Do, Um, Knot Miss This Chance to Become an Outdoor Knot Master

Admit it—you were charmed but also intrigued by the Knot Store sketch from Portlandia. Yes, the idea of people paying for artisanally tied knots is on point, but also, look at all those knots! There are a handful of foundational skills that really make one a truly well-rounded and capable outdoorsperson, and knot-tying is one of them.

It’s best to learn knot-tying in person, but if you don’t have an avuncular relative to sit you down and show you a couple dozen useful knots, you can take this online course from AIM Adventure U all about outdoor-useful knot tying.

As a nod to our shelter-in-place time, AIM U is making the course free, until May 15 (They’re also making yoga classes free). Normally, it’s $30, but plug in the code “BEWELL” at checkout and boom, gratis.

We’ve covered AIM U’s courses before, and if you aren’t familiar, they’re well-constructed online classrooms that pair video with quizzes. Backpacker Magazine organizes the classes and, NOLS, and the Colorado Mountain School, among other groups, provide the expertise.

I took the course and realized that I knew far less about knots than I thought. I can tie guy lines to stakes, trees, etc., secure heavy loads to the roof of my car, tie a quick overhand knot as a stopper, but other than that, I pretty much wing it. The instructor mentions the classic phrase, from sailing, I assume, “If you don’t know a knot, just tie a lot,” which I realized, is my strategy more often than, um, not, when tying things in the backcountry.

No longer. I can now crank out a respectable trucker’s hitch, a solid bowline, and a Prusik hitch, which, frankly makes me feel far more capable in the backcountry. Check out the course, again, free until May 15. Also free, and always free, is the website Animated Knots.

Okay, fine, here’s the Portlandia sketch.

If you’re more the bookish type, try The Ultimate Book of Everyday Knots or The Knot-Tying Bible.

I never head out on a backpacking trip without a length of rope. I don’t climb, and it’s overkill for hanging bear bags, but I trust climbing rope to do whatever I need, and frankly I feel better just for having it. I like something relatively inexpensive, like the Beal Rando rope, on sale now for about $56 for 30 meters.



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