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Self-portrait of Erwin Merlet with a mountaineer's coil slung over his shoulder and the Sella Towers in the background. Merlet.jpg
Self-portrait of Erwin Merlet with a mountaineer's coil slung over his shoulder and the Sella Towers in the background.

A coiling or coil is a curve, helix, or spiral used for storing rope or cable in compact and reliable yet easily attainable form. They are often discussed with knots.


Rope are often coiled and hung up in lofts for storage. They are also hung over stakes in farm wagons and on hooks in moving vans, fire apparatus and linesmen's repair trucks. For such active storage coils must be well made.

Mountaineer's coil

The mountaineer's coil (also alpine coil, climber's coil, lap coil, or standing coil [2] ) is a traditional method used by climbers to store and transport a climbing rope. [3] This older style coil is noted as being more prone to twists and tangles than the butterfly coil, and care must be taken upon uncoiling to avoid these problems. [2] [3] [4]

Tying method

Begin by taking hold of the rope in one hand with its end facing you. Coil the rope in arm's length sections with your free hand (extending it away from the other as far as it will reach to ensure each segment is of equal length as it is gathered). Alternate tucking the new gather in front and behind the previous coil to avoid putting a half-turn in the rope with each coil. [4]

When the last segment is reached form a short bight atop the gathered rope with its standing end. Grasp the working end and pass it over the bight and back through the center of the coiled rope in a round turn several times, making each new wrap closer to the bight until only a short tail remains. Pass this tail through the bight then grasp the standing end and pull it away from the bight until it is cinched tight around the working end. [4] [5]

For added security, ensure both ends are sufficiently long to tie them into a reef knot. [3]

Forming the coil
Alpine Coil Knot Step1.jpg
Coil the rope until its ends are reached
Alpine Coil Knot Step2.jpg
Make a bight in one end (the standing end)
Alpine Coil Knot Step3.jpg
Wrap the opposite end (the working end) around the coil in a round turn
Alpine Coil Knot Step4.jpg
Make several additional round turns then insert the working end through the bight
Alpine Coil Knot.jpg
Pull the standing end to tighten the bight and complete the knot

Butterfly coil

Tying the Butterfly coil, 1-folding or faking-down KelebekSarmali 1.JPG
Tying the Butterfly coil, 1-folding or faking-down
Tying the Butterfly coil, 2-wrapping KelebekSarmali 2.JPG
Tying the Butterfly coil, 2-wrapping
Tying the Butterfly coil, 3-finished KelebekSarmali 3.JPG
Tying the Butterfly coil, 3-finished

The butterfly coil (also known as a backpacker's coil) is a method used by climbers for storing and transporting a climbing rope. Slinging the coiled rope over the shoulders and tying it in place for carrying earns the technique its alternative name. [6]

Unlike the alpine coil it cannot be attached to a harness for climbing, and thus is useful only for transporting a rope to and from where it must be used.

The method is also useful for much smaller items such as for keeping earphone cables from tangling.

Tying method

Depending on the thickness and length, one can use palms of hands stretched out to the sides (crossing over the neck), two knees, passive side palm and elbow, or two fingers of the passive hand. The following is for the extra long climbing rope.

Start with both rope ends in one hand. Pull 1.5–2 arm lengths of the pair through and let their ends hang free. Begin coiling the balance of both strands one arm length at a time, alternating the gathers in the opposite hand into two separate "lobes" (or wings) draping on either side. [7]

With 1.5–2 arm lengths remaining secure the coil by wrapping both strands twice round both lobes approximately 1–1.5' down, then pass a short bight above the wraps and through the coil. Pass both free ends over the top of the coil and through the bight to cinch it tight.

Attach the rope for transport by placing the coil atop one's back, with one free end passing over each shoulder. Pass the ends back under the armpits, cross them over the coil, then bring them forward again, securing in front with a square knot.

An alternate method draws the doubled rope over the shoulders instead of in front of the climber.

Over/under cable coiling

Over/under cable coiling refers to a method of storing cables that preserves the capacitance and common-mode rejection ratio built in by the manufacturer with a twist in the cable, and the shielding that encases the twisted pairs within. It allows the cable to lie flat when uncoiled, and makes for easier and faster work.

The "over/under" name refers to the practice of twisting the cable in one direction to make the first coil, and un-twisting it to make the next, and repeating this until all the cable is neatly coiled. Care needs to be taken to keep each end on its proper side of the roll when uncoiling otherwise a knot will appear with every other loop. Connecting the ends on the outside of the loops, or tying them in that position, ensures that the ends don't pass through the loops in storage so there are no knots when the cable is laid out. [8]

There are a number of informal terms in common circulation including "over/under wrapping", "countercoiling", and "flip-coiling". [9]

Straight coiling

Straight coiling, or the practice of coiling a cable in the same direction coil after coil, has the similar result to coiling cable on a spool. If the cable comes off the spool the same way it goes on, the internal 'lay' is preserved, and the cable isn't damaged or twisted internally. If a cable is straight coiled and then pulled from the coil, it has the effect as coiling cable on a spool and then pulling the cable off the top of the spool, imparting a twist in the cable with every coil that is removed. To make it lie flat, the twist will need to be removed. The advantages of straight coiling cable are that it will not produce knots when uncoiling and is easily taught and therefore can be accomplished easily by assistants.

See also

Related Research Articles

Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend fastens two ends of a rope to each another; a loop knot is any knot creating a loop, and splice denotes any multi-strand knot, including bends and loops. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Constrictor knot binding knot

The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.


A shank is a type of knot that is used to shorten a rope or take up slack, such as the sheepshank. The sheepshank knot is not stable. It will fall apart under too much load or too little load.

Clove hitch

The clove hitch is a type of knot. Along with the bowline and the sheet bend, it is often considered one of the most important knots. A clove hitch is two successive half-hitches around an object. It is most effectively used as a crossing knot. It can be used as a binding knot, but is not particularly secure in that role. A clove hitch made around the rope's own standing part is known as either two half-hitches or buntline hitch, depending on whether the turns of the clove hitch progress away from or towards the hitched object.

Although the name clove hitch is given by Falconer in his Dictionary of 1769, the knot is much older, having been tied in ratlines at least as early as the first quarter of the sixteenth century. This is shown in early sculpture and paintings. A round turn is taken with the ratline and then a hitch is added below. The forward end is always the first to be made fast.

The difference between two half hitches and the clove hitch is that the former, after a single turn around a spar, is made fast around its own standing part, while the latter is tied directly around the spar.

Truckers hitch

The trucker's hitch is a compound knot commonly used for securing loads on trucks or trailers. This general arrangement, using loops and turns in the rope itself to form a crude block and tackle, has long been used to tension lines and is known by multiple names. Knot author Geoffrey Budworth claims the knot can be traced back to the days when carters and hawkers used horse-drawn conveyances to move their wares from place to place.

Marlinespike hitch

The marlinespike hitch is a temporary knot used to attach a rod to a rope in order to form a handle. This allows more tension than could be produced comfortably by gripping the rope with the hands alone. It is useful when tightening knots and for other purposes in ropework.

Figure-eight loop

Figure-eight loop is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes.

The Flemish loop or figure-eight loop is perhaps stronger than the loop knot. Neither of these knots is used at sea, as they are hard to untie. In hooking a tackle to any of the loops, if the loop is long enough it is better to arrange the rope as a cat's paw.

Double bowline

A double bowline is a type of loop knot. Instead of the single turn of the regular bowline, the double bowline uses a round turn. This forms a more secure loop than a standard bowline.

Climbing harness

A climbing harness is an item of climbing equipment for rock-climbing, abseiling, or other activities requiring the use of ropes to provide access or safety such as industrial rope access, working at heights, etc. A harness secures a person to a rope or an anchor point.

Rope Linear combination of plies, yarns or strands which are twisted or braided together

A rope is a group of yarns, plies, fibers or strands that are twisted or braided together into a larger and stronger form. Ropes have tensile strength and so can be used for dragging and lifting. Rope is thicker and stronger than similarly constructed cord, string, and twine.

Glossary of climbing terms List of definitions of terms and concepts related to rock climbing and mountaineering

This glossary of climbing terms is a list of definitions of terms and jargon related to rock climbing and mountaineering. The specific terms used can vary considerably between different English-speaking countries; many of the phrases described here are particular to the United States and the United Kingdom.

Cats paw (knot)

The Cat's paw is a knot used for connecting a rope to an object. It is very similar to the cow hitch except there is an additional twist on each side of the bight, making it less prone to slipping.

The cat's-paw is the common hook hitch for slings. It is the same basic form as the bale sling hitch but has additional twists. Brady says "two or three altogether," and Steel, who mentioned the name in 1794, says "three twists." It is the best of all sling hitches and is often recommended for a slippery rope. But no hitch can slip when tied in a slings since it has no ends. All that is needed is a hitch that cannot jam, and this requirement the cat's-paw fills admirably. The knot spills instantly when removed from the hook. It is the hitch always used for heavy lifts.

Sheet bend

The sheet bend is a bend. It is practical for joining lines of different diameter or rigidity.

Munter hitch Adjustable knot used control friction in a belay system

The Munter hitch, also known as the Italian hitch, Mezzo Barcaiolo or the Crossing Hitch, is a simple adjustable knot, commonly used by climbers, cavers, and rescuers to control friction in a life-lining or belay system. To climbers, this hitch is also known as HMS, the abbreviation for the German term Halbmastwurfsicherung, meaning half clove hitch belay. This technique can be used with a special "pear-shaped" HMS locking carabiner, or any locking carabiner wide enough to take two turns of the rope.

Cow hitch

The cow hitch, also called the lark's head, is a hitch knot used to attach a rope to an object. The cow hitch comprises a pair of half-hitches tied in opposing directions, as compared to the clove hitch in which the half-hitches are tied in the same direction. It has several variations and is known under a variety of names. It can be tied either with the end of the rope or with a bight.

Offset overhand bend

The offset overhand bend is a knot used to join two ropes together. The offset overhand bend is formed by holding two rope ends next to each other and tying an overhand knot in them as if they were a single line. Due to its common use in several fields, this bend has become known by many names, such as thumb knot, openhand knot, one-sided overhand knot or flat overhand bend (FOB), though the terms "one-sided" and "flat" are considered incorrect.

Prusik knot

A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, ziplining, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord used to tie the hitch and the hitch itself, and the verb is "to prusik". More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch or device that can grab a rope. Due to the pronunciation, the word is often misspelled Prussik, Prussick, or Prussic.

Chain sinnet

A chain sinnet is a method of shortening a rope or other cable while in use or for storage. It is formed by making a series of simple crochet-like stitches in the line. It can also reduce tangling while a rope is being washed in a washing machine.


  1. Ashley, Clifford W. (1944). The Ashley Book of Knots, p.513. Doubleday. ISBN   0-385-04025-3.
  2. 1 2 Soles, Clyde (2004), The Outdoor Knot Book, Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, pp. 67–69, ISBN   978-0-89886-962-0
  3. 1 2 3 Eng, Ronald C., ed. (2010). Mountaineering - Freedom of the Hills (8th ed.). Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. p. 137.
  4. 1 2 3 "Coiling Unattached Rope". Grog LLC. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  5. "Coil Your Rope for Imminent Use". ITS Tactical. 2009-12-21. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  6. "Rock Seconding School Student Manual". July 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2006-10-19.
  7. Bluewater Beta: The Backpacker's Coil
  8. Fielden, John (February 6, 2010). Roll Sound!. My Planet Marketing. p. 36. ISBN   9781450549837.
  9. "Flip-coiling".