When you're in a real survival situation, rope is one of the best things to have in your kit. You can use it for everything from making snares to keeping your shelter together, yet if you've found yourself lost in the wild without it, don't fret. You can make your own rope.
Today we're going to cover some of the different techniques you can use to make your own rope, the trick is only to be patient, it takes time to get this right.
Finding your base
When it comes to rope, the fibers twisted together are what gives it strength. First, you've got to identify what you're planning to use to make your rope. Some of my favorites are:
- Leather strips and tendons from an animal
- Plant fibers from leaves, bark and vines
Using an animal requires you to first have a successful hunt, which depends both on your skills and the game present in your area. The simplest technique is to remove the skin, stretching it out and scraping off and mucus or membrane from the inside of the skin. Let it dry in the sun for a few hours, before running dirt into the skin. You'll need to do this until it's cleaned and the hide starts to feel like soft leather, then cut it into strips, wet them, and tie off whatever you need. Once they dry the hide will toughen up and be quite strong.
You can also use any tendons from the animal in the same way, simply extract them from the carcass and scrape off any extra tissue with your knife. Let them dry for a day in the sun, then take a rock and beat them to get into the individual strands. You'll need to wet them to make the fibers pliable, then you can simply braid them to get the desired length and thickness you need.
Without an animal carcass it's still possible to make cord, you've just got to get creative with the plants in your area.
Braiding grasses together adds to their strength, and you can continue adding to them until you get the strength you need. Personally though, I've had better results using the internal fibers of plants like stinging nettle and dogsbane, all you need to do is use a smooth rock to break up the core of the plant then extract the fibrous strands from within.
Bark is another good asset, which stripped carefully can be soaked in water until the fibers come apart easily. Just don't strip an entire ring around a tree, as it'll kill it. Take only what you need, and ensure you're not doing any long-lasting damage to the area you happen to be stranded in.
Finally, if you're lucky there'll be vines around which make excellent rope. Thin ones can be braided to make a thicker rope, while vines as thick as your finger can be used as is, just test them for pliability before you start constructing a shelter with them!
Making your rope
Now you've got a base material, you've got to turn it into rope. This is where it can get tedious, as you'll need to break down what you've collected into individual strands. Wet your hands and start rolling it between your palms until the fibers separate. You've got to do this along the entire strip until all you're left with are the fibers.
Now you're ready. There's a few different ways you can make your rope, again depending on the strength you need and the amount of time you want to spend fiddling with this.
The fastest technique is rather simple, but it doesn't produce the strongest rope. Grab hold of your fibers in one hand and lay them across your leg. Use your free hand to "roll" the fibers, pushing them in the same direction to twist them into a single strand. Twisting them together like this increases the strength, but you've got to use the rope immediately. If you let go of either end it'll unwind.
For more durability you can use the reverse wrap technique. Twist the fibers until a kink forms in the middle, then grab this with one hand. The other now needs to grab the first strand, twisting it and wrapping it around the other. Then grab the second strand, and twist it before wrapping it around the first. It's a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it keep going until your cord is as long as you need it. You can secure it with a simple knot at the end.
Splicing your cordage is how you can increase the length of the rope you make when you've not got access to great resources like vines that are meters and meters long. If you need a long piece of rope, twist and kink the first fiber bundle so one end is longer than the other. You never want a splice in the same spot on both strands, as this will weaken your rope significantly. Follow the reverse wrap technique until you're about 2 inches from the short end, then separate out the fibers and insert the new bunch of fibers so they all kind of mesh together. You can trim some of these out to keep your rope at an even thickness, and then simple continue twisting and wrapping as you did before. You'll need to be a little careful not to split the splices as you do this, but with a little practice and this technique you'll be able to create rope that's as long as you need it. Then simply finish it off with an overhand knot and you're done.
In most cases this will be all that you need, but if you've got to make a very strong rope, my advice is to reverse wrap two finished ropes together. Following the same technique with two pieces of the finished rope you've just made (instead of the fibers) effectively doubles the strength of the rope, which you can continue to do until you've got the thickness of rope that you need.
Making rope in the wild is something I find rather peaceful. You're using your hands and your mind to stay focused, while creating something that you can use to better your situation. Whether you need cords to hold a makeshift raft together, or keep the roof on your shelter from blowing away, knowing how to make your own is a survival technique I recommend all of our readers understand, just in case.