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8 Basic Knots and Their Uses

In this article you will learn 8 basic knots and their uses.

You will also learn about the different types of knots, and how to choose the right one for the job.

You can use these 8 basic knots in scouting, camping, climbing, general maintenance, first aid, etc.

I admit there are over 8 different knots and their uses in this article. But in trying to cover the most useful knots and uses I branched out. All the knots stem from 8 basic knots and their uses. You’ll see what I mean.

Basic Knot Tying Terminology

First, I will explain the basic knot tying terminology in this post. It will make learning and tying the knots easier.

Bight

Any bend in-between the ends of the rope which does not cross over itself.

Bight, Knot Tying Terms, Survival Fitness Plan
Bight

Crossing Point

The point where the rope crosses over itself.

Crossing Point, Knot Tying Terms, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Crossing Point

Load

Refers to the weight of the object you tie onto, e.g., if you are pulling a log then the log is the load.

Loop

Like a bight but the ends cross over creating a closed circle.

An overhand loop is when the running end lies over the top of the standing part. An underhand loop is opposite (the standing part lies on top of the running end).

Loop, Knot Tying Terms, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Loop

Rope

A generic term referring to cord, rope, string, twine, or whatever material which is being used to tie a knot.

Running End

The part of the rope used to tie the knot. Also known as the working end.

Standing End

The part of the rope other than the running end.

Shock Load

Shock load occurs when there is a sudden increase in load. In such a case the load will be much more than the actual weight of the object. An example of this is when a climber falls and his/her weight suddenly loads the rope.

Turn

A single wrap of the rope around an object. A round turn (pictured) is where the rope encircles the object.

Turn, Knot Tying Terms, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Round turn

The Different Types of Knots

Although you can use any knot any way you wish, most of them are best for specific tasks. Here they are in 5 broad categories.

Stopper Knots

Stopper knots have a few uses. They can add weight to a rope, stop the rope from slipping through a hole, stop a cut rope from fraying, etc. You can also use them as a backup knot against knot failure, i.e., tied around the standing end.

The Different Types of Knots, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Stopper Knot
Figure 8

Loops

Make loops by tying the rope to itself to create an enclosed circle. Their main use is as attachment points, e.g., as holds to climb up or to clip a carabineer onto it.

The Different Types of Knots, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Loop Knot
Figure 8 Follow Through

Hitches

Hitches are useful for securing the rope to an object, e.g., a boat to the jetty or around a log you wish to drag.

The Different Types of Knots, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Hitches
Surgeons Knot

Bends

Use bend knots to join two or more lengths of rope together. This can be useful to repair broken rope or for creating a longer length from two shorter ones.

The Different Types of Knots, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Bend Knot
Figure 8 Bend

Lashing

Use lashing to join objects together. It is useful for construction.

The Different Types of Knots, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Lashing
A Frame Lashing

How to Choose the Right Knot for the Job

Although all knots are useful, there will always be one that is best for the job you are doing. To decide which knot to use you must consider the characteristics of each knot. Gaining in one characteristic will mean compromising on another. You must find the knot with the best balance of these characteristics for the job you need it for.

Your choice of knot must be one that will fulfill the task you need it for. For instance, a loop knot will not be as effective for binding 2 objects together as a lashing would.

Security

Security of a knot is about its ability to stay tied and tight, i.e., not come undone on its own.

Pressure, violent movement, vibration, and other things can compromise a knot’s security.

Choose the most secure knot you can. Remember that increase in one characteristic will decrease others. , e.g., a very secure knot may become very hard to untie. This will be a problem if you need it to be “quick-release”.

Strength

Every knot will weaken the integrity of the rope, some more than others. The strength of the knot refers to how much the knot weakens the rope.

This is important when the rope needs to hold weight and/or take shock load. This characteristic becomes important when doing things such as climbing and rescue.

Ease of Tying

When you have to tie something fast or it is a repetitive job, then ease of tying becomes more important.

Ease of Untying

Sometimes you may want the knot to be easy to untie. For example, if you want to release the knot fast without cutting it.

At other times you may want the knot to be more difficult to untie. For example, if you don’t want an animal to release itself, or to stop other people from being able to untie it.

Another factor is how easy the knot will be to untie after it has done its job. Some knots are easy to untie even after baring tension or swelling underwater, or both.

8 Basic Knots and Their Uses

1. How to Tie an Overhand Knot

This is the simplest of knots and is the basis of many other knots. Overhand knots are difficult to untie once tightened.

Make an underhand loop by taking the running end of the rope and passing it under the standing end.

Overhand1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Make an underhand loop.

Pass the running end through the loop from the front to the back.

OverhandKnot2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pass the running end back through the loop.

Pull both ends to tighten it.

You can make the overhand knot bulkier by passing the running end through the loop more times. Push the first turn into the middle of the knot.

OverhandKnot3, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Do additional turns to make it more secure.

Doing it twice makes a double overhand and doing it three or more times creates a blood knot.

OverhandKnot4, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Three turns makes a blood knot.

Overhand Loop

You can use the overhand knot can to create a loop. It works well with fishing line but can be hard to untie.
Double up the rope to make a bight and then tie an overhand knot in the bight.

Overhand Loop 1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Overhand Loop

2. How to Tie a Clove Hitch

Clove hitches are a useful base for many other knots (such as lashing a tripod) and are good in their own right for binding.

There are 2 sets of clove hitch knot instructions.

This first method is good for when the rope is not under strain as you are tying it and you can slip it over your object.

Make two loops in the rope which face opposite directions as pictured below.

Clove1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Make two opposite loops.

Put the right loop over the left one.

Clove2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Place the right loop over the left one.

Put both loops over the object and pull the running end and the standing end apart to tighten the knot.

Clove3, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tighten the loops over the object.

Clove Hitch Method 2

Here’s an alternative method for how to tie a clove hitch knot step by step. Follow the clove hitch diagrams if you have troubles.

Wrap the running end of the rope around the object you wish to tie onto. The running end crosses over the standing end.

Clove5, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Wrap the rope around the object.

Wrap the running end around a second time and then pass it underneath itself.

Clove6, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pass it underneath itself and tighten the knot.

Pull it tight as before.

3. How to do a Reef Knot

A reef knot (square knot) is a good binding knot that’s easy to tie and untie.

Reef knot uses does NOT include joining 2 ropes together. There are far better joining-knots available.

To tie a reef knot put the rope around the object you want to bind.

Take the left end and pass it over the right from the bottom and then tuck it under the right end.

Reef1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Left over right and under.

Now take this new right end and cross it over the left end and then tuck it under.

Pull the left strands and the right strands apart to tighten the knot.

Reef2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Right over left and under.

An easy way to remember how to make a reef knot is with the rhyme “left over right and under, right over left and under.”

How to Tie a Surgeons Square Knot

A more secure version of tying a reef knot is the surgeons knot.

To tie a surgeons knot, make an extra turn when tying the “left over right” part of a reef knot. This keeps the knot in place while you tie the rest of the knot.

Surgeons1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Make extra turns to make it stronger.

You could also make an extra turn in the “right over left” part to make it even more secure.

Surgeons2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Surgeons Square Knot

4. Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

This knot is fast to tie and very secure. It is also easy to untie even when placed under heavy strain.

To create the round turn, loop the running end of the rope around your object so the rope envelops it.

RoundTurn1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Loop the rope around the object.

Tie a half hitch by bringing the running end behind the standing end. Make a turn around the standing end. Next, thread it through the gap you made between the running and standing ends.

Roundturn2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a half hitch.

Create a second half hitch, in the same way, ensuring it is underneath the first half hitch. Pull both ends to tighten.

RoundTurn3, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a second half hitch.

In learning to tie a round turn and two half hitches you also learn how to tie the half hitch knot.

Adding the round turn makes it more secure, but if you don’t have enough rope, then tying half hitches may suffice.

5. Tying a Bowline on a Bight

A bowline is a fixed loop that will neither tighten nor slip under strain.

The main bowline knot uses are to tie around things you want to secure/tether, e.g., a raft or a person.

To learn how to tie a bowline knot around something, hold the rope in your right hand with the standing end at the rear.

Make an overhand loop so that the loop faces to the left.

Bowline1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Make an overhand loop.

Pass the running end up through the loop you made and then around the back of standing end.

Bowline2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Bring the rope through the loop and around the back.

The running end then goes over the crossing point and back through the original loop.

Pull the standing end and the doubled-up running end in opposite directions. This will tighten it.

Bowline3, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pull the ends to tighten the knot.

You can finish the bowline off with a stopper knot (e.g., overhand) tied to the side of the loop.

Bowline4, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a stopper knot to finish it.

Once you can tie the bowline practice doing it around things. It changes the orientation so you will need to practice it.

How to Tie a Bowline Around Your Waist

The self-rescue bowline is good for if you find yourself in a “man-overboard” situation. It is tying a bowline around your waist with only one hand.

Wrap the rope around your waist so that both the standing and running ends are to your front. Your waist is between them. In this demonstration, the running end is on your right.

Hold the running end in your right hand allowing at least 15cm of rope beyond your hand.

Without letting go of the running end bring it over the standing part to make a crossing point.

SelfRescueBowline1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Loop the rope around yourself.

Bring it up through the gap created between your body and the crossing point. This will wrap the rope around your hand.

SelfRescueBowline2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Bring the end up through the gap.

Using your fingers, but without letting go of the rope, pass the running end under the standing part. Do it after the first crossing point. This creates a second crossing point.

SelfRescueBowline3, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pass the running end under the standing part.

Maneuver the running end with your fingers so it feeds between the two crossing points. It feeds from the top down. It should end with you holding the running end.

SelfRescueBowline4, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Feed the running end between the two crossing points.

Next, pull your hand out from the loop on your wrist bringing the running end with you. Pull the knot tight.

SelfRescueBowline5, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tighten the knot.

6. The Alpine Butterfly Loop

The alpine butterfly loop (lineman’s loop) is a useful knot for creating a fixed loop in the middle of a rope. It is secure, can bear weight in several directions, and is easy to untie even after a heavy load.

Amongst other things, the butterfly loop is good to shorten a rope or to exclude a damaged section. Doing so is better than cutting a rope since a re-joined rope has less strength.

Get a bight of the rope and twist it two times in the same direction. You will have two crossing points and thus two loops.

Butterfly Loop 1 , 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Create two loops.

For ease of explanation, the loop furthest away from the ends of the rope will be loop one. The loop between the ends of the rope and loop one will be loop two.

Grab the tip of the bight of loop one and bring it beyond the crossing point of loop two.

Butterfly Loop 2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Bring the bottom loop up on top of the top one.

Next, bring the tip of loop one up through loop two.

Alpine Butterfly Loop3, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Bring the tip of the top loop down through the other one.

Pull all ends to tighten.

Alpine Butterfly 4, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pull the ends to tighten it.

7. Figure 8 Bend Knot

The figure 8 bend is a good way to join 2 ropes together. It is also good for making a prusik loop of rope which you can use for ascending.

It is best done with ropes of equal width.

First you need to learn how to tie a figure 8 stopper knot

How To Tie a Figure 8 Knot

A figure of 8 knot can do all the same things as the overhand knot but is much easier to untie.

Here’s how to tie a figure 8 knot step by step.

Make an upward facing overhand loop and then make the running end pass back under the standing end.

Figure 8 1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Make the rope into the shape of an 8.

Pass the running end back through the first loop you made. Pull both ends away from each other to tighten the knot.

Figure 8 2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pass the end through the top loop.

Tying the Figure 8 Bend Knot

Tie a loose figure 8 at the end of one rope.

With the other rope follow the path of the original figure 8.

Fig8Bend1, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a figure 8 in one rope, and follow it with the second one.

Ensure that there is no crossover in the rope and that the ends face in an opposite direction.

Pull on all ends to tighten.

Fig8Bend2, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pull the ends to tighten it.

How to Tie a Slip Knot

To tie a figure 8 slip knot, put the running end back through the first loop before tightening the knot.

To release the knot pull the running end.

You can also do this with the overhand knot.

Figure 8 Slip Knot, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
A slip knot is good for things you need to untie quickly.

How to Tie a Figure 8 Loop Knot

Like the overhand knot, you can turn the figure 8 into a fixed loop by making the figure 8 on a bight.

Fig8Loop, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a figure eight on the bight.

To tighten it pull on each loose end, i.e., on the loop and the running/standing ends.

Work the knot so it is neat with no crossover on the rope. This will keep the knot strong and easier to untie.

8. How to Lash

Lashes are useful basic knots for scouts or any outdoor enthusiast. Use them to join objects together.

Described here are four types of lashing. For all, you will need quite a long running-end.

The Square Lashing Knot

Use square lashing to hold poles together at a 90° angle.

Place two poles together in a cross formation so that the vertical one is on top of the horizontal one.

On the vertical pole, below the horizontal one, tie a clove hitch.

Pass the running end under the horizontal pole, on the right side of the vertical pole. Next, pass it over the vertical one, on the upper side of the horizontal pole.

Square1 - How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a clove hitch on one of the sticks.

Pass the running end under the horizontal pole on the left side. Pull it tight so that the clove hitch slips to the right side of the vertical pole.

Continue to pass the rope over the verticals and then under the horizontals. This is in an anti-clockwise fashion. Pull each pass tight as you go. Make three full rotations.

Square2 - How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Make over and under turns around the crossing points.

The long end of the rope should finish having come underneath the right side of the horizontal pole. Bring it back to the front of the horizontal pole and then behind the lower end of the vertical pole. This is frapping. Pull it tight.

Square3, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Use frapping to secure the poles together.

Go over the left side of the horizontal and then under the top side of the vertical and pull it tight. This is one frapping rotation. Do three frapping rotations and then tie a clove hitch on the lower side of the vertical pole.

When doing the clove hitch, pull the first half hitch tight before doing the second.

Square4, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Do a clove hitch to finish.

Trim any excess away and/or tuck it under the lashing.

The Diagonal Lashing Knot

Use diagonal lashing when the poles do not cross at right angles. It is also useful for when you need to pull the poles toward each-other for tying.

Cross two poles on top of each other. Tie a surgeons knot around them so that the running end is to the right.

Pass the running end back behind the poles so it is on the left side.

Diagonal1, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie two poles together with a surgeons knot.

Bring the running end over and under the poles. Pull it tight. Do this three times.

The running-end finishes on the left. Go over the bottom left pole and then under the cross so it comes over the top. Pull it tight.

Diagonal2, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Go over and under the poles.

Do three vertical turns pulling tight after each one. Your running end finishes running down.

Do some frapping turns by passing the rope under then over each pole in an anti-clockwise fashion. Keep it tight. Do three full rotations.

Diagonal3, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Do three frapping rotations.

Finish it with a clove hitch and trim if needed.

Diagonal4, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
End with a clove hitch.

How to Tie a Sheer Lashing

Follow these sheer lashing instructions to learn how to join two poles together side by side.

Sheer lashing has a few names:

  • Parallel lashing
  • Pole lashing
  • Round Lashing

Put two poles together side by side so they lay horizontal. Tie one clove hitch around both the poles to the left of where you intend to make the rest of the lashing.

Lay the short end between the two poles to the right of your clove hitch so you will lash over them.

Sheer1, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a clove hitch around both poles.

Wrap the running end around the two poles pulling it tight after each turn.

Do at least as many turns so that the lashing is the same length as the width of the two poles.

Sheer2, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Wrap the rope around both poles.

Do frapping turns by passing the rope between the two poles. Start at the right side and then come back up between them on the left. This should be hard to do since you pulled the lashing turns tight.

Do two frapping turns and finish it with a clove hitch on the end of one pole.

Sheer3, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Do two frapping turns and finish with a clove hitch.

Note: You can place wedges between the two poles instead of frapping.

You can make an A-Frame lashing by doing a loose sheer lashing.

Pull the legs apart to make the A-Frame.

A-Frame1, How to Lash, 8 Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pull the legs apart to make an A-frame.

How to Lash a Tripod

Lashing a tripod is sheer lashing three poles together and then pulling them into place.

Tie a clove hitch around one pole, not the middle one.

Tripod Lashing 1, Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Tie a clove hitch around one of the outside poles.

Wrap the rope around all three poles so they are stay parallel.

Weaving the rope around the poles also works.

Tripod Lashing 2, Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Wrap around all three poles.

Make frapping turns where the poles meet.

Tripod Lashing 3, Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Make frapping turns between the poles.

Finish with a clove hitch on the end pole.

Tripod Lashing 4, Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Finish with a clove hitch.

Cross the two outer poles to make a rope lashing tripod.

Tripod Lashing 5, Basic Knots and Their Uses, Survival Fitness Plan
Pull the poles apart into a tripod.

Tripod Lashing images credit: Lwan98 [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5 ], from Wikimedia Commons

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8 Basic Knots and Their Uses 1

Common Knots and Their Uses Conclusion

Now you know a bunch of scout knots and their uses. They are also useful knots for camping, climbing, and a range of other things.

Learning how to tie useful knots is a handy skill. And knowing the different kinds of knots and their uses will help you choose the right knot for the job.

Did you find these 8 kinds of knots and their uses useful? If so, please share it with your friends.




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5 thoughts on “8 Basic Knots and Their Uses”

  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing. I know it’s for construction in a normal sense, but if you learn the technique I am sure it’ll be useful for other situations if needed (like getting lost in the wilderness or stranded on an island by yourself…)

    Reply
  2. Hi! I used to be a scout and got my first badge in knots so lashing is somewhat familiar territory even though I didn’t know anything about it until this post. I do very few things that require anything more than a square knot these days. Outside of construction what other scenarios would lashing be good for? I camp during the warmer seasons and I would think it would be great for wilderness activities too

    Reply
    • I guess anytime you want to join two pole-like structures together – raft-building, shelters, traps, etc. Although all of these are construction, and all are great wilderness activities :).

      Reply

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