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Essential Knots for the Outdoors

A Guide to Tying Knots for the Outdoors

Knowing how to tie your shoes is great, but that shouldn’t be the only knot you know how to make. When it comes to survival and preparedness, something as simple as tying a specific type of knot can save your life. It’s no exaggeration. Many knots may even extend beyond their regular usage, becoming essential to your camping, hiking, sailing, or fishing trip.

Instead of getting befuddled when trying to tie or connect something together, practice tying important knots in your spare time. Once you remember different variations, you can put them to use.

Essential Knots for the Outdoors

Top 5 Knots for Camping & Hiking

1. Square Knot

How to Tie:

Step 1: Overlap two lines.

Step 2: Twist right over left.

Step 3: Then, while going in the reverse direction, twist left over right.

Note: Can also be remembered as trying a left-handed overhand knot to a right-handed overhand knot.

Uses:

Also known as the Reef Knot. An excellent knot for security but not for joining two ropes together. Tie bandages, packages, and survival cord together. Also good for bundling firewood.

2. Taut Line Hitch

How to Tie:

Step 1: Wrap the rope around a post or tree trunk several feet from the working end.

Step 2: Wind the free end around the standing line twice. Work backwards towards the post.

Step 3: Wrap around the standing line on the outside of the coils you just made in Step 2.

Step 4: Tighten then slide the knot to adjust the tension.

Uses:

The Taut Line Hitch has two main purposes:

First, it can be used to loosen a loop in a line or release tension by sliding.

Second, it can be used to grip, as long as there’s tension on the taut end of the hitch. Ideal for anchoring something to a post or tree.

3. Bowline Knot

How to Tie:

Step 1: You have a working end (short piece) and a standing end (longer piece) in the rope. The working end needs to be about a foot long.

Step 2: In the standing end, create a small loop.

Step 3: Run the working end through the loop from back to front.

Step 4: Wrap the working end of the rope around the standing end, below the loop you just created.

Step 5: Continuing running the working end back up through the loop.

Step 6: Coming from front to back, pull the knot tight.

Uses:

The Bowline is one of the most useful knots around. When you use this knot, you are creating a loop at the end of a rope that cannot expand or contract.

Other uses include securing a boat to a dock, securing a trap when hunting, and mountain climbing (looping a rope around a rock formation).

4. Two Half Hitches

How to Tie:

Step 1: Wrap the working end of the rope around the tree, pole, or fixed object.

Step 2: Continue wrapping the line (looping around the standing line) in the same direction two more times.

Step 3: Cinch the rope by pulling tight.

Uses:

The Two Half Hitches is actually a half hitch knot doubled. Secure a line to a pole or tree, such as hammock lines to anchors, tarps to fence posts, and so on. Can be combined with the trucker’s hitch for more strength.

5. Sheet Bend

How to Tie:

Step 1: Figure out which line is more slippery or thicker. You will need to bend this line into a “J” shape (or a fish hook).

Step 2: Pass the other less slippery or thinner rope through the fish hook from the back.

Step 3: Continue wrapping the second line around the J-shape one time then tuck the smaller line under itself.

Uses:

Though the sheet bend looks a little complicated, it is the best knot for tying two different types of rope or two different thicknesses together. The knot will even join together materials that usually cannot be knotted together.

Top 5 Knots for Fishing & Hunting

1. Palomar Knot

How to Tie:

Step 1: Double about 6 inches of line and pass it through the eye of the hook or swivel. There should be a small loop.

Step 2: Tie a loose overhand knot. The hook should be hanging from the bottom.

Step 3: Pass the loop over the hook, sliding the loop above the hook eye.

Step 4: Pull both ends of the line to tighten around the eye. Clip the end.

Uses:

The main purpose of the Palomar knot is to secure a hook or swivel to a fishing line. This knot can also be used to fasten a fly to a leader.

2. Fisherman’s Knot

How to Tie:

Step 1: Wrap twice around a fixed point, such as post, shackle, or anchor. Depending on the size of the fixed point, you may need to wrap 5-6 times.

Step 2: Pass the working end behind the standing line then proceed through the first loop made. Pull tight.

Step 3: Tie a half hitch around the standing line. Pull tight.

Step 4: Secure the free end.

Uses:

As you’d expect, the fisherman’s knot is only useful for fishing lines, attaching fishing hooks, securing anchors, or wrapping a line around a dock post.

3. The Surgeon’s Knot

How to Tie:

Step 1: Lay the two lines next to one another, letting them overlap.

Step 2: Form a simple loop with both lines.

Step 3: Pass the combined working end through the loop twice.

Step 4: Pull four ends tight.

Uses:

Also called the “Surgeon’s Join” or “Double Overhand,” this knot is used for joining two lines of unequal size to each other.

4. The Blood Knot

How to Tie:

Step 1: Overlap the ends that you want to join together. Twist one end around the other about 5 times. Bring that working end back to the beginning of both lines.

Step 2: Repeat step 1 on the opposite line, wrapping in the opposite direction.

Step 3: Pull the lines gently in opposite directions (towards the top of the respective twists). The turns with bunch up.

Step 4: Close the knot by clipping the long ends.

Uses:

When you have two separate lines to secure together and trust to bear weight, you need the blood knot. Used frequently with fly fishing, this knot ties two fishing lines, making them one.

5. The Improved Cinch Knot

How to Tie:

Step 1: Thread the line through the hook eye. Wrap the working end of the line around the standing end about 5 times.

Step 2: Bring the working end of the line back through the first loop, then go behind the eye, and lastly through the large loop you’ve made.

Step 3: Pull on the working end to tighten the twists, letting them bunch. Slide tight.

Uses:

This is one of the most important in all fishing knots. Uses include securing fishing hooks, swivels, and lures into a single line.

Top 5 Knots for Survival

1. Figure 8

How to Tie:

Step 1: Pass the free end of the line over itself, forming a loop.

Step 2: Continue under and around the line’s standing end.

Step 3: Move the free end down through the bottom loop (forming the Figure 8).

Uses:

The Figure 8 is ideal for creating a stopper at the end of a line, which is commonly used in rock climbing and sailing. In order to tie more complex knots, the Figure 8 is needed.

2. Clove Hitch

How to Tie:

Step 1: Make a loop of rope around the tree or post.

Step 2: Make a second loop, passing the working/short end through.

Step 3: Tighten.

Step 4: Be sure to maintain constant pressure to keep the line from slipping undone.

Uses:

An all-purpose, binding hitch and commonly called the “double hitch.” Most effective as a cross knot. Secure lines to a tree or post, or fasten pieces of shelter roofing and walls together.

3. Trucker’s Hitch

How to Tie:

You will need an eye bolt or fixed object (like a bumper).

Step 1: Tie one end of the rope to the fixed object. About midway, tie a slippery half hitch, forming a loop in the middle of the line. Check that the loop is formed with the slack end, otherwise it will tighten under pressure.

Step 2: Make a second wrap around another fixed point outside to the beginning tie-in. Feed the free end through the loop you make.

Step 3: Using the loop like a pulley, add pressure to the free end, making the knot as tight as you can. Secure with two half hitches around one or both of the lines.

Uses:

This is a combination knot that can be pulled extremely tight, making it ideal for cinching down a load. Secure heavy bundles of all sizes or tying canoes and kayaks to the top of cars.

4. Square Lash

How to Tie:

Step 1: Tie a standard clove hitch around one of the poles at the point where you want to join the second pole.

Step 2: Wrap the working line around the junction of both poles (poles should be perpendicular). First go under the lower pole then over the top pole. Wrap outward five or six times.

​Step 3: Next, wrap between the poles a couple of times, squeezing the previous wrapping to tighten the hold.

Step 4: Finish with a square knot to secure the free end of the working end to the loose end of the starting clove hitch.

Uses:

The Square Lash is often used when building anything from camp seats to towers and bridges. Basically, this knot secures two poles together.

5. Carrick Bend (Sailor’s Knot)

How to Tie:

Step 1: Form a basic loop with the larger/thicker rope and lay said loop on top of and across the working end of the second rope.

Step 2: Follow the sequence over, under, over, under, over.

Step 3: The ends will come out on opposite side of the knot.

Step 4: Secure the ends with standing sections of the ropes.

Uses:

A securing hitch that is also jam-proof. The Carrick Bend is more secure but easier than a square knot to untie. Main uses include tying two separate pieces of rope together, such as towing hawsers and cables.

Conclusion

Knots don’t have to be scary or confusing. In fact, knowing how to secure a line or two can be the deciding factor in a life-or-death situation. With a little practice, you’ll be able to remember which notes are useful for varying situations and how to tie them successfully every time.​

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