Knots To Know

Knots, knots!  Where would the outdoorsineer be without a proper knowledge of knots?  Lying broken and bloody at the bottom of a cliff, most likely.  There can be no greater companion to the weary traveler than the noble knot.  A good knot can get you out of many dangerous situations and can open up sections of the wilderness previously inaccessible, much the same way that paying for extra premium content can open up new sections of the world in a modern video game.  But this is not a video game!  This is the outdoors!  Let us discuss for a little while some of the important knots.

After each description, I have included simple instructions on tying the knot that even most casual outdoorsman will be able to follow.

 The Square Knot

Fig 253: Square Knot

This is a fairly common and simple knot, best used to secure nonessential items to a pack because of its tendency to come apart.  The square knot, like the square dance, does not get its name from actually being in any way a square.  Rather, it was named because this knot would often be demonstrated in a town square as a means of impressing the easily-entertained common folk of the late Medieval period1.  If you’ve got to make a knot, but you don’t have a lot of time and you don’t want the knot to be particularly strong, the square knot is the knot for the job.

To make a square knot, take one piece of rope and loop it around another piece of rope.  The second piece of rope should simultaneously be going around the first rope.  Then send the heads of both strands of the rope through the loops of the opposite rope.  It should look like two rivers existing in the same reality but both making a U-turn over each other in the same place.  Pull tightly to secure.

 The Figure 8 Bend

Fig 8: Figure 8 Bend

A somewhat more complex knot comes to us in the form of the Figure 8 Bend, which is something like a square knot but also incorporates a figure 8 and a bend.  Like the graceful figure skater, this knot whorls and twists around itself, looping back under its own arches and between its own curves.  Do not be misled by the feminine beauty of this knot, however!  Unlike the figure skater, the figure 8 bend knot is useful.  Many a climber has been saved from certain doom by keeping a cool head and quickly tying together a Figure 8 Bend as they began to fall off a cliff.

To make a Figure 8 Bend, take one rope and loop it around itself and back again, kind of like a figure 8 as the name implies, but slightly different.  Then take the second rope and send that through the figure 8 of the first rope so that it’s as if the ropes are each others’ reflections in a figure 8-shaped mirror.  Make a loop at each of the far ends of your central knot mass for added security.  If you are in fact falling off a cliff at the moment, do all of this quickly.

 The Alpine Butterfly

Fig 14: Alpine Butterfly Knot

This is an extraordinarily useful knot because it requires that you have only one rope to make it.  This is a situation climbers will often find themselves in.  Perhaps your second rope was thrown off of the side of a cliff, either as a way of making an emphatic point in a fight or by accident.  Perhaps your second rope was switched with a live snake by accident while making camp.  Perhaps you have simply not adequately packed for your outdoor adventure.  All of these are perfectly understandable reasons to not have a second rope and should have no bearing on the outcome of your climb because you can simply make the Alpine Butterfly out of one rope2.

Here is what you do.  Loop the rope around your hand, like you would loop a rubber band if you were bored and trying to see how many times you could loop a rubber band around your hand.  Then pinch the midsection of the non-loop portion of the rope and send it between two of the loops encircling your hand (call them B and G).  Pull your hand out through loop B while pulling the midsection of the rope up past G, then flourish the rope with additional security by constricting the loose ends of loops F and P with a downward, upward motion.  If you have done it correctly, your knot should look like the top half of a man struggling to do his third chin-up.

 The Timber Hitch

Fig 14: Timber Hitch

One of the most mysterious knots known to man is the Timber Hitch.  Discovered in 1937 by the naturalist Charles Bon Pain, the Timber Hitch’s status as a knot has recently been called into question by some knot-uralists, who think that it is really more of an entanglement.  Unlike the other knots discussed, the Timber Hitch cannot occur on its own in nature because the energy required to create it is so great as to be inefficient in any sort of natural system.  There are many exciting fields of inquiry into the Timber Hitch knot today, but the ultimate purpose of the Timber Hitch remains tantalizingly elusive.  Let us hope that federal funding is not cut from these important projects3.

To make a Timber Hitch, you just kind of loop a rope around a stick a bunch of times and maybe tie it up at the end if you want.

 The Princess Diana Commemorative Knot

Fig 14: Princess Diana Commemorative Knot

The world of the outdoors was touched by death of the beloved English princess Diana, and ten years later this knot was released in limited quantities as a way of always remembering this common lady who could have one day been queen.  The knot combines a sturdy belief in the inherent worth of charity with a melancholic series of loops that asks what could have been.  It is a knot that uses two primary load-bearing ropes and has a third, shorter rope running through it, representing hope and a life cut short.  The Princess Diana Commemorative Knot can be used for hauling cargo during a climb and is also a good choice for setting booby traps around your campsite.

You cannot tie the Princess Diana Commemorative Knot, it is available only through a special television offer for the low low price of $19.97.


Fig 14: The Durango

Enough frivolity.  We come now to the meanest, toughest, most intimidating knot there is: Durango.  Durango is not a knot for the beginner.  It is a true test of grit and mettle.  It is a knot that will push you to the brink of your abilities as you attempt to tie it, and then push you further as you realize that what has been tied must eventually be untied.  It has been stated that tying Durango is an end unto itself4

Durango, when tied correctly, will do anything that you would ever hope a knot would be able to do.  It can support you on a cliffside, keep a tent upright, and bind your supplies to the floor of a canoe — all at once.  It also can be used for measurement, and of course, as a weapon.  When tied incorrectly, Durango will do none of these things.  It is often not until it is too late that an unfortunate soul will learn that he tied the knot wrong.  This is by design.  Durango punishes the weak.

To begin tying Durango, you will need to gather four ropes.  Now throw three of them away.  Now loop the one remaining rope around itself in such a way that it seems as though you still have four ropes.  Of these perceived four ropes, you will use only two of them.  Cut away the other two.  Now gather what you can from the wilderness around you: stones, pinecones, piles of leaves, animal skeletons if you can get them.  Make a cairn out of this collection, and begin looping both perceived ropes around that cairn.  You are creating the central ball of Durango.

The following steps must be done in rapid succession.  Take end A of the rope and hook it around end D.  Insert both ends into loop C and out loop B, then back again.  Remove end A and now attach it to end E, repeat the C-B loop insertion.  Turn 90 degrees counterclockwise and make the shape of a great turtle with whatever loose strands of rope you can.  Tighten.  Not that way, the other way.  Insert your hand into the center of the rope mass.  YOU MAY LOSE YOUR HAND.  This is acceptable.  Now tie as many smaller knots in the rope around the edge of the central ball as you can.  Stay up for three days, staring at what you have done.  The answer will come to you.  You will know what you need to do next.  You will know Durango.

The Half Windsor

Fig 14: Half Windsor

The Half Windsor is a manner of tying a necktie so that a neat, roughly triangular display knot is created.  This is a nice, quick knot for the outdoorsineer who needs to look good in a suit for a formal party or a job interview.

The Half Windsor is tied by looping the larger end of a necktie around the thinner end, crossing it behind the thinner end, then pulling the large end up and across the intersection of the two ends.  Cross the broad end around once more and then pull it through the loop you have created.  You may want to practice in front of a mirror, or in a pinch, have a lady friend do it for you.

  1. Some confusion arises when one learns that the term “town square” itself has a similar origin story – rather than having anything to do with the shape, it is thought that the term is a shortening of the original phrase “place in town where people demonstrate square knots”.  But the mind reels at such a prospect.  How can both the location and the knot be named for each other?  Surely one of them must have been titled first.  In truth, however, that is not true.  But to discuss it further would require a lot of math and this is not a guide about math. []
  2. It is of course a bad idea to trust the Alpine Butterfly to support the weight of a human or any important gear. []
  3. If you will forgive a brief political diversion, it is worth noting that most outdoorsineers fall somewhere between Libertarian and Anarchic in their views of the government’s role in the lives of their citizens.  We men of the wild want to be free and independent, and do not want to be burdened with strict regulations or tariffs coming from Washington.  However, when it comes to learning about knots, we are all wanton hypocrites and the general consensus is that the government should do whatever it has to do so that the understanding of knots is advanced. []
  4. The great John Audubon once took at three-week excursion into the Alaskan wilderness.  When he emerged, his contemporaries asked him what scenic beauty he had seen.  Audubon replied that he had seen none of it – that he had spent the entirety of the trip locked in the challenging embrace of tying a single Durango.  When asked to at least show the knot that had taken so much of his time, Audubon replied that after finishing it, he had cast it into the sea.  On his deathbed, Audubon stated that his tangle with Durango in Alaska had been “one of the two perfect experiences of my life”. []
Categories: 3: Skills Worth Knowing | 1 Comment

How To Start A Fire Using Found Materials

When in the depths of the cruel and wonderful wilderness, there can be no more essential companion than a strong fire.  A fire marks your campsite as your own, so that fellow travelers know to leave well enough alone and stay away.  It provides light by which you may write poetry or do whittling.  And it is often from the noble outdoorsman’s fire that the greatest of all of nature’s spectacles, the Forest Fire, emerges1.

But it is entirely possible to find oneself in the wilderness bereft of the means to start such a fire.  Perhaps a raccoon has pilfered your torch and lighter.  Perhaps you misplaced your supplies or had to bargain them away to get out of a sticky situation, possibly involving pirates.  Or perhaps you are a true outdoorsineer and are attempting to conquer the wilds with nothing but wit, skill, and pluck.  Whatever the reason, the result is the same: you are going to have to make a fire using only what lies around you.

Take in your surroundings.  What you see will be important, as there are many strategies that you can attempt, depending on where you are.  What do you see?


If you are surrounded by lava, then you are in luck!  Starting a fire is going to be a relatively painless process for you2.  Gather whatever kindling you can find and arrange it in a pile formation of your choosing.  This can be wood, dry leaves, clothing, or almost anything else.  Lava will burn anything so discretion is not altogether important here, though it would be advisable not to plan on burning key food items, expensive equipment, or your map.  Find the longest piece of your kindling and simply dip it in the lava.  Unless it is composed of some heretofore-unknown material such as unburninite, your kindling should catch fire — even if your kindling is a rock, and if you are using a rock as kindling it is the opinion of the author that you are intentionally trying to do it wrong.

Be cautious that your kindling does not disintegrate from overheating, and that you do not drip hot lava onto your arm.  Now make your way back to your pile and set it ablaze.  Congratulations!  You have made a fire.  Of course, you are surrounded by fire – molten, running fire.  It is strange that making a fire was a priority for you here, but your reasons are your own.

Another fire

If you are near a fire, then this is going to be your best bet for starting a fire of your own.  The original “source” fire may be large or small, but this is of no matter.  It is fire’s peculiar nature that it can spread and grow irregardless of its original state3.  Thus we will refer to the process you are going through here as “stealing” fire but in truth there is no ethical dilemma to work out, for this is a victimless crime.

The exact process of stealing the fire is very similar to the process of starting a fire with lava, but you are going to have to watch out for smoke inhalation.  Fire can spew a toxic chemical known colloquially as “smoke” (native Outlandians called it “fire stink” and feared it as a god).  Draw your shirt up over your face as you approach the fire, so that the top of your shirt makes a seal over your nose.  The effect will be that you are some sort of freak with no neck or lower face, with only the top half of your head protruding from the collar of your shirt, like an egg-shaped man.  This position is known as the “Safety Seal” and it is a very important thing to know, as the fabric of your shirt will prevent any miniscule invaders such as smoke germs to enter your respiratory system and work their foul deeds4.

The Safety Seal can seem complicated but it is an important thing to master and thus it is recommended that you practice it in a mirror at home before you go.  Note that heavy outdoors-type fabrics such as denim or burlap will guard you especially well against danger while lighter cloth such as lace or a mesh shirt will not do as much.

Hot coals

Things are getting more challenging now.

 You will still be able to build a fire even if you do not see either lava or fire around you.  Your next priority is to look for hot coals.  Hot coals are found in the wake of a fire, and in fact are a final attempt by the fire to cling to life and resurrect itself.  If you can find a pile of hot coals, you will simply need to place them under a small pile of kindling and the fire will rise up again for you to enjoy.  Good places to look for hot coals are in the wreckage of a burned-down building, in a barbecue pit, or in the belly of a dragon, if they exist.  Unlikely places to search for hot coals include underwater, in the air, or in a pile of cold coals.

 An abandoned lighter

If lava, a fire, or hot coals are not immediately available, do not panic.  Another feature of the wilderness that can be twisted to your advantage is the abandoned lighter.  Abandoned lighters come in many colors and varieties, and they can turn up in almost any environment, so be ever vigilant.  Abandoned lighters can be hidden in tree stumps, under dirt, and in abandoned backpacks.  Some experts conclude that when you are in the wilderness, you are never more than twenty feet from an abandoned lighter, a thought that has given many a traveler pause.

You will be able to start your fire by holding the abandoned lighter to some dry wood or similar kindling and flicking the fire-starter metal part of it5.  If the lighter still has fuel, a small flame will ignite (caution: this is not your desired flame, only a means to an end!) and you will be able to start your fire.  If the lighter does not have fuel, you will have to search for another means to start your fire, but at least you have solved the mystery of why a perfectly good lighter was abandoned in the first place.


A form of fungus, matches are notable for their thin, sticklike bottom halves and their bulbous, red tops.  When flicked against a rough surface, they ignite in a small fiery blaze, which is thought to be the propulsion mechanism for the match’s spores.  Matches grow in the dark and can often be found under mulch or on the belly of a fallen log, along with much of its fungal kin such as the mushroom and the slime bug.

If you are going to start a fire using matches, you ought to gather a small group of them, say around twelve.  If you are lucky you may find such a cluster growing together in a formation known as a “matchbook”.  Lighting a matchbook all at once produces a considerably larger flame than a single match, and even if you only need to light one match at a time, you can still use the matchbook as a small writing pad, good in a pinch for jotting down a telephone number discovered on the trail, or the name of a favorite bar6.

If, upon examination of your surroundings, none of these things are available to you, then unfortunately you may be out of luck.


Robert Raccoon needs to build a fire! He has also been transformed into a human-raccoon hybrid by an angry wizard, but there is nothing we can do about that. So help Robert by picking out the three objects around him that can give me what he wants. Answers: The birthday cake, bonfire, and gun can give him what he wants. The birthday cake and bonfire are both sources of fire and the gun can provide sweet release from Robert’s humanimal hell.


  1. Variations on this include the Grass Fire, the Wildfire, the Jungle Fire, and the improbable Middle of the Ocean Fire.  All of them dazzling to behold, and that is hopefully the only use of the term “dazzling” in this guide. []
  2. Painless in the sense of the required work ethic.  It may in fact be rather painful if you allow yourself to touch the lava.  Do not do this, you do not need me to tell you that. []
  3. Some leeway has been made into the development of an infinite energy resource using fire, as it seems to disobey the laws of physics, being a system that can grow unchecked while the rest of the universe tends toward disorder.  Progress has been slow, however, due to the fire’s frustrating tendency to burn up the other experimental materials in the process. []
  4. The Safety Seal is also useful if you find yourself in the middle of a biological or chemical attack, though that subject is outside the purview of this volume of writing.  Please see Wilson Middleford’s seminal work “1,001 Ways To Survive And Thrive During A Biological Or Chemical Attack” for more information. []
  5. No one knows what that part is really called. []
  6. As a final thought on matches, here is something to ponder.  The common misconception that you can start a fire by rubbing two sticks together is thought to have originated when a less-than-observant outdoorsman saw somebody using matches to light a fire.  Then, as stories often do, the sighting was twisted and expanded upon over the years and we are left with the absurd tale that we have now.  More than absurd, the tale is dangerous – many an adventurer has starved to death or rubbed off their precious palm skin trying to get two sticks to turn into one fire, a task that a basic primal understanding of how the world works reveals as futile and ridiculous.  This all serves as a warning against the fickle mind’s penchant for finding the easy way out. []
Categories: 3: Skills Worth Knowing | Leave a comment

Snakes – The Worms Of The Lizard Kingdom

Snakes, or ground dragons, are a dangerous and delicious enemy that must be regarded with extreme caution. Masters of disguise, snakes reside on every continent, and have been the gruesome end of many brave outdoorsineers. Easily mistaken for vines, sticks, rope, moving sticks, other kinds of rope, and vines with tongues, they are devilishly difficult to detect. And their deception is equaled only by their danger. Many are extremely venomous. And their danger is equaled only by their variety. Some are so large they can strangle the life out of the burliest of men; some are so small they can penetrate your mind and poison your dreams1.

Still, the tasty rewards of correctly prepared snake meat makes understanding this otherwise worthless species advisable.

Against this enemy the outdoorsineer has one advantage. Very few snakes can read (they do display some fondness for storytelling, but only of the most basic sort — network demographic reports show a preference for procedural cop dramas). They should prove no match for the brave outdoorsman who enjoys high literature (and re-runs of NOVA).

In this section we will learn-

a) How to identify deadly snakes

b) How to identify delicious snakes

b) How to treat snake bites

c) How to shield your thoughts from dream snakes

d) Proper Mongoose Rearing and Training with an Emphasis on Modern

How to Identify Deadly Snakes

Imagine a world where snakes were gentleman and you could simply approach a suspicious vine or moving stick and shout in a manly baritone “Halt, be you snake or stick?” and the creature in question would answer, “Good sir, I am indeed a snake, as you have found me in good faith, I shall sheath my venomous fangs. Be so kind as to split me lengthwise and roast my snake flesh over a spit, for that is what I most desire.” Instead we are faced with the imperfect reality where the offending beast will likely remain silent, or worse, lie. Further, as many snakes disguise themselves as other snakes, it is worthless learning to recognize snake species based on colorings, size, behavior, or habitat. It is easier distinguishing types of Europeans than types of snakes.

Luckily, humans have lived alongside snakes for generations and our ancestors developed a simple test to determine whether a snake was dangerous or not. Known as the Brother Karl test, it was first developed in the early twelfth century by Franciscan Monks, the brothers of all God’s creatures2.

The procedure is very simple and will be understood after a bit of self-reflection.

Everyone has a friend, be it in school or at the office, who is just a little slower than the rest. Most likely his name is Karl, with a K. Now, while no one would ever say it out loud, it is understood Karl with a K is an expendable person. For instance, if the school or office were trapped on a raft, Karl would be the first one eaten. No has to say this, everyone just knows it3.  Now, in the twelfth century people did not have schools or offices, they had monasteries4.  So, when a snake was found, it was placed in the sleeping Bother Karl’s bed. If brother Karl awoke the snake was deemed safe, killed and eaten. If brother Karl did not awake, the snake was deemed deadly, killed and eaten. It was an excellent test.

Most savvy outdoorsineers keep a Karl with them at all times. Not just for snakes but also to use as a decoy or footbridge. I personally always travel with at least two Karls. As they are very stupid and need little food or shelter, I find they make my journeys much more pleasant. Karls can be obtained at most outdoor outfitters or, if you arise early when the ground is moist, under large boulders and logs.


Identify these snakes:

1-6 – Rattlesnakes disguised as ropes

7,12,19 – Adder’s disguised as Rattlesnakes disguised as ropes

9-11, 14, 15, 16 – Ropes

9-11, 14, 15, 16 – Just kidding they are snakes

13, 17, 18 – Worms at a fancy costume party

8 – An eel

How to Identify Delicious Snakes

This is an unnecessary section. All snakes are delicious. If you can identify something as snake and not a bit of moving rope or a stick, it is assuredly delicious. Beware though, snake meat is highly addicting. Methadone clinics the world over are filled with sorry adventurers who could not curb their lust for snake meat5.

How to Treat Snake Bites

Currently there are no known treatments for snake bites. Until recently it was thought prudent to provide anti-venom or to attempt to limit the spread of the poison, by either suction or tourniquet. However, recent research has indicated that the long-term psychological damage can be even more deadly than the bite. Over the years the shame of being tricked by such a lowly creature usually results in severe depression or suicide. This outdoorsman recommends, if bitten by a snake, seek immediate counseling and a warm oatmeal bath.

How to Shield Your Thoughts from Dream Snakes

Impossible. If a snake enters your dream accept death with dignity and grace. Dream snakes enjoy a variety of habitats from the ‘I forgot my pants at the first day of school,’ dreams to the ‘I did not do that huge report and now I have to give a presentation to my boss and I forgot my pants,’ or even ‘I am sitting with my wife and her eyes melt and drip down her face and no matter how I try to save them they slip away from me because I forgot my pants’ dreams. Forgetting your pants is a sure sign that a dream snake is lurking in a corner of your subconscious nearby.

NOTE- The dream snake is easily identified by its black and purple markings and by it being in your dream.

Proper Mongoose Rearing and Training with an Emphasis on Modern Techniques

The Mongoose is the outdoorsineer’s great friend and a terrible enemy to all snakes. With lightning reflexes, sharp eyes, and even sharper teeth the mongoose is a snake holocaust with soft fur. Single mongooses have been known to murder upwards of thirty thousand snakes by adulthood. Why do  they do this? Probably due to dares by older, cooler mongooses. It is essential you obtain a mongoose.

While the idea of rearing a wild animal might seem daunting I assure you it couldn’t be easier. I will now take you step by step through the methods I used to train my own loyal mongoose, Snakepocalypse Now6. First I located the nearest public library. Then I attempted to obtain a library card. Three days later I returned with a driver’s license and a proof of residence. The next day I returned with a proof of residence other than the shrunken heads of my condo’s previous occupants7. I used the card catalogue to locate “Rikki Tikki Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling. I checked out “Rikki Tikki Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling. Three years of intense rearing and training loosely based on the life of the anthropomorphized eponymous protagonist and voila, my very own mongoose companion.

Some may argue that I skipped over a key three years in this, my supposedly detailed description of proper mongoose training and rearing. To this I can only respond, achieve the first three steps and the rest will surely come.

  1. One particularly cunning species illustrates this point. While most scholars agree that Ireland has no snakes (Saint Patrick used the power of Jesus and a large hat to chase Ireland’s snakes into the sea), recent evidence suggests that one species, the Irish Tin Whistle Snake, survived. Undistinguishable from a standard D# Tin Whistle, the Irish Tin Whistle Snake is thought to be widespread – perhaps most if not all of Irelands famed D# Tin Whistles are this snake. Thus, though never actually seen to move or act like anything other than D# Tin Whistles, one might say it is possible that this snake is (or, could be) probably just laying in wait. And this is just one example! []
  2. Snakes are devote Hindus so while they are gods’ creatures they are not God’s creatures. This distinction is not worth noting. []
  3. This is called group think. []
  4. And the plague. []
  5.  Black-market snake meat can be obtained from most reputable back alley drug dealers but presents its own danger. It is often cut with lesser meats. Make sure you have a good relationship with your dealer before you attempt to obtain snake meat. []
  6. Mongeese are commonly named in the same manner as horses. []
  7. I insist on using only accredited voodoo real-estate agents. []
Categories: 5: Animals You May See | Leave a comment

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