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  • Knots and related uses of line

    I recently helped a beginning AT section hiker with a few things amoung which were some knots and how to do some things related to handling lines. As a guess I suspect other beginners may be just as uninformed so I am starting this thread to talk about knots and other rope/line handling things. Hopefully this will result in an article for the WB archives.

    1. The hiker was using a carabiner on the end of the bear bag rope but noted in passing that the rope did not seem to be well tied to the 'biner. I demonstrated how to make a loop using a bowline knot and then hook the 'biner through the loop. Personally I only use a 'biner when hooking my food bag to a cable system or to one of the SNP's bear poles - when using a bear bag I just use a bowline to attach the food bag to the line - easy to tie and easy to untie. I consider the bowline to be one of the most useful knots to know. Variations include the weavers knot. Animated images of the bowline knot: http://www.42brghtn.mistral.co.uk/knots/42ktbowl.html and http://www.ropeworks.biz/archive/AbowV.html Another useful loop knot is the figure 8 knot tied in the bight - see pictures: http://www.iland.net/~jbritton/inlinefigure8loop.htm

    2. The hiker also mentioned that there were times when getting the bear bag rope up over the branch was difficult just using the 'biner for the weight. Here I showed the hiker how to attach the bear bag rope to a water bottle (1 liter soda bottle) using a constrictor knot. This weight is much easier to throw since one can adjust the weight by drinking some of the water and its fairly easy to throw a partially filled bottle accurately over a branch. Note I use the method for making the constrictor knot by doing a loop around the bottle and then taking the loop putting in a half twist and bringing it over the top of the bottle - this is much faster than the typical way of making the constrictor knot and permits the knot to be tied in the middle of the line easily. Note the constrictor knot is designed to hold tight and is not a slip knot - to untie work the part of the knot that is on top of the overhand part of the knot off to the side then untie the overhand knot. Animated image of the way I tie a constrictor knot on the bottle neck: http://www.ropeworks.biz/archive/Aconstri.html

    3. The bear bag rope the hiker was using was the mil spec 550 cord aka parachute cord and I pointed out to the hiker that some weight could be saved with no loss of function by stripping the center 7 stands out of the sheath. Stripped 550 cord is what I use for the arch strap of my gaiters with a bowline on each end to attach to the grommets in the gaiters. I sometimes also use stripped 550 cord for my shoe laces. In both applications the 550 cord lasts longer than I originally expected.

    4. Since the bear bag was rather tangled I also showed the hiker how to butterfly the line and how that technique makes it easy to keep the line from tangling and how easy it is to pull the line out from the butterfly for use when needed. I butterfly the line across my forearm forming the cross in the middle of the arm then use the last bit of the line to wrap the cross area to keep the cross in place - its the cross that keeps the line from tangling. An image of what I mean by butterflying : http://weavingworld.ca/pics/tip-butterfly.jpg

    5. For tent stakes I use aluminum gutter nails and to attach the lines from the tarp to the nails I just wrap the line around the nail 10 to 20 times and then stick the nail in the ground - if I need to adjust the length of the line I either move the nail or add some wraps of the line to the nail. The nails I use have a roughened surface so they do not rotate in the ground and they hold the line wrapped around them very well

    6. Another knot that I use is the Hennessy Hammock knot for attaching the line from the hammack to the tree saver straps. Illustrations and video : http://www.theplacewithnoname.com/hi...lter/hknot.htm

    7. Although I don't use this knot myself I know a number of hikers us a tautline hitch for making the adjustment of their line attached to the tarp easy. Pictures of the steps in tieing the tautline hitch: http://www.iland.net/~jbritton/tautlinehitch.htm

    8. One thing that I commonly do when I want to hang something on a tree is to take a boot lace that I have tied into a loop - make a doubled loop and hook a 'biner into it - to hang something on a tree just pull either the doubled loop or a single loop (for bigger trees) around the tree and hook the 'biner into the loop(s) - then hang whatever you wish from the 'biner.

    9. To attach a tarp to a tree I use a round turn and two half hitches where the second hitch is slipped (tied with the bight instead of the end). Illustrated example of a round turn and two half hitches: http://www.42brghtn.mistral.co.uk/knots/42ktrndt.html

    10. One thing that is quite useful for some applications is a cord lock. One of the ways that I use this is as a belt replacement - take a doubled length of stripped 550 cord and put the loop end through the cord lock - tie a series of overhand or figure eight knots in the other end - thread the replacement belt through the belt loops and then slip the knots through the loop - adjust for desired tightness then tighten the cord lock to lock the loop around the desired knot in the other end. Other uses of cord locks are typically when used with shock cord for things like the strap under the foot for gaiters and for snugging up clothing to the body.

    11. While observing a new tarp user have some difficulty rigging the tarp with trekking poles a few notes on this use is in order but not being a tarp user myself please take this advice with a fairly large grain of salt. Anyways one approach to an A-frame type of tarp setup is to a.) stake out the tarp first allowing enough loose fabric so that one can raise the center ridgeline to the desired height; b.) use a clove hitch to attach the line from the point of the tarp setup to the trekking pole on one side - this is done so that the trekking pole is right at the point of the ridge; c.) extend the line from the clove hitch to a tent stake or other tie out point (rock etc). See animated image for clove hitch: http://www.goals.com/ClassRm/knots/clove.htm but note that in this application it is more typically tied by throwing a couple loops over the end of the trekking pole - see alternative technique at bottom of this link : http://www.boatsafe.com/marlinespike/clovehitch.htm Once one side is done do the same on the other side and then adjust the trekking poles' length and position for the desired tightness of the tarp.

    12. If the tarp user wishes to setup a ridge line with trekking poles before tossing the tarp over the line then a slightly different techique is needed since the tarp is not in place to supply the lateral stability for the pole. In this case a large loop of line is attached to the trekking pole and two tent stakes are used to form a triangle - the line goes from a clove hitch at the trekking pole down to one stake then over the ground to the other stake and then back up to the trekking pole where it is attached with a second clove hitch. The line is then run over to the other trekking pole and the same technique is used on that end. The poles are then adjusted as to position and height and then the tarp is spread across the ridge line and staked down. A tautline hitch on each point can be used to attach the tarp to the ridge line or the tarp can be tied to the trekking pole with a round turn and two half hitches.

    13. RockyTrail mentioned a good technique for hanging a plain bear bag in the thread on bear bag hanging : "I've always used a plain nylon sack (without a bottom strap); just twist the top closed, fold it over drybag-style and attach the rope using a simple cow hitch (a.k.a. lark's head) cinched up tight around the folded over top. Quick to tie and untie, no leaks. You can also quickly attach multiple bags to the same rope this way. You can add a half-hitch or use a "pedigreed cow hitch" if you want more security against slippage for the lowest bag, but I haven't had one slip yet. http://www.layhands.com/Knots/Knots_Hitches.htm , scroll to No. 8". This idea sounded so good I started using it myself - I really like the idea using a plain plastic or silnylon bag - I use a trash bag as a collection bag putting all the bear bag stuff into the trash bag - works great for keeping the stuff dry using this technique to attach the line to the bag.

    14. CanoeCamper over on Around the Campfire forum mentioned a knot that may be of interest to people hanging a hammock that uses a metal ring - the suggestion was to use an Anchor Bend . This knot may also be useful to people tieing a line to a 'biner as was mentioned in item 1. above - the Anchor Bend knot will wear better than the bowline that I suggested above.

    What other knots should I discuss in this article? The intent is to link to other resources such as http://www.netknots.com/ for illustrations but I want to talk about the uses of the various knots in the context of backpackers.