Essential Knots: How to Tie 10 Basic Knots

Nov 17, 2021

Category: Gear

Even if you’re not an accomplished climber or a seasoned seafarer, there’s plenty of cases in which knots are helpful to know in your day-to-day life. Because let’s face it — you’ll always have to tie things down, and, while most of us fall back on the de facto granny loop, the reality is that it’s a knot that just won’t do.

In order to arm you with the knowledge necessary to perform some top-notch ties, we’ve roped together a handy guide of 10 common knots that everyone should know. Along the way, we’ll teach you basic how-tos along with specific best-use cases, covering everything from the notorious square knot to the elusive trucker’s hitch. Now, without further adieu, let’s get tying.

Video: 10 Essential Knots You Should Know

If instructional videos are more your thing, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive 4K video on how to tie essential knots.

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Square Knot

Knot Type: Bend

Whether or not you realize it, chances are pretty good that you already know how to perform a square knot. Easily amongst the most straightforward ties to learn, it’s a knot that many people use to secure their shoes. But here’s the thing: in spite of its simplicity, the square knot is surprisingly easy to tie incorrectly.

That is to say: be sure to pay attention to how you’re crossing your ropes — with just one wrong move, you’ll wind up with a granny knot. For even though they may look similar in execution, the two are actually very different in utility. Where the square knot forms a strong connection between two ropes, the granny knot is highly unstable, quickly coming undone.

Step 1: Grab two ends of rope, one in each hand. They can be the ends of the same rope or the ends of two different pieces of rope.
Step 2: Bring the end in your left hand over and under the end in your right hand. You should finish with each end in the opposite hand.
Step 3: Cross the ends again, this time by placing the strand that’s now in your right hand over the strand that’s now in your left hand.
Step 4: To tighten, pull the running ends away from each other at the same time.
Step 5: You have now completed a square knot! If you’ve tied your knot correctly, each end will be running parallel to its respective length of rope.

Other Names: Reef Knot
Difficulty: Easy
Best Use: Joining rope

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Sheet Bend

Knot Type: Bend

Much like a square knot, sheet bends are a tie that’s used to secure two lengths of rope together. However, while square knots are strongest when the ropes are of the same size, sheet bends — by contrast — work with any kind of line, regardless of materials or size. For this reason, sheet bends are also referred to as weaver’s knots when being used with yarn or twine.

We should point out that sheet bends are only secure when tied with the two free ends lining up on the same side of the knot. Should they be on opposite sides — as in a left-handed sheet bend — the knot can slip when placed under load, releasing completely.

Step 1: Begin by forming a loop using the end of one rope.
Step 2: Bring the free end of your second, joining rope under and through the opening of the loop.
Step 3: Wrap the joining rope around both ends of the looped rope.
Step 4: Pull the joining rope under itself.
Step 5: Complete the knot by pulling all four ends to tighten.
Step 6: You have now completed a sheet bend! You can perform a double sheet bend by wrapping the joining rope around the looped rope for a second time.

Other Names: Beck Bend, Weaver’s Hitch, Weaver’s Knot
Difficulty: Easy
Best Use: Joining rope

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Bowline

Knot Type: Loop

If you’re looking to tie a loop at the end of your rope, it doesn’t get much better than the bowline. Incredibly stable, strong, and reliable, it’s a knot that’s been used for centuries in everything from sailing to rescue missions. That’s because — for all of its security — the bowline is super easy to untie, even when placed under load.

By the same token, you should be judicious about when you use the knot. Sure, it bites far better than other types of ties, but it only maintains about 60% of the rope’s overall strength, and it may not hold depending on the materials and the loading conditions. As such, you should never use a bowline in critical, life or death applications.

Step 1: Initiate the knot by draping the rope across one hand with several inches of the free end hanging down.
Step 2: Form a small loop with the rope in your hand.
Step 3: Bring the free end back up.
Step 4: Pass it through the underside of the loop.
Step 5: Continue around the backside of the standing rope segment.
Step 6: Pull the free end down through the same loop you just came through.
Step 7: Tighten by holding the standing line and pulling the free end.

Other Names: Boling Knot
Difficulty: Medium
Best Use: Securing objects

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Taut-Line Hitch

Knot Type: Hitch

It’s not without good reason that the Boy Scouts of America endorses the taut-line hitch — the tie is perfect for securing tent guy lines and other supportive rope segments. And, even though it’s an adjustable sliding knot, it bites hard and jams when placed under load.

Accordingly, the taut-line hitch makes for a highly versatile tie that’s used on everything from aircraft to adjustable moorings. So trusted is the knot, in fact, that astronauts even used it when repairing the Hubble Space Telescope aboard the STS-82 mission.

Step 1: Take a generous length of rope and bring it around a post or similar object.
Step 2: Pass the free end under the standing segment and between the two sections of rope.
Step 3: Repeat once more, working toward the post.
Step 4: Pull the free end through the resulting loop.
Step 5: Coil the free end under and around the standing line, above the coil you have just made.
Step 6: Tighten the knot by pulling on the free end.
Step 7: You have now completed a taut-line hitch! To adjust tension, slide the knot on the standing line.

Other Names: Adjustable hitch, Rigger’s hitch, Midshipman’s hitch, Tent-line hitch, Tent hitch
Difficulty: Easy
Best Use: Lines under tension

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

Knot Type: Hitch

The round turn and two half hitches is a secure knot that’s ideal for attaching the end of a rope to a fixed object. Made up of two parts, it comprises a turn — to bear the brunt of the strain — as well as a pair of hitches that provide additional support. Taken together, they form a knot that’s strong yet still easy to tie and untie under load.

And that’s not all; because of the knot’s compound structure, it’s highly unlikely that the round turn and two half hitches will ever slip. In fact, it maintains as much as 75% of the line’s overall strength. Better still, the turn ensures that you never have to worry about it jamming.

Step 1: Bring one end of the rope under and around your object of choice, twice.
Step 2: Pass that same working end underneath the standing end.
Step 3: Make a turn and pull the rope through the rope loop you just made.
Step 4: Cinch it tight.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4.
Step 6: You’ve now completed a round turn and two half hitches. If you’d like to further secure your knot, you can add additional half hitches.

Other Names: Round Turn and a Half-Hitch, Two Round Turns and Two Half-Hitches
Difficulty: Easy
Best Use: Securing objects

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Figure Eight

Knot Type: Stopper

While each of the above ties is intended for attachment, the figure-of-eight knot is a type of stopper that’s used to prevent ropes from slipping out of retaining devices. For this reason, you’ll find that the figure-eight is ubiquitous throughout the climbing and sailing communities.

After all, the knot maintains about 80% of the rope’s overall strength, so it can withstand tons of tension. Naturally, it also serves as a solid foundation for many other more advanced ties. And, assuming you want even more security in your stopper, you can always add a second pass and make it a double figure-eight.

Step 1: Make a loop with one end of the rope, bringing it under the standing segment.
Step 2: Complete the eight by bringing the working end over the standing end.
Step 3: Pull the working end through the loop created in step 1.
Step 4: Cinch down the knot by pulling on both strands of rope.
Step 5: You have just finished your first figure-eight knot.

Other Names: Figure-Of-Eight Knot, Flemish Knot,
Difficulty: Easy
Best Use: Retention, jamming

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Clove Hitch

Knot Type: Hitch

Though the clove hitch is easily one of the most useful knots you can learn, it’s a tie that’s only fit for certain applications. Because let’s face it: the knot may be ideal for making turns and hanging hammocks, but it has a tendency to slip and it can even jam depending on the gauge of the rope and the shape of the object.

Therefore, it’s best to support clove hitches with half hitches and other more secure ties, as they’ll ensure that the knot stays fastened. That being said, adding too many secondary knots can cause a clove hitch to bind, leaving you no choice but to cut your rope free. As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid using the knot in life-threatening applications.

Step 1: Begin by wrapping the free end of a rope around a post or similar object.
Step 2: Cross the rope over itself and around the post once more.
Step 3: Bring the working end under your last wrap.
Step 4: Pull to tighten, reducing excess looseness by cinching up and down.
Step 5: You have now tied a clove hitch.

Other Names: Buntline Hitch, Constrictor Knot, Cow Hitch, Ground-Line Hitch, Lashing, Slippery Hitch, Snuggle Hitch, Two Half-Hitches
Difficulty: Easy
Best Use: Crossing

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Anchor Bend

Knot Type: Bend

Unsurprisingly, anchor bends are knots for attaching lengths of rope to anchors and other ringed tie-offs — they’re super stable and hold up well over time. However, the knot is good for much more than dropping a line; climbers often use the anchor bend for securing carabiners, and arborists will even use it when shimmying up trees.

It’s worth noting that the anchor bend is technically not a bend; rather, it’s actually a hitch. Near identical to the round turn and two half hitches in execution, it merely passes one hitch under the wrap instead of over it. Consequently, it cannot be tied when placed under load.

Step 1: Wrap your rope around your object two times, starting from the backside.
Step 2: Pull the working end behind the standing segment.
Step 3: Wrap it around and pass through the loop made in step 1.
Step 4: Pull it tightly.
Step 5: Bring the working end behind the segment once more.
Step 6: Wrap it around and pass through the loop you’ve just made.
Step 7: Hold and pull tight.
Step 8: You have now completed an anchor bend.

Other Names: Fisherman’s Bend
Difficulty: Medium
Best Use: Ring attachment

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Fisherman's Knot

Knot Type: Bend

Compact, strong, and secure under strain, the fisherman’s knot is best used for quickly tying two ropes of equal diameter together. For this reason, anglers love it when reattaching broken lines. Though the knot is rife with benefits — it can be cut very close and it’s easily performed, even with wet hands — it weakens the ropes with which it is tied. As such, you should never use it in critical, life or death situations,

Should you be after an even more secure variation, however, you can switch up the knot with double overhand ties and altered overlappings. For that matter, you can even wrap the working end three or even four times to ensure the utmost strength. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, here’s how to tie the Fisherman’s Knot.

Step 1: Tie a loose overhand knot with Rope A. Do not tighten.
Step 2: Feed the working end of a second rope (Rope B) through the loop.
Step 3: Tie an overhand knot with Rope B around Rope A.
Step 4: Cinch down both knots.
Step 5: Pull the standing ends of each rope to seat the two knots together.
Step 6: Your fisherman’s knot is now complete.

Other Names: Angler’s Knot, Englishman’s Knot, Waterman’s Knot
Difficulty: Easy
Best Use: Joining thin lines

Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Trucker's Hitch

Knot Type: Hitch

Last, but certainly not least, we have the trucker’s hitch, a knot that’s ideal for tying down your Christmas Tree, along with cinching down heavy loads and tying objects to the tops of cars, it can also be used for securing long spans of rope, such as clotheslines or tarp guy lines.

Because of the hitch’s compound structure, it creates a mechanical advantage of nearly 3:1, meaning you can really cinch this one down. We should also point out that there are tons of variations of the trucker’s hitch. Between the initial loop and the finishing hitches, you can play with your knot to suit your application. Let’s get to it.

Step 1: Begin by securing one end of the rope to a fixed object, such as a car bumper or a tie-down on your truck.
Step 2: Find a point on the rope and pinch together to form a loop.
Step 3: Bring your loop behind the standing end of your rope, letting the free end fall to the front.
Step 4: Wrap the loop back around to the front of the standing end.
Step 5: Pull your loop through the backside of the loop created in step 3.
Step 6: Take the free end of the rope and complete a half turn around another fixed object.
Step 7: Bring it through the loop created in step 5.
Step 8: Complete the knot by performing two half hitches below the loop, working from the front side of the standing end.
Step 9: You have now finished your first Trucker’s hitch. If you wish to provide further support, complete additional half hitches.

Other Names: Harvester’s Hitch, Haymaker’s Hitch, Lorry Knot, Power Cinch Knot
Difficulty: Medium
Best Use: Securing loads or tarps

The 8 Basic Survival Skills Every Man Should Know

While knot-tying is an ability that will save you in a variety of different situations, it’s hardly the only skill you should have in your arsenal. With the help of our guide to the basic survival skills every man should know, however, you’ll be perfectly prepared for any situation.

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