Knot necessarily thrilled at the thought of becoming a knotaphile? By the time you finish reading this post from Paul Turner, Founder of TakeOutdoors, there’s a good chance you’ll be in the mood to declare at least one knot a close friend…
These simple ties of rope, cord and cable could potentially save your stuff, reputation and maybe your life.
We hope you take seriously the task of learning the art of knot tying. Do it for yourself. Learn the ropes for your family. Consider this your chance to use a priceless skill that’s been around as long as humans have roamed the earth and expressed a desire to tether their precious belongings.
Besides, you never know when you might be asked to appear on a reality show requiring participants to thrive in the wild. Show competitors you’re a knot expert and you’ll be the most popular person on the island from the moment you tether your boat to the knots you tie to keep supplies out of the claws of critters.
How long have knots been around?
We turned to academic and science writer Robert Matthews because he claims to have gathered the most amount of research and background on this topic. Matthews points to evidence of knots being tied as long ago as 8000 BC.
It’s anybody’s guess how the precious relic that proves Matthews’ theory survived time and the environment, but a fishing net of primitive knots found in Finland in 1913 has been authenticated as belonging to that era, thus 8000 BC is currently acknowledged as the genesis of knots.
You can thank mathematicians for sorting out the chaos by creating the first knot classification scale based on prime numbers and closely analysing the many types of knots that have been invented over time. Some are unique and have never been tinkered with. Others are classified as copycats, knots in disguise or re-purposed knots that use a basic knot as a foundation for a more complicated one.
While some folks obsessed with the topic of knots have attempted to set up classifications, we’re still looking for a single resource that accounts for every knotting style on the planet. This Best of Infographics website page covers the topic adequately, but we won’t swear this information is comprehensive, just a darn good attempt.
Choosing just five? No easy task
Although the name—Imminent Threat Solutions (ITS)—gave us pause at first glance, we quickly realised that this website was a great starting place in our quest to identify only five knots to profile here. Sure, we perused marine, scouting, survivalist and homesteading resources promising to share top secret techniques for knots, but everyone has their favourite 5. We needed guidance and along came ITS.
Run by ex-SEAL Bryan Black and run by equally formidable staffers, ITS seemed a great resource for our dilemma. After all, if someone trained as a Navy SEAL doesn’t qualify as the person we seek to pick five of the most important knots, nobody is.
Learn more about Bryan’s picks as well as his other survival tips and recommendations on the ITS website once you master these knots. You’ll be impressed.
Knot #1 Threaded Figure-Eight
The Threaded Figure-Eight Knot is commonly known as a Flemish Knot according to sailing guides published in the early 1800s.
While other knots exist to keep things tight and taut, the Threaded Figure-Eight is known for its ability to act as the final stop-gap measure when other knots fail. Strong and secure, the Figure-Eight won’t jam up or fray rope fibres.
A popular choice of sailors over the ages who depended upon this particular knot to secure riggings, this ancient knot is easier to tie than comparable configurations.
A proven lifesaver at sea when quick action to batten down hatches can mean the difference between capsizing and staying afloat, the Threaded Figure-Eight has been adopted by mountain climbers, repellers, zip liners and adventurers. These knots are frequently used to affix climbing harnesses and locking carabiners.
Don’t create this knot using ropes of varying sizes or thicknesses or security could be compromised. Additionally, the two strands of rope used to create the knot must be uniform at each section of the knot or it could come undone under very little stress.
Knot #2: The Bowline
If you love the idea of pairing the word knot with the word trust, this is the style to learn first because it’s not just legendary but it has saved lives in myriad circumstances. Want to hang over a mountainside without writing your will first? How about making sure your boat doesn’t wander away, leaving you stranded on a desert island without a single coconut tree?
Frankly, if you were to poll sailors, outdoorsmen and survivalists, the bowline would win unanimous favor because it meets all criteria for a super knot: Easy to tie. Stays tied even when stressed. And regardless of the muscle you put into tying this knot, you won’t have to call in the Marines to help you untie it.
Let’s start with the precipice you’ve chosen for your mountaineering activities. Lower yourself down. Pull yourself up. Stay alive. There’s a reason this knot has been dubbed the “climbers lifeline.”
Fastened to trees, boulders and other anchor points, bowline knots are your passports to elevating foodstuffs to heights beyond the reach of animals when you camp in the wilderness.
Secure your boat to a dock cleat or mooring by adjusting the bowline knot. Join the exclusive club of those who learn to tie this knot with only one hand.
If you thread the bowline improperly, it can slip and be rendered useless. Once tension is released from the line hosting the bowline knot, the payload can break free. Finally, because of this knot’s configuration, it’s harder to inspect for slippage if you’re looking for weak points.
Knot #3 Taut-Line Hitch
The Taut-Line Hitch is an adjustable knot configuration used by anyone requiring a snug hold when the length of the rope or line requires periodic adjustment so tension isn’t lost. The keyword? Adjustable.
Unlike the aforementioned Bowline, you want this knot to re-invent itself when tension grows slack and sagging isn’t an option. Like the frequently disrespected comedian Rodney Dangerfield, the Taut-Line Hitch has been disrespected, perhaps because it’s versatile in a world where knots are not expected to move!
The Taut-Line Hitch can be a camper’s best friend because it’s an ideal choice for securing tent lines. Arborists are masters at using this knot because as they do their work aloft on trees, a balance of slack and taut tension allows them to adjust positions without worrying about falling.
This knot is popular among workers who are responsible for aircraft tie-downs and adjustable moorings (especially in tidal areas). When astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope, they relied on the Taut-Hitch knot to keep them from spinning into the galaxy. Mention that next time you wow others with your extensive knowledge of knots.
This is not the configuration you want when a payload or your life depends on a secure knot that won’t budge. It’s designed specifically for situations that require adjustments. If the only material you have on hand is rope made of a stiff fiber like polypropylene, either select another type of rope or another knot because this synthetic material may not hold fast due to the rope’s slick surface coating.
Knot #4 Power Cinch Knot (Trucker’s Hitch)
Do you have a propensity to over-tie rope into endless knots because you feel insecure about your technique? Over-tie no more, knotter, because the Power Cinch knot is your secret weapon.
This knot style falls into the tension knot category: it can be adjusted yet it holds like a mother bear protecting her cubs when tenacity is needed. But if you’re in a rush because the bear’s ready to charge, the Power Cinch pulls apart fast so you can escape.
Originally invented by truckers because it forms a sophisticated network of knots that work together to hold cargo tight despite adverse road conditions, there’s a reason this knot’s name includes the word power.
Talk about aliases! The Power Cinch knot is alternately referred to as a Trucker’s Hitch, Hay Knot and Lorry Driver’s knot for those eager to sound British. It’s the knot you want to have in your repertoire if you regularly secure objects to vehicles, as did travelling vendors driving horse-drawn carts back in the day.
Knot experts claim that this knot gives one a mechanical advantage. Secure cargo on your car roof. Stabilise your tent. Lower supplies over a cliff or tether a boat. Call this knot anything you like; just don’t call it wimpy.
Because the Power Cinch Knot holds so tenaciously, repeated knotting in the same place along the rope can leave sections vulnerable to rips and frays. For that reason, don’t tie this knot repeatedly in the same spot along the rope surface or it could break when you can least afford to have it do just that.
Knot #5 Double Fisherman’s Knot
Pardon the pun, but the Double Fisherman’s Knot leads a double life. It’s known in cultured circles as the Grapevine Knot, but we only have ancient mariners and not-so-ancient fisherman to instruct us how to tie it, perhaps because grapevine tenders were too busy sampling grapes to commit this knot to paper.
For murder mystery fans, the Double Fisherman’s Knot belongs in what’s called the “strangle knot” category. If you’ve plans to write a murder mystery, knowing how to tie the Double Fisherman’s could earn the respect literary agents, publishers and readers.
Here’s where that grape reference comes to fruition: Arborculturists are apparently big fans and users of this knot to secure grapevines. Alternately, fisherman depend upon this double knot so they don’t have to tell tales of the one that got away once they’re back on shore.
Some climbers employ this knot to help them ascend and descend heights. This is the knot that personnel on search and rescue missions rely upon the most when they rescue people and boats.
While the Double Fisherman’s knot is popular, this knot also happens to be problematic when time comes to release or untie it. As a matter-of-fact, it could be impossible to untie this knot. You wouldn’t be the first person who found yourself having to use a knife to release whatever you tied up.
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