Say, I want to tie a rope between two trees, and I want it to have as little sag as possible. I have attached the rope to one tree and I'm trying to tie it to the other tree while pulling it to create tension and remove sag.

All the hitch knots that I know are difficult to do while applying tension and, when tightened, create some sag.

Which ones are easy to do under tension and avoid sag?

Thank you.

enter image description here

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    It might be interesting to specify how strong should the knots be. It's not the same thing if you want the rope to lie there, or if you intend to exert some pressure to it (like walking on the rope for example). Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 9:33
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    Related/interesting: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/30343/…
    – jhch
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 14:24
  • @bilbo_pingouin Yes, the rope should be tight enough to balance-walk on it. Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 5:14
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    You could add a Sheepshank.
    – circusdei
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 15:30
  • 2
    @circusdei Sheepshank is not practical for this use case. But thank you for mentioning it anyway, it might be useful elsewhere! Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 16:41

6 Answers 6


I use a truckers hitch it is easy to make and create and pull tight. It is not difficult to untie but does stay in place well. It is a great knot when you need to cinch something down.

enter image description here

Image source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TruckersHitchUsingAlpineButterfly2.jpg

  • 1
    Some folks (e.g. BSA canoeing merit badge) recommend finishing off the truckers hitch with a tautline hitch--that way you get the 3:1 mechanical advantage of the trucker's hitch to add tension along with the easy adjustment of a tautline hitch.
    – Dave X
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 15:33
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    @DaveX excellent modification
    – Underminer
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 19:37
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    I find that you get much better leverage using a short Chain sinnet with the last 2 loops somewhat loose instead of the alpine butterfly. Then terminate using a few slip half hitches. I've never seen a hitch beat that, plus done right it will come completely undone in a single movement.
    – user18547
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 20:19

I agree that the trucker's hitch will certainly do the job. That said, if your special situation requires retightening if things start to sag, you might consider the tautline hitch.

It's a great knot for situations where you might need to take up slack due to stuff like rope stretch in the dark and rain (like, say, if you're using your line to make an A-frame shelter with a tarp), so you can get back under cover quick. I wouldn't recommend this knot for situations where a knot slip might cause injury. As always, right knot for the right job.

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    tautline hitch is another name for the midshipman's hitch Alexander mentioned
    – wjandrea
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 17:45
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    @wjandrea -- some use it that way, but so far as I can tell, the tautline winds before the overhand travel away from the first rope crossing, and for the midshipmans knot, the winds start far and travel nearer. Somewhere, I have the Ashley book of knots to check in, but I can't seem to find it. I'm sure people use these knots pretty interchangeably. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 17:50
  • @ScottSeidman that was my understanding also, and I don't find them completely interchangeable: my experience has been that the taut-line (as you describe it) often works better to hitch cord to cord, while the midshipman works better when hitching to something solid. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 17:54
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    The midshipman is often described as harder to adjust than the tautline Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 17:54
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    ... though easier to tie under tension, as it forms an intermediate awning hitch before the final overhand. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 17:55

As others have commented, Trucker's Hitch (with an Alpine butterfly) would be the best. Note that it would be enough to do it on one side only; I usually tie an Anchor Hitch at the other side.

Another option, when you won't be loading the rope too much, would be to use an Adjustable Midshipman's Hitch. As a bonus, you could easily re-tighten the rope by pulling the adjustable knot. I tried this last time to dry the clothes between the trees (just like in your picture) and it worked very nicely: the rope was taut but when the wet clothes were put on it it sagged a little. Then I just pulled the knot - et voilà!

  • 3
    I joined this community to second the midshipman's hitch - It is similar to a rolling hitch / taut-line hitch, except you can tie it under strain.
    – Cinderhaze
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 16:12
  • @wjandrea - there is a slight difference, in the midshipmen's hitch, you follow your first turn with a crossing turn that bites into the crevice between the previous turn and one of the legs, that is what 'holds' the tension as long as the bitter end doesn't slip out - the last thing you do in the midshipman's is to add a hitch to bitter end to keep it from working it's way loose.
    – Cinderhaze
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 18:00
  • @Cinderhaze, a midshipman's hitch is a rolling hitch (on a loop). This is different than a taut-line hitch, though similar.
    – jhch
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 18:54
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    What I was trying to say was in the image above ( i.sstatic.net/FEVAf.jpg ) step 2, instead of being a round turn on the line (followed in step three by a hitch) would have a turn followed by a crossing turn in step 2. The crossing turn (riding over the first turn, wedged between it and the leg coming back around the post) is what allows it to 'bite in' and be tied under strain
    – Cinderhaze
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 19:09
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    That is absolutely correct @Cinderhaze. Midshipman's and the knot from the image are different knots.
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 19:36

You don't need a knot, just add a few rounds of rope around the tree and the friction will make it more or less impossible to "pull" the rope and create sag (besides, a few extra rounds prevents the rope from sliding downwards). Basically any knot will work after this although two half-hitches is a good option. An alternative to the extra rounds is to simply make a clove hitch around the tree. That can be done even under stress.

  • 5
    Sailors call that: Round turn and two half-hitches, simple but super effective and easy to undo. Around a tree it might use too much rope though.
    – ic_fl2
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 8:30
  • 1
    A clove hitch can can be difficult to undo. But the rounds are spot on, that's what we do for Tyroleans. One can tighten the rope with a jammer or a prussik, tighten the rope around the tree, repeat. Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 13:59
  • The ability of friction to overcome tension is described by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capstan_equation Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 16:20

If you're after getting tension into the line, I'd normally use a Truckers Hitch. This uses a loop to create a pulley - and there are various ways to make the loop. I tend to prefer either an Alpine Butterfly (as it doesn't get hard to undo after tensioning) or the loop of a slippery overhand knot (as it can be undone easily).

If you have issues losing tension when tying off the truckers hitch, you can opt to use a "wrap and re-wrap" method. Not sure that's the right name. Basically you pull the rope round the tree, round the taut line and back round the tree (back the way it came).
You can repeat this, going back and forth round the tree, any number of times. Then you tie off the loose end to the taut line.

This wrap and re-wrap method can be seen demonstrated about 90 seconds into this video: https://youtu.be/zdn1MlOUFuA?t=90 - albeit without doing a truckers hitch first.

  • Simpler way to keep tension is a tension lock. See this video. Basically you just go through the loop again before finishing the trucker's hitch.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 16:16
  • Upvoted for the slipped overhand. That's how I tie all of my trucker's hitches—it's no less secure than the alpine butterfly, and a touch quicker to tie and untie. There's a caveat, though! If you feed the standing side (attached to the first tree) through your loop, it'll collapse under tension and be a pain to untie. You gotta use the running side. Pastebin Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 19:22

You probably need a self-blocking knot here i.e. one that tightens on itself. The Constrictor/Miller's knot (single or double) comes to mind:

Constrictor knot

See the linked Wikipedia page for detailed instructions on how to tie it.

  • 6
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but this doesn't seem to meet OP's needs. It wouldn't tighten the bitter end (compare to trucker's hitch), and it's difficult to tie under tension (compare to tautline hitch).
    – wjandrea
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 17:02

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