I’m willing to bet that every single one of us has, at some point, dealt with a big ol’ hank of some kind of rope, or other cordage, that looks like this:
All neat and pretty and organized, UNTIL that fateful moment when you actually have to use it, and then, no matter how OCD you may be about unwinding it, it IS going to tangle, knot and kink, and you will waste time trying to get a useful piece of rope to use to fasten something.
It is an even more annoying situation if the cordage is wet and/or your fingers are cold. The hank is also pretty big and bulky. 50 feet of 550 paracord is probably not a huge storage/carry issue. 200 feet of ½ inch rope, done this way, is almost as big as a sleeping bag in a stuff sack. My packs aren’t THAT big.
Old-time mariners apparently swore by flat coils on deck to store extra line for fast deployment. (I would assume they also swore AT them a lot – imagine the daily rum ration being passed out, and Jack Tar kicking the coil, and undoing a half hour’s work..) Since I don’t live on a 100-gun frigate-of-the-line with a full crew of scurvy-knave-pirates to assist me in becoming the Scourge of the Seven Seas, this bulky, non-portable cordage storage idea doesn’t work real well.
Carefully-wound hanging coils also work pretty well, only a bit more tangle-prone than flat coils, but once again, they take up a lot of space, and are not at all easy to store inside a pack or EDC bag.
Where nautical lore fails, mountaineering-practice doesn’t. I was taught this method by a climber-friend when I was in college, and so far, it has never failed me. The “knotting method” is called a “double chain sinnet”.
Spend 5 minutes looking at the photographs and practicing, and you will be able to do it with your eyes closed. It works with string, mason twine, bankline, paracord, clothesline, rope, whatever you have.
NOTE: If you knit or crochet, you can probably already do this better than I can. It’s basically a long line of crochet stitches. (note 2: if your cordage is already on a spool – leave it there as long as possible- spools are HANDY.).
- Take the time to untangle, un-knot and un-kink your line (Spin the line between your fingers when it ‘wants to go in the wrong direction’). Put the 2 ends together, and lay it out as evenly and neatly as possible. You’re just making a loop half the length of your rope.
- At the “loop” end, tie a simple slip-knot – just an overhand with a loop slipped inside – does not have to be too tight. Tight is not your friend. If the ends are not perfectly-aligned, big deal.. nobody is grading you :)
- Take both running pieces (“bights”) of the line, and pass a loop through the loop of the slip-knot.
- Tighten slightly, and pass another loop through the loop you just made.
- Repeat until you are almost out of rope. Slip the 2 ends through the last loop, just to keep it from unravelling.
You will end up with a flat “strap” that can be used for tying down items to a pack or roof-rack, when needed. Climbers frequently carry their ropes, tied this way “Bandido Bandoleer” style, frequently with extra carabiners through the loose loops. The big advantage is that the rope will now be able to conform to the size and shape on whatever you carry it in/on. (For example purposes, approx. 7 feet of paracord is now about 7 inches long and 1 inch wide)
To deploy your rope, you only have 1 “knot” to undo, then just give it a yank (Pull both ends outward). Assuming you didn’t pull anything too tight, it all pulls free in 1 tangle-free length. Even if it doesn’t save your life on a mountain or at sea, it can keep you from using a lot of bad language when you need a piece of rope. :)
On another note, this method also works well for easily stowing heavy-duty electrical extension cords from becoming tangled nests of annoyance when you need them. (In this usage, it is called a “Contractor’s Wrap”).