Knot-Tying Skill Activities

Rescue RelayThese challenges provide Scouts with an opportunity to put a variety of knot-tying skills into action.

In accordance with their level of skill, patrols can stay intact while doing these activities. Pitting one patrol against another in a competition can also be lots of fun. If patrols are organized by age, dividing the troop into equally-skilled Scout teams can be a practical alternative.

“wide” = large indoor or outdoor setting for those activities requiring a greater amount of space
“small” = small area for those activities that do not require as much space, or can be carried out in close quarters, or with a smaller number of Scouts
“in” = indoor activity
“out” = outdoor activity

Download PDF File of Knot Tying Skill Activities

50-FOOT RESCUE RELAY (wide, in or out)    View Video
Materials:  a cardboard square and one 50-foot rope for each patrol
Method:  Patrols line up in relay formation. One Scout from each patrol sits on the square of cardboard about 35 feet in front of his patrol. On signal each patrol prepares their rope for an accurate distance throw. One member casts the line to their Scout who must grab the rope while remaining on the cardboard. Once he has the rope, he ties a bowline around his waist, grabs the cardboard with both hands and remains on the cardboard as the rest of his patrol pulls him ashore.
Scoring:  Patrols score points according to how effectively they can rescue their patrol mate(s).
Variation:  Patrol members take turns coiling and throwing the rope and riding the cardboard.

BOWLINE DRAW (small, in or out)
Materials:  15-foot rope for every 2 Scouts
Method:  Each patrol forms two lines facing each other. Each pair of Scouts holds one end of a 15-foot rope in his right hand raised above his head. At the word “Go,” each races to tie a bowline around his waist. Scouts lean backward with their full weight to test the knots.
Scoring:  The first patrol to have all bowlines tied correctly and all Scouts leaning backwards wins.

BOWLINE SHEET BEND DRAW (small, in or out)    View Video
Materials:  6-foot rope or braided nylon cord for each Scout
Method:  Each patrol forms two lines facing each other. Each Scout holds his rope in his right hand raised above his head. At the word “Go,” each races to tie a Bowline around his waist, then join the ropes together with a Sheet Bend. Scouts lean backward with their full weight to test the knots.
Scoring:  The first patrol to have all knots tied correctly and all Scouts leaning backwards, with their Sheet Bends next to each other in a straight line, wins.

CANNIBAL RESCUE (wide, in or out)
Materials:  30 to 50-foot x 1/4 to 3/8-inch manila or braided nylon for each patrol
Method:  The patrols line up in relay formation behind a line. A second line is marked out 20 to 30 feet away, parallel to the first. The first Scout in each patrol is given a rope, and the following story is related: “You are fleeing from cannibals and have reached the bank of a wide river. Only one Scout in each patrol can swim. The rest of the patrol must be “pulled” across with the help of a rope.” On signal, the first Scout in each patrol “swims” (runs) with the rope to the other “shore” (second line) and throws one end of the rope back across the “river” to the second Scout in line. The second Scout ties a bowline around his waist and is figuratively pulled across to the other shore by the first Scout. Then the second Scout unties the rope, throws it to the next Scout in line, and so on. This continues until the whole patrol is safely across. Note: Scouts must wait until the rope is thrown far and accurately enough for them to grab it, without entering the “river”.
Scoring:  The first patrol to get all of its members across the river with correctly tied bowlines wins.

EIGHT KNOT CONTEST (wide, in or out)
Materials:  for each patrol three 6-foot x 1/4-inch manila ropes (or braided nylon cords), one 12-foot x 1/4-inch manila rope (or braided nylon cord), one log 2-foot long and 3 to 6 inches in diameter, two trees or upright poles 12 to 16 feet apart
Method:  Lay all the materials on the ground between the trees or upright poles. On signal, with one 6-foot rope, each patrol ties an end to a tree or pole with two half hitches / joins the other end to a second 6-foot rope with a square knot / ties one end of the third 6-foot rope to one end of the log with a timber hitch / forms a loop on the other end of the third 6-foot rope with a bowline / uses the bowline’s loop as the bend to tie a sheet bend to the free end of the second 6-foot rope. Each patrol will also tie one end of the 12-foot rope to the other tree or pole with a taut-line hitch / and the other end to the log with a clove hitch. Finally they will raise the log parallel to the ground by shortening the 12-foot rope with a sheepshank.
Scoring:  The first patrol to suspend the log parallel to the ground with all knots correctly tied wins.

HOLD-EM DEMONSTRATION (small, in or out)
Materials:  20-foot rope for each patrol
Method:  On signal, the first Scout takes hold of one end of the rope and makes one roundturn around a tree or immovable pole. Leaving enough rope to easily tie two half hitches, he holds onto the running end with one hand. While the first Scout maintains a grip on his end of the rope, a second Scout pulls on the other end of the rope. Relying on the friction created by the roundturn and withstanding the pull on the rope created by the second Scout, the first Scout now can secure the line with two half hitches snugged up against the tree or pole.
Scoring:  None. Each Scout takes a turn tying a roundturn with two half hitches in this manner.

HORIZONTAL HALF HITCHING RACE (small, in or out)    View Video
Materials:  horizontal pole(s) set up waist-high with pairs of 3-foot lengths of braided nylon or paracord cords, attached and hanging down (enough for each participant to have 2 cords right next to each other, set apart from other pairs of cords leaving enough space for each Scout to apply the half hitches without interfering with the Scout next to him)
Method:  On signal, Scouts race to tie a series of four half hitches with with each cord, one cord proceeding from the left, and the other proceeding from the right. When they have completed all eight half hitches, they yell out, “done!” (Switch off so all Scouts get a turn.)
Variation:  Tie the two pairs of cords about a foot from the ends of a Scout stave. Scouts pair up and sitting down either next to or across from one another, and race to tie the half hitches with the stave balanced on their laps.
Scoring:  The first Scout to correctly complete all eight wins that round.

HOT ISOTOPE TRANSPORT  (wide, out)    View Video
Materials:  For each patrol, one can filled to a mark 1/2-inch from the top with water, in the middle of a well-defined circle 20 feet in diameter, six 15 foot cords, elastic circle.
Method:  The patrol assembles a “Hot Isotope Transporter” by attaching the cords to the elastic circle with two half hitches. They then line up around the can staying outside the circle at all times, and under the direction of their patrol leader, the Scouts pull the cords to stretch the elastic circle. The object is to bring the expanded elastic circle down over the can, then relax the elastic circle to fit tightly over the can. They then lift and deposit the can upright to a point outside the circle, without spilling any water.
Scoring: Each patrol scores a point for transporting the can without spilling any water. All knots correctly tied earn an additional point. The fastest patrol earns an additional point.
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KNOT HOOP RELAY (small, in or out)
Materials:  6-foot rope for each patrol
Method:  On signal, the first Scout ties the rope into a hoop with a sheet bend and passes it over his head and down his body. He steps out of the hoop, unties the knot and passes the rope to the next Scout who repeats the method and so on down the line. A judge for each patrol will observe the knots.
Scoring:  Points are given for each correctly tied sheet bend, and extra points to the patrol that finishes the quickest. If there are different numbers of Scouts in the patrols, announce a specific number of knots to be tied, requiring some patrol members to go more than once.

KNOT MASTER TUG OF WAR (wide, in or out)
Materials:  for every two teams, one 4-foot and two 10-foot x 1/4-inch ropes, whipped on both ends, a playing area 40-feet wide with a marked center line
Method:  The object of this game is to pull the 4-foot rope away from the other other team. The contest can be played between patrol teams or between chosen troop teams. In the center of the playing area is the 4-foot rope. Two teams, each with a 10-foot rope, assemble facing each other on either side, twenty feet away. The game leader will call out the name of a joining knot, either: sheet bend, carrick bend, fisherman’s knot, or water knot. In response, each team quickly sends up one Scout along with their 10-foot rope. He must join their rope to the 4-foot rope with the knot that was called out. Once he does, he can pull the rope away from the other Scout, or if they both have the knot tied at the same time, can attempt to do so as in an ordinary tug of war, the winner pulling the other four feet.
Scoring:  If a Scout completes the knot first and hence can easily pull the rope away, he scores three points for his team. If the knot was tied incorrectly, the other team scores two points. If both Scouts complete the knot at the same time, and both are tied correctly, the Scout that can pull the 4-foot rope for four feet towards his team scores one point for his team. If one of the knots is incorrectly tied, the other team scores two points whether or not the rope is pulled to their side.

KNOT TRAIL (KNOT KIM’S GAME) (small, in or out)
Materials:  four ropes 6-feet or longer as appropriate, two chairs or trees
Method:  Tie the end of the first rope to the first chair or tree with a clove hitch / join the other end of the first rope to the second rope with a square knot / form a fixed loop in the other end of the second rope with a bowline / attach one end of the third rope to the fixed loop with a taut-line hitch / join the other end of the third rope to the fourth rope with a sheet bend / attach the other end of the fourth rope snug against the second chair or tree with two half hitches. Each patrol is given one minute to walk along the ropes from chair to chair and back again, silently, to view and memorize the knots. The patrols then huddle to come up with a list of the knots in the order they were between the chairs.
Scoring:  The fastest patrol to present the correct list of knots in the proper order wins.

KNOT-TYING RELAY (wide, in or out)
Materials:  for each patrol, one 6-foot rope, one Scout stave, one judge
Method:  The patrols line up in relay formation with the first Scout about ten feet from the stave. The leader calls out the name of a knot, and the Scout in line runs up to the stave, rope in hand, and ties it in the following manner: “Bowline” the stave through the fixed loop / “Square Knot” tied down tight against the stave /  “Sheet Bend” joining the two ends of the rope / “Two Half Hitches” slid tight against the stave / “Taut-Line Hitch” tied around the stave but not up against it / “Clove Hitch” tied around the stave / “Timber Hitch” tied around the stave. After the knot is approved by their judge, the Scout unties it, runs back, and gives the rope to the next Scout. When the first Scout who correctly tied the knot returns to his patrol, the next knot is called out. Each patrol must wait for their patrol member to return after having his knot approved, before sending their next member up to tie the next knot.
Scoring:  The first patrol to finish wins.

LASSOING THE STEER (wide, in or out)    View Video
Materials:  20-foot rope for each Scout, small log
Method:  The small log is placed upright in the center of a well-defined circle 18 feet in diameter. On signal, all Scouts make a lasso using a bowline to form the fixed loop. All those unable to tie one have to drop out until their lasso is made with a bowline. Scouts stand outside the edge of the circle, and throw their ropes and attempt to lasso the “steer” and pull it out. Scouts can have as many throws as are needed to rope the “steer.”
Scoring:  Patrols are awarded points each time one of their members can rope the “steer.”

LOG HAULING (wide, out)
Materials:  one manageably heavy, available log or limb from a tree, a 50-foot x 3/8 to 1/2-inch manila rope, a level dirt road or stretch of land that won’t be damaged by dragging the heavy weight marked off in spans of 50 feet
Method:  In turn, each patrol ties a timber hitch around the log. Then each Scout ties either a butterfly knot or bowline on a bight at intervals along the rope to form hand holds. When ready, the patrol proceeds to drag the weight to the next 50-foot marker.
Scoring:  The best time wins.
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ONE-HANDED KNOT TYING (small, in or out)
Materials:  for each patrol, two 3-foot x 1/4 to 3/8-inch braided nylon or polyester cords
Method:  Patrols form partners and each set of partners faces the other in relay formation, about 20 feet apart from each other. The two knot-tying ropes are placed halfway between the partners. On signal, the first set of partners run to the center and, with one hand behind their back, each joins his end of one rope to that of the other patrol member, forming a square knot. The leader checks the knot. Then the players untie the knots, run back, and tag the next set of partners. The rope cannot be laid on the floor or the ground during tying. Teeth cannot be used, and knots cannot be tied against any part of the players’ bodies. If a patrol has an odd number of members, one Scout goes twice. Each patrol must tie the same amount of knots.
Scoring:  The first patrol finished, wins.
Variation:  Instead of a square knot, run the challenge with a sheet bend.

PONY EXPRESS RACE (wide, in or out)
Materials:  A 6-foot length of rope for each Scout
Method:  The patrols line up in relay formation, with the patrol leaders in front. On signal, every Scout ties a bowline knot around the waist of the Scout in front of him, grips the free end of the rope with one hand, and raises his other hand. When all hands are up, the leader gives a command and the patrol races to the end of the room, turns around, and runs back across the starting line.
Scoring:  The patrol that crosses the line first wins, provided no one lost his grip and all knots remained correctly tied.

Materials:  For each patrol, a tree around which a 10-foot-radius area is staked out, a 50-foot rope
Method:  Two Scouts from each patrol grasp the rope at either end and are not permitted to let go. The object is to tie a clove hitch around the tree without entering the circle. Other patrol members may help by giving advice and by raising the rope as needed.
Scoring:  The patrol to finish first wins.

RESCUE RELAY (small, in or out)    View Video
Materials:  for each patrol, eight 3-foot x 1/4-inch braided nylon cords, a cardboard square at least 2-feet x 2-feet
Method:  Patrols are each issued eight 3-foot cords and assemble behind a line with their patrol leader sitting on the cardboard square 12 feet away. On signal, each patrol forms a long line by joining the 3-foot cords together with sheet bends. As soon as they’ve joined the eight cords together, one patrol member coils the long line and throws one end to their patrol leader. When the patrol leader can grab hold of the line without leaving his cardboard square, he uses it to tie a bowline around his waist. Once this is done, the whole patrol pitches in to pull their patrol leader over the line, as he holds on to the cardboard square with both hands.
Scoring:  The first patrol to complete the challenge with all knots correctly tied wins.
Variation:  After the cords are joined, patrol members take turns tossing the line, sitting on the cardboard, and tying the bowline.

ROPE TACKLE TUG OF WAR (wide, in or out)   View Video
Materials:  an anchor point, one 1/2-inch diameter length of manila rope at least 20 feet long, a rope grommet rigged with a metal ring secured to the anchor point
Object: this activity is designed to clearly demonstrate the mechanical advantage achieved when using a rope tackle.
Method:  a butterfly knot is rigged about 10 feet from the end of the rope. That end is reeved through the ring and then passed through the fixed loop of the butterfly knot creating a rope tackle. Three Scout of approximately the same weight are selected. One stands with his back to the anchor point and grabs hold of the end of the rope (hauling end) passing through the loop of the butterfly knot. The other two grab a hold of the other end of the rope. On signal, the single Scout pulls on the hauling end, and the other two on their end.
Scoring:  None. Scouts can rotate as desired.
Variation: Pit one smaller Scout at the hauling end against one larger Scout.

Materials:  a crossbar 7 to 9 feet off the ground is in place, for each patrol a 50-foot x 3/8-inch manila, a stake driven into the ground 25 feet away in line with the crossbar, and a 4-foot x 4-inch log, positioned 10 feet away on the other side of the crossbar
Method:  From 25 feet away, each patrol coils a 50-foot rope and throws one end over the crossbar. When the throw is good, the end of the rope that was thrown over the crossbar is used to tie a timber hitch around the log with a half hitch applied near the end. The other end of the rope is tied to the stake with a clove hitch, and finally a sheep shank is tied in that part of the rope between the stake and the crossbar, to shorten the rope enough to raise the log completely off the ground.
Scoring:  The best time with all knots correctly tied, wins. If there’s enough room, patrols can go simultaneously. The challenge can be completed by individual Scouts or tasks divided between patrol members.

Materials:  knee-high, horizontal pole, 3-foot cord for each Scout
Method:  Scouts straddle the hitching pole and tie a half knot (first half of a square knot) around and down onto the pole. Scouts then change places with one another, and relying solely on a visual perspective, correctly bring the ends of the cord together to tie the second half knot and form a square knot. Repeat the process to gauge which Scouts need to review the visual approach to always correctly tying a square knot.
Scoring:  None. Purely a test-themselves opportunity to see if they can rely upon this fool-proof process using the visual approach.
Variation: Patrols line up in relay formation facing the horizontal pole. For each patrol, an instructor applies a half knot to the pole, with the ends tied either right over left or left over right. When the half knots are ready, on signal, the first Scout in line runs over to the pole and proceeds to tie the second half knot, relying solely on the visual approach. When he thinks he has a square knot, he shouts, “Done!” The first Scout finishing scores two points for his patrol. All others who correctly tie a square knot score one point. An granny knot scores zero.

Materials:  a rope tied around a tree about 5 feet off the ground to serve as a “tie-off” for attaching guy lines with two half hitches, enough tent stakes and nylon guy lines for each patrol member
Preparation:  To the rope tied around the tree, tie one guy line for each patrol member, spaced evenly around the tree. Hammer in a stake a short distance from the tree corresponding to each guy line. Lay the free end of each guy line next to its stake.
Method:  Each Scout takes a position next to a tent stake and guy line. On signal, each Scout grasps the free end of the cord and ties a taut-line hitch between the stake and the tree, pulling the line taut. When all Scouts in the patrol have finished, the patrol gives its yell.
Variation:  Each patrol member first ties one end of his guy line to the rope around the tree with two half hitches, and then loops the other end around the stake and ties a taut-line hitch between the stake and the tree.
Scoring:  The first patrol to yell, with all hitches tied correctly, wins.

TWO-PERSON SQUARE KNOT (small, in or out)
Materials:  a 50-foot rope for each patrol
Method:  Two Scouts grasp the rope ends and, without letting go, join the rope ends with a square knot. Other Scouts can help with advice only.
Scoring:  The first patrol completing the challenge with the Scouts maintaining their grasp of the rope wins.
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