Tie the Knot(s)
By Mary Reed
Tying your shoes will get you out the door, but once you’re in the great outdoors, it’s best to have a handful of knots in your repertoire for both safety and practicality. “You’ve got to use the right knot in the right situation,” advises Stephen Harvey, an Eagle Scout and volunteer for the Tecumseh District of Boy Scouts of America, Troop 12 in southern Ohio. Stephen once tied 205 knots from memory, but you don’t need to know that many. Here are a few of the most useful ones:
Sheet bend. “It’s the most useful knot there is,” Stephen contends. He counts it as his favorite all-around knot because you can use it for pretty much anything, including making a loop or connecting two ropes (a bend knot by definition connects two ropes). It’s good for connecting ropes of different thickness, but not so to the extreme. Stephen eschews a more popular bend knot, the square knot (“counted as a great knot, but it’s not a great knot”), which can come undone with ropes of different thickness.
Clove hitch. As the name suggests, this is a knot for hitching. For example, you need to attach your boat to something on shore or you want to wrap your tent fly guy lines around your tent stakes. Once again, Stephen eschews the clove hitch in some situations – where there is or will be tension on the rope (“The clove hitch only works if the knot is constantly under pressure”), so once you’ve mastered the clove hitch, move on to two half hitches and the taut line hitch.
Figure 8. The figure 8 is a classic stopper knot – that is, it will stop something from sliding off the end of a rope, for example, a rappeller. Even if you’re not a rappeller or a rock climber, it’s still necessary to know this one for the climbing gym and it’s good to use as an all-around stopper.
Bowline. The bowline is a classic looping knot; you use it to make a loop out of a section of rope. It’s great for hanging bear bags, looping a rope around a tree or throwing a rescue line to someone.
With all knots, Stephen notes, it’s important to tie them correctly and to cinch them correctly. So practice these knots at home – and if these knots aren’t in your repertoire, put them there today. “The best way to practice is to do it repeatedly, and you know you can do the knot if you can tie it behind your back – or blindfolded,” Stephen says, “If you can tie it without looking, you know you know the knot.”