Experience isn’t just down to the number of nights that you might spend on a campsite. It is also down to learning skills that help you meet the numerous challenges that you’ll eventually encounter when living outdoors.
And these skills are normally great fun to hone so that they become second nature, falling naturally to hand when you need them. Ropework is one such skill and John Traynor starts you off with some easy, but useful, knots to master.
Most people know two knots – the basic thumb knot and the bow used for shoe laces and gift wrapping. Many will even know the left-over-right-and-under, right-over-left-and-under of the reef knot. But there is a wealth of knots that will help and entertain a camper. Ropework has its own language and this gets quite involved as you start to categorise knots and delve further into subjects like splicing, lashing and whipping.
But here we’re only going to mention two terms as we look at four useful knots and these refer to the rope. The standing end is the part of the rope at rest and working end is the end of the rope that is on the move. Have short length of rope, cord or string in hand and tie it as you follow the instructions. Something fairly thick and colourful will help a beginner and a second length with a smaller diameter will help you learn useful ways to connect two different sizes. There are even knots for tape so you might eventually want a length of that to play with. Keep the rope handy and practice whenever you can – while you’re watching television is a good time. Your aim is to tie the knot without thought or look so the process is fast and natural. You may need this skill to quickly deal with a problem in the dark!
Above: An experienced camper will learn skills like knot work and whipping to make camp life easier and to help deal with emergencies, like broken poles or quickly adding and adjusting additional guylines
Ropework is strangely addictive and can provide hours of fun for all the family. Children love ropework and the possibilities that the skill opens up in terms of play, like building dens. And adults will find a myriad of uses for those knots around the home, from securing the old carpet when you take it down the tip to attaching the roses to the trellis. Complicated knots are a real art form, too… As you become more proficient you may want master such skills as splicing (the interweaving of individual strands of rope to create loops or mend/attach ropes) lashing (construction using ropes) and whipping (reinforcing or tidying something with coiled cord). As our main picture shows, the latter is particularly useful when mending tent poles and a temporary repair made this way can be surprisingly strong and resilient. As your skills develop your repair kit will suddenly aquire useful lengths of twine, cord, rope and whipping twine. Unusual tools may make an appearance, including marline spikes, thimbles, fids and more. You may even find a use for shackles and other sailing/ climbing hardware. There is plenty of online material to help you develop your skills but there is also a wealth of good books, including the Collins Need to know? book Knots