A screwdriver, pliers, hammer and Crescent wrench may not a toolkit make, but with them, you’re off to a darn good start. Same with these knots. Sailors and mountain climbers may require more specialized options, but with these essentials, you’ll be able to tow a bike, pitch your tent, secure a ruptured pannier or lash your buddy’s carcass to the saddle and get it back to civilization before it starts to putrefy.
What it does: Joins the ends of a rope.
Strength: About 54 percent (of line strength).
Notes: While weak, unstable and easily untied (sometimes unintentionally), the square knot is still a sound starting point and an essential first-aid knot. It’s more reliable if you back up the loose ends with an overhand knot. Tying Tip: right over left, left over right.
What it does: Makes a loop that will not slip.
Strength: About 63 percent.
Notes: One of the world’s great knots. Essential for rescue. Secure, yet since it unties easily after holding a load, it’s a good choice for towing. Tying Tip: The rabbit goes up the hole, around the tree and back down the hole.
Taut Line Hitch
What it does: Makes a loop that slips but only when you want it to.
Strength: 70-80 percent.
Notes: Brilliant because you slide it where you want and it stays put. A camping essential since you can tighten a tent line without re-tying the knot. Perfect for stringing an in-room clothesline to let soaked riding gear dry out. Need more holding power? Add more turns.
What it does: Joins two ropes, makes a loop.
Strength: Up to 80 percent.
Notes: Think of this knot as a system: Tie it in a bight of rope for a loop that won’t slip; thread the rope back through the loop and you get a noose that cinches up tight; reweave one Figure 8 into another and you have an excellent bend for joining two lines.