There are hundreds of knots, which can be used for many different purposes. Learning just a few useful knots, however, gives you something that you can use in almost any situation you may encounter. There are three main groups of knots: hitches, loops and bends. Hitches are used for attaching a rope to an object. Loops are (obviously) for making loops either at the end or in the middle of a rope. Bends are for attaching two ropes to each other.
Here are three hitches, two loops and a bend – learn these useful knots and you will be ready for anything!
A note about knot terminology: The rope has two ends, referred to as the working end and the standing end. The working end is the part of the rope you are using to tie the knot, normally the short end. The standing end is the opposite end to the working end, usually the long end.
Hitches – Useful Knots For Attaching Lines To Objects
The Clove Hitch is a useful knot, but also a great knot to learn because it forms the basis of many other knots. Use the clove Hitch for attaching a rope to an object such as a branch. It is a particularly useful knot for attaching tarp shelters to branches overhead. This knot can slip if used under a heavy load.
To tie a clove hitch:
- Pass the rope over a branch or pole.
- Bring the working end of the rope it back over the standing end and pass around the branch again.
- Thread the working end of the rope under itself and pull tight.
The tautline hitch can be slipped to tighten or loosen the line, effectively making an adjustable loop. Use the tautline hitch for attaching tent guy lines to pegs, as it is useful to be able to adjust the tension of the line. The tautline hitch can slip under heavy loads, so the truckers hitch (below) should be used for lines that need to be held very tight.
To tie a tautline hitch:
- Make a turn around a post or object.
- Loop the free end around the standing end, and then again moving towards the post.
- Now moving away from the post, loop the free end around the standing end above the previous loops.
- Tighten the knot. You can slide the knot up and down the line to adjust the tension.
The trucker’s hitch is traditionally used for securing loads. It can be used to pull a line very tight and hold it. This knot can also be useful in setting up tarp shelters. Take care using the trucker’s hitch with nylon tarps as it can pull them so tight they rip.
To tie a trucker’s hitch knot:
- Make a loop in your line.
- Pull some of the line from behind the loop through the loop. This creates a second loop coming out of the first loop.
- Tighten the first loop around the second.
- Pass the free end of the line around a post and then through the loop in your line.
- Pull the free end towards the post to tension the line
- Loop the free end around the double section of the line between the know and the post and pass the free end through the loop you have just created. This is a half hitch.
- Repeat the half hitch and pull tight.
Loops – Useful Knots For Making Loops In Lines
A bowline is one of the most useful knots you can learn. It makes a secure loop in the end of a line, that will not come undone under tension. The bowline is easy to undo, even after the line has been under tension.
To tie a bowline knot:
- Make a loop in the line.
- Pass the free end of your line through the loop from underneath.
- Wrap the free end around the standing part of the line and then pass it back through the loop.
- Hold the standing line and pull the free end to tighten.
Alpine butterfly loop
The alpine butterfly knot, or just butterfly knot, makes a secure loop in the middle of a line. It is a useful knot for setting up tarp shelters where you want a loop in the middle of a line.
To tie an alpine butterfly loop knot:
- Twist the line to make a figure 8.
- Fold the top of the figure 8 backwards under the bottom.
- Pull the top of the figure 8 under the standing line and up through the lower part of the 8 and pull tight.
Bends – Useful Knots For Attaching Two Lines
The sheet bend knot is useful for attaching two ropes together, and even works if the two ropes are different sizes or materials. The double sheet bend is a version of this knot that is even more secure.
To tie a sheet bend:
- Turn the end of one line back on itself to make a loop.
- Pass the free end of the other line through the loop.
- Then take the free end around both parts of the first line (twice for a double sheet bend) and back under itself.
- Pull the free and standing ends of both ropes to tighten.