The Exciting World of Ropes and Knots

Posted By Rol on Feb 29, 2016


I want to share a few comments about ropes and knots that I learned from Anthon the Adventure Seeker before I went on my long journey.

If you are going on an adventure, I suggest that you take at least 50 feet of rope.

You can certainly take more, especially if you expect to be rock climbing, but for most situations, 50 feet will be fine. Ideally, the rope will be strong enough to hold your own weight, plus a little more, allowing also for the weight of your pack. Always remember that the longer and thicker the rope, the heavier it will be to carry, and that can come into play after a few days or even just a few miles.

There are many different types of rope, and what you will need depends on what you will be doing, so it is wise to spend some time beforehand thinking about the possible situations you may encounter—from tying a pack full of food to a high branch near your campsite in order to keep it away from wild beasties to pulling someone out of quicksand (hopefully you will not run into that situation).

In order to carry rope easily you should roll it up in a loop that is approximately 2 feet in diameter, allowing it to rest on your shoulder. Or tie it to a pack if you are carrying one. If possible, keep the rope dry as it will be easier to hold on to if your situation demands that. For best results, the ends should not be frayed. When it comes to frayed rope ends, there are at least two ways to take care of that situation—Whipping and Fusing.

Fusing is basically (safely) burning the end of a rope until becomes melted and gooey, and then you can shape it into a nice, clean end before it completely cools. The key here is safety. Did I mention safety? Note that this method cannot be used on all ropes, especially those with natural fibers. That brings us to Whipping, which is gathering the loose fibers at the end of a rope and wrapping them together with a thin string to hold them in place neatly. Both methods are good, and you’ll be glad you took care of those loose ends down the road.

Knots are a perfect companion to ropes. They allow you to conquer obstacles in your way by getting around them, over them, out of them, and more—use your imagination. Knots can be easy to tie, or quite challenging, depending on what you need them to do. A good knot should work with either wet or dry rope, and can be tied to last forever or come undone with ease.

Knots come in all shapes and sizes and there are many excellent resources that describe knots and how to tie them. You can even ask around to learn new ones—sailors and grandpas love to teach stuff like that. Here are a few knot names to get you started: bowline, taut-line hitch, figure-eight knot, trucker’s hitch, hunter’s bend, highwayman’s knot, square/reef knot, clove hitch, sheepshank, and the mast jury rig knot (which looks and sounds fancy, but is really not that difficult to tie.)

Why all the fuss about ropes and knots? Imagine this:

Before you go on a journey, you decide to test out your rope and knot abilities at home. In the backyard you find a nice tree stump that is approximately the size of a small bear—I think you know where I am going with this. Using your trusty rope, you tie a bowline knot, which transforms your plain old rope into a lasso, turning you into a bear (uh, stump) wrangler. After a few successful attempts, you are an official wrangler ready to take on any bears you may come across in the wild.*

*Of course, you would not take on any bears you come across in the wild. This was just an example. Don’t mess with bears. Really.