Knot tying videos & guides are abundant online. If you want to learn how to tie a knot, you can easily go to animatedknots.com. That said, I thought it might be helpful for us to share some of our favorite knots and their applications. When I was first introduced to the basic field knots, I wasn’t given any explanation as to their use, and I only came to appreciate them as I learned what they were good for.
I have a bit of a background in knot tying from the Air Force. I used to teach tower climbing/tower rescue classes. One thing I’ve learned is that people from different backgrounds (Boy Scouts, Air Force, Sailors, etc.) often have different names for the same knots, so don’t get too offended if someone calls your favorite knot something different than you do. I’m no master at these things, and am always learning, so let’s all share some useful information here and help each other grow.
I’ll kick things off with 3 methods I use to secure cordage, webbing, rope, etc. Securing cordage in an easy to use & easy to access way is important while you’re on the job/in the field.
1: Daisy Chain
Daisy chains are easy to tie, unravel quickly, and can be “doubled up” to reduce length as seen in my 3rd picture. To unravel, simply pull on the hanging end of your daisy chain and the whole thing comes apart in a matter of seconds. The “wow” factor makes a great party trick if that’s your thing! Some drawbacks: Daisy chains aren’t the neatest method of securing cordage, and are not the best solution for pulling off small segments of cordage at a time.
2: Paracord “fast rope”
The fast rope is a classic. Often, when you buy paracord it will come secured this way. This method secures your cordage in a tight bundle, which makes it easy to pack a lot of length at once in a small pouch. You simply pull your hanging end of rope, and loops will begin to feed out of the bundle. After you’ve cut your desired length of cordage, simply cinch the bundle tight, and you’re good to go. Drawbacks: If you’re not careful, your bundle can come loose, and it’s possible to lose the hanging end in the bundle that way. To prevent this, you can tie a knot in your hanging end, and ensure you keep the bundle tight at all times.
3: Paracord Donut
I’ve become fond of this method lately for small amounts of cordage. The donut allows you to easily pay off small amounts of cordage at a time and retie your donut after you trim what you want. Drawbacks: In order to store a large amount of cordage, your paracord donut would have to be pretty large before you stowed any substantial length.
Alright fellas. Comment, share, discuss! Next time I’ll post some of the basic knots we all know if someone else doesn’t beat me to it.
Alright, it’s been a solid month. Time for the butterfly knot.
•Advantages: Can be tied quickly even with gloves on. Very secure knot that won’t come undone easily unless you want it to, but can be untied easily enough once loaded.
•Disadvantages: I’ve seen quite a few people struggle when learning to tie this knot.
This knot allows you to tie a loop mid-span of a line. This could also be accomplished by tying a bowline on a bight, but the butterfly knot takes less rope, is quicker to tie, and gives you one single loop, which is usually all I need, instead of the 2 loops the bowline on a bight gives you.
This knot has all kinds of uses. We used to use this knot on a length of rope dangling from a tower and connect a snap hook to it to send up gear. It can be used to tie a truckers hitch, to give you a pulling handle while dragging something, or to even make a rope ladder. In an earlier post, I mentioned the rear mount for my rifle sling is a double fisherman’s knot around the buttstock with a butterfly knot to pass the sling through or connect an HK clip to. While it might not be super high-tech, it gives me the ability to mount my sling exactly where I want it and allows the sling to swivel.
One note on learning to tie this knot… There are a few ways I’m familiar with to tie it. Two of them involve looping rope around one hand multiple times and pulling one section through the other. The other method—the one I usually use—involves taking a bight, pinching the bottom, twisting the bight twice in one direction to cross the rope on itself, and pulling the tip of the bight through the crossed section of rope. This can be done very fast, even with gloves. When I used to teach guys this last method, some would hate it, others thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I’m sure there are more ways to tie this knot, but the bottom line is the best way is the way that you can consistently tie correctly. Learn them all, but also know what works best for you.
Butterfly knot with sling attached to stock
Butterfly knot mid-line on a length of nylon tape to make a shoulder “harness” for a hand saw.
Life has been busy, so no new knots for a few more days. However, I wanted to make a quick post about something.
The other day I needed to climb a tree of mine to cut some branches with my hand saw. I wanted a secure way to hold the saw on my body, while having easy access to it. To accomplish this, I used some mule tape and tied a sling system with a butterfly knot & two bowlines, then combined it with a carabiner to clip the “sling” together. The saw hangs at my side in the second photo so you can see it, but I was climbing with it flat against my back. Just an example of one of the abundant ways you can use knots to help make your lives easier.
Double Fisherman’s Knot
(technically a bend, but whatever)
•Advantages: A very secure knot. Much better than using a square knot to join two lengths of rope. It’s also adjustable!
•Disadvantages: Since you’re essentially tying two double overhand knots, the double fisherman’s knot can be difficult to untie.
•Uses: Many! Lately, this knot has gained a special place in my heart, so it gets its own post. Like the square knot, you can use the double fisherman’s knot to tie two ends of rope together, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Because this knot is adjustable (pull on the standing ends of the rope or pull the tails of the knots) it has all kinds of uses for tying both ends of one rope into a single adjustable loop. I didn’t like how loose my tent’s rain cover was the other day, so I untied the granny knots that held the corners of the rain cover down and replaced them with the double fisherman’s knot. This allowed me to adjust how tight the rain cover was cinched down. In the second photo below, I’ve used a double fisherman’s knot with a butterfly knot (next post) to provide a clip in point for my rifle sling. This knot is also useful to create tie downs for pieces of gear that you want to secure with shock cord where you want some tension, but don’t want to lock your stuff in like Fort Knox. For example, I wanted to tie down my sleeping pad vertically along my pack, but only had one strap up top to secure the pad. I dropped a double fisherman’s knot with shock cord on the bottom of the pack and walla, second strap created! Last photo here is me using shock cord to secure my sling because I didn’t have a ranger band. Get creative and try different things out for yourself. Sometimes you use the wrong knot for the job, but that’s how you learn what works!
Did a lot of knot tying in college for a mountain club i was joining but have lost a lot of that knowledge. These posts are really jogging my memory on this stuff so thank you! Keep up the good work! I might chime in if I remember any of the ones I had learned.
Gonna keep this going until I’ve exhausted my knowledge. About a dozen more posts lined up. Please remember, when I give uses for these knots, this is based off my limited knowledge and experience. You may know of others. Most importantly, understand what the knot does mechanically speaking, and experiment with uses. If you know of more applications for these knots, please chime in! That’s directed at you, Boy Scouts.
Stand by… We’ll get to prusiks and 3:1 mechanical advantage systems eventually.
Double Overhand Stopper Knot
•Advantages: Very secure hold. Won’t come untied easily.
•Disadvantages: You guessed it! Once tension is applied, this knot can be incredibly difficult to untie, so consider that before you make an application.
•Uses: Because of how secure a knot this is, it makes a great safety knot when you can’t afford to see your primary knot come undone. I’ve used this in climbing/rescue applications. Additionally, tying this knot on one piece of cordage gives you a loop that will cinch under tension. This can be useful for securing loads, but remember, this guy is hard to untie once loaded.
Figure Eight & Figure Eight on a Bight
•Advantages: Secure knot. Doesn’t come undone easily, but is easier to untie once loaded compared to a double overhand safety. Is also quick to tie.
•Disadvantages: Not too much to say here. The figure 8 knot is bomb.
•Uses: The figure 8 knot can be used as a stopper, but more importantly, it’s the building block for tying other types of figure 8 knots that are crucial for rescue & climbing applications. For example, the figure 8 on a bight (a bight is when you lay the length of the rope back along itself, doubling it up), which is ideal for clipping carabiners & other connectors to anchor points, as seen in my last picture.
Important stuff. Good knowledge of knots is the difference between retaining your cordage and slowly losing it because you have to chop your shit down every time because you used “hatchet knots.”
Alright, double posting to put up a few more knots. Someone else get in here and start showing us your freaky mind-bending ninja knots.
•Advantages: So easy, a caveman could tie it. Unties easily even after being loaded
•Disadvantages: Unties easily after being loaded. Shocker! If you need a square knot to stay together, it’s a good idea to throw two stopper knots next to it.
•Uses: Any time you want to tie together two lengths of rope that are equal in diameter. I stress EQUAL, because using ropes of different diameter will make this knot slip under tension. This knot is great if you need to quickly splice some cordage.
Overhand Stopper Knots
•Advantages: Don’t require much length to tie, and provide easy “insurance” to secure other knots.
•Disadvantages: While incredibly secure, double overhand knots are a pain to untie once loaded. The “single” overhand knot will be easier to untie, but will also slip easier.
•Uses: Stopper knots function to keep other knots from slipping untied. In the first photo below, you’ll see an overhand stopper knot on the right, and a double overhand stopper knot on the left. In the second photo, you can see two overhand knots securing a square knot. It’s important to tighten your stopper knots so they sit close to the knot they’re securing. An overhand knot can also be tied in a length of cord as a pace count tracker during land nav.
Bowline “the king of knots”
•Advantages: Strong, easy to untie after loaded with tension.
•Disadvantages: If you pronounce it “bow-line” a retired navy vet will appear and shout “it’s pronounced bow-lin!”
•Uses: Guy line, pull an object, attach a taut line for an A-frame shelter, or even to make a hasty rescue harness