I am probably the biggest knot ignoramus in Virginia. Until recently, the only knot I knew was the granny knot (“so called in contempt,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary; also referred to as a “lubber’s knot” or “booby knot”). Not long ago I learned a square knot, which made me quite proud of myself. I knew that there were far superior, more sophisticated knots out there, however; and as we had a camping trip coming up I decided it might behoove me to learn some.
I checked out this nifty li’l Falcon Guide, Knots for the Outdoors. I found the instructions easy to follow and soon I was practicing several different knots.
The day before our camping trip, with several piles of laundry waiting to be done, the power at our house went out. Our generator was able to run the wash machine but not the clothes dryer, so my newly learned knots came in handy in stringing a makeshift clothesline out on the deck which did not slip or sag.
As we prepared for our camping trip, my backpack was overfull and I was able to tie several items onto the outside of it with the appropriate knots. When we got to our cabin, my newly acquired knot skills came in handy again. One of the cabin’s windows would not stay open, so I rigged up a little harness for it. I was also able to securely tie up our hammock and swing serenely in the knowledge that it would not come loose and dump me onto the ground.
So, this is really the most useful book I have read in quite awhile. As well as being a useful instructional manual on knot-making, it is a handy reference to types of rope: common uses for each kind; strength; resistance to moisture and chemicals; tendency to “stretch” under load, etc. There is a section on storing, maintaining and preparing rope for use.
Then, the knots! Instructions are accompanied by clear, colorful illustrations. Left-handed instructions are usually included as well. A couple of the more complicated knots may require a bit of studying but you’ll get it. I’m proud to say that I have learned 5 of the book’s “Ten Most Important Knots and Hitches!” The book also addresses splices and lashings, though I have not studied them yet.
The most interesting part of the book in my opinion was the section on knot strengths. Each knot’s “breaking strength” is listed as a percent. For example, “two half hitches” have a breaking strength of 70%, which means that this type of knot retains 70% of the rope’s strength and weakens it by 30%. This is pretty good compared to the square knot, which has a breaking strength of only 45%.
Some knot highlights (for me, anyway):
- The “sheet bend,” useful for tying two ropes together even when the ropes are different sizes and materials (I fancifully decided that they called it a sheet bend because it would be useful for escaping from a prison cell by tying bedsheets together, but my husband informed me that it is probably because boat and ship sails are often referred to as “sheets.” Sigh….)
- The bowline, useful for creating a secure loop at the end of a rope (this is the knot that uses the analogy of the rabbit coming out of the hole, around the tree, and back down the hole).
- The quick-release, or “slippery” loop: basically, end your knot of choice by running the working end of the knot back through the completed knot. Instead of having to pick apart the knot to undo it, you can undo your knots with a single pull on the end. Useful for quickly taking down your hammock when the thunderstorm hits!
I feel quite empowered by having learned over half-a-dozen of the knots in this book. This is a book I will be purchasing as a reference.
Check the WRL catalog for Knots for the Outdoors