Introduction: Learn the Best Knot for Camping

Picture of Learn the Best Knot for Camping

The Taut Line Hitch is the best knot for camping and the only knot you need in most situations. Its easy to learn, easy to remember, easy to tie and easy to untie.

This knot has a special feature: you can slide it up and down to change the length and tightness, (taut means tight) between the two objects it connects. If you have cords coming from a tarp or tent that attach to a tent peg or a tree, each cord has to be adjusted to keep the tarp or tent from sagging. That's what the Taut Line Hitch does best. It was invented by some nameless human way back along our trail and we can share in his brilliance by learning and passing on his insight, which goes from you, (as soon as you learn this knot), back to me, back to my patrol leader in Boy Scouts, to his teacher, down along the chain of human cleverness back all the way to the inventor of the Taut Line Hitch. I wonder how far that trail goes. How long after the invention of cordage did the idea of a knot so versatile pop into his head? It is fun to ponder our connections. Glad we're clever and willing to share. (That's why I love this website, so much fun to learn and share.) So learn it and teach it to someone and then say, "I just taught you the Taut Line Hitch."

Step 1:

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Have a close look at the knot before trying to learn it. We see in the picture two Taut Line Hitches, one near the tarp and another connecting the tarp to the tree. We'll untie the one nearest the tree and retie it.

Step 2:

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Wrap the cord around the tree and you'll see one part of the cord is straight and the other end is the one you can twist around the straight cord. Take it slow and let your eye follow the cord as it forms the knot in the pictures and it won't be confusing, it will be simple. It will probably help if you watch the video I made, (these pics are screen captures from that video), and its easy to learn the Taut Line Hitch if you can see it tied while I tell you what I'm doing.

Step 3:

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Wrap the end of the cord around the straight part of the cord between the tree and where the cords cross. Do this twice so you end up with 2 loops around the straight cord side by side and nearest the tree.

Step 4:

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Now wrap the cord around the straight cord again, but this time do it on the opposite side of where the cords cross. This will give you two loops near the tree and one loop closer to the tarp. Then snug everything up. (It wasn't easy the first time you tied your shoelaces but I guess you're pretty good at it now, so be patient and practice the Taut Line Hitch and you'll see how easy it really is.)

To loosen or tighten a Taut Line Hitch, hold the straight line, grab the knot and then slide it along the straight line. Unless you're holding the straight line still, the knot won't move. Very cool!

Comments

maintann (author)2016-02-18

works even better if a rolling hitch is tied around the standing part. It's basically the same knot but the second turn is pulled up over the first. This puts more of a bend in the standing part & makes for a more secure slider ,especially on smoother synthetic lines. See Grog's animated knots on how to tie it

DouglasC10 (author)maintann2016-02-18

Thanks Maintann, I'll try that, and I googled Grogs. Grogs is a great website and thanks for telling me.

tobywinks (author)2016-08-17

Love this knot!! Thank you

Marktzimmerman (author)2016-03-05

I'll have to get out my scout handbook to do a little review. As an eagle scout, I've always used two half hitches as my standard utility knot, but the taut line certainly makes for a bit more stability sometimes. Good instructable!

quas1mod (author)2016-02-22

Not to detract from our ancestral genius, but it seems to me that the big leap forward was the invention of rope. In my experience, given enough rope, all the knots that are possible will "invent" themselves! :D

skolsox (author)2016-02-18

This is definitely one of the best knots out there. I picked up a slipknot version from a guide in Alaska. Basically instead of pulling the working end all the way through when you are finishing the knot, you double it over and pull the loop most of the way through until it stays, leaving the tip of the rope on the opposite side. The knot works the same and can be untied instantly with one hand--good for cold / wet weather. My explanation is a little bit confusing, but it is fairly intuitive if you give it a try.

brightcounts (author)skolsox2016-02-21

So then you have 4 loops showing on top rather than the two...

and it is secured and will not come untied... right?

I just learned how from Mr. DouglasC10... I'm so thrilled.

skolsox (author)brightcounts2016-02-21

Not quite. There will still be 3 loops showing. Follow this instructable to the letter all the way until step 4. There, before you pull on the last leading end to "snug it up" double it back through where you came, so there is a loop on one side of the hitch and the leading end on the other. It should slide and work as normal. Hope that helps.

brightcounts (author)2016-02-19

Gosh, I wish you had taught me but you didn't. I have had this piece of rope around one of my diningroom chairs for 20 minutes now... watched the video 5 times... do everything you say... and then when I tighten, it stays tightly knotted... doesn't move aDu

DouglasC10 (author)brightcounts2016-02-19

Hi Brightcounts! I added a sketch of the Taut-Line Hitch from the Boy Scout Knots Diagram to make it more clear. Keep trying and you'll get it!

brightcounts (author)DouglasC102016-02-21

Oh, my gosh. I did it I did it I did it... just now...

My husband died 3 months ago, and I'm left with a box car and trailer and I remember him typing everything down with a simple kind of moveable knot... This must have been it. I love knots and purchased two books long ago with 3 cords of different colors, but now that he's gone, in my sadness, I just kind of go to my crochet books for comfort. Thank you for your kindness. I sincerely appreciate your response. It was so important for me to learn how to do that.

DouglasC10 (author)brightcounts2016-02-21

Somewhere your husband is smiling and thinking, "She's going to be okay! Now she knows my Super-knot." Do whatever makes you feel better and gives you comfort, Brightcounts. Less sadness and more joy is what he'd tell ya.

cammers (author)2016-02-13

Nice Instructible. And a very handy hitch.

I've always known this one as a "rolling hitch".
I've also heard it referred to as the "boy-scout-tent-rope-knot".

Wild-Bill (author)cammers2016-02-18

Interestingly, the difference is the rolling hitch is tied to a standing line (like in sailing) and the taut line hitch is tied to itself. My bible, Ashley's book of knots, tells me so ;-P.

cammers (author)Wild-Bill2016-02-20

Mr. Ashley would know.

DouglasC10 (author)cammers2016-02-15

Thanks for the comment, cammers! I've only heard it called the Taut Line Hitch but I learned it in Boy Scouts. I had to look up taut in the dictionary back then because I was embarrassed to ask. The scoutmaster also warned us "never mix alcohol and gunpowder." I never knew what that meant until I grew up and figured out he meant don't get drunk and play with guns. Glad you like my Instructable!

DanC66 (author)DouglasC102016-02-18

Ha ha, I love that old scout master of yours, spilling out wisdom, or knowledge timebombs, that will only become clear years later.

rmiller1 (author)2016-02-19

That was so simple, you teach well. I won't forget that now and hope to go camping again someday. My heart is in the deep woods where clear streams and lakes abound.

DouglasC10 (author)rmiller12016-02-20

My heart is there too, and one of the reasons I have a YouTube channel is to make videos sharing my time alone in the deep woods because I know there are people like you that can't get out there anymore and feel that lift from Nature. So they can do it vicariously through me. That gives my time out there even more meaning. Thanks for your comment, rmiller1.

boatmakertoo (author)2016-02-20

Great Instructable! I learned the taut line hitch as a Boy Scout at age 12. I have used it all my life and I am now Eighty. I was always amazed that so few used it for obvious tasks like tying a load on a car top or a truck. It is superlative for tent ropes and eliminates the mechanical devices sometimes supplied with tents which are always lost. Hopefully many more people will now become familiar with it. It the simple things that make the world work.

eliminate

DouglasC10 (author)boatmakertoo2016-02-20

80 and still tuning into the simple things that make the world work. You sir, set a fine example for us youngsters. Good on ya!

ulma doctor (author)2016-02-18

very useful knot, thanks for posting!

ChristianeK (author)2016-02-18

Brilliant knot! Thanks Douglas! I'm going to use it for my leatherworks. I make medieval inspired leatherpouches of all kinds, to this comes in very handy and will be incorporated into one of my next creations. Greetings from Sydney!

Eddie_T (author)2016-02-18

One look and I was out to the garage looking for a hank of rope. Easy to follow instruction, thanks!

maintann (author)2016-02-18

works even better if a rolling hitch is tied around the standing part. It's basically the same knot but the second turn is pulled up over the first. This puts more of a bend in the standing part & makes for a more secure slider ,especially on smoother synthetic lines. See Grog's animated knots on how to tie it

billie.nenninger (author)2016-02-18

Very helpful, I too learned this knot in scouting (Girl Scouts) I'm past sleeping in a tent at 70+ but I would like to pass this on to my grandchildren. They sleep in hammocks outside at their campground here in OR and this will be very useful. Thanks.

rokkripprapp (author)2016-02-18

The taut line hitch is indeed a treasure. I learned it as a kid and admired it greatly. Years later as a camper I forgot how to tie it and tried so hard so many times to recreate it. Then came the Internet and I found out about the <b>icicle hitch</b>, which is the rolling hitch (taut line hitch) on steroids. Still great to know this hitch, because the icicle takes more time and more rope. In between is the <b>adjustable grip hitch</b> - also well worth knowing.

Ralphxyz (author)2016-02-18

Wow, thank you after all of these years I finally understand!!

ECRusch (author)2016-02-18

Best tutorial I've seen here in a while.
Thanks Doug.

Wild-Bill (author)2016-02-18

Cool knot I will have to add this one to my knotty bag as I like this a lot more then those little metal things as it provides more flexible line placement.

orangecrate39. (author)2016-02-18

Good TUT......I agree this is the best knot and the second best is the clove hitch. Both are very simple and easy to tie and untie. I'm an old Eagle Scout and Scout Master and have used many knots over the years. I keep falling back to these 2 knots and not worrying if they can do their tasks when required. Thanks.....

Don Davis

worring

You're right about the Clove Hitch, Don! Thanks for the comments.

acrolfes (author)2016-02-15

Thanks for that clear and easy to understand Instructable!

DouglasC10 (author)acrolfes2016-02-15

Thanks for your comment, acrolfes!

Marianne818 (author)2016-02-14

I guess I have forgotten more knots than I thought. Thank you for refreshing my memory of this one! My Dad was a Boy Scout leader and I learned along side my brother as he practiced for badges. I could not count the number of times some of those have helped throughout my life. I still camp, hike and fish, wish I could still tent camp but at my age not many of my friends are into sleeping in a tent, much less camp with what they can carry on their backs! But I do occasional overnight hikes on the AT, it's not far from my home.

DouglasC10 (author)Marianne8182016-02-15

Thanks Marianne, for your comments. What state do you live in? I filmed this video near the AT as it goes past Mt. Holly Springs in Pennsylvania. Get out on the trail and don't let your age stop you, I'm 58 and I know if I don't keep moving my joints will lock up and I'll need a rocking chair.

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Bio: I love being outdoors, hiking, camping, kayaking and appreciating Nature. I love figuring things out and using my head and hands in creative ways and ... More »
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