I’m tying a lot of knots in the back of the van on long trips. That’s right, I’m a harsh nerd. My dad drilled the importance of the bowline for tying up horses into me a very young age. I can tie that one drunk in my sleep. Then there are all the old standbys, square knot, sheet bend, half hitches. The sheet bend is great. It’s for joining two ropes of unequal size, and I know everyone has to do that every couple of days for one reason or other. It’s also good for tying a rope to the corner of a tarp or sail and I think that’s where it got its name.

Another favorite is the sheepshank, which you can use to temporarily shorten a length of rope. It’s super cool because you can put all kinds of tension on it and it holds fast, then when you’re done, take the tension off and it just falls apart. Awesome. Another of my very favourites is the trucker’s hitch. It’s right up there in the top five most useful day to day knots, and hardly anyone knows it. I only learned it a few years ago. It acts like a bungee cord and a pulley, all in one. It’s for tightening down a load on the back of a truck or what have you. Wins the prize for overall best specific use knot. Thanks to all the connected wires we have these days, you don’t have to know a salty old sailor/cowboy/uncle to learn these, you can just look them up in five seconds on your information machine. So no excuses.

Here’s a good tip too. When you’re tying up a package with a square knot, and it’s annoying you because you have to get someone to put their finger on the first half of it so you can tie the second without the first loosening, try this. When you tie the first half, pass the ends under each other TWICE instead of once, and tighten it down. It will hold snug until you tie the second half, for which you should also pass the ends under each other twice instead of once. Snug that down, your package is all squared away and you have tied yourself a surgeon’s knot. Bam.

More knots next week if you’re lucky.


  • Yup yup! As a commercial fisherman I can attest to the amazing value of knots! When I learned how to tie a bowline I had long dreadlocks and I would practice tying a bowline in a dread! My house is only accessible by boat, and we tie the boat up on a mooring buoy with a double becket; holds fast in a 40 knot gale and unties in mere seconds. Its super amazing! More folks should be taught how to tie knots! oh yeah, and come to Alaska! Ketchikan? I know, I know, it won’t happen…

  • Cool factiod. The sheetbend and the bowline are structuraly the same knot.

  • Bill Studley Says

    When I was working as a guide in the mountains of Northern BC, I once needed to get back to camp quickly. The only shorter route was over a cliff about 30 feet high. I didn’t want to leave my rope dangling there, so I used a sheepshank, kept the tension on and cut the middle of the rope in the middle of the sheepshank. When I got to the bottom I shook it loose and only lost a couple feet of rope. Handy knot!

  • This is good stuff. I use the truckers hitch almost daily. Much more fun than those nylon tie down ratchet strap things. Kids shouldn't be allowed to leave school until they can tie all these knots.

  • Gordon Taylor Says

    how ’bout the Tom Fool knot from “The Man from Snowy River”? Or the Team Tyer’s square knot? I remember in college that people hated when I tied their bike cable locks into spanish ring knots!!
    Joe Back called the “trucker hitch” a dutchman in his packing book – Said you could cut a mule in two with it, but then a mule in two pieces ain’t much good to anyone! Thanks for the great Blog, and great music!

  • Cindy Jarvis- Carr Says

    I'm not sure about knots but I saw you in peace river ab last year my daughter took me to your show and it was great, but I have been watching a tv program featuring you and have to say I love you more, you are a cross between commander cody and dan hicks I just totally love your stories and glad you put them to song. are you a story teller beyond the song…. cheers

  • Baden Powell would be proud!

  • Dan Kershaw Says

    all those knots…makes me think of hitchcock. or maybe it's the axe-weildin corb animation to my right. anyway…just want to congratulate everyone on the kick-ass goodness of cabin fever. realize I'm a bit late to the party but the german motorbike song got me going on the record & I love it! hope all is well down under, look forward to seeing you in toronto sometime.

  • Linda Says

    I just need someone to tie my skates so they stay tight….. Any suggestions

  • Lindsay Says

    I’m starting to feel like maybe I imagined the one about the guns…. As I make my way to the laundromat, I will consider all the possible reasons why I might have imagined a blog about useful guns/ammo to have in the event of a societal collapse…. Maybe I shouldn’t have watched Zeitgeist. Maybe that pushed me over the edge…

  • Clark Aflague Says

    Yup, Dad did the same thing with me in Reno. Kinda like your survival kit…duct tape, super glue and knowing a few knots. Great stuff, much obliged to ya.

  • Ben Urbanczyk Says

    Check out the Alpine Butterfly knot. I use is all of the time.

  • If you are working in the boreal forest, the best knot to learn, hands down, is the jam knot. The top seven knots that are particularly useful to know are: Jam, Constrictor, sheet bend (and it's variants), non-inverting slippery bowline, reef knot, parbuckle (single and double) and the butterfly loop. From the mini-book "Top Seven Bush Knots and the use of the Windlass" by Mors Kochanski. (His courses are a lot of fun, too.).

  • round turn two half witches

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