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How to Tie the Impossible Knot

Boy Scout Knots

To many, knots are synonymous with the Boy Scouts. And for good reason: The Boy Scouts movement began in England, courtesy of a chap named Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell was a famous British war hero who wrote a military field manual called "Aids to Scouting." Young boys discovered this book and found its lessons on tracking and observation fascinating. So Baden-Powell penned another book, "Scouting for Boys," aimed at this younger audience. That book, published in 1908, was the start of the Boy Scouts [source: History].

"Scouting for Boys" contained information on activities like camping, woodcraft, boating and lifesaving. It's here that the necessity of learning various knots came into play — a whole chapter was devoted to saving lives with knots. Additionally, the book taught the importance of morality, chivalry, patriotism and good deeds [source: History].

Britain's The Telegraph reported scout leaders in England no longer are required to know how to tie knots, as today's merit badges are more focused on learning skills like public relations and IT than climbing or sailing. Still, many scouts there and in other parts of the world do learn how to tie many knots during their years in the organization. Here are six of the more common knotsAmerican Scouts are taught [sources: Boy Scout Trail, Boy Scouts of America]:

  • Square knot. Simple binding knot that can be used on shoes or for holding a pad on a wound. It's the first knot boys learn when they join the Scouts,
  • Bowline. Called the "king of knots"; used to make nonslip loop at end of a rope
  • Sheet bend. Good for tying two ropes together
  • Clove hitch. Used with stiff, thick ropes; good for lashing together two poles; required for rowing merit badge
  • Two half hitches. Versatile binding or hitch knot; required for rowing merit badge
  • Tautline hitch. Adjustable knot used in tent guy lines; required for canoeing merit badge