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Handy Knots: Learning The Basics

August 1, 2011

Knots, Wilderness Survival

“I can’t believe it’s gone!” Those were the words that echoed through my mind as I looked out of the back of the duck blind for the 16 foot jon boat that had brought us to the middle of the flooded soybean field.

It was the middle January and a nasty storm was blowing in from the west. The sun was going down and we needed to get out of there before the bad weather arrived in force. But our boat was nowhere to be found. It had become untied by the constant thrashing of the waves and floated off unbeknownst to us. We were stranded. The sun was setting and it was getting wet and cold.

The Importance Of Knots

The story ended well. Another boat happened by a few minutes later and helped us to find our boat. It had gotten wedged in between some trees a half mile away.

But it could have ended poorly. Rough weather, frigid temperatures, and no cell signal could have made for a rough night in the blind for us.

That experience many years ago underscored for me the importance of knots. As I learned then, a good working knowledge of knots is not a luxury that can be ignored without consequence. By learning just a handful of knots and their appropriate uses, you can better prepare yourself for daily life as well as bettering your odds in survival situations.

Knot Terminology

Knots aren’t a complex topic, however there are some basic terms and techniques that will make learning new knots a bit easier. So let’s begin by discussing some of terms used in the world of knots.

Parts Of A Rope

As you learn to work with a rope, you’ll see different terms that refer to various parts.

Bight
A bight is a curved or bent section of the rope.

Loop
A loop is a circle that is formed when the working end of a rope is passed over itself.

Standing End
The standing end of a rope is the part of the rope that is not actively being used in the knot; the unused part of the rope.

Working End
The working end is the section of rope that you are using to tie the knot. It’s sometimes called the Tag End or the Running End.

Types Of Knots

The term “knot” is a fairly generic term; it refers to any area of one or more pieces of cordage that are not straight. Some knots can be tied on purpose; others are accidental.

In knots lingo there are more specific ways to referring to different types of knots that are tied intentionally.

Bend
A bend is a type of knot that is used to connect two ropes together. If you have multiple shorter pieces of rope or cordage, you can use bends to create a long piece. For example a reef-knot or sheet-bend are types of bends.

Hitch
A hitch is a style of knot used to tie a rope to something else, such as a tree or ring. Hitches are useful to tie cordage to trees or limbs in support of shelters. A timber hitch and clove hitch are common ways to attach a rope to a piece of wood.

Lashing
Lashings are knots that may be use to securely fasten two or more poles together. Sleeping platforms, tables, and cooking tripods can be made with lashings. Square and diagonal lashings are example two important lashings for the prepper and survivalist.

Loop
A loop is a knot that creates a circle in the line. Loops are good for tying safety lines that can be used to lower someone down a step hill. A bowline is a great example of a very useful loop. A double figure-of-eight loop is also handy.

Stoppers
Stoppers are used to put a kink or obstruction in a rope to keep it from unfolding. Overhand knots and figure-of-eight knots are common examples.

Lots And Lots Of Knots

There are lots of knots that you can learn. Each has a specific use and characteristics. For example, the reef-knot is good for joining to ropes of equal size whereas the sheet-bend is better for ropes of unequal size.

With a good working knowledge of four of five basic knots and when to use them, you can better equip yourself with the skills that you may need to effect survival. Or as in the case I mentioned at the beginning of this post, actually prevent a survival situation.

In coming posts, I’ll demonstrate how to tie some of the knots that I’ve found handy over the years.

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14 Comments on “Handy Knots: Learning The Basics”

  1. Jarhead Survivor Says:

    Hey! I was going to do this post! Awesome topic, Joe. People don’t understand that learning how to tie a knot could save your life some day. I’ve worked as a lobsterman here in Maine and if you don’t know how to tie a few basic knots you’re in deep trouble. I also do some rock and ice climbing where knots are crucial as well.

    Better to learn now than when you actually need one! Have you ever heard the saying, “If you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot.” ?? I’ve worked with people who lived by that philosophy. Dumb!

    Reply

    • Joe Says:

      Wow! Rock climbing and lobsterman – I guess you do know your knots! Would love to see a series on your blog site about the knots you’ve found most useful. I have mine, but I’m sure you’ve got some in your repertoire that I’ve never used.

      Reply

      • Jarhead Survivor Says:

        I’m looking forward to seeing yours. You can actually get by with just a few of the more standard knots and if you learn a few fancy knots you can look like a rope tying genius in front of your friends. 🙂

        Reply

        • Joe Says:

          LOL! Yep; couldn’t agree more. 4 or 5 will do the trick most of the time, but having a trucker’s hitch or mooring hitch in your bag of tricks impresses people. 🙂

          Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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