How to Tie a Taut Line Knot

About: I like turning boring things into awesome things! Usually on video.

This knot is very useful for adjusting tie downs quickly and easily. For example, a tarp could be held down by a series of these knots and be made very tight so the wind cannot make it rise, and easily be removed simply by sliding the knots later. A taut line knot is also used to keep large tents from sagging by keeping tension on the lines leading to the stakes. A slight variation of this knot is used to climb straight up a rope when doing tree trimming. I currently use two of these knots to hold down a blanket as a seat cover on my truck.

As with any good knot, a taut line can easily be untied when desired. It is certainly one of the more useful knots to have in your skill set.

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    7 Discussions

    well done, but unfortunately, you are slightly off. All the turns of the rope rotate in the same direction around the rope. therefore, instead of the ends facing in the same direction on the completed knot, they run in opposite directions. while this knot works well, tied in the manner I described, it works even better.

    3 replies

    I think you will find that the version you describe is an unusual and rarely used variation. Both will function, but with the turns in the same direction you are left with a hitch that if put under high tension will bite on itself and be difficult to loosen when released, and possibly even damage the rope. As made in this video however, the hitch can easily be undone by turning both free ends of the rope in the direction they are spun in the turns, and sliding the crossover bend down over them in the same direction. It is the standard way this hitch has been taught for ages.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Nope. Ninja is correct. The authoritative Ashley Book of Knots, published well before we were born settles this issue. People often make the same mistake while tying a turn and two half hitches. Instead, they reverse the direction of rotation and end up with a Lark's Head on the standing line. Not coincidentally, this is called "reversed half hitches". However, in the case of the taut line hitch, I know of no name for the hitch where the direction of rotation is reversed. It may work well, but it's not a taut line hitch.

    Actually, I believe you are in error. the variation I described is widely used as the standard by not only the Boy Scouts of America, but many of the armed forces as well. As to difficulty untying, if used in proper circumstances, those not requiring weight, say erecting a tent as opposed to a washline, the knot is very easy to untie. As for damaging the rope, when using the correct rope or cordage, say climbing rope or paracord, no damage is interred, except if you were perhaps foolish enough to leave it for extended periods of time, say more than a day or so. The reason it is used is the very reason you gave why it is undesireable: it bites on itself, and thus supports any strain put on it, as opposed to slipping, which your variant will do if enough weight is applied. In foul weather, for example, a powerful gust could send your knot sliding, and drop your tent in on you. The variant I described, however, would hold all the tighter, and your tent would remain erect.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I came across this Instructable when searching for the Boyscout's 'tent peg knot' that I have used many times in the past, but wanted to get a refresh on. The video is well done and very clear. But I have to agree with ninja of suburbia. This is not the way the Tautline Hitch is tied. And I have to admit, it looks better than the original knot, and I have tied it the same way myself because it seems like the logical way to do it. But the correct way to tie it is to bring the end, from inside the loop, over-and-under the standing part, not under-and-over. The knot is in the Ashley Book of Knots (knot #1856) and is actually called the Magnus Hitch or Rolling Hitch. In a scan of the Boy Scout Handbook, 7th Ed. (1967), I found the Taut-line Hitch which is tied over-and-under. See the attached image. It is not a good idea to alter a time-tested knot because it probably will not be as strong or as spill-proof. This knot has stood the test of time so should not be altered.

    An interesting thing I found here: claims "This is the knot that the Boy Scouts of America recommends for an adjustable sliding knot. However, the Midshipman's Hitch is in fact a superior knot to use for this purpose."

    Midshipman's Hitch

    The Midshipman's Hitch is an excellent knot to create an adjustable loop at the end of a rope. The knot can be slid up and down the standing line to increase or decrease the size of the loop (and thus the length and/or tightness of the standing line) but when load is applied the knot holds securely.
    The Midshipman's Hitch is similar to the The Tautline Hitch but has one important difference and benefit. When tying the Midshipman's the second wrap forms an intermediate "Awning Hitch" which takes any strain on the rope while tying the final Half Hitch. The completed Midshipman's Hitch is also more secure than the Tautline.
    This knot is relatively easy to tie or untie under load.

    I will definitely try this variation to compare the difference.

    Ashley has this to say about the Midshipman's Hitch: "This is an exceptionally practical knot much used about ship. Properly tied, it does not slip or jam."

    And about the Rolling Hitch: "The advantage of this over the last knot [Midshipman's Hitch] is that it is easily adjustable. It may be slid by hand either to lengthen or shorten the rope but, left alone, it stays where it is."

    So it's 'easily adjustable' -vs- 'does not slip or jam'. I would like both but would prefer a knot that is more secure for my purpose.

    Taut-line Hitch (crop).jpg