What's the best thing about camping? The serenity? Family time? Ice cold tinnies straight from the Esky? We reckon all these things are a bit of alright, but they're made a whole lot sweeter when they're immediately preceded by a display of knot-tying mastery.
Ask yourself: how am I going to feel, helplessly watching my saggy tarp fill with rain because I can't tie a decent trucker's hitch? If you're half serious about exploring the great Australian outdoors, the fundamentals of knot tying are a happy camping imperative.
Before we’ve even hit the road we're strapping gear together and tying it down on the roof racks or the trailer. Once we’ve reached the campsite, we’re securing guy ropes, tying makeshift washing lines, and throwing ropes over tree branches to string up our tarp and keep the rain at bay.
So to help you on your way to knot-tying pre-eminence, we’ll show you how to tie a few useful camping knots that we frequently use on our adventures.
The reef knot or square knot has been around longer than pre-sliced bread and has many useful applications when camping.
As we have demonstrated in the video above, it is a knot for tying two lengths of rope together.
The reef knot is a great one to remember for reconnecting a broken guy rope, or joining two shorter ropes together when you need that little bit extra to help you secure a load.
However, it’s important to remember that the reef knot was not designed to perform as a bend (a knot that joins two lengths of rope). That’s is because it is an intentionally unstable knot.
The name ‘reef’ knot actually comes from the technique of reefing a sail. In strong winds, sailors fold one edge of the sail inwards (reefing) to decrease its overall surface area. But when you decrease the sail’s surface area you end up with a baggy section left over. That’s where the reef knot comes in. It was used to gather that sail together in high winds, and with one quick tug could be released ‘shaking it out’.
This is where we see the true and most effective use of a reef knot: to gather items together. You can use a reef knot to bundle sticks or tent poles together for transportation.
Alternatively, it’s perfect for tying up rubbish bags. Simply twist two bag ends and tie a reef to form a handy carry handle.
If you do use the reef knot as a bend, just make sure it’s NOT your main weight bearing connection, and never use it in safety-critical situations.
Everyone can picture this knot. It’s easy because it looks the way it sounds.
The figure-eight knot can be used in a couple of ways while camping. It’s mostly used as a stopper knot at the end of a rope under load, preventing it slipping through a device. For example, rock climbers sometimes use figure-eights to tie off rope ends to prevent them sliding through a belay device.
The figure-eight is also the foundation of a number of more complex knots, like the figure-eight loop which is useful when you need to tie a loop in the middle of a section of rope, rather than at the end. To make a figure-eight loop, double your section of rope back on itself (forming a bight) and tie the figure-eight as normal using the doubled rope to make a strong loop.
The bowline is considered one of the most useful knots anyone can learn. A bowline forms a strong non-slip loop at the end of a length of rope which can be easily untied and has a number of uses while camping.
You could use a bowline to form a semi-permanent loop at the end of a guy rope that has worn out. It’s great for securing tarps or for creating a pulley system for tying down a load – basically, any time you need a loop at the end of a rope, the bowline is your go-to.
If you struggle to remember this one, try and memorise the mnemonic: "Up through the rabbit hole, round the big tree; down through the rabbit hole and off goes he." The rabbit is the working end, and the tree is the standing end. Boy Scouts learn this as a fun way to learn and remember the knot (when they don’t have access to the internet...).
The bowline is a very strong knot when under load, but is not suitable for safety-critical situations due to it’s tendency to collapse when not under load.
Start rhyming and practising and you are sure to find many other uses for this “King of Knots.”
The trucker’s hitch is the knot that we use the most while camping because it makes the perfect adjustable guy rope pulley. Pitch your tent like a pro by finishing off with a trucker’s hitch on each guy rope, allowing you to adjust tension easily each day after your tent has relaxed under the pressure of the wind.
As the name suggests, it’s also perfect for securing a load as it forms a crude pulley system that can be tensioned as desired before being tied off to prevent slipping.
Master this knot and you’ll find yourself using it on every single camping trip.
Triple Overhand Knot
The triple overhand is (as the name suggests) a variation on a simple overhand knot. By wrapping it more than once, you increase the weight of the knot and its potential stopping power.
It’s perfect as a quick throwing knot for sending a rope over the branch of a tree and works as a good backup for other knots (think tying off a reef knot at each standing end).
There you have it, some basic knots to get you started on your journey to knot-tying greatness. Nail these knots and you’ll soon find more complex variations easier to remember and apply on your camping trips.
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