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Tarpology Knots

Discussion in 'Bushcraft and survival skills' started by C_Claycomb, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. C_Claycomb

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    For the last few years I have been one of several people running a tarp and knot workshop at the BushcraftUK summer Bush Moot. More than once I have wished that I had pictures that I could post of the knots that we demonstrate, to make it easier for people to go away and practice at home. The internet is absolutely loaded with knot web pages, bushcraft and tarp demos and many excellent Youtube videos, but despite searching, I couldn't find examples of all the exact knots I use.

    I think it is very important to say that while I like how I set up my tarp, there are a LOT of different methods and different knots, cords, fasteners and methods that people use to excellent effect. In addition to putting up the following photos, I will try to explain my reasoning for using these methods.

    For a start, I like knots for rigging tarps, rather than clips and cam cleat gizmos, since they are light and I don't have to worry about losing or breaking them. They also allow a lot of versatility.

    Ideally all knots are tied to be quick release, meaning that they come apart when you want with just a tug on the free end, even after they have been worked on by wind and water.

    This is my example set up:
    [​IMG]img_5334 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    I use a ridgeline strung between trees (or poles), which goes up first. I believe that a separate ridge prevents me applying excessive tension to the tarp, allows for easier repositioning or re-tensioning of the tarp, and makes packing up easier and cleaner. I put the ridge above the tarp, rather than throw the tarp over it, because it removes the risk of water wicking down the ridgeline under the tarp, and that of the tarp fabric becoming worn where it rubs on the line. It does however mean that if I want a gear hanging line, I need to rig another cord.

    For the ridge I like 3mm polyester sailing line, something like Excel Pro. 8 strand plait is a little grippier, but the 16 plait is nicer to handle, I think. Polyester does not stretch, which has its pros and cons. It doesn't tend to sag when it gets wet, as nylon does and tension on the guy lines don’t cause the tarp to sink towards the ground. On the other hand, it is unforgiving of poor knots when you are trying to maintain tension. It is either tight, or not. Stretchy line, nylon say, can be stretched a lot, and have more tension, or a little less, and still be almost as tight.


    Anchoring
    One end of the ridge is tied with either an Evenk Slippery Figure of Eight, or a Falconer's Knot. The Evenk is a little more secure and can be tied in mittens or heavy gloves. The Falconer's is certainly good enough, strength-wise, and can be tied with one hand, a distinct advantage if you are setting up in very muddy conditions, say in the jungle.

    Evenk Hitch on Youtube

    Falconer's knot on Youtube

    I have photos of tying the falconer's knot, but since both falconers and bushcrafters use the knot, there are more and better videos out there showing how it is tied...even some of our own Stuart, teaching in the forests of Borneo ;)

    Falconer's knot slide show

    The Evenk:
    [​IMG]img_6710 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    For a right hander the working end is wrapped around the left hand. Where you wrap is up to you, if you only encompass your fingers then you will probably find you have to do the later pull-through with just your fingers. This method allows for the wearing of gloves in cold weather too.

    [​IMG]img_6711 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    The left hand is rotated to point at the supporting tree,

    [​IMG]img_6714 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    reaches over the top, note that this is easier when the right hand is keeping a little tension on both cords.

    [​IMG]img_6713 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    The working end of the ridgeline is grabbed by the left hand, in this case, because the thumb was included in the wrap, it is caught using the thumb and fingers.

    [​IMG]img_6715 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    A loop of the working end of the line is pulled through.

    [​IMG]img_6716 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    The loop is pulled in such a way as to tighten the knot, keep tension on the standing part of the line and pull firmly to fully tighten the figure of eight.

    [​IMG]img_6717 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    If the knot does not look like this, it may need to be capsized and tightened, just lightly grip the two lines from the tree with your right hand and wipe/pull your hand towards you, over the knot. This will flip the knot, if needed, and give the shape shown.

    [​IMG]img_6718 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    Slide the knot up snugly against the tree. If the knot was not tightened before being slid up the line it may open up and become less secure, though only rarely come un-done.
     
    #1 C_Claycomb, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  2. C_Claycomb

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    Tension
    There are many ways of putting tension into the ridge. Sometimes I use the method demonstrated by Woodlore and illustrated in the Ray Mears book Bushcraft, also as shown in the first part of this Youtube video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWhQfrepMFE&feature=related
    This method is very compact, good if your trees are a little close together relative to your tarp size, but with low stretch line it can be difficult to ensure it is secure. It is of paramount importance that the knot is snugged right up against the tree. Without the tree to close one side of the knot, it will capsize and come un-done.

    More often these days I use a modified version of the Trucker's Hitch, originally shown to me on one of Mors Kochanski's courses. It needs more spare distance between trees, but only requires you to wrap around the tree one time, which I find easier and faster.

    [​IMG]IMG_6760 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    The main ridgeline is on the left and the working end is held in the right hand. A loop is twisted by the left hand in the ridge. At least three twists, in smoother line, four or more are needed.
    [​IMG]IMG_6761 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    Fold the twisted loop back towards the tree around which you just passed the free end of the line and take a "bite" or tight loop of the line through the twisted loop.

    [​IMG]IMG_6762 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    Pull this bite as if you were making a chain of loops.

    [​IMG]IMG_6772 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    Pass the working end of the line through this new loop.
    [​IMG]IMG_6773 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    Pull on the working end to add tension to the line. This arrangement is like pulley, providing mechanical advantage.
    [​IMG]img_6684 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    To lock off the tension, pinch the bite...

    [​IMG]img_6685 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    ...and slide your finger and thumb to push/pinch the point where the line bends. This is like putting the brakes on, by pushing in the same direction that tension has been applied, tension is maintained while you tie off.
    [​IMG]img_6686 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    Create a loop, like a figure 4...

    [​IMG]img_6687 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    ...and pass a loop of the working end of the line through.
    [​IMG]img_6688 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    Pull on the loop, in the direction shown, back towards the rest of the knot, to lock off. Try to pull asymmetrically on the loop so that you tighten the half hitch you just made, without pulling too much of the tail through.

    [​IMG]img_6689 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    The finished hitch. See how those multiple turns in the original loop wrap around the line, the friction they provide prevents the knot from closing up.

    [​IMG]img_6690 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    With only one twist at the start you end up with a figure eight loop, which gives slightly less mechanical advantage, and because it lacks the friction to stay open, can tighten up to become much harder to untie when it is time to pack up.

    Addendum:
    The Trucker's Hitchs is often illustrated like this:
    [​IMG]Truckers_Hitch by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    As can be seen, this is basically the same as above, but with a sheepshank type loop locking one end. This additional security does not seem to be needed if you have enough wraps.
     
    #2 C_Claycomb, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  3. C_Claycomb

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    Attaching Tarp to Ridge

    This method was shown to me by Jed Yarnold of TrueNorth Outdoors and allows for flexibility in how you set up your tarp, speed and efficiency for both erecting and packing up.

    Short lengths of line, about 60cm, or double the distance from elbow to finger tips, are attached to the tarp ridge loops using a simple Lark's Head (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow_hitch). 3mm accessory cord works well, but in this case I have used 550 paracord with the cores removed, which allows it to flatten out and grip even better.
    [​IMG]img_6729 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    [​IMG]img_6730 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    The doubled paracord is wrapped around the ridgeline, away from the tarp and towards the support post or tree.
    [​IMG]img_6731 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    The two ends are then passed back around the lengths nearest the tarp, creating a triangular space
    [​IMG]img_6732 by Last Scratch, on Flickr


    Tuck the looped, double lines through this space and pull on loop to tighten the knot. Don't pull the free ends through.
    [​IMG]img_6735 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    Do this at both ends of the tarp and slide the knots to transfer tension from the ridgeline to the tarp. Prussics will do this too, but the knot shown allows the short lines to be left on the tarp, and can be untied with a quick tug on the free ends.

    If you have a middle tie out point on the tarp's ridge you can use the same method, although this one isn't going to take load and is purely there to help with packing up later.
    [​IMG]img_6741 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
    Having the middle supported can be a bit like lending yourself a third hand when trying to get the tarp into its sack.



    ADDENDUM, 8 July 2017: IMPORTANT

    In this example I have used 4mm 8-plait line for the ridge, and paracord for the attachment. This works, however, using paracord on 3mm 16-plait and it WILL slip on you if you have any wind. For 3mm x16 I recommend thinner line for the attachment, Zing-it works, as does the 2mm line I use for guying out.
     
    #3 C_Claycomb, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  4. C_Claycomb

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    Guy Lines

    I started using Excel Pro Racing Line, pre-stretched polyester sailing line (http://www.sailboats.co.uk/Product~Marlow_2mm_Excel_Pro__30M_Mini_Spool_KF0149.html)
    for guy lines a few years ago and have been very happy with it. It is not significantly more expensive, per metre, than 2mm accessory cord sold in camping shops, comes in good visible colours, is fairly wiry, so does not become crushed or fray easily and it is not so slick that knots don't hold. A single spool of 30m works out well to give eight guy lines at 3.75m each, which is a pretty good length. I wouldn’t want anything less than three metres and more than four and a half would almost always been too much.

    For attaching the line to the tarp I am tending towards a slippery sheet bend, although I used to use bowline or figure-8 loops in the line and make loop-to-loop connections with the tarp. I found that loop to loop could be hard to untie after a wet night of wind. Although I leave the lines on this light weight tarp attached, on bigger tarps, which may be rigged in more ways, taking the guy lines off when packing up can be useful, it makes packing easier, and makes it easier to reconfigure at the next rest break / camp site.

    For tensioning the lines I use a knot shown me on the Woodlore Fundamental course back in 2003. I have since seen videos of Ray putting up a hammock in the jungle and he uses a slightly different version, but I have never had this one slip or fail to un-tie when I want, so have carried on using it. It shares similarities with the knot used to attach my tarp to my ridgeline.

    If anyone knows the name of this knot, I would be most interested to know. Please bear in mind that it was being taught to students back in 2003, so the name needs to be at least that old. ;)

    Put some tension into the guy line having run it around the peg. A bit of tension makes it much easier to tie.
    [​IMG]img_6661 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    Wrap the free end around the standing part (tarp-to-peg line). Four or five times will do.
    [​IMG]img_6662 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    I have taken tension off to make this bit easier to see, but in practice this is done with the same tension as shown in the first pictures. Take the working part of the line back across itself, forming an open space…
    [​IMG]img_6666 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    …and pass a loop through the space just created.
    [​IMG]img_6667 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    Now this is the slightly tricky part to describe, pull on the part of the loop that goes to the knot. This tightens the knot. Try not to pull on the part of the loop that will pull the free end through. That loop is what makes this easy to untie later.
    [​IMG]img_6668 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    [​IMG]img_6665 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    You can help snug the knot tight by with a little nudging from the peg end of the line.
    [​IMG]img_6669 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    The shape almost looks a bit like some of the manufactured guyline tensioners, and it works in the same way, by forcing a very slight kink into the main line, which allows the wraps to grip and hold
    [​IMG]img_6670 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    [​IMG]img_6671 by Last Scratch, on Flickr
     
    #4 C_Claycomb, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
  5. C_Claycomb

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    Pegging
    It should almost go without saying that you want the guy line as close to the ground around the peg as possible and that the peg needs to be angled such that it stays that way. It isn’t really necessary to have notches or hooks in the top of the peg if enough angle has been used to keep the cord at ground level, where it can exert the least leverage against the peg.

    [​IMG]img_6746 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    Self Tensioners

    Nylon fabric, be it sil-nylong, or polyurethane coated, will stretch when it gets wet. I have mixed feelings about adding tensioners to my guy lines, they add weight and bulk, but for now I am happier using them than changing to a line that stretches enough to take up any slacking off of the tarp fabric. My tensioners are made from small diameter surgical tubing. The tubing isn't permanently fixed to the lines, but is attached with a pair of simple slip knots, arranged so that tension on the line grips the tubing tighter. The slack between the knots prevents over tensioning or over stretching. The rubber is only 4-6 inches long before stretching.

    This was the only thing on here that I came up with almost by myself, having only see the very neat, but permanently installed, tubing tensioners used on Jacksrbetter tarps.
    http://www.jacksrbetter.com/DSC00368 - web Small.JPG
    which can be made like this:
    http://www.tothewoods.net/HomemadeGearTarpTensioner2.html

    I wanted something that wasn’t permanent in the line, and that was dirt simple to make.

    [​IMG]img_6751 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    [​IMG]img_6742 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    [​IMG]img_6744 by Last Scratch, on Flickr

    [​IMG]img_6743 by Last Scratch, on Flickr



    Conclusion
    So, there are the knots that we demo at the Bushmoot each year :) I hope that this hasn’t all been showing Grandma how to suck eggs. If anyone has photo series showing what they think would be a better, faster, easier or more secure way of doing any of these jobs, please post away :D

    Cheers all.
     
    #5 C_Claycomb, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
    Insel Affen likes this.
  6. udamiano

    udamiano Full Member

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  7. Dougster

    Dougster Full Member

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    Fantastic stuff Chris. I shall digest that over the next few days.

    Thank-you.
     
  8. Teepee

    Teepee Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)

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    Thats one of the best evenk instructions I've seen. Great photos :)

    The Evenk works great with braided dyneema but needs a second wrap round the tree with most marine sheathed dyneema to stop it undoing in wind.
     
  9. Shewie

    Shewie Mod
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    Good informative post Chris

    Any reason why you prefer to have the ridgeline separate and not permanently attached?

    3mm shock cord works well for the guy tensioners, I leave mine on though as they hank up with the cordage easily enough.
     
  10. shaggystu

    shaggystu Full Member

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    superb post, thanks for that

    stuart
     
  11. SimonM

    SimonM Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)

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    Very clear Chris, thanks for taking the time.

    Simon
     
  12. Mesquite

    Mesquite Anyone for sailing?

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    Excellent set of tutorials Chris... there's some ideas I'm going to be using there :)

    Where do you get your surgical tubing from out of curiousity?
     
  13. C_Claycomb

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    Shewie,
    There are a couple of reasons I have a separate ridgeline and don't package it with the tarp. The most relevant is that I find it easier to pack up the tarp and line separately and that if I want to set up the tarp in a different configuration I don't have to un-rig the ridgeline. I can also use those lines for taut lines on my other tarps, just cutting down on the number of bundles of string I have...they are already breading and threatening to take over one of my storage crates as it is! Oh, and I can concentrate on using both hands on the ridge knots without needing to handle the tarp at the same time. If something else works for you, great, under most conditions I don't think it makes that much difference.

    How much shock cord do you use? is it a single length or do you double it?

    Mesquite,
    I got that particular tubing from a fishing tackle shop, it was sold for people making ground bait casting catapults. The "normal" source is diving shops. I was told they use it for lashing down and controlling gear.

    Cheers :)
     
  14. atross

    atross Nomad

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    Chris

    Thanks for this, I use a more baisic set of knots which does lead to some of the issues you have highlighted. This post has given me some real food for thought and I will be heading out to have a play with these later this week. Thanks for a great post.

    Ash
     
  15. spandit

    spandit Bushcrafter through and through

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    I have a ridgeline with 2 loops tied in it with a paracord whoopie sling between the loops - lets me tension the ridge from the middle without having to tie knots. I put the line up & hang the tarp & hammock bags from it to keep everything off the ground. The tarp is attached to the line with Prusik loops
     
  16. al21

    al21 Nomad

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    I can't make up my mind which is the best way to pack my DD tarp, ridge line attached or not. Which ever way I choose, the next time I use it it seems I've chosen poorly. Generally with wind and rain helping the proceedings!

    I've still to do this with the DD tarp, but with others I use a bungee cord loop attached to each tarp loop to ease the stress on the loop stitching, rather like the elastic bands tents used to come with in the '70s.

    I often use Bill Mason's technique of having the adjustable end of the guyline at the tarp/tent as this allows more flexability at the anchoring end. Mr Mason's Tree, shrub and rock hitch works well for this.

    Al
     
  17. Shewie

    Shewie Mod
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    Thanks for that Chris, I'm going to have a go with your method tonight in the bat cave and see how it works for me.

    I've got a couple of tarp setups where I just leave prusick knots on the ridgeline and then clip the tarp on using a mini carabiner, I'm always looking to try different ideas though so Ill have a bash.

    For the tensioners I use a 12" length of SC and then double it over to form a loop
     
  18. the interceptor boy

    the interceptor boy Full Member

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    hi Chris, well well well, first of all thanks for time and consideration for others by putting a well executed educational presentation for everyone to learn from. I can see what you mean about the modify truckers hitch and a brilliant idea of using a catapult sling as a breaker. well done you, must have took ages taking clear pictures, can we please have this as a STICKY for new comers and the more experienced bushcrafters on BCUK, thank you, cheers Chris, the interceptor boy.
     
  19. walshy155

    walshy155 Banned

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    This is a very very fine thread, good work!
     
  20. Seoras

    Seoras Mod
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    Great tutorial Chris. I will have to try the self tensioner idea.

    I like to use the Farrimond hitch as it all unravels when you pull the slip knot. With the Guy line hitch you have to unravel all the wraps manually.

    Anyone else use the Farrimond?

    Cheers

    George
     

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