Knot of the Week: Highwayman's Hitch - ITS Tactical

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Knot of the Week: Highwayman’s Hitch

By The ITS Crew

highwaymanshitch08Continuing with our “Knot of the Week” series, we present the Highwayman’s Hitch. This knot is another interesting one to talk about, due to its history. The Highwayman’s Hitch was supposedly used back in the late 1800s by stagecoach robbers. According to Wikipedia, Highwayman describes a robber who traveled by horse rather than foot.

The Highwayman would tie up his horse alongside the stagecoach he was robbing using the Highwayman’s Hitch, enabling him to make a fast getaway. The hitch will hold fairly strong, yet will release very quickly with a simple tug on the free end.

Highwayman’s Hitch »

(Strength: 2/Security: 3/Stability: 2/Difficulty: 2)

Please refer to our  Knot of the Week introduction post for a description of what these ratings mean.

Make sure the Highwayman’s hitch is tight, or it won’t hold whatever you’ve tied up. While this knot will seem stable when pulling on the standing part of the line, it does have a  tendency  to collapse and should not be used as a lifesaving knot.


  • Tying up a Zodiac to dock cleats
  • A situation where you need to release a knot with one hand
  • Towing another boat or canoe that would need to be quickly released
  • Tying up your horse to rob a stagecoach

Pay particular attention to the standing end and the release end, it’s easy to get them mixed up while tying this knot.


  1. Begin with a single loop (bight) in your rope behind the object you’ll be tying off to
  2. The left side of the loop will be the standing end, or what your boat is attached to
  3. The right side of the line will be the release end you’ll pull for a quick getaway
  4. Take the standing end (left end) and form another loop
  5. Tuck this loop into your original loop
  6. Now take the release end (right end) of your rope and form another loop
  7. This loop will go inside the last loop made
  8. At this step it’s important to tighten the knot by pulling on the standing end
  9. Pulling on the standing end will lock the quick release portion of the knot in
  10. Now just simply tug on the release end to run from the sheriff!

Let us know if the comments if the instructions were follow along with, we’ll be going over some knot terminology next week so hopefully we can avoid any confusion in the future.

View the gallery below and follow along with the steps above!

Check back next week as we continue our “Knot of the Week” series with some knot terminology!

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  • BootlegGucci

    Is it just me or does this not work very well with 550 cord?

    • It’s definitely harder to tie with 550, just make sure you cinch everything up tight on each step of the knot and it should work fine.

  • BootlegGucci

    Yeah it really is. I tried it the first time but didn’t tighten it before pulling on the standing end and the 2nd loop started to move. The second time I tightened everything by pulling the standing end and the last loop simultaneously which made everything much more snug, although when I pulled harder on the standing end the 2nd loop did start to shift slightly. In the end, like you said, if its made as tight as possible it should work with 550.

  • MrMax

    Ok Ok, I’ve had it with this knot.

    I have been tying this knot since I was a kid, and let me say this. DO NOT EVER TRUST THIS KNOT with anything valuable.

    Yeah it works if you want to tie a canoe to a dock, but if you yank hard enough on the weight bearing rope, it will pull through every time. It doesn’t matter how tight the knot is!

    Soooo, I improved it. I don’t believe anyone has ever seen my knot before or even heard the name. It’s called the Tarantula Hitch. Same exact style, only it never pulls through, and even if it did, it locks… AND the release still works. This is a knot that I will trust with my own weight.

    I wonder if I can include a picture link…

    • Max, Great knot! It is truly more secure than the Highwayman’s Hitch, and nice that you can’t untie it under tension. We appreciate you taking the time to contribute to ITS and this kind of information sharing is exactly what we hope to stimulate here.

      One thing though Max, on the second to last step there’s a pretty big jump on where to thread the working end loop. It might help to add one more picture showing where the loop weaves into the knot.

  • MrMax


    I added an extra pic or 2 where it was needed. The linked webpage is pretty sparse and unformatted. I’m glad your thinking about doing a knot of the week entry on it. Feel free to do so, and you can add whatever credit you feel is necessary. It’s not a big deal to me. Your css styles will make the pics look better too : )

    And more importantly, I’m curious about your knot rating. I don’t have access to a hydraulic lever to actually break the rope. It would be good to know the location of a break/tear, as well as the final weight, compared to the rope rating itself. highly technical, only a little useful.

    We’ll see

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