Skytopia > Articles > The Amazing Zeppelin Bend and Grapple Hitch    (article created 05/11/2006)

The Amazing Zeppelin Bend and Grapple Hitch
(The only knots you'll ever need*)

Ever wanted to yank a bad tooth out, or extend a bungee rope so you can dangle further down a cliff face? How about escaping from the top floor of a high security prison by tying bed sheets together? Well if you answered an affirmative "yes" to one or more of the above, then you'll want to use some kind of a knot.

"Which one?"

There are hundreds or perhaps thousands of documented knots. To cut to the chase though, it turns out that the vast majority of them are redundant. Sure, some of them might be strong and easy to tie, but they're practically worthless too if there's a knot which does the same, but is simpler to tie, easier to untie, and is more secure.

"How many do I need to know for 99% of purposes?"

Oh perhaps three or four for the average person (one or two which you already know). Yeah, not a whole lot. The main factors to take into account are simplicity for ease of tying, security of the knot, and how easily it comes undone (jamming issues). The only other main factor is the strength of the knot (how easily it snaps), but this is usually less important, unless you're going fishing.

Zeppelin/Rosendahl Bend
Now look what we have here. Just about the best way to tie two ropes together there is. True. It's secure when tugged even when initially unfastened and dangly, and its breaking strength is apparently around 75-80%. Now that's what I call REAL ULTIMATE POWER.

"Okay what's the deal with this site?"

Well for starters, you'll learn how to tie just two knots, one of which is a 'hitch' I discovered (named "Grapple Hitch") and is probably better than MOST ANYTHING ELSE OUT THERE, and the other is called - the Zeppelin Bend, which is almost without a doubt the best way to tie two ropes or rope ends together there is. Everyone should use it. But they don't. It should be used for climbing, abseiling, diving, sailing, bungee jumping, and other sports, but for whatever reasons, people don't currently trust these 'new fangled' knots. Except it's not new at all, but was discovered in the 1930s and was used by the US Navy to tether its air ships. It's only now being rediscovered.

"How much do we know about knots?"

Not a lot! If you look around the web, or look for research on knot security, you'll see contradictory conclusions all over the place. That's not to say that there isn't some kind of basic consensus on a lot of knots (like a water knot is obviously more secure than a granny knot), but there's still a LOT more to be learnt. Just take a look at the table from this site to see the variability in results of various knots from different researchers.

Granny knot. The simplest, but weakest 'knot' in existence (most often used for shoelaces)

"Oh I can't be bothered with this crap, I'll just tie yer basic shoelace reef or granny knot if I need to tie rope to a post or two rope ends together".

Okay then, but don't come running to me if your towed caravan comes loose down hill. Or you fall to your doom on that bungee, because reef knots have been notorious for killing people who think they look REALLY SECURE, only to find that they have a nasty habit of untangling when you least expect it (and granny knots - the shoe lace tie most people use - are even worse). But the paradox is, is that they can easily jam as well, sometimes making it incredibly difficult to untie. You'd think that a knot's ability to jam would make it secure too, but that's not the case. For instance, the Zeppelin bend never jams, and is super easy to untie, but is also incredibly secure too.

The reef knot (square knot), usually used to tie two shoe laces together (or its close cousin, the granny knot).

It can be used as a 'hitch' - like tying to the chair in the above picture, but I wouldn't advise it for critical jobs.

Oh sure, it looks all secure now...

Any knot used for a hitch can be used to tie two rope/string ends together too, and vice versa. Here we have the crap reef knot again. The reason it doesn't look like a typical shoe lace knot is because the ends are not 'slipped'. Slipping the ends (making a little loop by turning the rope back in on itself) can be done on any knot (even the mighty Zeppelin bend, as if you'd need to), and makes it easier to pull a knot undone, at the slight expense of security.

...but this can happen all too easily!

"Okay then, but this is going to be a waste of time"

Excellent, if you've read this far, you're possibly semi-interested. So now I have to prove to you that the two knots printed in the title of this article are in fact the best. To test them, I found that a slippery, stretchy, springy, and perfectly circular bungee rope, the perfect acid test. Any shock cord should be decent enough though. For the grapple hitch, a non-circular (rectangular prism), slippery post proved to be decisive. Most knots that would grip with ordinary string or rope, capsize with the bungee rope! First up, the Grapple hitch...

Introducing the...
Grapple hitch

If the Grapple hitch ever appears to jam, then try pulling the small loose end, until the knot 'rolls over', when it should be trivial to untie.

Admittedly, the Grapple hitch is not always adjustable, since it can pull taut when you pull the main long loose end. This is both an advantage as well as a disadvantage. The advantage is that you can throw the rope high over a post from a distance, making it great for tying a knot from afar. The downside of course is not being able to make the rope any length you like. However, it you pull tight on the rope end near the knotted part, then for most rope types, it can still be made adjustable.
Knot Name Ease of
Ease of
Security Total points
(lower =
Grapple hitch
2 2 0 4
Bowline 3 0 2 5
Water Bowline 5 0 0 5
Grip Hitch
2 3 3 8
Lobster buoy hitch 3 2 3 8
Blake's hitch 4 2 2 8
Timber hitch 3 1 4 8
Buntline Hitch 3 4 2 9
Tarbuck Knot 5 2 2 9
Rolling Hitch (es) 3 1 5 9
Taut-line hitch (es) 2 3 5 10
Figure-of-eight hitch 1 1 8 10
Marlinespike hitch 2 1 8 11
Sailor's Gripping Hitch 4 2 5 11
Cat's paw (knot) 5 2 4 11
Clove Hitch 2 1 8 11
Constrictor Knot 2 5 5 12
Two half-hitches 2 4 6 12
Ground-line hitch 2 2 9 13
Single hitch 1 0 12 13
Overhand loop
5 7 2 14
Figure-of-eight loop
(Double Figure of Eight,
or Flemish loop)
7/3 7 0 14
Anchor bend
(Fisherman's Bend)
4 4 6 14
The best and only hitch you'll ever need!

A hitch (or anchor knot) is used to tie a rope or string around a firm post or hook. People tend to use perhaps the Bowline, Figure-of-eight or Overhand loop, but despite relative security, they can be time consuming to tie and, in the Figure-of-eight and Overhand loop's case, difficult to untie when they've been under heavy stress. Here you can see the table to the left, which was quite tedious to compile. Lower scores are better, as 'anti-points' are awarded for the lack of features.

So what can we conclude from these results? First off, the supposedly rock-solid Constrictor knot has about as much grip as a bar of soap soaked in chip fat. Yeah okay, I'm using bungee cord, and its true use is to bind hold objects together to keep them under tension, but that's no excuse. Another surprise is the Bowline, a quite cool knot which never seems to tighten, let alone jam, but its integrity seems suspect when slack.

Other than that, we can summarize by saying that the other knots listed are, for all intents and purposes, a waste of space (unless for specialized use). There's no competition here. The grapple hitch is the leader of the pack by a long way due to its security, easy of tying/untying and its ability to form an adjustable loop around the post.

"I've never heard of this "Grapple hitch" before..."

That's because I discovered it first! (at least I think so). UPDATE I found out that the 'grapple hitch' was a rediscovery of a little known knot found in the ABOK book under #1471 and #1231 (which are both the same).. But in any case, it is very rarely seen, so this site is probably the first you've caught a glimpse of it. It's actually quite similar to the Adjustable Grip Hitch, but is more secure, and simpler to tie. Let's put it through its paces...

Pull 1

Pull 2

Pull 3

Pull 4

Pull 5
Even the force of this mighty tank can't dislodge the knot!

"Okay I'm convinced! Tell me how to do it!"

Yessum boss!

This is what to do.

This is the finished article.

The grapple hitch, like its close cousin, the adjustable grip hitch can slide up and down the rope. Just move the knot!

The knot is now complete and jam free, but to make it even easier to untie (after super heavy stress)....

...bring the back right side over...

...and towards the front as shown. And that's it! The knot isn't fundamentally any different to before, apart from how it's 'dressed'. Now even the strongest pull will resist even moderate tightening.

So simple, and yet so good! THIS IS THE ONLY HITCH YOU'LL EVER NEED!

Now introducing the...
Zeppelin bend

Forget the albright special and capsized reef knot. Throw away the Carrick bend and euro death-knot, and do the same to the Fisherman's knot, Flemish bend and Hunter's bend. Ditch the lubber, water and reef knot, and while you're at it, dispose of the sheet and racking bend. There's only one real Bend worth speaking about...

A few months ago, I was going about my daily humdrum business. Then one day, I discovered the Zeppelin Bend and my life changed forever!!! Yes, it's that good! You too, can appreciate the awesomeness of the one and only Zeppelin.

The Zeppelin bend (Rosendahl bend) is only just being rediscovered again, but it's a topper. There's probably no reason why the whole sports world (including climbers!) shouldn't use it. A bend is used to tie two rope ends together. This could be used to make two ropes into one bigger rope, or to make a loop out of one rope.

The Zeppelin is so cool because it's so secure, never jams, and is incredible easy to untie. You can even see daylight through the knot, and it will stay secure. The Zeppelin is also multipurpose - it can be used for anything from cotton, to steel cable, and everything in between such as shoe lace, bungee cord, and rope etc.

But don't take my word for it!! Everywhere I look on the web, I see nothing but admiration...

  • "It is both strong and secure. Use it in anything from heavyweight cables and hawsers to the smallest of cords. It is perhaps the best way to connect two ropes that there is. It's absolutely secure and jerk-resistant in all materials and is perfectly symmetric. It's also remarkably easy to untie after use, even when wet." (ref)

  • "After the war, I left the Navy and began sailing on merchant ships. In the past 30 years I've visited just about every deepwater port in the world. Knots are my hobby. I've read every book on knots that I could find and I've never seen the Rosendahl bend in any of them. It's as If it has been forgotten along with the airship . . . and that's a shame, because it's the most useful knot I know for tying two lines together. It's especially good for towing, mooring, or anchor lines, where a heavy strain can jam an ordinary knot and make it almost impossible to untie." (ref)

  • "Yup, it's the Zeppelin bend. Seriously, this really _is_ the only knot (ok, bend) I know that will hold in shock cord. It's true that you can tighten up a square knot to the point where it will probably hold, but you'd never be able to undo it again even with dental picks and pliers. Cinched up moderately tight, the Zeppelin will hold perfectly, but you can still untie it for another use and/or to adjust the tension in the shock cord." (ref)

  • "Inflator hose retainer (short length of shock-cord looped under D-ring on left cheststrap to keep the hose in front). The knot tied in this loop when it left the Halcyon factory worked itself undone after three dives - they _didn't_ use a Zeppelin bend!" (ref)

  • "Also, I encourage everyone to take a look at The Zeppelin bend. It's the simplest, strongest, most elegant, most useful knot I've ever seen. It'll take you fifteen seconds to learn it, and then you'll forever know the best way to tie ropes together." (ref)

  • "If you can remember "b over q" then you can tie a Zeppelin in less than five seconds - faster with practice. The only competition here is the Alpine Butterfly Bend, but that wastes more length, is slower to tie, and harder to remember. Other contenders are significantly less strong (Fisherman's) or waste much more rope (Double Dragon). It's arguable that the Ashley Bend is as good as the Zep, but I think the Ashley would be harder to tie in the dark." (ref)

  • "Use bungee for the pocket contents, your compass, and wrist-mount computer. It might be worth your while to replace the bungee on your inflator hose, too. On mine, the original knot from the manufacturer kept falling apart under stress, so I replaced it using a Zeppelin Bend (see link above). The new knot still shows no signs of slippage." (ref)

  • "One of my favourite knots. I use it to tie leather thongs for medallions and whatnot. Has never failed in the corrosive conditions of my neck." (ref)

  • "According to Budworth, "This is probably the best of a whole trustworthy family of symmetrical bends comprising two interlocked overhand knots. It works even in big stiff hawsers and cables and is suitable for everything from hobbies to heavy industrial use. ... The knot does not have to be completely tightened before loading; it is secure even with daylight showing through it (fig. 4)." (The Complete Book of Knots, p.44)" (ref)

  • "I've used the zeppelin bend for pulling cars. You make a loop through the two rings attatched to each car and tie with the bend. And what amazes people is it can be rolled out even after being put under so much strain. It also pulls itself together which helps if it is tied loosely. Tim Kerby" (ref)

  • "Invented in the 1930īs by Commander Charles Rosendahl to secure the U.S. Airship Los Angeles. It resists snagging, and is fairly simple to tie and untie. It may be the best way to connect two ropes, absolutely secure and jerk-resistant in all materials, easy to untie after use (even when wet), and perfectly symmetric." (ref)

  • "But I have to confess disappointment that the ongoing feature on knots didn't mention the Zeppellin Bend - the subject of a rant of mine on this forum a few months ago. I say this only half tongue-in-cheek. The fact that this knot will not slip when tied in shock cord makes it a very useful knot for divers to know." (ref)

  • The water knot can jam pretty badly. I've had good experience with using the Zeppelin knot for stretchy material, and I know many scuba divers have made the Zeppelin knot their first-choice knot for bungee. (Kevin @ roo_two)

  • In regards to the Ashley Bend, it can sometimes become difficult to untie after serious strain. Many bends have different ways in which they can tighten. The Zeppelin Bend doesn't appear to have a mode of tightening that ever causes jamming. (Kevin @ roo_two)

  • "We used the Rosendahl bend because of its superiority to the carrick bend, bowline, or sheet bend, all of which are more likely to jam under a heavy load. The Rosendahl distributed the load evenly throughout the knot and could always be untied in a hurry, even after a sudden surge of the Los Angeles had put tons of extra weight and stress on it." (ref)

  • The sheet bend is the standard way to join two ropes, yet the knot tends to snag things and also tends to flog loose. Enter the Zeppelin Bend. It is a very secure knot; the ends come out perpendicularly, resisting snagging, and it is fairly simple both to tie and untie. Brion Toss (The Rigger's Apprentice) gives the knot very high ratings. (ref)

  • I've used the zeppelin bend for pulling cars. You make a loop through the two rings attatched to each car and tie with the bend. And what amazes people is it can be rolled out even after being put under so much strain. It also pulls itself together which helps if it is tied loosely. (ref)

  • The single most useful knot I've found for rigging gear is the Zeppelin Bend ( It's ideal for making loops and use with shockcord/bungee. For instance, I used it to Replace the strap on my SK-7 wrist compass with two loops of bungee. Getting the compass on over my drysuit and gauntlets is sooo much easier now, and it's more secure, too. Secure my inflator hose to the left chest D-ring. The Zeppelin bend seems impervious to the tugging stresses that did in the manufacturer's original knot. Are you listening, Halcyon? (ref)
  • How to make a Zeppelin bend

    Just place "b over q", and then draw both ends through the gap in the centre. Couldn't be simpler. If you need another diagram to help you make it though, then go here.

    In addition to its security, the most amazing thing about the Zeppelin bend is how easy it is to untie. You can literally just to pull the thing apart. Its only rivals include the Alpine Butterfly and the Ashley bend, but those don't quite reach the dizzy heights of the Zeppelin. For a humorous article, try The Zeppelin bend, or How to jailbreak with a rope made from bedsheets. at mackys journal.

    Have I sold it to you yet?

    "Yes! You've got me hooked on the hitch, and bent on the bend! So now I should be able to use the Zeppelin for my shoe laces!"

    * Errr... even though the Zeppelin is used for tying two ends together, the reef knot does have the single advantage in that it can 'draw taut' on the surface of the shoe. So I'm afraid you'll have to stick with the granny, or preferably reef knot for shoe laces. If you're sad enough like me, then try the top two knots from this site for shoe laces.


  • Roo_two - How do I test a knot? - Read the "How do I test a knot?" section to test the Zeppelin and Grapple hitch to their limits.
  • Roo_two - Criteria For Success - Read the "Criteria For Success" section to see how successful a knot will be overall.
  • Alaska Museum of Fancy Knots - Containing a variation on the Zeppelin. Is it any good though?
  • The Zeppelin bend, or How to jailbreak with a rope made from bedsheets. at mackys journal.
  • Slipping Shoelaces? Crooked Bows? - More info on why the granny knot shouldn't be used. But I would just use better non-slippery shoe laces.
  • The Most Useful Rope Knots for the Average Person to Know - A great site with lots of info on many knots, and even a comparison on the discrepancies from knot research.

    Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure the two knots on this page are as secure as bricks, but obviously I can't vouch for them 100%. Tying knots can be a risky and even fatal business, so always consult the advice of a pro before undertaking critical ventures involving knots.

    All text on this page is copyright D. White 2006 onwards.
    Please ask for permission should you wish to use the text material on these pages.