Essential Outdoor Knots, according to Rat!
About seven years ago I posted this list of Essential Outdoor Knots on the Hammockcamping Group, a little later I posted it again here on hammockforums.net. As this topic comes up pretty regular I decided to make an article of it and update all the links from the original topic.
My Grandfather taught me tons of knots. He was an old time honest-to-goodness cowboy and outdoorsman and he never ceased to amaze me at the number of things one could do with the right rope and a good knot. I can tie about 30 knots from memory, but the Essential Outdoor Knots are those that I find myself using most often and teaching to others who are along for their first trip. Generally they are easy to tie, easy to untie and have multiple uses.
I have over the years added and subtracted various knots, replacing them with similar knots that are either easier to tie or untie, but serve the same purpose. I now call the list "10 Essential Knots for the Outdoorsman". With an addendum to a few other notable knots!
10 Essential Knots for the Outdoorsman
End knots: End knots are tied in the end of a cut rope to keep it from fraying. Whipping, melting or back braiding is considered superior, but when time is of the essence, these knots will do the trick. They may also be used for 'stopper knots'. Used primarily to stop the bitter end of the rope from slipping past a primary knot (for safety's sake), but also used to stop the rope at a certain point when using a pulley or for measurement.
Ashley (Oysterman's) Stopper
Loops: Or knots that form loops, are very numerous. Even the old standby, the Bowline, has many (5?) different variations. Some are better tied into the end of the rope and some are better in the middle (span) of the rope. The bowline and figure eight have variations for both needs. I leave off the 'Figure Eight on a Bight' for a reason. This is one of my favorite knots, cool to tie and it looks good lying along the rope when it is tied. But after it is loaded it can be a real bear to untie. So it gets an honorable mention, but that's it.
Bowline on a Bight* Honorable mention, the bowline on a bight is a great way to make a hande in order to drag something, like a heavy log, or to make shoulder straps for pulling an injured person on a sled. It doubles the area of contact at the loop causing less hand pain and more purchase.
Alpine Butterfly (Linesman's Loop)
Bends: For joining two ropes, or the ends of one to form a loop.
Double Fishermen's Bend* A variant of the Ashley Stopper described above.
Sheet Bend and Double Sheet Bend
Adjustable knots: like the Drivers' (Trucker's) Hitch and the Midshipmans' Hitch are worth their weight in gold.
Trucker's/Driver's Hitch This hitch has many names, but this is the only way to tie it properly. You can also double wrap the bitter end to get a better mechanical advantage. Once wrapped three times or so the rope will generally grab and hold itself while you finish the half hitches, very handy.
Midshipman's Hitch (Taught Line) This hitch also goes by many names, tent-line, tight-line and adjustable hitch ar just a few. It is actually a rolling hitch variant. The same hitch tied to a spar is a Rolling Hitch. Adding wraps under the half hitch will help it grab slick rope better, adding wraps above the half hitch will help it grap slick spars better.
Prusik Hitch* Honorable mention: Technically a slide and grip hitch, but it has many uses around camp.
Exploding Hitches: I use the Mooring Hitch and the Highwayman all the time. Very quick and easy to tie and untie. While I have used the Exploding Clove Hitch to suspend my hammock, I don't recommend it. The Mooring Hitch can be used to suspend a hammock as it is a sliding (adjustable), locking hitch that is easy to untie (exploding). The Exploding Clove Hitch is less reliable, but good when you need a quick grab on a line that will have steady tension on it. The Highwayman Hitch is great for hanging stuff from the ridgeline, like stuff sacks, or anything else you can add a short piece of cord to.
The Slipped Buntline Hitch is the best way to attach guylines to a tarp that I have found. Once you learn to tie it the easy way you will find yourself using it in all kinds of places!
Tumble Hitch* More secure than the Highwayman's Hitch.
* Honorable Mention*:
Slackers: Rope too long? Don't cut it, use these handy hitches to take up that slack.
Chain Sinnet (Monkey Braid)
Clove Hitch* Excellent for holding the tarp side up when used in conjunction with a trekking pole or stick. Easy to adjust up or down as well, just pull a little slack and slide the whole thing. I have also used it to pitch my hammock with just the trekking poles although I used extra guy outs to stabilize the poles.
Zeppelin Bend A good bend, but make sure to tie it correctly! I like the Sheetbend/Double Sheetbend for the easier tie up; but the Zeppelin get the nod if heavy loads are involved.
Klemheist Hitch A great slip and grip hitch but, it only grips in one direction; for this reason I like the Prusik, which grips in both directions, better.
Notable Knot Resources:
Animated Knots By Grog
Roper's Knot Page
Notable Knot Index
How to pronounce 'bitter' and 'bight'; it is bitter as in 'it tastes bitter' not as in bite like a 'dog bite'. However, a 'bight' in a rope is pronounced like 'bite'.
The 'standing part' or 'standing end' is the load bearing end or section of the rope.
The 'bitter end' is the free end.
a 'bight' is piece of the standing or bitter end that is doubled.
A loop is a bight that has been crossed over (overhand loop) or under (underhand loop) to form a loop.
All knots employ the various terms above during tie up.
Another thing is to make sure you 'dress' the knot. That is to make all the various loops and pieces straight, neat and tight, also called setting the knot. A pretty knot is a strong knot!
I once talked to a guy about using the gizzies on ropes and his thot was that it is better to use something like the figure 9 or double buckle because it has a higher breaking strength than a knot. This is a misconception because ANY turn, bend or loop in a rope, whether in a knot or on a friction device causes the same weakening. The loss of strength comes from the fibers being unequally burdened in the radius of the turn. IOW, fewer of the fibers are taking the load and this happens when you tie a knot or you a friction/clamp device that uses ANY bend,turn or pinch point in the rope.
Also, if you have two knots in a rope the weaker knot is the rating to use. For instance: knot A has a retention of 75% of breaking strength, knot B has a retention of 50% of breaking strength. The new load rating is 50% of the breaking strength, not 75%. However, tying multiple knot b's into the rope just lowers it by 50%. Let's say we have three knot b's in a rope, the rope has a SWL of 100 lbs, the new SWL is 50 lbs, not 12.5 lbs. Either way it's 50%, no matter how many you have tied in the rope.
Bowline and Sheetbend not the same knot; here's why...
Last edited by Rat; 04-03-2013 at 19:26..
Good stuff Rat. My one addition would be the Zeppelin Bend because of it's security and ease of untying even after heavy loading.
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: upstate NY
Hammock: WBBB XLC dbl. 1.7, ENO Dblnst
Tarp: Superfly, MCat Dlx
Suspension: tree strap/whoopie
An excellent selection, with links to the wonderful animated knots by Grog! Thanks! That knot page deserves to be in everyone's "favorites" file.
One niggle: the Double Overhand and the Ashley Stopper (Oysterman's) Knot are two entirely different animals.
Take it easy,
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Tbilisi, Georgia
Hammock: WBBB XLC 1.7
Tarp: HG cf WinterPalace
Insulation: WB yeti
Nice compilation, thanks! And I can say that since I use most of them myself but I learned a couple of new ones that I'll try to bring with me.
I prefer the klemheist over the prussik though - find it both easier to tie and holds a grip better in the given direction of pull. Probably the knot I use the most after the taught line hitch when camping.
The Hanging Viking
A fishing mission
So this trip didn't turn out the way I anticipated..
I will, for as long as I am able, edit the article with these suggestions from everyone. I have added the Zeppelin Bend and the Klemheist Hitch to the honorable mentions category and my reason why I like something else better. I will do this until my editing privileges expire.
And thanks for the additions.
Thanks Rat! Good info and well organized for us newbies.
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."
— John Muir
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Central Washington
Hammock: ENO DoubleNest
Tarp: HH Hex
Suspension: Buckle or Whoopie
Thanks for the excellent post!
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Snyder, TX
Hammock: DIY 30d MARPAT
Tarp: DIY .74 oz cuben
Insulation: Marmot Mod
Suspension: ISLS with UCRs
Thank you, Rat!
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16 NIV)
He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one." (Luke 22:36 ESV)
While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:3 ESV)
I found the old video I was looking for concerning the Sheetbend and the Bowline. However, it is pretty long with other knot information on it; so I shot a new one just to show the comparison between the two. Plus, my new camera is HD!
Not sure how I left the slipped buntline hitch off of the original post but I will add it post haste. This is the best hitch I have found for tying a guyline to a tarp; it never spills and making it slipped means it is easy to untie.
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