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Lots and lots of knots and nets
© 2006
When you are outdoors, you really never know what’s going to happen. It may suddenly rain all over your parade, or snow so hard you go snow blind. The heat may kill you, or the cold may chill you. No matter how hard you try, you cannot control your environment once you step outside your home. But, you can have some things with you to at least make things "tolerable".

One of the items that I always include in my personal pack is (Military Spec) Parachute cord. Unlike it's cheaper civilian counterpart, this cord is made up of a woven outer covering, with seven smaller cords tightly wrapped inside. It's the inner cording that gives this rope its strength. Civilian (cheaper) cords usually only have 4 inner cords. I like more bang for my buck, so I get the better quality cord.

What can you do with it? Just about everything.

If you have a poncho, it will get you set up for shelter very fast. If you are fishing, you can use the inner cords for fishing line. If you want even more fish, you can make a net out of the inner cords. If you want a raft, you can lash logs together. If you want almost any shelter, then having a strong rope will help out immensely. If you are a trapper, then parachute cord can be used to set up trip lines and snares.
If you are injured, it can be used to secure splints on damaged limbs. If you are stuck on a steep hill, it can help you safely reach level ground. It could go on, and on. Actually, I usually do.

TIP: The only little "flaw" with Nylon parachute cordage is that it is a man-made woven fabric that will fray badly at the cut ends. It will continue to fray unless you do something to slow it down or stop it. You can slow down the fraying by tying knots at the end of the cut line, or putting tape or glue on it, but sometimes that isn't what is needed. FIRE IS.

The way to STOP the fraying is to melt the ends together. Both the inner and outer rope is made of nylon. Take the freshly cut end of the cord and set it on fire. Yes, let it flame right up. When you are sure that both the inside AND outside are equally melting, blow out the fire (away from you).
Next, using a flat rock or piece of metal, gently roll the hot, melted end so that all the melted nylon runs together into a long, sticky (smelly) mess. The goal here is to make a tapered end to the rope that fuses the inner cords and outer covering together; and at the same time keep the rope's diameter the same size or smaller. It's a little tricky, but success comes easily.

CAUTION: The melted nylon stays hot longer than you think it will. I have had several bad finger burns due to the melted nylon dripping onto my hand. If it drips on your clothing, it could melt into the fabric of the material you are wearing. If you are wearing nylon clothing, it may fuse into it.

I always pre-melt at least one end of any rope I purchase. I will normally put tape over the other end until I am sure how long a rope I will need. But when I cut it to the correct length, I melt the newly cut end...AND...the newly exposed end of the leftover rope. Now all the ends are melted, and the rope retains all its designed strength. Always fuse BOTH ends of a newly cut nylon line.

Gill nets made of the 7 inner liners of the cord are strong enough for very large fish. I used one in the Philippines and our group caught several 1 and 2 pound fish. You may have to melt all the little ends of the 7 liner cords since they unravel quickly while tying all those net knots. But, it's worth the effort. From experience, I can also tell you that the inner cords WILL hold you up if you make a hammock out of your gill net, when you are not fishing. Just for your information, they are very comfortable.

Net Hammock

If you're really bored, you can make a net hammock using either of the two methods mentioned on this page. Make it at least 2½ feet wide and about 6 feet long, leaving enough rope to tie off the two ends to a tree.
Use wooden spacers with a notch cut out for the rope at the top and the bottom of the hammock. It is a lot easier to get in and out of with these spacers in place.

The article on the left is from the SAS Survival Handbook and is self-explanatory. The knots are simple and the results will actually work. Don't make the holes too small or you'll lose a lot of fish that while small, still taste great. Parachute cord can be purchased in Army-Navy stores or sporting goods stores.


Using nylon fishing line or parachute cord.
You need a horizontal string (as shown on the left) plus a mesh gauge and a "needle".
The needle is about 6" x 1", and can be made of hardwood or bamboo. Make a notch at either end and wind line around the whole needle. A more "traditional" needle is shown below. The needle needs to be smooth and the line is gradually unwound as it is used.
To start the net, begin by tying a clove hitch with the thinner line, and continue down the horizontal line making a series of clove hitches with you gauge. (The gauge is a flat piece of wood about 6' long and 2" wide.)

The loops are tightened and should look like d., shown below.

Now for the tricky part:

After you finish tying the last clove hitch on the horizontal line, take the needle and make a loop down the side and follow the blue arrows going up through the top loop, around the top loop, and back under the line once again.
Pull it tight, and do it again on the next loop.

When you are done with the row, it looks f., below.

Adjust the size of the loop by using the loop gauge, tightening it only when it's the correct size.
When you reach the end of the row, switch sides of the net.

Now work back down the length of the net once again, changing sides of the net when you reach the end. At the bottom, you can add another line and tie off the bottom, just like you attached the top. A good net (seine) size is about 3' to 4' tall, and 6' to 8' long.
When the needle runs out of line, just tie more line on the end of the net line, rewind more line onto the needle, and continue making your net. Set the net on two sticks in the water, and collect your first harvest of fresh fish.

In the article "Knit Your Own Net," the "Needle" they show you can be made out of a lot of things. The military seems to think you will be in a bamboo forest wherever you go. Bamboo is not a native plant to the continental United States. I've found that stiff plastic jugs, like orange juice and sweet tea come in, works just as well. The bottom of the two needles is difficult to make, so I limit myself to using the oval (top) one. I cut a small slit in the edge of one of them, and wedge the cord in when I'm not using it. This prevents it from accidentally becoming unwound.

Net Needles

At the beginning of this section there is a diagram of a "needle" used when making nets. You will need one for each line you are using. If you don't, you will quickly have the biggest rat's nest of tangled line you've ever experienced. I tried to do this once and skip this step. I had to trash it and start all over again. Even with these needles, the lines will try to tangle themselves very quickly.

The easiest way to make these is to cut them out of old plastic jugs or milk bottles. Don't use old aluminum cans as they will cut the line. The top one of the two shown, (without all the fancy cut-outs), is the easiest to make and use. Make a short slit in one edge to keep hold the lines onto the needle. The pressure of the plastic will keep it in place while you work.


"Knitting your own net" is a time-consuming job, best done when it rains or snows, and you don't have anything else more pressing to do. Not that having a net isn't important – particularly when you are low on food – but shelter building, fire building, and finding safe water should always come first.

You will probably find that a long, narrow net has more uses than a short, wide net. With the longer net, you can put long poles on each end, and walk in the shallow water, "herding" the fish into the net. Or, if you're alone, put one long pole in the bottom mud, and stretch the other end out into the water. Whichever system you choose, you won't catch them all. If you have any scrap food at all, dump it in the vicinity of the net to "chum" the water and attract fish and turtles.

The long, narrow net will be very hard to see from the surface of the water. It pays to be discreet when using nets.

WARNING: Once again, the use of the net to catch fish (in non-emergency situation) can get you arrested by those eagle-eyed Game Wardens in most states. Practice your net techniques only if you are sure you won't get caught. Same rules: In an emergency, feed your family first and worry about the letter of the law later. You've been warned.

Sheet Bend

The Sheet Bend is commonly used to tie two ropes of unequal thickness together. The thicker rope of the two is used to form a bight, and the thinner rope is passed up through the bight, around the back of the bight, and then tucked under itself.

The knot should be tied with both ends coming off the same side of the bend, as illustrated here. However it can easily be accidentally tied with the ends coming off opposite sides of the bend, when it is known as the Left Handed Sheet Bend. The Left Handed Sheet Bend is to be avoided as it is less secure.

Tip. If the ropes are of very unequal thickness, or placed under a lot of tension, use a Double Sheet Bend.

Double Sheet Bend

The Double Sheet Bend is a more secure form of the Sheet Bend.

The thicker rope of the two is used to form a bight, and the thinner rope is passed up through the bight, around the back of the bight, around again before tucking under itself.

Tip. It is particularly useful when the thickness of the two ropes varies considerably, or when a more secure Sheet Bend is required

Reef Knot

(Also known as a "Square Knot": The ends of each end are under a loop.)
Tying rope together of equal sizes. Easy to untie by yanking on one loose end of the knot. Good for temporarily tying two lines together that you know will come apart in a short time.

Carrick Bend

A very secure method of joining two ropes together where you absolutely don't want it to come undone under pressure. Adding the lashing to the knot when completed is always a good idea if you have the time.

Reversed Half Hitches

An excellent knot for lashing guy lines (ropes tied to tents) to tent poles or tent pegs. Comes loose easily.

Clove Hitch

A good knot for attaching a line to a horizontal pole or branch of a tree. You need this one to make nets.

Rolling Hitch

A more secure method of holding a rope to a pole or tree without slippage.

Constrictor Hitch

This is a form of a modified clove hitch that will not untie easily. Use it where the ropes will stay in one place for a long period of time.

Midshipman's Hitch (Tautline Hitch)

A very strong knot used to attach a rope to a pole or tree and the rope will constantly be under high stress or tension (like a sail). This knot is not easily undone.

Rogue Turtle: Cool Alert!

I found the neatest website I've seen lately that covers the art of knot-making.


They have a book for sale (of course) but also have a terrific archive section that explains all about a huge number of knots, and how to tie them.
Best of all,
is their "animated knot" section that shows you step by step (through animation) on how to make the different knots. I know cool when I see it, and this is a cool site.

I gotta' learn how to do this.

This vertical "Knot Lessons" are just one example of the terrific artwork used in this web site.
When you go to this site, make sure you have a lot of paper in your printer. It's worth the trip.

Double Figure Eight Loop

A stronger loop than the bowline, this one is used by climbers who demand knots that do not slip.

Bowstring Knot

This knot is used for securing a string for a bow and arrow. This knot will hold the constant tension of the bow, even with the vibration from releasing the arrow.

Monkey Fist

The Monkey Fist is used as an end knot for a heaving line. A heaving line is a line used for throwing from one location to another. This enables a larger line that could not be thrown over the distance to be pulled over. The most common use of a heaving line is at sea, to pull a cable to shore from a ship. A cable is not easily thrown over a distance of 30 feet or more. So instead, one throws a heaving line. The light line is tied to the cable and when it has been received the cable can then be pulled over. To make it easier to throw, you need to connect a weight on the end of the line - usually a stone, lead-ball or a small bag of sand is connected to the end. Better still a small rope ball is tied on the end. It is neat, it will endure many tosses, lasts long, and it is easily thrown. That is what the monkey fist is was originally used for. The knot can be done with or without a central core (i.e. a round stone or ball bearing) to add extra weight but it is recommended to use extra loops depending on the size of the object.

The instruction drawing is made by Hervey Garrett Smith and copied from the Dutch translation of his book "The Marlinespike Sailor".

The author got permission of International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press to use the instruction drawing on my site.

Surgeon's Knot

The surgeon's knot is a square knot with an extra (bottom) twist. The purpose of this knot is to give added friction to hold until the second crossing is made. It's still easy to untie, like a regular square knot.

Parachute Cord

The parachute cord shown below is an example of an excellent survival cord to carry. When kept intact, it is super-strong. But, when needed, the seven inner strands can be pulled out to make other camp items, like nets. If purchased in the 18 foot lengths below, then the 7 inner strands would give you 126 feet of net line. Nets take a LOT of line, so the more you carry, the bigger you net can be.

Mil-spec braided 550 test nylon.

Each inner core strand has a minimal tensile strength of 30 lbs., and the 7 stands together have a minimum 550 lbs of tensile strength. The braided outer shell is soft, flexible and easily holds a knot. The inner 7 strand nylon core give the cord its strength. Will not rot or mildew. Quick drying, lightweight & strong.

Ideal for camping, boating, crabbing, indoor and outdoor clotheslines, halyard lines, garden lines, awning lines and any other uses requiring great strength and durability.

Color: Olive 18 feet for $1.00

Parachute 550 Cord - 7 strand
Army Surplus World carries parachute 550 cord. The parachute cord is 550 lb. Standard Weight Nylon Parachute Cord. The parachute 550 cord has 7 core strands and each strand has a 35 lb. test. The parachute 550 cord is made in the USA by the current government manufacturer. The parachute cord is approximately 1/8" diameter. The inner strands of the parachute cord can be separated for emergency sewing, repair, braiding, tying, etc. The parachute 550 cord is available in 50 ft hanks, 100 ft hanks, 300 ft hanks and by the 1000 ft roll.

Available at the Army Surplus Superstore..
550 Parachute Cord - 7 strand, Color Black, Rope Length 300 ft
Stock Number: 550-300ft Our Price: $18.99