 at 03:10pm

The Bowline is definitely worth a mention as there as thousands of uses for a loop that won’t slip, particularly in rescue. Props to the Sheet Bend; a real go-to for mending/joining.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Yoda 11/29/2011 at 07:29pm

Truckers hitch works great for tying things down quickly.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kzink 11/29/2011 at 09:34pm

I would say the taunt line and the clove hitch are some of my most used.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from gmarkum 12/1/2011 at 04:10pm

As an ex-sailor and current firefighter, knots are just a part of life. In my experience I seem to always come back to the family of 8 knots and the clove hitch with an occasional sheet bend thrown in the mix. To this day it takes me a couple of tries to get a bowline to work for me. The 8s are very simple and versatile.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM1993 11/29/2011 at 03:19pm

I learned these when I was young, and it has definetely been handy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog 11/30/2011 at 08:56am

Puffy, that bowline loop is very useful. The sheet bend is one I use occassionally but should probably use more.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from cooreva 12/1/2011 at 12:48pm

Other knot I use quite often too is the 'bowline', that if you look closely, is basically the same knot as the 'sheet bend'. So if you learn only 'two knots' this should be one of them; you'll need the 'square' to tie your shoes, so you are covered.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from danny61 12/1/2011 at 01:25pm

The sheepshank is handy for shortening lines.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob Hansen 1/18/2012 at 05:13pm

Hi...

I always appreciate articles on knots, as I use several knots in the Survival Woodsmanship class that I occasionally host.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from techmech2 12/1/2011 at 10:08am

Thanks for revisiting one of the survival basics. I have to agree that most of the time a few knots are all I need. I have always been partial to the square knot as it is easy to tie and untie no matter how tight the knot seems to be. I have seen a lot of paracord survival bracelets ( http://www.squidoo.com/paracordsurvivalbracelet ) this year and when I ask the owners how many knots they can tie, they kind of blink and seem a bit taken aback by the question. Practicing the basics like knot tying, creating a shelter, and fire building can mean the difference when caught in a day trip or hike gone bad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tioughnioga 8/15/2013 at 01:57pm

The clove hitch and bowline meet most of my needs. I also tie a noose knot when I catch a rustler.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Write a Comment Your comment (200 characters or less):