Whether you are talking about tying down your tent, securing a boat, or even binding your fire logs together, your success will depend on how well you are able to secure them tightly. While most folks know a few basic knots, almost everyone could use a refresher course on how to tie some of the more advanced knots for various uses.
The art of tying ropes, or ropework, is a skill that has been around since rope was first woven together. In survival, I would even go so far as to place rope tying skill as a close second to the ability to start a fire.
If that sounds crazy to you, just consider all the things you may need to tie or secure for survival…
- For Shelter – Binding together branches to make a shelter or tying down your tent or tarp.
- For Supplies – Securing larger items to your vehicle or even smaller items to your backpack.
- For Acquiring Food – Tying snares or tripwires on small animal traps, or tying and securing fishing lines.
- For Protection/Security – Setting tripwires for perimeter warning systems or booby traps.
- For Safety – Tying off for safety when traversing difficult terrain like climbing mountains or crossing rivers.
It makes a huge difference when you KNOW that the rope you have just tied won’t slip or come apart as compared to HOPING whatever you are securing will stay in place.
Learning knots may be confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it you will be able to tie any type of rope like a master sailor, probably with your eyes closed.
Since there are so many different knots, here are a few survival essentials to know:
Anatomy of a Knot
Ropework, like everything else, has its own specialist jargon. Obviously this isn’t too useful in some situations (like when you’re the only one who understands it), but if you’re talking to someone who really knows their stuff (most sailors and climbers) it’s really worth it. The picture above displays the component parts of a knot and associated jargon.
A Note on Materials
There are a lot of different materials for knots out there. Before anything else, you should know that ‘rope’ is a term technically denoting a raw material, before it is cut, whipped / taped or given a purpose. ‘Line’ is the technical term for what rope becomes once it has been cut or given a purpose.
Ropes of different materials and different constructions have different attributes. The three main types are: ‘laid’ (which most people would think of twisted, made up of different ‘strands’), ‘braided’ (what it sounds like), and ‘kernmantle’ (which is made up of a strong ‘core’, surrounded by a braided ‘jacket’, which provides a good exterior surface for tying) Paracord is a kernmantle rope. All of these can be referred to as cord, or line, or rope. Yes, it is confusing and ambiguous
A bend is any knot which is used to securely connect the ends of two pieces of line. The difference tends to be in which type of line is being joined to what, as different materials and thicknesses of line interact differently.
Reef Knot (or Square Knot)
Sheet Bend (and Double Sheet Bend)
Hitches are knots which are tied around something, a post, column, tree-branch etc. They are most commonly used for holding a load to the post, such as a boat to a bollard, or a horse to a tree. They are not to be confused with lashings, which hold multiple posts/sticks etc together, although often the best way to secure the line to one of those posts in order to begin the lashing is to use a hitch of some kind. In general, the standing end is attached (probably also with some kind of hitch) to the load, then the working end is attached to the post with a hitch as well.
Learn more knot tying techniques at www.survivalsullivan.com
The list contains both basic and advanced knots and are enough to get you started, but don’t stop there. There are so many ways to tie knots that many books have been written on the subject.
Your rope-tying skills can mean a difference between life and death so make sure you know a variety of different knots for different needs and how to tie them properly.
Until next time…
Take care and God bless
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