What's All This Knot Stuff, Anyhow? (Part II)

Dec. 3, 2001
Today I'm writing about some knots that I will use this weekend to tie my tent and my sleeping bag onto the bottom of my packframe. If I need to put too much stuff inside my pack, I'll use the same knot to tie the stuff on top of my pack. By the time...

Today I'm writing about some knots that I will use this weekend to tie my tent and my sleeping bag onto the bottom of my packframe. If I need to put too much stuff inside my pack, I'll use the same knot to tie the stuff on top of my pack. By the time you're reading this, I will be using these knots to tie my duffel on top of a yak in Nepal.

I've been using these knots for about 40 years, and they're much better than any straps or "bungee cords." (Some people use these even though they're several ounces heavier.) This knot set isn't necessarily the strongest. But it's strong enough, very secure, and very easy to tie and untie. In many cases, those are very important features.

Let's keep this short and sweet: Assume that I have an object, or a large, bulky roll (or two or three) of stuff that I need to lash onto my packframe—or onto any frame. I start by tying a good long piece (about 12 to 15 ft.) of light nylon cord (parachute cord) to one corner of the frame at A (see the drawing). I just use a few half hitches there. (The type of knot used isn't important.) I leave the short end of the cord about 15 in. long, and I tie it into a bowline at B. Half hitches are optional.

I plunk down my sleeping roll and tent as shown at BB, BB. I arrange the long end of the cord over the roll at C, then reach it around under the pack frame at D. Again I put it over the roll at E, under the frame at F, over the roll at G, under the frame at H, and back over the roll at I. I bring the end of the long line J through the bowline at K. Next I tie a simple slip half hitch with the long end, as shown at L (see Details of Knots).

The knots are basically done, yet the cord isn't very tight. The load isn't secure, so starting at C, I lift up on the cord. I lift up at C, and push down on the roll at C. Then I pull up at E, taking up the slack at D while pushing down at C. I next pull up at G to pull the slack out of F, while pushing down at E. I repeat by pulling up at I to take up slack at H, while pushing down at G. When I get to I, I have all this slack. Now what do I do with it? I pull on the loose end J. This instantly unties the half hitch and takes up all the slack. I pull at J, then pinch the cord at M as it comes through the bowline—and I tie a new slip half hitch. Now the load is considerably tighter.

I adjust the ropes to make sure that they go around the load, or roll, in about the right places. I pull again and tighten up again, taking up slack at C, E, G, and I. I release the half hitch again, take up the slack, and tie another half hitch. Usually, one more pass gets it very tight and secure.

To finish, I take the bight N and pull it long enough to let me make a couple more half hitches (P, P) around the cord at I. The long end left over (J), which may be 3 or 4 ft., can be tied across the load, side to side, to provide transverse stability. Or, I just tuck it under another rope to keep the cord from flapping in the breezes. Even if you snag a cord on a tree, the knots won't come undone.

This type of knot has never come undone on me, and I almost never have to stop and take off my pack and re-arrange the cord and load. Usually, it stays put. If the load shifts, I undo and loosen the cord a little, rearrange the stuff, and tighten up the cord again.

To untie this knot system, I simply undo the (very loose) double half hitches at P, P, then tug on the long line J. The slip half hitch comes apart, the knot comes completely undone, and the loosening and unloading can continue.

In Part III, in a few months, I will write about the "Dutchman," a knot to bind loads onto trucks.

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected]—or:

Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

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