Thursday, June 11, 2009


These are some of the basic and essential knots all pioneers, woodsmen and adventurers should know.

The square knot is used to tie the ends of two ropes of equal diameter. It is a joining knot.

How to tie the Square Knot:
A) Holding one working end in each hand, place the working end in the right hand over the one in the left hand.
B) Pull it under and back over the top of the rope in the left hand.
C) Place the working end in the left hand over the one in the right hand and repeat STEP 2.
D) Dress the knot down and secure it with an overhand knot on each side of the square knot.


This general-purpose knot can be used as a “stopping knot”, or as a step in tying more complex knots.

The Clove Hitch is an anchor knot that can be used in the middle of the rope as well as at the end. It can be used as either an anchor or middle of the rope knot, depending on how it is tied.

How to tie a Clove Hitch at the End of the Rope:
(Note: Assume that the anchor is horizontal.)
A) Place the working end of the rope over the top of the anchor. Hold the standing part in the left hand. With the right hand, reach under the horizontal anchor, grasp the working end, and bring it inward.
B) Place the working end of the rope over the standing part (to form a loop). Hold the loop in the left hand. Place the working end over the anchor to the left of the loop.
C) With the right hand, reach down to the left hand side of the loop under the anchor. Grasp the working end of the rope. Bring the working end up and outward.
D) Dress down the knot.

How to tie a Clove Hitch in the Middle of the Rope:
A) Hold rope in both hands, palms down with hands together.
B) Form a loop away from and back toward the right.
C) With the right hand, form a loop inward and back to the left hand.
D) Place the left loop on top of the right loop. Place both loops over the anchor and pull both ends of the rope in opposite directions. The knot is tied.

The Timber Hitch is even better than the Clove hitch. It is easily made by passing the end of a rope around the spar or log, round the standing part of the rope and then twist it three or more times around, under and over itself.

How to tie a Timber Hitch:
A) Place the working end of a rope around a spar (c).
B) Then route the working end (a) several times around standing part (b), against the lay of the rope.

The Sheet Bend Knot is used for tying two ropes of different diameters. It is structurally related to the Bowline.

How to tie the Sheet Bend:
A) Pass the end of one rope through the bight of another.
B) Go around both parts of the other and under its own standing parts.
A double sheet bend may be employed when a Sheet Bend may not have enough friction to hold well.

The Double Sheet Bend, like the Sheet Bend, is used to fasten a small line to a larger one. In the illustration the light colored line would be the smaller and the
darker one would be the larger.

This knot is used to tie the end of a rope to an anchor, and it must have constant tension. It is an anchor knot.

How to tie the Round-Turn-and-Two-Half-Hitches:
A) Route the rope around the anchor from right to left and wrap down (must have two wraps in the rear of the anchor, and one in the front). Run the loop around the object to provide 360-degree contact, distributing the load over the anchor.
B) Bring the working end of the rope left to right and over the standing part, forming a half hitch (first half hitch).
C) Repeat STEP 2 (last half hitch has a 4 inch pigtail).
D) Dress the knot down.

Since it will only slide one way, the Taut-line hitch is often used to adjust tension on tent lines. The taut-line hitch will hold firmly under tension.

How to tie a Taut-Line Hitch:
Place rope end through or around whatever it is you are fastening (in the illustration it is an eye on a corner of a tent or tarp) make a round turn twice around the standing part below it, then bring rope up across the standing part and a make a half-hitch around it.


The bowline is one of the most important and versatile of knots. It is be used to tie a single fixed loop in the end or the middle of a rope. It is an anchor knot, when used to tie the end of a rope around an anchor. There are several variants of the bowline.

How to tie the Bowline:
A) Facing the anchor, bring the working end of the rope around the anchor, from right to left.
B) Form an overhand loop on the right hand side of the standing part of the rope, toward the anchor.
C) Reach through the loop and pull up a bight.
D) Draw the working end of the rope from the left hand side through the bight, and bring it back onto itself. Now dress the knot down.
E) Form an overhand knot with the tail from the bight.


The Bowline-on-a-Bight is one of the many variants of the Bowline. It is used to form two fixed loops in the middle of a rope. It is a middle rope knot.

How to tie the Bowline-on-a-Bight:
A) Form a bight in the rope about twice as long as the finished loops will be.
B) Tie an overhand knot on a bight.
C) Hold the overhand knot in the left hand so that the bight is running down and outward.
D) Grasp the bight with the right hand; fold it back over the overhand knot so that the overhand knot goes through the bight.
E) From the end (apex) of the bight, follow the bight back to where it forms the cross in the overhand knot. Grasp the two ropes that run down and outward and pull up, forming two loops.
F) Pull the two ropes out of the overhand knot and dress the knot down.
G) A final dress is required: grasp the ends of the two fixed loops and pull, spreading them apart to ensure the loops do not slip.

The girth hitch is used to attach a runner to an anchor or piece of equipment. It is a special-purpose knot, often used in mountaineering for placing a snaplink (D-ring or carabiner) in mid line, or tying one rope 90 degrees off a heavier line.

How to tie the Girth Hitch:
A) Form a bight.
B) Bring the runner back through the bight.
C) Cinch the knot tightly.


The principle of fastening by twisted rope is utilized in the “Cat’s Paw”. It can be used as an alternative to the Girth Hitch, or for hoisting with a hook.

How to tie the Cat's Paw:
A) Pass the bight of your rope over the end and standing part.
B) With a bight in each hand, take three twists from you.
C) Then bring the two bights side by side and fasten the snaplink or hook.

The Prusik is used to put a moveable rope on a fixed rope such as a Prusik ascent or a tightening system. This knot can be tied as a middle or end of the rope Prusik. It is a specialty knot of climbers.

How to tie the Middle-of-the-Rope Prusik:
The middle-of-the-rope Prusik can be tied with a short rope to a long rope as follows:
A) Double the short rope, forming a bight, with the working ends even. Lay it over the long rope so that the closed end of the bight is 12 inches below the long rope and the remaining part of the rope (working ends) is the closest to the climber; spread the working end apart.
B) Reach down through the 12-inch bight. Pull up both of the working ends and lay them over the long rope. Repeat this process making sure that the working ends pass in the middle of the first two wraps. Now there are four wraps and a locking bar working across them on the long rope.
C) Dress the wraps and locking bar down to ensure they are tight and not twisted. Tying an overhand knot with both ropes will prevent the knot from slipping during periods of variable tension.
How to tie the End-of-the-Rope Prusik:
A) Using an arm’s length of rope, and place it over the long rope.
B) Form a complete round turn in the rope.
C) Cross over the standing part of the short rope with the working end of the short rope.
D) Lay the working end under the long rope.
E) Form a complete round turn in the rope, working back toward the middle of the knot.
F) There are four wraps and a locking bar running across them on the long rope. Dress the wraps and locking bar down. Ensure they are tight, parallel, and not twisted.
G) Finish the knot with a bowline to ensure that the Prusik knot will not slip out during periods of varying tension.

My references for this post are US Army Field Manual 3-97-61 MILITARY MOUNTAINEERING and The Boy Scout Handbook. -S.L.

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