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How To Tie The Girth Hitch

Like a lot of knots, the Girth Hitch goes by multiple names, some of them mistakenly applied. Although it’s also used as a synonym for the Cow Hitch and the Lanyard Hitch, here we’re focusing on the related but distinct tie-off also widely called (especially by climbers and arborists) the Girth Hitch; other names include the Strap Hitch, Ring Hitch, and the Bale Sling Hitch.

The Girth and Cow hitches essentially look identical, but they’re formed and loaded differently and don’t offer the same strength, security, or stability. The Ring or Girth Hitch can be used to secure a sling or strap (or a rope with a bight) to a post, tree, carabiner, handle, strap, or similar support, or to another line or sling.

How to Tie the Ring Hitch

The Ring Hitch can either be made with a pre-sewn or pre-tied sling or with a piece of rope with two free ends. We’ll demonstrate using a sling, but the process is the same with the free-ended rope.

Girth Hitch 1

Step 1

Pass one end of the sling (or a bight made in the free-ended rope) behind the object.

Girth Hitch 2

Step 2

Draw the other end of the sling (or the running ends of the rope) through the loop.

Girth Hitch 3

Step 3

Draw the end of the sling passed through the loop back over the other side of the loop.

Girth Hitch 4

Step 4

Tighten that passed-through end to cinch the hitch.

Girth Hitch 5

Tips on Tying the Knot

  • Arrange the Ring Hitch such that it cinches along the bottom or to the side of the support (depending on a vertical or horizontal arrangement), in the direction of the applied load. Avoid finishing the hitch such that the cinch is made perpendicular to the direction of the load, which creates extra strain on the cinch and may cause the hitch to fail.
  • Some reinforce a Ring Hitch with a few half hitches or a Figure Eight Knot.

Variations on Tying the Knot

You can also secure a Ring Hitch by drawing one end of a sling through the other, then running the loop created over the end of a post, peg, or other support; tightening this creates the hitch. 

If using a Ring Hitch to tie together two slings, only do so by dressing it in the manner of a Square Knot: a technique that wards against the weakening the Ring Hitch creates in loops that have been directly knotted. This Square Knot-style Ring Hitch linkage of two slings is called a Strop Bend (or “Strop Knot”). That said, a carabiner is definitely the better way altogether to link two runners together.

Advantages of This Knot

The Ring Hitch couldn’t be much easier or quicker to tie, and provides a fine means of attaching a looped rope, sling, or strap to a fixed object or another line. It’s stronger, stabler, and more secure than the similar Cow Hitch. 

Disadvantages of The Knot

The Ring Hitch does weaken the sling by roughly 50 percent. Given the breaking strength of climbing runners, this is often a moot point, but is something to keep in mind when, for example, considering the hitch to connect two slings. (Hence the advantage of the Strop Bend—or simply going with the carabiner instead of tying the slings directly together.) An unloaded Ring Hitch will tend to loosen and to shift.

Uses for the Ring Hitch

The Girth Hitch is perhaps most closely associated with rock climbing as well as arbor work, but can also provide utility in other applications as well.

Survival Situations

You might use a Ring Hitch to fashion a haul handle for equipment, or as part of rigging up the mainline of an emergency shelter. It can also be used to create a makeshift rescue litter for carrying out an injured or ill individual.

Fishing

Anglers might use ring hitches to hang gear or improvise temporary moorings.

Hunting

The possibility of hanging or hauling gear and meat with a Ring Hitch recommends this loop/sling setup to hunters as well.

Camping

Use the Ring Hitch to haul packs and other gear, or to set up ridgelines or hammock attachments.

Climbing

Climbers may use the Ring Hitch in a variety of situations, including attaching runners, daisy chains, or Personal Anchor Systems to harness tie-in points or a runner to a natural anchor such as a tree trunk, or when tying off pitons. (Avoid using a Ring Hitch to attach slings or Personal Anchor Systems to a belay loop, which puts excess strain on the loop; this practice has resulted in high-profile climbing fatalities.) The Ring or Girth Hitch is also the foundation of the Prusik Knot so widely used in ascending and descending climbing rope as well as in alpine and whitewater rescue.

Around the House/Other

The Ring Hitch is used by arborists in certain tree-climbing setups, as when setting up tree anchors. You can also use Ring Hitches to rig up a slackline. 

Related Knots

We’ve already mentioned that the Cow Hitch is quite similar to the Ring/Girth Hitch (and that some users conflate the two). The Cow Hitch, though, is an endline hitch made with the tail of a rope’s running end. The loading of both arms of the sling/strap (or both ends of a rope attached to an anchor in a Girth Hitch via a bight) in a Ring Hitch setup makes it stronger in most cases than the endline Cow Hitch, which is only loaded on the standing end.

For certain applications alternative hitches such as Bull and Basket hitches provide a more secure attachment than the Girth Hitch.

As we mentioned, adding some wraps of a sling after attaching it to a climbing rope with a Ring Hitch forms the legendary Prusik Knot.

How To Tie a Girth Hitch Illustration:

The Girth Hitch, also known as a Ring Hitch, is used for quickly attaching a loop to any object. Simple and fast to apply, the Girth Hitch has many uses. It attaches a pre-sewn or pre-tied loop or sling to any fixed object.

It can be used to connect loops or attach a loop to a climbing harness from which gear can be hung. Climbers often use a girth hitch in slings of webbing, but it works in any type of rope or cordage. This knot is often used in camping and could be helpful to boaters for numerous jobs, such as creating loops from which gear can be hung.

Pass the loop around the object to which it is to be attached.Girth Hitch 1
Bring one half of the loop through the other half, and tighten by pulling on the lower half. (The knot that ties the cord into a loop should be positioned to the side of the loop, not at the bottom where it could get in the way.)Girth Hitch 2

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