Skip to main content

Add the sheet bend to your knot repertoire for summer camping

The sheet bend is a useful knot around your campground and at home

Tom Kilpatrick / The Manual

Campers and survivalists often overlook the sheet bend knot despite its longstanding history in sailing and boating. I’ll confess that I didn’t add the sheet bend to my repertoire of outdoor knots until much later than I should have. Looking back, there are countless times that I could have used the sheet bend but had to make do with an inferior choice of knot for the task.

The sheet bend attaches two ropes and is often seen as a variant of the square knot. Unlike the square knot, the sheet bend works with ropes of different thicknesses or stiffnesses to give you a secure attachment. Sheet bends were traditionally used for attaching ropes to sails, hence the name sheet — the name given to ropes in sailing boats. Whether heading out on the high seas or not, you should learn how to tie a sheet bend.

Two ropes start being tied into a sheet bend.
Tom Kilpatrick / The Manual

How to tie a sheet bend in three easy steps

Step One

  • Make a bight at the end of one piece of rope. If your ropes are different diameters, this should be your thicker rope.
  • Take the end of your working rope — the thinner rope, in this case, the black rope — through the loop from the back to the front.
Two ropes in the process of being tied into a sheet bend.
Tom Kilpatrick / The Manual

Step Two

  • Take the working end of your rope over the top of the tail end of the loop — or bight — that you made in your thicker rope.
  • Pass your working rope behind/underneath the bight.
Two ropes tied almost into a sheet bed. They just need to be pulled tight.
Tom Kilpatrick / The Manual

Step Three

  • Pass the working end back underneath itself while keeping it above the bight. Pull your knot tight and dress it so it sits tidily.
  • The tails of your bight and working rope must finish on the same side of your sheet bend.

A double sheet bend tied between a black rope and a red rope.

Can you tie the sheet bend more securely?

The sheet bend is a knot that derives — and looks similar to — the bowline knot. Like the bowline knot, the sheet bend can work itself loose if it isn’t kept under tension or bounces, which can cause significant issues at the wrong time or place. To make your sheet bend more secure, you can turn it into a double sheet bend with the addition of one turn.

When you reach step three, instead of dressing and tightening your knot, take your working rope, and make another loop underneath your bight. Once you have this extra loop, take the working end through as you usually would, then tighten and dress your knot. By doubling up these loops, you limit the slippage on your knot and ensure that your ropes will stay attached when you want them to.

A sheet bend tied to the corner of a red tarp.

What is a sheet bend used for in the outdoors?

The reason I first learned the sheet bend still happens to be the reason I use it the most: for tying the corners of a tarp. Most outdoor tarps come with attachment points, but if these break or if you have to make an impromptu tarp shelter out of a more standard tarp, you might not have attachment points for pegs or lines. By making your bight loop out of the corner of the tarp, you can tie your sheet bend around it, giving you a secure attachment point for tying to a tree or pegging into the ground.

Alternative uses for the sheet bend knot include:

  • Tying your sailing boat or kayak onto a mooring rope.
  • Extending guy ropes on a tent.
  • Setting up a fixed line across the camp — perhaps for hanging washing — comprising multiple lengths of rope.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Tom Kilpatrick
A London-born outdoor enthusiast, Tom took the first ticket out of suburban life. What followed was a twelve-year career as…
Calm camping is officially the trend for summer 2024
Embrace the calm camping trend
A man soaking in a natural tub outside of an RV during dusk with a mountain range behind him.

Camping is a timeless tradition that offers reliable comfort. From a toasty s'mores to a warm campfire, a camping excursion evokes nostalgia and warm memories of the past for many of us.
While spending a night under the stars never goes out of style, emerging camping trends are shaking things up by leveraging modern amenities, lifestyle-specific accommodations, and the best camping tents and accessories to bring into the great outdoors.
So, what exactly are people looking for when planning their summer 2024 camping excursions? According to a recent study by Campspot, the name of the game is relaxation. 93% of campers surveyed reported feeling relaxed and refreshed after a camping trip. They coined this experience as the "calm-cation," with calm camping at its core.
Let's dig into some of the most insightful findings from this study of 2,851 participants to learn how camping is trending as one of the most restorative outdoor activities.

An introduction to the calm-cation trend

Read more
This rooftop tent kit will turn your van into a pop-top camper for about $12K
Transform your two-person rig into a legit, four-person, family-friendly chariot
Camper van outfitted with Super Pacific's CloudCap pop-up roof tent parked among a stand of trees.

Van life usually means sacrificing comfort and living space for maximum portability. There's no denying that it's tight packing most of the amenities of home into the back of a hollowed-out work van. So, anything you can do to make the space feel a little roomier feels like a luxury. Super Pacific's clever CloudCap does just that by converting the unused space on your camper van's roof into a legit two-person "bedroom" with a view.
The details on Super Pacific's CloudCap pop-up rooftop tent for camper vans

Super Pacific bills the  as "a private bunk house for the kids, a guest room for friends, or a panoramic Crow's Nest for you." Bottom line: It expands the living space of many two-person camper vans into four-person road-trip wagons. The simple kit includes the rooftop tent itself, plus all the instructions and mounting hardware you need to install it on the most popular Mercedes-Benz and Ford Transit vans on the road.

Read more
These are the essential outdoor knots every outdoorsman should know
A well-versed arsenal of knots is a must-have for any outdoorsman
A reef knot is tied against a tree

There's almost no end to what you can achieve armed with a length of rope and an arsenal of outdoor knots to tie it together. If heading into the backcountry, you should always be prepared for survival. While part of that is carrying the right gear, you must know how to use it effectively. You wouldn't take your woodcutting axe without giving it a few practice swings at home, so why would you expect to tie the right knot without practice?

There is an adage among those who don't know what to do with rope: if you can't tie knots, tie lots. If you don't know what you're doing, keep tying until your rope feels secure. It works, sometimes. But in a significant way, these people are missing out. Knots, like backcountry navigation skills or making a fire, are part of being an outdoorsman. Outdoor knots come in different shapes and perform various tasks; some are quick, some secure, and others are designed to be untied quickly. These eight are the essential outdoor knots to learn first, so grab a rope and upskill your outdoor self.
Bowline knot

Read more