Taut-line showdown | GridScout™


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Taut-line showdown

Friction-loop knots, several of which go by the name taut-line, are adjustable loops commonly used to make guy-lines easily tensioned. They’re handy when you need to support a tent or hammock, tie an aircraft down, or fix a telescope in orbit. You know, everyday stuff.

But there are several variants. Which friction loop works best? I tested eight of them in parachute cord, and here are the results.

I used no special equipment. Just hands and feet and rope. To compare the grip of two knots, I simply tied both in one rope to what felt like equal tightness and then pulled to see which would slip first. I tied and tested each knot at least three times. Simplicity scores are inversely related to length of rope required.

Rank Friction-loop knot Grip Simplicity Tightening ease Overtightening resistance
1 Cawley hitch ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
2 Ezelius loop ★★★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★
3 Blake’s-hitch 5/3 loop ★★★★★ ★★ ★★★★
4 Rolling taut-line +1 ★★★★ ★★★ ★★
5 Midshipman’s hitch ★★★ ★★★★ ★★
6 Magnus taut-line +1 ★★★ ★★★ ★★
7 Rolling taut-line ★★ ★★★★ ★★
8 Magnus taut-line ★★★★ ★★★

The most common friction loops are the midshipman’s hitch (for sailors), the rolling taut-line hitch (for landlubbers), and the magnus taut-line hitch (for pilots). The “+1” taut-line variants have an extra turn before the finishing half-hitch.


The Cawley hitch seems to be the most practical of these friction loops. It’s one of the easiest to tie and uses the shortest amount of rope. It’s the easiest to tighten to the point where it grips well and gives confidence that it won’t shake loose. And it seems to be impossible to overtighten this knot to the point where it becomes hard to adjust the tension of the rope.

So just as the best Mustang is a Camaro and the best apple pie is made with peaches, the best version of the taut-line hitch is actually the Cawley hitch.

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