When I hang my water bag to heat water in the sun for family bathing, I do so by tying a weight to the end of the rope and throwing it over a tree limb. Then I lower the weight, tie the water bag to the rope, then pull the bag up.

This potentially scars the tree limb due to rope friction, even if you use a soft rope. I have been trying to figure out a way to do this so that I do not cause rope friction on the tree.

What I have tried is tossing the weight a 2nd time, then trying to create a pulley-like set-up so that the rope takes the friction. What happens is that I just end up strangling the tree limb.

Can someone suggest a knot that would work?

I should note that I need the bag over my head, so I have to select tree limbs taller than me.

  • If that's really a problem, then use a great big "S" shaped hook with a pulley underneath. The pulley will do the work while the hook takes the weight, sparing the tree from pretty-much any damage you can imagine. – Robbie Goodwin Dec 11 '20 at 0:00

Make a figure-8-on-a-bight knot on the center of your rope; clip a carabiner into the knot. Clip the center of a second rope into the carabiner.

Toss your first rope over the tree branch using the original method. Use the second rope to raise the bag, using the carabiner as a pulley.

To reduce friction, you can add a real pulley to the carabiner if you have one. Or, if you don't have a carabiner and don't mind extra work, you can use the rope as a pulley (but the friction might wear the rope out pretty quickly).

A disadvantage of this system is that it's complicated — it requires two ropes (or one sufficiently long rope). Also, you must anchor 3 ends, instead of just one.

  • I will practice this off the roof beams in our garage. It sounds like it would work though. – Bookaholic Dec 5 '20 at 18:28
  • I don't understand--where are there three ends to anchor? Rope 1--one end must be anchored, the other has the pulley. Rope 2--one end must be anchored, the other has the water. I see only two anchors, not three. Furthermore, rope 2 could be anchored to rope 1, it doesn't need a separate tie. – Loren Pechtel Dec 6 '20 at 23:58
  • 3
    I imagined the pulley being in the center of the rope, not at the end. But yes, it's better to put it at the end. – anatolyg Dec 7 '20 at 7:00
  • Are these correct instructions for the figure-8-on-a-bight knot? – jpaugh Dec 7 '20 at 14:14
  • Yes. But any other knot will do; figure-8 is the easiest name to remember. – anatolyg Dec 7 '20 at 14:57

Instead of using the branch as a pulley, lift the bag into position with one hand while pulling the slack out of the rope with the other. If the bag is too heavy to lift over your head with one hand, have a second person pull the rope while you lift the bag with both hands. This will greatly reduce the friction on the tree limb.

  • While ok for heating a water bag, this would not be useful for hanging a food bag. – Sherwood Botsford Dec 28 '20 at 13:42
  • @SherwoodBotsford That's fine, because the question wasn't remotely about a food bag. – csk Dec 28 '20 at 15:33

Using anatolyg's idea of the carabiner, I think this will work. Thank you Anatolyg!

enter image description here

  • 1
    Great, this system is less messy with only 2 ends to tie down! I hope it works for you. – anatolyg Dec 5 '20 at 22:28
  • 8
    +1 solid graphics; wish the red circles were freehand though. – Greg Schmit Dec 7 '20 at 0:04
  • 1
    Since posting this, I have discovered that this is MUCH easier if you use 2 pullies. The rope was difficult to slide through the carabiner. However, the carabiner works well to attach a pulley to the rope. When I put a pulley on both the water bag & the rope, it made this set-up made the bag so easy to pull up a child could do it. This was because I now had leverage against the weight of a 5-gallon bag of water. – Bookaholic Dec 13 '20 at 18:44
  • 1
    Making a child able to lift your heavy water-bag is a significant fun-factor! – anatolyg Dec 28 '20 at 15:50

Arborists have this problem. The solution is a "friction saver" or "cambium saver". It consists of two rings, one large and one small, at the end of a length of webbing or rope. Here are some examples from wesspur.com

enter image description here

For light duty you could easily make a similar device yourself with two differently sized rings and a piece of rope.

Installed, it looks like this:

enter image description here

But how do you get the thing up there without climbing the tree first? Less obvious is that the rings are of two sizes to allow this device to be installed and retrieved from the ground with a throwline. I won't try to describe it all with words, since there are many videos describing the process.

Advantages of this approach:

  • only one point to anchor
  • very little wear to the tree or the rope, since only the throwline needs to be pulled over
  • the hauling rope slides only through the rings, which reduces friction and extends the life of the rope
  • as the tree sways in the wind, the anchored rope slides through the rings rather than sawing through the branch and your rope
  • I purchased the belts off Amazon and discovered it did not work on limbs above your head as it was too difficult to position the belt. But, it is great for hanging a hammock off of a tree though. – Bookaholic Dec 13 '20 at 18:38
  • @Bookaholic Arborists use these devices to climb trees much taller than their heads all the time. Perhaps it just requires a little practice? Or maybe whatever you got on Amazon isn't very good? The limiting factor for me is how high I can throw the throwline. – Phil Frost Dec 14 '20 at 20:59
  • I am not trying to climb the tree. I need the bag to hang at least 3-4' from the trunk because we put up a privacy tent underneath the water bag. The straps are not a waste though. Thanks for the tip. – Bookaholic Dec 19 '20 at 1:50

A variation on others' answers (which I have not tried, but speculate should work) - if you don't have a carabiner or arborist's tools or whatever, you could make do with just the rope itself. Tie the end of the rope around the tree limb - use a square knot or other non-slipping knot to leave slack in the resulting loop. Pull the long end through the loop, so the rope itself can act as a pulley. If you want to be able to throw the rope over the branch because it's too high to reach, you could make the loop in the middle of the rope, set up the pulley configuration beforehand, then throw the other end over the branch and pull it down until it's in the spot you want it, anchor it, then use the pulley configuration to lift the water bag.

Note: the friction may damage your rope, in this configuration. I don't know how quickly. Going slowly and taking breaks for the rope to cool would would likely reduce damage, but I still don't know how many cycles the rope will last. (I'd hope more than one, at least, haha.) Still, if you find yourself in the woods with no other option, might be a trick to have up your sleeve.


If you have enough rope and sufficient weight, after getting the rope over the limb you should be able to give the rope a series of small "flips", each of which will momentarily lift it off the limb and allow the weight to pull more rope over the limb.

This does require you to carry a bit more rope than might be absolutely necessary, but should minimize damage to the bark.

  • 1
    The problem is the OP needs the heavy end of the rope to go up. Using the flip method results in the heavy end going down. – user3067860 Dec 7 '20 at 18:58

I think you're overthinking this.

This potentially scars the tree limb due to rope friction

Except that it doesn't, at least not easily. It can certainly scrape away surface moss and lichen, but this does no damage to the tree limb. And on a tree where there is substantial rot or insect damage under the bark, there is a chance that this could take off a section of already-dead bark - but again, this is already gone.

If you're staying in one place for the entire summer, you might want to arrange something more sturdy. In this case though your reasons will likely be more to do with damage to the rope, not the tree. For a shorter camping holiday, you would literally have to be using a rope saw to hang up your water bag in order to do any noticeable damage to the tree limb.

  • 1
    This will depend on the weight of the water bag in question, and also how often this technique is repeated with the same branch. With just enough friction and lots of repetition, you could cut a limb in two, although the rope would wear out much faster than the hardy center of the branch. – jpaugh Dec 7 '20 at 14:19
  • 2
    Many trees are delicate enough that hauling a water bag just once would be enough to cut through the bark and get to the cambium. – Phil Frost Dec 7 '20 at 22:21
  • @PhilFrost We're not talking ornamental trees here. The OP is out camping in the woods. The tree is sturdy enough and old enough that there are overhanging branches at least 8ft from the ground which are strong enough to take at least 2kgs of water without bending noticeably. Do you find many trees like that out in the backwoods which are that delicate? – Graham Dec 7 '20 at 22:44
  • 2
    @Graham Yes I do. Birch for example has very thin bark, and can be found growing in the woods. It seems like you think trees are characters in a Jack London novel which are hardened by a rough life in the wild, but I'm afraid that's now how it works. – Phil Frost Dec 7 '20 at 23:20
  • 1
    @PhilFrost I think it is worth the effort to make sure that you do not damage trees while camping. – Bookaholic Dec 8 '20 at 8:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.