Many times I have watched local guides, whose junglecraft is otherwise excellent, rig up a tarpaulin with knots they appear to have invented on the spot – the result is a saggy water trap with jammed knots that, more often than not, have to be cut away the next day.  And yet, when it comes to knots for fishing (a favourite hobby over here) their knots are carefully chosen and tied.

I suspect that, after losing fish from the end of their lines a few times because of a poor knot, they take the time to learn the right knots so it won’t happen again.  But when rigging up a tarp you can get away with using poor knots and, even though the result isn’t perfect and the knots often impossible to untie, the problem doesn’t have the same immediate consequences of a poor fishing knot.

However, after a hard day in the jungle you really want to avoid the aggravation (and added time and effort) involved when setting up your hammock & tarp with unsuitable knots, so it really is worth learning the right ones… and the right (slippery) knots mean a good start to the next day when they magically come apart with a single pull of the working end.

Knotting basically consists of Bends (for joining ropes), Hitches (for joining to a post/ring etc) and Knots (everything else) and all are held together by friction.  When it comes to shelter building in the jungle, the more knots/bends/hitches you know the easier life becomes.

In the video below I show you how to make a hammock and tarp out of plastic sheeting as well as the knots I use to rig them up.  My criteria for choosing these particular knots is threefold: they should be easy to learn, easy to tie and easy to undo.  Other people may use other knots – and I am not suggesting that the knots I use are the only ones that can be employed… they’re just the ones I find easiest and most effective.

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Like all junglecraft skills, knots need to be well practised before you get into the jungle  – when you’re hot and tired, or if the rain is pelting down, it becomes harder to remember how to tie knots that you thought you knew well.  I remember the puzzlement of finding myself unable to tie the Evenk slippery hitch once (while deep in the jungle), forgetting that the working end goes clockwise round the tree and the knot tied with the left hand (if you’re right handed).

Finally, it is worth investing in some good rope and bringing it with you – near where I live the local shops sell only the cheapest plastic rope which is difficult to knot as it is so slippy and rigid.  Paracord is always good to have and worth the cost.

In the video I use some reflective paracord which means your hammock/tarp is easily seen at night (as long as you have a torch) – but the reflective material makes the paracord surface rough and less flexible and thus less suitable for slippy knots, so I only use a small length of it where the guy line joins the tarp.

One way of learning new knots is to carry a length of rope in your pocket and, when life gets boring (or during an ad break on TV) you can practice the knot.