With camping and outdoor season upon us in my neck of the woods I thought I would take a close look at some of the various methods available for securing ropes for people like me- the unskilled at knot tying. Amusingly enough, I work in the shipping industry, often verifying the security and integrity of cargo, so you’d think I would know a bit about knots. This is not the case, and my personal knot repertoire is limited to granny and slip knots. So, since I’m sure I can’t be the only SAK collector who spends time outside and appreciates a good method of safely and quickly securing a rope, I thought I would have a look at a few different types.
The first type I’d like to look at is the NIte Ize Figure 9 Carabiner. I have two different sizes of these and I find them almost invaluable. Basically the two models are identical other than size, and they use friction to secure the open end of a rope. Basically you just clip the carabiner onto whatever you want to secure the rope to (or its other end for a closed loop) then wrap the rope around the hook, under the bottom and wedge it into the graduated, toothed hook and the rope is instantly secured. When camping I use the large ones to secure a tarp as a wind brake or impromptu shelter, and occasionally even as an adjustable length rope for tensioning my tent.
The smaller ones stay pretty close to my kayak for use when portaging. Anyone who has ever portaged a 17 foot boat by themselves appreciates the value of the small folding carts available, but probably also curses the straps they come with. Mine came with two 10 foot straps, both of which need to be uncoiled before each use, and re-coiled afterwards, taking away time I’d much rather be in my boat, so I looked for other options. Initially I switched to bungee cords, but they were only useful on flat terrain, as any bumps in the path would skew the cart to one side or the other, and as I’m sure most of you know, few paths in the woods are completely rock and root free! Eventually I discovered the Figure 9 Carabiners, bought a couple of small ones and since then have used nothing else to secure my boat to the cart. Unlike bungee cords, the cord doesn’t flex, meaning the cart stays straight, and unlike the straps I can just wrap them around the boat and cart, secure them in a second and be on my way- no unwrapping straps, feeding lots of extra length through the buckle etc.
Looking an awful lot like the bizarre offspring of a Figure 9 Carabiner and a Spyderco knife is the Gator Cleat by Chestnut Tools and sold almost exclusively through Lee Valley Tools. This unit appeals to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s made right here in Canada and available through one of my favourite shopping places, Lee Valley Tools. The Gator works pretty well the same as the friction lock of the Figure 9 Carabiner, although offers two friction locking areas instead of one, and a few extra holes for a bit greater versatility when tying things down. It’s pretty lightweight being made of aluminum and the one I have is red anodized meaning it’s hard for even me to misplace!
The last one I want to look at this month is also from Nite Ize, and it’s called the Knot Bone. When it comes to ideas that are so simple and effective that you have to wonder why the heck you never thought of it, this one should rise to the top. Basically it’s a small dog bone shaped hunk of plastic with some notches and holes cut in it at different points to allow small cord to be fed through, wrapped around and locked into place. It can be used in the same types of places as the above units- from adjusting length of lines to securing one cable to another, to allowing for a certain amount of slip in a cable. They are really hard to describe and really need to be demonstrated or experimented with to really see the appeal. They are dirt cheap though, and sold in a four pack with a good length of cable, so well worth picking up and experimenting with yourself. Check out the Pock-Its store on EDCSource for these and other handy Nite Ize/ Pock-Its products.
All in all, these three little gadgets may not be life savers, but they certainly are handy to have around, and I’d suggest getting a few, even if you do know a lot about knots- these little gadgets make things a lot faster to tie or untie pretty well anything up.