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9 Important Camping Knots (And How To Tie Them)

No matter whether you’re a seasoned camper or just starting out, knowing a few practical skills of the wild is guaranteed to make your life easier. Although it is often overlooked in our technology-focused society, knowing important camping knots is an incredibly useful skill.

9 important camping knots you should know are:

  1. Overhand knot
  2. Square knot (Reef knot)
  3. Sheet bend
  4. Bowline knot
  5. Two half hitches
  6. Double figure of eight knot
  7. Fisherman’s knot
  8. Clove hitch
  9. Taut line

This list of camping knots will help you to adapt to challenging situations, from stringing a hammock to administering first aid. However, merely knowing the name of each knot will not be enough; you’ll need to learn how to tie them too! Get comfy because you’re about to get a lesson in knot tying!

Types Of Camping Knot

Knowing the basic types of camping knots will help you to understand which ones are used for which purpose. This will lay the groundwork for learning how to tie the most important knots and discovering how they can actually help you when you’re in the backcountry.

If you were a member of the Scouts as a kid, chances are that you may already know a little about the basics of knot tying. However, for those of you who have discovered a love for the outdoors later in life or simply were never taught, allow us to dive into the different types of camping knot.

The Knot

Put simply, a knot is used to tie a rope to itself. Knots hold their place once tied up (assuming you tie them properly) and most of us already know how to tie at least a few knots. For example, you’ll be used to tying your shoelaces or doing up your tie in day-to-day life.

The Hitch

The hitch is used to tie a rope to something else, for example, when you string up a hammock to a tree or hang up a washing line.

The Bend

The bend is generally used when you want to tie two different ropes together. Although these are less commonly used in day to day life, they are still useful when camping to extend a piece of rope.

Knot Tying Terminology

Learning how to tie a knot using a set of written instructions can be a challenge in itself, and that is made even harder if you don’t know the lingo. You’re likely to read the following words a lot when it comes to practicing tying knots, so make sure you know what they mean.

  • Bight: A length of rope that does not cross itself
  • Jamming:A knot that is difficult to untie after use
  • Working end:The end part of the rope that is used to tie the knot
  • Standing end: The part of the rope which is not active in the knot tying
  • Turn: One turn of a rope around an object or another rope
  • Eye: Often mistakenly referred to as a loop, the eye is used to create connections

9 Important Camping Knots

1. Overhand Knot

This is one of the most common knots and one that you are likely to know how to tie already. An overhead knot is tied at the end of the rope, designed to act as a stopper knot. You will only need one piece of rope for this knot.

A Practical Starter Knot

You have may have previously used this knot when tying up a package. It is also often the first step in tying more complex knots such as the reef knot. This makes it a good starter knot for everyone to learn. It can be used around camp in its most simple form to prevent rope ends from fraying.

How To Tie An Overhand Knot

To tie an overhand knot, you need to make a loop out of the rope. Pass the working end through the loop and tighten. Voila!

PROS:

  • Easy to tie
  • Can be tied tightly against an object
  • You probably already know it

CONS:

  • Prone to jamming
  • Reduces rope strength

2. Square Knot (Reef Knot)

If you’re just going to learn just one knot, make it the square knot (also known as the reef knot). This knot has plenty of uses that can be applied in a wide range of scenarios. For example, if you find yourself in an emergency situation, you can use a square knot to secure a bandage and stop bleeding.

This is also the knot most commonly used when tying things in bundles such as firewood and camping gear.

How To Tie A Square Knot

This is one of the easiest knots to learn how to tie and the one we usually use for our shoelaces. First, you will need to bring the two ends of each rope together, with the right over the left. Then tie a half knot. Repeat the same action again but this time, the left should be over the right. The key is to remember “right over left, left over right”.

The Square Knot Is Not A Bend

As the square knot involves tying two pieces of rope together, you may be under the impression that it is a type of bend. However, this is a common misconception. The square knot was not designed to perform as a bend because it is intentionally unstable.

Origins Of The Reef Knot

This knot gets its other name, reef, from its history of being used in the sailing industry. During strong winds, sailors would pull one edge of the sail inwards to decrease the surface area. However, this leaves a baggy section. The reef knot was used to gather the sail together but also to provide enough instability that a quick pull could release the knot and therefore the sail when needed.

PROS:

  • Easy to learn
  • Quick to tie

CONS:

  • Should not be used as a bend
  • Only suitable for light loads

3. Sheet Bend

The sheet bend is used to tie two ropes of differing thicknesses together. This makes it especially useful for campers as it can be used to join together two pieces of rope that could not traditionally be attached.

Practical

Unfortunately, this bend is a little challenging to master. However, you should take some time practicing it as it can be very useful! It is great for those emergency gear repairs such as lengthening guy lines or saving snapped shoelaces.

How To Tie A Sheet Bend

Form a loop at the end of the thicker rope before passing the free end of the thinner rope to join under the opening of the loop. Wrap it around both parts of the thicker loop and back under itself. Hold and pull all ends of the rope to tighten the knot. It is important to remember that the thicker rope must be used as the bight, with the thinner rope being tied onto it.

PROS:

  • Fast to tie
  • Stronger than the square knot
  • Easy to untie
  • Secure

CONS:

  • Can loosen when not under load

4. Bowline Knot

Interestingly, this knot is not pronounced as you would expect. Instead, it is pronounced ‘bo-lin’. This knot is used for tying a fixed knot at the end of a rope. It is often used as a rescue knot. This is because it won’t slip easily when it is loaded.

Multiple Uses

Using a bowline knot, you can lift a bear bag high out of the way and also fix guy lines to your tent. Hopefully, your camping trip won’t end up with you having to rescue someone from the top of a mountain, but if it does, at least you’ll know which knot you need!

How To Tie A Bowline Knot

First, make a loop at the longer end of the rope, leaving some room on both sides. Then pull the end up through the eye from the other side. You’ll then need to wrap the rope around the standing line and back down through the loop. To tighten the knot, hold the standing line and pull on the free end.

PROS:

  • Fast to tie
  • Does not slip under load
  • Easy to untie

CONS:

  • More complex to learn

5. Two Half Hitches

This type of hitch knot is very useful for tying things to poles and hanging gear up in a hurry. It is both quick to tie (once you get the hang of it) and also quick to untie. It is also sometimes referred to as a double half-hitch, clove hitch over itself, or a full-hitch.

How To Tie A Two Half Hitches

To tie a two half hitches knot, you’ll need to first form a clockwise loop around the tree or pole you want to tie it to. The working end of the rope should be on top, and you’ll need to bring this over and around the standing part of the rope. Then thread it back through the loop to create a half-hitch.

The next stage is tying another half-hitch, outside the loop. Continue to take the end of the rope around the standing part in the same direction. Finally, pull the knot tight and then slide it along the standing end against the pole or tree.

PROS:

  • Easy to adjust
  • Secure
  • Quick to tie

CONS:

  • Hard to untie

6. Double Figure Of Eight Knot

The double figure of eight knot can be challenging to learn, but thankfully it is also easy to identify if it is tied incorrectly. The structure of the knot allows the weight to be distributed equally between two points.

Common Uses

It is commonly used by climbers and cavers, though it still has plenty of uses outside of these sports. In a camp setting, this knot can be used to hang a bear bag, form a line with several loops for hanging lamps, and also to tow a stuck car.

How To Tie A Double Figure Of Eight Knot

When tying the double figure of eight knot, it is important to remember its nickname – ‘bunny ears’. This will give you a visual to work towards. Firstly, you need to form a long loop in the rope and pass the end through the loop to make a figure of eight.

Pass the loop end through the eight and pull it into place. You’ll need to run the same original loop to the front from behind, up and over the knot. To secure the two loops, pull it tight. The knot should now look like it has two bunny ears sticking out of the top.

PROS:

  • Strong
  • Stays in place

CONS:

  • Difficult to untie
  • Hard to master

7. Fisherman’s Knot

It won’t be for everybody, but if you like to combine a night in the wild with a morning spent fishing at the lake, this is a knot you need to know! The fisherman’s knot is used to tie together two ropes. As the name would indicate, it has long been used to tie hooks to the end of a rope.

How To Tie A Fisherman’s Knot

Make a loop with the working end of the rope and feed its end into it around the other rope. You need to repeat with the working end of the second rope too, around the first. Once done, tighten both knots by pulling on the tag ends. The knots can be moved closer together by pulling the standing parts of the rope.

The Downside

It is important to remember that this knot damages the rope that it is used on, so never use it in an emergency situation. It is also known as a jamming knot as it is very difficult to untie.

PROS:

  • Strong
  • Can be tied with wet hands
  • Does not slip

CONS:

  • Not for use on slippery lines or rope
  • Hard to untie (useful for fishing)
  • Damages the rope it is used on

8. Clove Hitch

The clove hitch is fairly easy to tie and involves tying one length of rope to a pole. As the clove hitch can slip easily, it should only ever be used as a temporary knot. The exception to this is if the hitch is reinforced with other knots.

Multiple Uses In A Camp Setting

The clove hitch can be used in a whole range of camp settings. Whether you want to use it to help construct an emergency shelter, tie back some tree branches, or attach your kit to a carabiner to hang off your rucksack, this is the knot to do it with.

How To Tie A Clove Hitch

To begin, take the rope and wrap it around the pole or tree that you want to tie it to. Next, turn the rope around the post again, going underneath the loop that was formed. To complete the knot, pull the rope again and tuck it in under the other loops before pulling tight to finish.

PROS:

  • Easy to master
  • The rope on either side can be adjusted once tied

CONS:

  • Not for use on square posts
  • Can slip easily

9. Taut Line

The very useful taut line knot is similar to the bowline, except that it is adjustable, giving it multiple uses around camp. It gives you the freedom to tighten and loosen the loop, once it has already been tied.

Great For Tent Guy Lines

The most common use for this knot in a camp setting is for tent guy lines. The adjustable knot can be slid up and down the length of the rope, keeping your tent secure but also allowing you to adapt to changing weather such as high winds.

How To Tie A Taut Line

To tie a taut line, make a turn around the object or post. You will then need to loop the working end around the standing end twice, before bringing it out of the loop. Coil the working end around the standing line once more, outside of the other loops you have made. Once you do this, you can tighten the knot and slide it up and down the standing line to alter the tension of the line.

PROS:

  • Adjustable
  • Very practical for a camp setting

CONS:

  • Most tents come with adjustable guy lines

Final Thoughts

For many of us, knot tying is something we left behind in our youth and haven’t considered since. Although camping no longer requires the bushcraft skills of old, there is still no doubt that learning a few important camping knots will better prepare you for unexpected situations in the wilderness!

No matter whether you need to tighten your guy lines in a storm or hitch a bear bag up into a tree, the above knots will come to your aid. Some of them might take a little practice to master, but arming yourself with these useful knots is sure to make your next trip into the wild that bit easier.