Friday, 16 September 2016

Tarp Knots for a Cub Camp

Our Cub district holds a competition camp every September at a farm which is great because it gets a team of eight, nine and ten year old kids out into the countryside to practice core skills, but equally it's not too far away from home or a supermarket. Most years we are nearly always in shorts and shades but the main (Satur)day this year was pretty much full on rain which really did start to grate a little.

I usually use a tarp and hammock system, expect for last year when I did some reviews on some Vango kit via the Scout Association but this year the set up had a specific use other than being my home from home. 

Our Cub pack's base was knots of which I know 'One or two' and I suggested that the teams should come and find the six knots they've learnt (or not) in my set up once they'd been tested on them first. I opened my spiel by asking them not to touch (but they usually did!) and then told them that it's one thing being able to recognise a knot tied on the back of a chair in their HQ, but would be another to see it used. They were also told that I'd used about a dozen knots in total. On your marks, get set, your five minutes starts now...

The knot roll of honour.

Clove Hitch

A rather handsome and symmetrical knot that I use if I ever use any type of  supporting pole to hold a side up at an angle. I often don't bother but in this instance I did because it gave me a way of utilising the knot for the competition.


A knot that often gets the Cubs confused, all this tree and rabbit talk and all that, coupled with the fact that it is under tension and therefore it's elongated looks a world away from the HQ tied one on a knotting evening. I often, but not exclusively use this to secure guy lines to loops, or elastic loops if on a Cub camp to absorb a clod hopper who catches the guy with their foot. It's no accident that they are both hi viz and reflective too.

Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

Often depicted as a knot to hold a boat secure, the round turn and two half hitches is one of the knots that the Cubs often get right because of it's simple layout. Whilst I usually tie a bowline to secure a guy rope this knot will also do a job. It can also be 'slipped' to make it easier to un-tie (that means making the last half hitch into a loop by doubling the rope back). Again like the bowline, it doesn't sit neatly in the elasticated loop and therefore doesn't look like one tied to the back of a chair at their meeting hall. It is also the basis of the Anchor knot which sees the cordage threaded between the round turns and whatever the knot is being secured to.

Reef Knot

This isn't a knot which I often use so I utilised it in the making of a wooden tripod to hang my rucksack on to keep it both accessible and off the ground. A loop is tied and then loosely placed around the top of the three poles and then one of the poles (usually the middle one) is turned vertically through 360 degrees to tighten it. I deliberately used hi viz orange paracord for this to hopefully attract an attentive eye to it as it wasn't the most obvious of knots. I usually use a fisherman's bend which is essentially two overhand knots tied onto the ends of a cordage loop and pulled tight.

Sheet Bend

Of the six this is the one knot that I probably use the least, although forming it in a tarp loop probably makes it a proper sheet bend doesn't it? What I did with this was to form up two different coloured guy lines with one and then attach it to a tree. Note the ends should be on the same side of the knot.

Highwayman's Hitch

I've left this hitch until last as it's the showy one of the half dozen. As with a round turn and two half hitches often being associated with a boat mooring, the highwayman's hitch is usually associated with tying a horse up, although I'm not sure if it would work with reins as they are a loop. I use this knot to secure my footwear to a secondary paracord line that runs just under the tarp which is useful for hanging items off. It means that they are grabbable in the morning with a sharp tug but it isn't such a good idea if they are covered in liquidy mud.

As you might expect some teams did better than others and often their teamwork was marked down as they all started looking down a rabbit or badger hole but the practical application of the knots was a real leveller and if you do something similar in Scouting or otherwise I thought I'd just share this quick and easy method of mixing things up. I am currently working on a separate blog which details all the knots that I use and have used on a tarp and hammock system and will link to this page when it's done.

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