Knots can be as mystifying as they are useful. How many times have you needed to attach an object, secure a load, or tighten a tarp or tent and, despite having the rope or cord necessary, had no idea about the best way to get the job done?
The good news is there's no need to memorize the hundreds of intricate ways man has concocted to use a stretch of rope—Turk's Head, anyone?
With just a little practice you can become expert at tying a half-dozen knots that should get you through most camping situations.
Here are five useful knots that all campers should know.
This is probably the first knot you picked up after learning to tie your shoes. Its main function is to tie two ends of a single line together to secure an object. An example would be connecting the two ends of a bandage you've wrapped around a wound.
Because of its ease in tying, however, the square knot is probably overused. It should not be called on in critical situations, because it can come loose if not under constant tension. Plus, it's not recommended for nylon rope or for two lines of different thickness.
In his book The Ashley Book of Knots, Clifford W. Ashley says,"There have probably been more lives lost as a result of using a square knot as a bend [to tie two ropes together] than from the failure of any other half dozen knots combined."
To tie a square not, take one end of your line in each hand and tie two overhand knots, first with the right hand over the left, then with the left over the right, and pull snug.
This is the easiest, most effective way to tie a rope snugly around a post, tree or ring.
Wrap your rope around your anchor point and bring the loose end across the line and through the loop you just created. Then wrap the loose end around the line a second time, this time outside the loop, and pull it tight.
You should have a strong, snug connection that holds up both under tension and with a slack line.
The taut-line hitch is similar to two half-hitches, but rather than simply securing a rope to a post it enables you to adjust the tension between two objects. That makes this a useful knot for tightening a rain fly on a tent or setting up a tarp with guylines—anything where you can benefit by changing the tension.
You're going to replicate the first step of tying two half-hitches, but this time you loop the loose end of the rope around the longer line twice before finishing with a third loop outside the original loop.
Once you tighten the knot, you should be able to adjust the tension of the rope with whatever object you're tying to your anchor point.