Letter Re: Ropes and Knot Tying

Mr. Rawles,
I’m an avid reader of your blog, and have found it most helpful in a variety of ways. However, I have noticed a slight deficiency: there is little mention of ropes and knots.

Rope is an incredibly useful thing, both in everyday life and in a SHTF situation: it can be used in combination with a tarp and two trees to construct a makeshift shelter, can lift or pull objects, can secure objects to prevent them from moving, it can make snares and traps to catch food, and so on. One can even tie their shoes!

However, when tied with clumsy or inadequate knots, rope can be incredibly dangerous. The common square knot can fail if sideways (relative to the length of the rope) tension is applied to one of the working (“free”) ends. Certain knots can weaken rope[‘s breaking strength] by more than 40%, which can be a dangerous condition in and of itself.

For light duty (tent cord, tying things down, etc.), military-style 550 [nylon parachute] cord is incredibly useful. For heavier load-bearing uses, one should use a suitable rope.

As always, the Wikipedia has useful links and information for tying different knots. Bookstores sell books describing hundreds of knots and their uses. As always, having paper books on hand is more useful in a SHTF situation than computer files. Sincerely, – Pete S.

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning that. I have provided a couple of links to knot tying web sites in the past –such as this site that shows you exactly how they’re done (they show examples of around 75 specific knots) via clearly photographed animations.

One item that bears special mention is the rappelling carabiner. Commonly just called a “biner”–and called a “snap link” by the US military–these have umpteen uses for attaching/lifting/slinging/securing loads and acting like a pulley (or providing greater rope friction by adding multiple coils of rope, which of course relates to their originally-intended purpose for rappelling. I recommend buying a half-dozen (or more), with at least two of them with thumb screw-type locking gates.OBTW, avoid the flimsy pseudo-carbiners that are sold as key ring holders. (Thankfully, nowadays most of these are stamped “Not for Climbing Use”.) We keep several carabiner in our ATV‘s cargo bag, along with a 150 foot coil of rope, and a pair of Jumar ascenders. When used in conjunction with our ATV’s electric winch, this gear has proved immensely useful for tasks around the ranch, and particularly when packing big game uphill.