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Knot Tying: Learn the Tautline Hitch

The normal hitch for tightening tent guylines without using hardware.
Text and photos by Steve Howe
Need a primer on knot tying terminology? Click here.
  • Take the free end of the guyline and run it around a tree, tent stake or other anchor.
  • Run the free end through the loop.
  • Hold the knot you're creating in the place as you continue to wrap the free end through the loop multiple times.
  • Continue running the free end through the loop a second time, in a corkscrew pattern.
  • For more tension resistance, you can run the spiral up to four times through the loop.
  • On the last spiral, run it around the standing end of the rope and insert the free end through the resulting loop.
  • This is another angle of putting the free end through the loop.
  • Tighten and neaten the knot. Without this step it'll slip.
  • A standard three-spiral tautline hitch should look like this.
  • To add tension, grab the knot itself and slide it toward the standing end.
Take the free end of the guyline and run it around a tree, tent stake or other anchor.
Image 1 of 10

Take the free end of the guyline and run it around a tree, tent stake or other anchor.


Page 1

Concerning the tautline hitch...

Consult with Ashley Book of Knots(ABOK): (or Wikipedia who references the ABOK:

You will see that #1857 is actually a better version of the 'tautline hitch', or Rolling Hitch as its properly known as (But Tautline Hitch is much more common name for it):

Based on Magnus hitch #1736, this is exactly as above but with the final hitch in the opposite direction. It can be more tricky to snug-up, since both lines emerge from the same side of the hitch, but it has less tendency to twist under load."

1. Pass the working end around the anchor object. Bring it back alongside of the standing part and make a half-hitch around the standing part.
2. Continue with another wrap inside the loop, effectively making a round turn around the standing part.
3. Complete with a half-hitch outside the loop made in the opposite direction than the first two wraps, as for a cow hitch.
4. Dress by snugging the hitch firmly around the standing part. Load slowly and adjust as necessary.

— Jared Nelson

A useful variation of the taut line hitch is to tie it to a mid point of a 2nd rope (that may be stretched between 2 trees). Take your rope and loop it around the 2nd rope a few times (to the left)then a few times to the right. thghten it up. It can be slid left or right and will not slip.
Good when you don't have a tree in the 'right' spot to tie a tarp off to.

LNT teaches not to tie directly to a tree, it damages the bark. Instead, insert little sticks between the rope and tree. They act like roller bearings to protect the bark.
— Gary P


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