Know the most common knots – they can be a life saver

By Doug Williams
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If you are a fan of the great outdoors, you may just be a happy camper, or you may like a serious hike or trek. You may even be into extreme outdoor activities such as rock climbing. The fact is that you will need certain skills that could be called on to save your life in a survival situation. One of these skills is a working knowledge of tying knots.

Now, all of us know how to tie simple knots. We can tie our shoelaces, and we should be able to tie a ribbon even if this is only round an old oak tree. So knot tying is not something unfamiliar to most of us. However, if you are in a life-threatening situation where tying ropes can save you, there are specific types of knots which have certain qualities and uses which you will need to know how to tie.

Practice tying different types of basic knot so you have the right knowledge for any knotty situation

Tying knots is actually a basic skill and learning the different types is simply a case of practice. If you repeat the action many times so that the method becomes natural to you, you will be able to easily choose the correct knot to use even when fear grips you in a stressful moment.

When you are faced with a survival situation, cordage (ropes) are often essential. They should always be part of the kit you pack. However, these will not be much good if the knots you tie do not fulfill the function you require. If you are a climber, using the correct knot can make the difference between survival or of the worst situation becoming a reality.

You may not be outside with the intention to go climbing, but you possibly will need to haul your stuff up or down an incline. You could even need a rope to ensure a safer decent for yourself.

Make sure your boat is securely tied with a little know-how of the right knots

Actual mountain or rock climbing is not necessarily the only time that rope will be needed in an outdoor situation. You may well need to have a working knowledge of knots just to keep your things securely tied up, or you may be planning a fishing or boating trip. In the case of needing to lengthen the rope, you have to tie ropes together. To do so you will need to use the correct knot or it could work itself loose with tension being applied to it.

Tying your tarpaulin down when constructing a shelter will demand a specific knot best suited to the task, as will tying your food up in a tree, in the case of you needing to keep it out of the way of predators.

Clove Hitch

Clove Hitch (or Double Hitch) knot tied around a tree

The best known and most widely used knot is the Clove Hitch, the name coming from the old English “cleave” which means hold tight. It may be required to lash tent poles together, or it can be used to hold down your belongings or to tie goods to a vehicle. This would be the knot of choice to hang your food from a branch in order to protect it from wild animals.

Square knot

Two ropes tied together using a Square Knot

Secondly, there is the Square Knot also commonly known as a Reef Knot. This is the best knot to use when ropes need to be tied together. It can also be used when bandages need to be tied onto a wound. It is also the knot of choice in the case of tying bundles of items such as firewood together for ease of carrying.

Bowline Knot

How to tie a Bowline knot

A Bowline knot, when tied properly, is the knot used when mountain climbing and also the one most commonly used for rescue situations. It is a good choice for tying down ponchos and tarpaulins when building a shelter. These knots hold well when they are pulled tightly so it is very useful when the wind is blowing and you need the knots to hold. In a situation where it is used for your safety, ensure that it is big enough to secure around your waist, for example when crossing a river or descending steep slopes.

Taut-line Hitch

Taut-line Hitch How To – Author: Chris 73 – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Taut-line Hitch which is an adjustable loop can be used where the ropes are pulled tightly. This is the knot to use when adjustments will periodically be needed. If you are climbing trees, for example, ropes will need to be adjusted as you climb higher. Sometimes this particular knot is referred to as a Tent Line or Riggers Hitch. The knot is ideal if you are tying covers over things in the case of having to occasionally loosen the knots to retrieve things from time to time.

Figure Eight Knot

Figure Eight Knot

A Figure Eight Knot is useful both with sailing and rock climbing. It is needed when it is essential that the rope does not run out of a restraining device. When tension is applied, it will jam, but it can be fairly easily undone which is not the case with the overhand knot which needs to be cut in order to undo it. A Figure Eight Knot is used most commonly with “prusik” climbing when used in conjunction with a climbing harness, proper rope and locking device. It assists the climber to move up and down more easily because of the ease of undoing it and also that it will not run out of the end of the device.

Barrel Knot

How to tie a Barrel Knot. Author: Chris 73 CC BY-SA 3.0

The Barrel Knot or Blood Knot is the one usually used to join lengths of monofilament line together, such as nylon line. This is the knot to use when joining pieces of fishing line together, particularly when the line is of differing thicknesses. It is necessary if you need to make a longer and stronger line.

There are lots of other knots that you can learn how to tie. You will also need to be familiar with the type of ropes that you will be using on your adventure. There are many different rope types with varying diameters. You may want know the best way to tie your fishing line or your climbing rope. You will want to keep it simple, and you will not want to be confused when faced with a situation where the question is one of survival.

Knots can look pretty complicated until you learn how to tie a few

While we never know exactly what will happen on an adventure trip, it is well to learn these useful knots. Get to know those which will be needed for the most common situations you could find yourself in. You should certainly be able to use the first three common knots listed here.

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