clove hitch

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Basic Knot-ery

Knots are an important part of being an outdoorsmen/outdoors-woman. Even the simplest ones can change your experience. They’re a huge part of safety, ease, and structure.

To start off, get to know some basic knot terminology. Here is some useful terminology as defined by Steve Howie of GearFinder.

  • Standing end This is the long end of the rope that would go from you, the tie-er, to a tree, tent or belay point
  • Free end The end which is nearest to you and where single-line knots are tied
  • Bight A doubled-over bending of the cord, where many double-line (mid-rope) knots are tied
  • Backtie A second knot used to make sure the primary, load-bearing knot cannot come untied, also used to simply secure excess free-end cord
  • Departing rope The cordage that runs into or away from a knot

Source: GearFinder powered by Backpacker

For even more terminology, check out this list of definitions from Animated Knots by Grog™.

Now let’s get into some knots and their uses. Click the headings of each knot to see demonstrations of how each knot is created! Keep in mind that there are tons of knots out there. The ones that I’ve listed below are knots that I feel you can get the most use out of due to their extreme effectiveness and yet simplicity as well.

SlipknotThis is a basic and very commonly used knot. The great thing about this knot is that the rope will easily “slip out” when you are untying it and yet holds on tight when it is actually in use. This knot can be used to keep things tied to a post, to keep rope up & off the ground, and is even used for knitting. Something you will realize as you go along is that slipknots are often used in creating more complex knots.

Clove HitchThere is also the stacked loops method of tying this knot. This knot has its pros and cons. The clove hitch can be tied around another piece of rope to easily slide things along it. It can be tightened back into place easily but just as easily loosed back up to continue sliding things along again. It can also be used to keep a boat’s fender attached to railing or just as a general binding knot. This knot is extremely simple to tie. The only drawback is that it can slip off if tied to something that is not sturdy in its place. The same amount of pressure must always be present or else the knot may come loose.

Figure 8 KnotThis knot looks exactly as you’d imagine: like the number 8. It is most often used as a stopper knot. It is a quick knot to tie. As stated in the link above, the knot’s “virtue is that, even after it has been jammed tightly against a block, it doesn’t bind; it can be undone easily. This virtue is also, occasionally, a vice. The figure 8 can fall undone and then has to be retied.” It actually has a more complicated version often used in climbing to secure the climber’s harness to the rope. It is called the Figure 8 Follow Through knot. It looks like a “boldened” version of the Figure 8 using about double the amount of rope and “dressed” to look like a clear number 8 to keep the rope untangled.

Trucker’s HitchEventually you’ll find that you need different types of knot to make a whole other knot. Take the trucker’s hitch for example, a personal favorite of mine. As demonstrated in the video I’ve provided, this knot is based on a slip knot. As discussed earlier, due to the easy release feature of a slipknot, the trucker’s hitch is a great choice for pitching a tent. It is also a great knot for cinching gear into place. The knot has a 3 to 1 mechanical advantage. As shown in the video, the more hitches added, the greater the purchase. The great thing about this knot is that although it is extremely secure when executed correctly, it is still fairly easy to release.

Gasket CoilSomething you’ll learn as you carry around rope is that it likes to get tangled up and twisted. Well guess what? There’s a knot solution for that too. The Gasket Coil is a common knot used to keep unattached-rope clean, neat, and tangle-free thus expanding its life expectancy. This is especially important when it comes to ropes involving safety such as in the case of climbing. As the rope gets filthier, the quality of the rope quickly deteriorates. This leads to issues of safety. That’s why it has become common knowledge in the world of climbing to not step on your climbing rope. For more climbing rope care etiquette, check out this article from About.com.

A lot of knots can actually accomplish many of the same things as others. As you grow more accustomed to more and more knots, you will be able to see which you feel most comfortable with as well as where and how to use different ones. Everyone has a preference. When trying to tie a certain knot, you’ll find that people have different ways of executing the same exact knot, as can be seen in the case of the clove hitch. It is interesting to see. Knot tying is honestly an art of its own, both impressive and effective. The fact that knots can range from simple to crazy intricate shows you the range of things that rope can do for you.

Eden Ashebir
Adventure Marketing Intern

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