Alternatives to Knots

For those who aren’t comfortable tying knots, there are a number of alternatives available.

In some cases these may require tying knots to prepare them initially, but once that is done, knots aren’t required each time the antenna is set up.

Note that these devices need to be sized appropriately for the rope you are using: most will work over a range of sizes, but may not hold if the rope is too small.


Carabiners are classic pieces of alpine / rock climbing equipment, but smaller version have become popular that aren’t rated for climbing. If two ropes have loops tied on the ends, it is easy to use a carabiner to connect them together. They can also attach a rope loop to an eye bolt, fence wire, tree branch, or anything else that the carabiner can be clipped around. By using small pre-tied loops of rope they can be used with larger pipes or trees.

Different types of carabiners. The big one on the right is for rock climbing, while the others are not intended to hold weight. They are quite adequate for light weight antennas, however, as a replacement for tying knots.


A cleat is a traditional way to secure a rope on a sailing ship, where ropes under tension needed to be tied and untied quickly. It is often used for the halyards on flag poles. They are available commercially, and can be improvised from local materials. These are particularly suited for use at the base of a mast or fixed object.

The cleat is typically mounted to a fixed object. The rope is wrapped around the cleat under tension, then the rope is wrapped back and forth across the cleat to secure it. It has the advantage that, as it is released, it provides smooth control of the rope under load.

rope adjusters

There are several types of rope adjusters available that make it easy to set the tension on an antenna. Perhaps the most common type sold for tent ropes is a flat or curved piece of metal or plastic with 3 holes in it, like this:

Simple tension adjusters. These work best when the loop formed can be slipped over the top of a tent stake, etc.

While these do work, they are designed for use with a tent stake, or other anchor where the loop at the end of the rope can be placed over it. It is more difficult to use this type of adjuster when tying a rope to a tree, for example, where you cannot slip it over the top of the trunk. One approach would be to use a smaller loop of rope or bungee cord around the tree, then hook the rope to that with a carabiner. (It can also be used if the adjuster is removed from the rope and replaced with the rope around the tree, but that isn’t as convenient.)

Note that plastic tensioners of this type can also be used as antenna insulators.

I recently have been experimenting with several other types. So far, they seem to work best when the device is attached to the anchor, and the rope passed through it. To accomplish that, I have tied small loops of rope to the adjusters that can secure it to a nail, branch, hook, or whatever is available. Then I double over the rope to make an “end” that is passed through the device. These actually work quite well, although there is a danger of forgetting and leaving the tensioning device attached to the tree when you are taking down the antenna. For that reason I use bright colored rope for the loop, to make it easier to see. There may be other ways to use these – I am still experimenting.

The push-button locks used on drawstrings for clothing, also can work well here. By folding the rope and passing it through the hole, it makes a loop that can be slipped over, or clipped to, an anchor. The rope can be adjusted when the lock is squeezed, then locks into place when it is released.

Drawstring closure for raincoats or other clothing. When it is pressed, the rope can be adjusted, then it locks into place when it is released. Here the rope is shown clipped with a carabiner to a tied loop that is passed around an anchor.


The Cam-Jam® is a spring-loaded tensioning device built into a clip like a carabiner. These come in different sizes, and it is important to use the right size for your rope. I often use ropes that are a little bit too small for the ones I have, so I am still experimenting with these as well.

This Cam-Jam is rated for 2 – 5 mm rope. The main rope passes through a hole on the back side, and can be pulled into the cam. Pulling on the end will tighten the rope. Pulling sideways on the end (towards the camera) will release the rope.