The basic knots, uses, and methods of tying them that you should know for your survival are discussed below.  For additional types of knots, such as hitches and lashings, use the links below.

Additional types of knots

Bend– joins two ropes together.
Hitch – ties rope to a post, stake etc. A hitch holds because of the friction set up between two surfaces of the rope pressed together.
Stopper – usually on the end of a rope to prevent it being pulled through an opening.
Loop – forms a single or multiple loop.
Lashing –binds objects together with multiple turns.
Whipping – ties off and seals end of rope.

Overhand knot

Overhand knot

This is the simple knot that most people tie everyday as the first half of tying their shoes. It can also be used to temporarily whip the end of a rope (to stop the rope end from unraveling). This knot should replace the half-hitch as a finishing knot for other knots. This knot alone will reduce the strength of a straight rope by 55 percent.

Square knot

Square knot sequence

A good, simple knot for general purpose use. This knot is basically two overhand knots that are reversed, as in Right over Left, Left over Right. It is used to tie the ends of two ropes of equal diameter together (just like your shoe laces) and must be secured with an overhand on both ends. It is easy to inspect, as it forms two loops and is easy to untie after being loaded.

Sheep shank knot

Sheep shank knot

The Sheepshank knot is a method of shortening a rope.  It may also be used to take the load off of a weak spot in the rope. It is a temporary knot unless the eyes are fastened to the standing part of the rope on both ends.

Step 1: Gather in as much rope as you need.

First gather as much rope as you need

Step 2: Slip a Half Hitch over both ends of the loop.

Slip a Half Hitch over both ends of the loop

Step 3: Tighten.

Tighten the knot


To unloosen the sheepshank knot, simply pull the middles of the rope.


Double sheet bend knot

If the rope is not going to be subjected to continuous stress (pull), a good hitch is a Sheet Bend.  This knot is also used to tie together the ends of two ropes of equal or unequal diameter. It will also join wet rope and not slip or draw tight under load. It can be used to tie the ends of several ropes to the end of one rope. When a single rope is tied to multiple ropes, the bight is formed with the multiple of ropes.



Double Sheet Bend knot


In the diagram below we have two ropes of equal size but the principle is the same.

  1. From behind, come through the bight and bend back behind it.
  2. Pull the end back over the bight and through the first run.
  3. Go back behind again and repeat.


How to make a Double Sheet Bend knot


Carrick Bend knot

An excellent way to join the ends of two ropes, especially if the ropes are large.  This knot forms a flat knot that will not impede the progress of the ropes when they move.

Step 1: Form a basic loop.

Step 2: Pass the end of the other rope under this loop.  Take the end over the first rope’s standing part, under its loose end, and over one side of the bight, under the second rope’s own part, and over the other side of the bight.

Carrick Bend knot step 2

Step 3: When tightened, the ends come out on opposite sides of the knot.

Carrick Bend knot step 3


Prusik knot

Prusik knot construction

Prusik end of line and center of line knot

How to tie a Prusik knot

This knot ties a short rope around a longer rope (for example, a sling rope around a climbing rope) in such a manner that the short rope will slide on the climbing rope if no tension is applied, and will hold if tension is applied on the short rope. This knot can be tied with an end of rope or bight of rope. When tied with an end of rope, the knot is finished off with a bowline. The nonslip nature of the knot on another rope allows climbing of ropes with foot holds. It can also be used to anchor ropes or the end of a traction splint on a branch or ski pole.

Prusik end of line knot with Bowline for safety

Bowline and bowline finished with an overhand knot

Bowline knot and Bowline knot with Overhand knot

Around-the-body bowline was the basic knot used for rescue for many years as it provided a loop, which could be placed around the body, that would not slip nor tighten up under strain. It has been replaced by the figure 8 in most applications as the figure 8 does not weaken the rope as much.

Step 1: Place the loose end from right to left across the standing part (the part where the strain will be coming) leaving a loop of the size you need.

Step 2: Grip the end and standing part together with the right hand and twist downwards to the left (clockwise) for half a turn.  This will bring the end poking up through a small loop.

Bowline knot construction Step 2

Step 3: Pass the end behind the standing part and down through the loop again.  Tighten.


Bowline knot construction Step 3


Running Bowline (Noose)

A Running Bowline (noose) knot

A Running Bowline produces a sliding loop (noose).


French Bowline

French Bowline knot

The French Bowline is useful for hoisting a person because it provides you two loops – one for the armpit and another for a thigh.  It starts the same as a simple Bowline but instead of passing the end behind the standing part (the part where the strain will be coming), you take it right round in front of it to make a second large loop.  Pass the end up through the small loop again, round the standing part, and back through “the hole” as you would for a simple Bowline.


Figure 8 and retraceable figure 8

Figure 8 knot

This knot is the main rescue knot in use today. It has the advantage of being stronger than the bowline and is easier to tie and check. Its one disadvantage is that when wet, it may be more difficult to untie than the bowline after being stressed. The figure 8 (or figure-of-eight) can be used as an anchor knot on fixed ropes. It can also be used to prevent the end of a rope from slipping through a fastening or loop in another rope when a knot larger than an overhand knot is needed.


Jug Knot

A Jug Knot is useful for creating a “handle” with which to carry or hang a water jug or other container.  It provides a secure holding and a loop to hang the bottle from.

The Bight of a rope

Step 1:

Jug Knot Step 1

Step 2:

Jug Knot Step 2

Step 3:

Jug Knot Step 3

Step 4:

Jug Knot Step 4

Step 5:

Jug Knot Step 5

Step 6:


Jug Knot Step 6

Step 7:

Jug Knot Step 7

Step 8:

Jug Knot - last step, pull tight

Step 9:


Monkey’s Fist knot

A Monkey’s Fist is a heavy knot which can be used to add weight to the end of a rope to be thrown or to make a handle, grip, or stop in the rope.  It can also be used to enclose a weighted object, such as a rock, and is vital in construction of a bola weapon.

Step 1: Wrap 3  or 4 winds of rope around your hand with the middle fingers slightly spread apart.

Begin monkey fist know by winding rope around hand

Step 2: Wrap the end of the line behind and around the 3 windings.  Hold the end of the line with your middle fingers clinched shut.

Wrap end of line behind windings

Step 3: Wrap another winding behind and around the 3 windings taking care to not overlap the first winding.  Then run the rope through the middle of the loop.Wrap another wind behind and around the 3 windings

Step 4: Make 3 windings around the first set of windings taking care not to overlap the rope.

Make 3 widings around the first set

Step 5: Pull tight to complete the knot (you may have to work the knot tight).Pull tight to complete the monkey fist knot


Diagram illustrating monkey fist knot steps


Masthead Knot

Placed on the top of a pole or mast this knot forms loops for guy lines to support the pole.

Masthead Knot - make three loops

Masthead Knot - work loops out


Fisherman’s Knot

The Fisherman’s knot is used to tie two ropes of equal thickness together. It is used by fishermen to join fishing line, and is very effective with small diameter strings and twines.

Step 1: Tie and overhand knot around the second line.  Do not tighten the knot yet.  Take the second rope and tie an overhand knot around the first line.Fisherman's Knot - tie overhand knots

Step 2: Tighten knot.Fisherman's Knot - tighten knots


Cat’s Paw

Cat's Paw knot

Secures a line to a hook for lifting loads.

Step 1: Make a temporary loop in the rope for hooking onto and turn the loop upwards.

Cat's Paw knot - make temporary loop

Step 2: Twist the two loops away from each other to form two small eye holes.  Insert a hook or other object into and through the small loops.

Cat's Paw knot - twist both loops away from each other


Honda Knot

Honda knot

Forms a running loop or lasso.


Rope Tackle

Rope Tackle

The rope tackle is used to tighten lines or lift loads. It is a simple, effective alternative to pulleys. The toggle or stick shown in the drawing prevents the loop from jamming.


Butterfly Knot

Butterfly Knot

Forms a fixed loop  without access to the ends of the rope.


Bowline on a Bight

Bowline on a Bight

Forms two fixed loops and can be tied without access to the ends of the rope.


Double Overhand Knot

A sound knot for tying two thin lines together.

Double Overhand Knot

Step 1: Make and overhand knot on the end of one of the lines.

Step 2: Pass the other line through the knot and make an overhand knot with it around the standing part of the first line.