Tying knots is an essential skill that anyone serious about preparation, survival, or bushcraft needs to know. There are a few essential survival knots and basic rope skills that everyone should learn. There is a misconception that tying knots is only for fishermen, sailors and climbers. But knots are just as important in everyday life as they are in a wide variety of survival scenarios.
Knots are essential for everything from tying down a tarp for a shelter to tying down gear in a storm. There are a variety of knots for a variety of situations. Writing down the best knot for each scenario is beyond the scope of this article.
We will write down the most commonly used knots for a survival situation. These knots are versatile and will suffice for the most common knotting tasks.
Note that there are special nodes for specific situations. And in the future we will probably get into these specialized nodes. But until then. Learn these first.
Basic node terminology
loop, a cord loop.
Bay, strings close together without crossing each other.
Bite is the part of the cord that grabs onto itself to hold a knot together.
The working end is the part of the cord actively used to tie the knot.
Standing end is the part that is kept inactive while tying the knot.
Standing part, the parts of the line that are not used in the tying process.
When flogging, a smaller string or thread is tied to the end of the rope to prevent fraying.
Kink, minor damage to the rope from small loops or repeated knot tying.
Lashing involves tying two objects together with a string.
Knotting is a term used to describe the process of tying a cord to itself or another cord.
Hitch, a term used to describe a cord attached to an object.
Elbows, cord crossing each other.
Tightening, tightening a knot by properly adjusting the knot so that it lies properly. Arranging the knot in a certain way can increase the strength of the knot and prevent the knot from getting stuck.
types of ropes
In general there are 2 types of cables. Synthetic and natural lines.
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Note that all lines have different breaking strengths, most synthetic lines are more durable and have a greater breaking strength than natural lines of a similar diameter. Even ropes with the same diameter and material can have different breaking strengths depending on the manufacturer and model of the rope.
The only way to determine the breaking strength of cordage is to read the specifications provided by the supplier. Each company has different testing methods that make it difficult to compare cables.
When ropes with a certain breaking strength are required (e.g. when climbing). Check the specifications very carefully and only buy reputable brands. Like Mammut, Petzl, Edelrid and Beal.
Knots weaken cordage
Any knot tied in the line will weaken it, there are knots that some people claim will not weaken the line such as the 'Bimini Twist'.
Care of cordage
Maintaining the cords is not that difficult, keep the cords clean, dry and out of direct sunlight. Chemicals and dirt easily damage the rope.
If a rope needs cleaning, do so in warm water to remove sand, grit, and abrasives. DO NOT use washing powder as it will act as an abrasive and will weaken your rope. Abrasives include salt from salt water. Soak all cables that will be exposed to salt water in fresh water and dry gently with a cloth. Then hang to dry and protect from direct sunlight. Store in a cool, dark room that is well ventilated.
Coiled cord in large loops to avoid tangles and kinks.
flogging the end of the cordage
This used to be the most popular method of preventing cord fraying and is still commonly practiced with natural cords. With synthetic cords, end melting and taping are common methods of sealing the ends of cords.
Often used as a rescue knot. It is one of the few knots that can be tied quickly with one hand. All firefighters and rescuers will know this knot well.
Well... actually I think the Prusik clutch would be more accurate. The Prusik is very versatile. It is great for setting up shelters as well as for rappelling in an emergency. The Prusik hitch is a loop of rope or cord that is tied off. It is then wrapped over another rope.
Holding the looped end of the Prusik and applying tension along the length of the rope around which the Prusik is wrapped causes friction and the Prusik holds. As long as there is constant tension. To release the Prusik, release the tension and slide it along the rope it is wrapped around. To fix it, increase the tension on the hanging part of the Prusik.
The reef knot
Commonly known as the square knot, it is used for first aid (makeshift tourniquets) or to tie two lines together. It's a very strong knot in the right conditions. It's also very easy to learn.
Reef knots don't do well with certain material ropes/line like nylon. It also tends to loosen when there is no tension and it's being jogged around. If you are tying 2 different diameter cords, a sheep bend would be better.
sheet metal bending
Great knot for tying 2 strings/ropes together. In contrast to the reef knot, the leaf bend is very suitable for tying 2 cords of different diameters together. If the rope diameters are too different, a double sheet bend is recommended. The thicker rope should be the one with the single bight. The smaller rope should be wrapped around the larger rope bight.
The clove hitch is not a knot, but it is the basic beginning for many forms of tie-downs and wraps. Very easy to tie and very versatile. Probably one of the most used towbars. It should be noted that the clove hitch can slip if the object to which it is attached is too large or the pressure on the rope is not constant.
Double Fisherman's Knot
Ideal for tying 2 ends of a cord together into a loop that can later be used as a Prusik hitch. The double fisherman's knot is a tight knot that can be tied neatly. If the knot is to serve as a load carrier, tie a triple or even quadruple fisherman's knot.
Just be aware that the knot is under a lot of pressure or stress. It can be a real pain to break free.
Figure 8 knots
The figure 8 is a great stopper knot, it is also a very strong knot. Easy to check if properly tied and very popular with mountaineers. For survivalists, this knot has a variety of uses. If a strong knot is needed to be untied later, choose the number 8.
Butterfly Alpine Knot
The Butterfly Alpine Knot is the perfect knot for tying a loop in a rope. The loops have a variety of uses. To tie off a weaker part of a damaged rope, to make loops, to hang items in the middle of a rope.
Knots need practice if you want to tie them properly and quickly. If they are to be used for rock climbing, please take a class and learn them from a professional. Learning to climb knots online without proper instruction is dangerous.
Best survival rope, what to buy and why you need it. Click on the image above