What are good knots to know for camping and backpacking?



I once tied a bear bag with a haphazard bundle of knots, and despite being seemingly impossible to untie, it came loose when lowering the bear bag and nearly smoked my friend standing under it. What are some good knots to learn for most stuff encountered while camping / backpacking?


Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 8 260

All of these knots are great for camping, fishing, hiking and general all around usage but the absolute best knot in the world is "The knot that you remember how to tie!" So, with that in mind, I keep a small shank of rope sitting around and when I'm sitting by the fire I like to practice a few knots which is both fun and useful in helping me remember how to tie them. There are also quite a few free apps around that show how to tie different knots. Knot Wars is a free app from North American Fishing Club which includes video animations with audio instruction.Thomas McGrath III 2013-03-11T13:26:53.097

I see lots of familiar knots here but to answer the question "what knots for camping". Learn the taught line hitch and the clove hitch. These get used 95% of the time even if you know how to tie all the rest of these knots. – None – 2014-05-06T18:10:40.917

There have been a lot of concrete examples in the answers, what I would add is some more general knot-wisdom I've learned with the scouts: a good knot has three characteristics: serves its purpose, holds securely and it is easy to untie.Akabelle 2015-10-06T07:29:38.963

5Stick with the first question - how do you tie a knot for a bear bag. Your second question is way too general, we want questions that can have one correct answer!Ryley 2012-01-24T21:45:10.503



Tying knots is actually a bit of an art. Depending on what you need it for, there are knots that slide, create loops, tighten under load, and do tons of other things. Here are some backcountry essentials:

Bowline Knot: Use this when you need a knot that absolutely, positively will not slip (unless loaded wrong). When I was in camp, we'd use these when making climbing harnesses out of webbing, since they were so safe. [link]

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Double Overhand Knot: Use this when you need to make a section of rope chunky so it doesn't slide or is easier to grab onto: [link]

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Noose (or Hangman's Knot): Use this when you need to make a loop of rope that slides easily to tighten around or pull things. [link]

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Double Fisherman's Knot: Use this when you need to attach two ropes together, as it holds very well when force is applied in the direction of the rope. Essentially just a double overhand knot on two ropes tied around each other. [link]

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Slip Knot: Use this when you need a knot, but you'll be undoing it frequently. It is easy to undo, even if it's been under heavy load. [link]

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Once you've mastered these, you should start understanding the dynamics of how knots can make ropes do all sorts of cool things. It's important that you practice these and know them well. You don't want to make a mistake and then trust a heavy load or your safety to a knot that might slip.

Be careful, and good luck!

Hartley Brody

Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 3 211

4Nice pictures. Bowlines are extremely useful. I would skip the fisherman's bend, as 2 bowlines will work as a bend without having to learn a new knot. Slipping a knot is a useful skill, but the slipknot picture shows something I would never advise a sailor to do. I'd skip the noose.Jay Bazuzi 2012-01-25T00:30:07.833

2Add the Taught line and two half hitch, and clove hitch and you get a double thumbs upmjrider 2012-01-25T00:44:45.040

should really add that the bowline will not slip under load. If you're bouncing about on it or if the load comes and goes, it can and will slip. - back it up with a second knot in these circumstances.Sirex 2012-03-14T12:02:43.217

@mjrider hadn't heard of the Taught Hitch until you/Kevin. It seems like a stronger version of the noose, which is cool! I skipped the clove hitch because, while useful, it can also come apart pretty easily if you don't understand how to use it, so I wanted to keep things simple.Hartley Brody 2012-01-25T02:16:58.127

a Figure-eight is a good alternative to the bowline: easier to tie and easier to inspect, but they need more rope and are harder to undo after being loaded. Many people have died after incorrectly tying a bowline and falling off their rope as a result, so I'm surprised you were taught to use it as a beginner. A double figure-eight or a figure-nine (which can also be doubled) are handy variations, and an overhand on a bight can be excellent as well, although it's the hardest of the lot to untie.STW 2016-06-29T18:10:04.963

2Bowline absolutely and positively can slip, even under load, people have died because of it. The problem is in the way you put load on the knot. If you load the main part of the rope going away from the knot, everything is fine. But if you pull the main “loop” sideways, for example by creating a sling around a tree and rappelling down from the sling, the knot can untie easily, especially if the force comes and goes. I will explain further in a follow-up question.zoul 2013-03-12T10:56:44.053


yeah I guess the clove hitch is more for lashings (which is another fun topic =) ) you might just out right give the resorce you are using too http://www.animatedknots.com/

in regarding to your taught line statement. the taught line is more used for tightening stuff up. especially tent lines and the like. (quite useful for volley ball setup too), while the two half hitch is for connecting a rope to a loop or the like

mjrider 2012-01-28T17:24:15.893


The bowline is a strong knot, but it has issues with cyclic loading and unloading - the knot can work itself loose even when tied properly. A lot of climbers don't consider a bowline fully tied unless the end is secured with a fisherman's knot (aka, the Yosemite Finish). And many just prefer to use a Figure-8. See this discussion: http://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/1126/which-knot-for-climbing-figure-eight-yosemite-bowline-bowline-on-a-bight?rq=1

DavidR 2013-08-26T16:31:49.983

I would skip the fisherman's bend, as 2 bowlines will work as a bend without having to learn a new knot. Bad idea if you need this knot to hold for safety and if it won't be continuously loaded. For example, tying a sling this way for mountaineering or rock climbing could be a form of suicice.Ben Crowell 2014-05-06T21:09:15.483


The most important knots you'll ever need to know are the taut-line hitch and the bowline. For instance, on your bear bag, you would tie a bowline through a handle or other loop the bag, and then the taut-line on the other side.

The best thing about a bowline is that no matter how much force you've put on it, you can crack it easily to take it apart.


Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 4 183

If you hang the bear bag pct-style, a clove hitch knot can easily be used for the stick and you won't need a taut-line knot.cbron 2013-05-04T05:00:48.853


Here is an article from Scoutin magazine

Knots and Boy Scouts go together like campfires and cobbler. Here’s how to tie three of the knots required to reach First Class, plus four more that can be very useful.

Knots. It all begins with rope — different sizes, lengths, widths, and strengths, depending on its use.

Ropes used for climbing can bear more than two tons of weight. Thinner, lightweight cords are used for lashings and tying off tent stakes.

Although they are still used in horse packing and sailing, natural-fiber ropes are mostly a thing of the past. Most ropes for outdoor recreation are made of nylon for durability and elasticity.

To prolong the life of your rope, protect it from dirt, sunlight, chemicals, and abrasion. When you store a rope, coil it following its natural lay. Don’t wrap it around your arm and through your outstretched hand like an extension cord. Keep it in a bag for storage.

Fortified Square Knot

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The basic square knot, or “joining” knot, is the first knot many boys learn on the night they join a Scout troop.

  1. “Right over left and under, left over right and under, then pull.”

  2. The fortified square knot strengthens the basic knot by adding an overhand knot to each end, which makes it less likely to slip.

Taut-line Hitch

This is the knot campers use to adjust tension in a tent’s guyline. It works best with cord that is at least ¼-inch thick.

  1. Wrap the rope around a secure object such as a tent stake. Bring the leading end under the standing rope and wrap the end around the standing part two times.

  2. Finish by bringing the leading rope above the two loops and finish with a half hitch; pull tight.

Grapevine Knot

(also known as the Double Fisherman’s Knot)

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This useful knot ties two ropes of equal diameter securely together. It’s secure enough to be used in rappelling—but can be difficult to untie.

  1. Place two lengths of rope parallel to each other. With the leading end of the lower rope, tie two overhand knots around the upper rope; pull the knot tight. With the leading end of the upper rope, tie an overhand knot around the lower rope.

  2. Pull the knot tight.

Clove Hitch

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This easy knot can be used to tie a horse to a post. It’s also the knot used to start and finish most lashings. The knot is tied with two loops of rope stacked on top of one another so that they interlock and hold firm. This is one of the quickest knots to learn.

  1. Wrap the rope around a post and cross it.

  2. Wrap the leading end of the rope around the post again and tuck it under itself below the cross.

  3. Pull tight.


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This loop knot is popular among climbers and sailors. It’s a secure knot that will not slip or loosen. In a rescue, a bowline can be tied around a person’s waist so he can be hoisted to safety.

The bowline is often taught using the story of the rabbit and the hunter.

  1. Form the rabbit’s hole by making a loop in the rope. Take the leading line (the rabbit) up through the hole.

  2. The “rabbit” sees a hunter, runs around the tree (the standing line of the rope)

  3. It goes back into the hole. Pull both ends of the rope to finish the knot.

Prusik Knot

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This knot is used by climbers to ascend a rope and by rescuers to raise and lower people and equipment. The climbing rope should be thicker than the accessory cord (usually 5 to 7 millimeters).

  1. Tie a grapevine knot to make a secure loop.

  2. Use a girth hitch (also known as the cow, lanyard, lark’s foot, lark’s head, and strap hitch) to

  3. secure the cord with the grapevine knot around another rope.

Chain Sennit (AKA Daisy Chain, Monkey Braid)

enter image description here To shorten a long line of rope, such as a painter attached to the bow of a canoe, use the deceptively simple chain sennit. When you need the full length of line, a quick tug frees the entire rope without any kinks or knots.

  1. Make an overhand slip knot.

  2. Pull the loose end through to make another slip knot.

  3. Repeat as many times as necessary and pull tight.

This entry was posted in Camping, Camping Advice and Tips, Outdoors and tagged Boy Scouts of America, Knots, Scouting. Bookmark the permalink.


Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 876


square knot is the same as a reef knot (outside the us) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reef_knot when scouts are learning can be confused with a granny knot http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granny_knot

Mapperz 2014-09-02T14:57:44.383


There are three knots that I find cover most of my needs:

The trucker's hitch can be cinched very tight and it's easy to add or remove tension. It's useful for tying down loads (on boats or roof racks), applying variable tension (e.g., for tarps or hammocks), and winching. It can be undone with a quick pull.

The bowline is perfect for anchoring the end of a rope to a fixed object. It doesn't tighten when pressure is applied, and it's easy to undo. It's a good one for hammocks, tarps, tow lines, and tying up boats.

The square knot is for tying the ends of two shorter ropes to one another to make a longer rope.


Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 159

-1: The square knot is unsafe for use as a bend (to make two ropes act like a longer one), especially if the rope sizes are different. It can easily capsize in to a cow hitch, and come loose. It can easily jam when you want to untie it.Jay Bazuzi 2012-01-25T00:25:13.893

@JayBazuzi are you sure your not talking about the Granny knot, which is the WRONG way to tie a square knot. the square knot is nice if you give it enough tail.mjrider 2012-01-25T00:46:20.107

The square knot is good as a binding knot, for "brown paper packages tied up with string", securing a furled sail, or double slipped in shoelaces. However, it's a poor choice as a bend. Consider http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_knot#Misuse_as_a_bend

Jay Bazuzi 2012-01-25T00:55:58.307

2The square knot is easy to learn, easy to tie, and widely known, but not very important. If the bowline and square knot traded places in our culture, we'd be better off.Jay Bazuzi 2012-01-25T00:56:45.170

@JayBazuzi I kinda agree, except when you use a bowline to join two pieces of rope (like a square knot is used) it's called a sheep's bend (turn the sheep's bend over after tying and tell me it's not a bowline).MaskedPlant 2012-05-25T16:10:47.000

@MaskedPlant, I believe you are referring to a sheeT bend.

Doresoom 2016-03-03T17:40:48.910


When considering the knots, there are several characteristics you would like to take into account:

  • is it useful, that is, it's better to know only a few reliable knots well, than a lot of fancy ones poorly;
  • is it secure, do not use insecure knots, you will only hurt someone;
  • is it easy to tie, for example can you make it fast in the dark (i.e. with feel only), are there any similar versions which are dangerous (e.g. reef knot vs. granny knot);
  • is it easy to untie, e.g. does it jam;
  • does it have good mechanics, knots have different mechanics, some work well under load, other work well if the force is applied in some particular direction, etc.; for example, it's not good if the rope is bent too much, another example could be the overhand loop which is terribly bad as a loop-in-the-middle knot (applies too much stress).

The bowline knot. (Animation: basic way.)

  • Simple.
  • Fast.
  • Secure.
  • Useful.

However, I strongly recommend learning an alternate way of tying it:

fast bowline tying method

It might look complicated at first, but with a real rope (instead of pictures) it's actually simpler than the standard way. The only thing to watch for, is to ensure that the knot transforms, that is, the slip-knot part does slip, in the process pulling the free end inside (it's important because the knot is not secure before).

The figure eight knot. (Animation.)

  • It's one of the basic knots.
  • It's easy to modify and accomodate to other needs, e.g. see figure-eight loop.
  • It's frequently a better choice than just the overhand knot.

Reef knot and the surgeon's verion. (Animation.)

  • It's simple and well-known (your colleague might use it).
  • It is crucial to know that the second overhand should be tied with different orientation, otherwise it results in the insecure granny knot.
  • The surgeon's version adds additional security (not exactly, but it's close enough interpretation).

Alpine butterfly and the butterfly bend. (Animation: loop and bend.)

  • It's a very useful loop-in-the-middle knot.
  • Other knots of similar function are complicated (the simple ones are insecure or have bad mechanics).
  • The butterfly bend is the same knot and a quite secure bend.

Sheet bend and double sheet bend. (Animation: single.)

  • Simple and secure.
  • Still ok if tied incorrectly (i.e. the left-hand sheet bend is much better than granny knot).
  • You can add a second loop (i.e. double sheet bend) for additional strength.
  • It works great even if the ropes are of different diameter (the simplest knot with this property).
  • Doesn't jam that much.

Clove hitch and ABOK #1674 (it's a version of Miller's knot, sometimes called bag knot). (Animation: clove hitch.)

  • Clove hitch is easy to remember because of its symmetry (you can immediately tell if something is wrong).
  • Clove hitch is a base for many other knots, e.g. see the water bowline.
  • It is useful by itself, e.g. see the rolling hitch.
  • The #1674 is my personal favorite for attaching a rope to an object: it's almost a clove hitch, secure and doesn't jam.
  • In fact, any of the Miller's knots, constrictor knot, transom knot would do, so whatever you tie should be ok.

I hope this helps :-)


Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 151


The figure of 8 knot can be used instead of the bowline. It has a somewhat higher breaking strength. It is also very easy to untie even after being loaded.

You might want to consider the alpine butterfly, it can be used whenever you need a standing loop on a rope. It is also considered climbing safe.


Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 159

2Actually, one of the reasons usually given to prefer a Bowline Knot to a Figure of Eight is that the Figure of Eight can be very difficult to undo after a heavy loading, whereas a Bowline can usually always be undone.Paul Lydon 2014-04-01T06:23:54.200

Never had a problem undoing a Figure of Eight even after shock loading it. F8 is better on climbing ropes while the bowline is suited to braided ropes.papirtiger 2014-04-02T12:09:00.990


Fair enough. However, I was told this by a qualified Mountain Guide and it appears that the British Mountaineering Council agree: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/Download.aspx?id=514 where is is said about a Figure of Eight "Disadvantages Few, but it is not so easy to adjust as the bowline. Can be difficult to untie after loading."

Paul Lydon 2014-04-02T16:44:11.417


The knots I use the most while camping is the Taught-line hitch, Siberian hitch, Trucker's Hitch, Prusik Knot, Figure 8 loop, and the slip knot. In fact these are the only knots I ever use, besides tying my shoes.

A great easy way to rig up a ridge line between two trees is to use the Siberian hitch and Trucker's hitch. The Siberian hitch allows for a quick anchoring of one end of the rope to a tree. And then a Trucker's hitch on the other end allows for you to pull the rope nice and tight. Both knots have a slip-knot release, so take down is easy!


Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 166


Others have covered the basic knots here already. Rather than post more, I want to point out that you should know one or more knots for each basic use:

  • Tying two pieces of line together requires a "bend". Three common bends are square (reef) knot, sheet bend, and fisherman's bend. Each has some advantages over the others, and these are important to understand, but they all have the same effect (specifically, joining two lines...).
  • A "hitch" is used to fasten a line to a stationary object (be it a limb or another line). Three common hitches include a round turn with two half hitches, a tautline hitch, and a timber hitch. Again, each hitch has advantages over the others, but I would know AT LEAST one of these.
    Some hitches such as a prussik or icicle hitch have a "slip and grip" property which can be very useful when done correctly.
  • Finally, some knots create a "bight" (loop) in the line. Most of these create a bight at the end (bowline, fisherman's loop), but some (alpine butterfly or directional figure eight) can be used to place a loop in the middle of the line.

As you continue to learn knots, be sure to understand what makes them different from others of the same type. Some knots are more suitable for natural fiber cord rather than synthetic cord, some jam easily where others are easier to untie, and some have unique properties (adjustable, decorative, strength, etc).

Once you've learned the basics, you will begin to develop preferences which work for you. Perhaps more important, you will begin to recognize how each knot should be applied correctly or used in more complex applications with other knots.

If you want a great way to test your basic outdoor knot skills, attempt to hang a tarp using nothing but cord. Personally, I find that I use half hitches (sometimes slipped), alpine butterflies, trucker's hitch, and tautline hitches among others.

Jeff W

Posted 2012-01-24T21:24:38.047

Reputation: 1 328