Essential Knots for Camping, Hiking and Survival

A rope is an essential piece of equipment in the outdoors as it has multiple purposes. From attaching your tarp to the tree to rappeling. But what use is carrying a rope with you if you don´t know how to use it? Knot tying is a very important skill to master when it comes to survival techniques.

Since there are probably a thousand ways to tie a rope, we will only highlight the most important ones and what use they have.

Knot terminology

Before we are going to show you some knots, we are going to explain the different terms used. Even though, people always use the word ´knot´ to refer to tying your rope to another rope or tree, there are different types of knots.

  • Knot: When the two ends of the same rope are secured together.
  • Hitch: When one end of the rope is attached to a tree, ring, or another rope.
  • Bend: A type of knot that connects two separate ropes
  • Lashing: When the rope is used to secure two or more spars (poles) together

As you can see, every type of knot will have a different purpose.

Important knots to master

The Square Knot

This is a very easy knot to tie and one you can use for many purposes. However, the square knot is not the most secure knot, so shouldn´t be used for real survival situations. The reason we include this one to the list is because it is the foundation for learning other important knots.

What to use it for?

  • Tying your rope around an object.
  • Tying bandages
  • NOT for tying two pieces of rope together.
  • NOT for survival situations

How to tie the Square knot?

  1. Hold an end of the rope in each hand.
  2. Pass the right end over and under the rope in your left hand.
  3. Pass the rope end now in your left hand over and under the one now in your right.
  4. Tighten the knot by pulling both running ends at the same time.
How to Make a Square (Reef) Knot

Clove Hitch

This is one of the most used knots in the outdoors. The knot is meant for temporary uses and gets secure when there is a load hanging on both sides. The knot can easily be undone by removing the load on one end.

What to use it for?

  • Hanging a bear bag (PCT method)
  • Securing survival shelter
  • Securing your rope to the tree

How to tie the Clove Hitch?

  1. Wrap the free end of a rope around a post.
  2. Crossover itself and around the post again.
  3. Slip working end under last wrap.
  4. Pull tight.

Clove Hitch | Survival knots, Clove hitch knot, Half hitch knot

Square Lash

This type of knot is used to join two sticks or poles at a right angle. It is a very strong knot that can take huge loads.

What to use it for?

  • Making a shelter

How to make the Square Lash?

  1. Start with a Clove Hitch around one pole.
  2. Twist short end around long and wrap the rope around both poles, alternately going over and under each pole about three or four turns.
  3. Tighten the lashing by surrounding it with three or four frapping turns.
  4. Finish with two or three tight half hitches
How to Tie Lashings | The Art of Manliness

Shear Lash

The shear lash knot is similar to the square lash, except in this case the poles are not in 90 degrees. It is used to secure two poles that will bear loads.

What to use it for?

  • Fix broken pole
  • Increasing lenght of a pole
  • Making an A-frame

How to make the Shear Lash?

  1. Tie a Clove Hitch around one pole and pull the knot very tight.
  2. Begin the lashing by wrapping the working end around the poles, pulling the rope tight on each turn, until your lashing is at least as long as the two poles are wide.
  3. Make a turn around just one pole.
  4. Tuck the working end between the two poles.
  5. Make 2 “frapping turns” (wrap around just the ropes, between the two poles) and pull tight.
  6. Finish with one or two clove hitches around the same pole that started the lashing.
How to Tie Lashings | The Art of Manliness

Bowline Knot

The bowline knot is a very popular knot for climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts. This loop knot is easy to make and very strong under load. Once the load is removed, it is easy to untie.

When used for climbing it is best to add a safety knot or opt for the figure eight knot.

What to use it for?

  • Make a loop at the end of a rope
  • Linking two ends of a rope
  • Attaching rope to tree
  • Securing a trap

How to make the Bowline knot?

  1. Lay the rope across your left hand with the free end hanging down. Form a small loop in the line in your hand.
  2. Bring the free end up to and pass through the eye from the under side (the rabbit comes out of the hole).
  3. Wrap the line around the standing line and back down through the loop (around the tree and back down the hole).
  4. Tighten the knot by pulling on free end while holding standing line
Bowline Knot | 101Knots

Alpine Butterfly Loop

As the name suggest, this knot is often used by mountaineers when roped up. But it has many other uses as well. It is more stable than the Bowline on a Bight or the The Figure 8 Loop – both of which may roll over.

What to use it for?

  • Make a loop at the middle of a rope

How to make the Alpine Butterfly Loop?

  1. Make a loop in the rope and twist it one full rotation into an eight shape.
  2. Fold the top of the eight down around the bottom of the eight.
  3. Now up and out through the lower opening of the eight and pull tight.
How to tie a Butterfly Knot

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