A good knot can save lives when you're dealing with a survival situation, performing first aid, and when working over heights or water. But, you have to know how to tie it properly. Whether you are camper, a determined mountaineer or a wilderness explorer, tying knots is a critical skill you must master.

Here are the top five survival knots you should learn:

  1. The Bowline

The bowline will hold thousands of pounds of pressure it may be the most dependable of all the survival knots you need to learn, the bowline creates a loop at the end of a rope that cannot shrink or expand. Form a loop on top of the long end of the line. Pass the working end of the line up through the loop and around behind the line. Then pass the working end down through the original loop, all while maintaining the shape of the second loop you create, which becomes your bowline loop.

how to tie a bowline knot

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You can tie the bowline around things or through them, and tie it around yourself (even one-handed). Being able to tie it with just one hand can be a boon when you need to tie a knot in an emergency. Because of the possibility of the knot becoming undone, creating a stopper knot beneath the bowline will increase its safety.

Use: Any time you need a solid loop in the end of a line that won’t move or close (think of times when you need to anchor a rope around something – you’re essentially creating a fixed loop with an object inside),rescuing someone from the water, making a carrying handle, tying an anchor to a post / door / furniture so you can lower yourself out of a burning or damaged building, or tying an anchor to a tree / rock / fence so you can lower yourself or others down a cliff, attaching a line to a tree as the beginning of a shelter or a clothesline, attaching a line quickly to a tarp to tie out stake lines, making a quick hand loop / lanyard for a water bottle, knife, or firestarter so you don’t lose them.

  1. The Double Sheet Bend

The sheet bend is one of the best choices to join dissimilar materials together. This knot is useful for joining together to lengths of rope with different thicknesses or diameters. To create a sheet bend, bend the thicker or more slippery rope into a “J” shape (like a fishhook). Then pass the other rope through the hook shape from behind, wrap it around the entire fishhook once and then tuck the smaller line between itself and the other rope. If the ropes are the same diameter and texture, the sheet bend actually resembles a square knot. To tie a sheet bend with fabric or a tarp, collect, squeeze, and shape the material into a “J” shape, and then run your rope through and around the “J.” The addition of an extra turn round the bight prevents slipping in the case of extra-smooth ropes. For maximum strength, the free ends should land up on the same side of the double sheet bend knot.

how to tie double sheet bend

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Use: Anytime you need to make longer lines by combining multiple smaller ones, making a guideline to cross a river, making a clothesline, putting shorter lines together to hang food high up in a tree for safety, when a line is too short to tie off for a shelter, tying up bundles and improvised packs and you need to add another piece. making an improvised rope or line using random materials (strips of fabric from sheets, electrical cords, cords from blinds, strips of a rug, shoelaces, etc.)

  1. Clove Hitch

The Clove Hitch is an easy knot to tie, and it secures a line to a tree or post quickly, but it does slip when used alone, without any other knots as a backup. You can make another turn for more security and safety.

To create a Clove Hitch on a tree, make a loop of rope around the tree. Then make another loop and pass the free end of the rope under the second loop before tightening. To tie this one over a post or stake, just create a loop in the free end of the rope and slide it over the post. Then make another loop the same as the first. Put the second loop over the post (just above the first loop) and tighten the hitch.

how to tie a clove hitch

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A clove hitch isn’t as strong as the figure eight or bowline knots, but it’s a good knot to use for anchoring. It will help you fasten things together with shelter because it stays tight and doesn’t usually slip or loosen.

  1. Prusik Knot

You will have to make the cord loop with a double fisherman’s knot or a triple fisherman’s knot before starting off with the tying procedure

Double Fisherman’s Knot:  Lay the ends of the two ropes so at least one foot is running parallel to each other. Coil one of the ropes around the other rope twice, then feed the end back through the coils you just made. Pull this knot tight. The coils should form an X on top of the knot with about three to four inches of tail. Now rig the same knot with the second rope, attaching it to the first rope above the first knot and again making sure the coils create an X. Pull both knots tight for a clean Double Fisherman’s knot.

how to tie double fisherman knot

how to tie prusik knot

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Use: Mainly in climbing since it can grab on to a rope firmly. A longer Prusik loop reaches out to support the climber’s foot while a shorter one is attached to the harness for sitting, to hang your tarp while camping, rescue, for tying equipment, a setting of hammocks

  1. Figure Eight Knot

Often used in climbing and sailing, figure eight is a handy single-strand “stopper” knot that prevents the rope from sliding through something like a grommet. This knot is the standard to tie into a harness while rock climbing. To tie a figure eight, also known as a Flemish bend, simply pass the free end of a line over itself to form a loop. Continue under and around the line, and finish the knot by passing the working end down through the original loop.

how to tie figure 8 knot

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This is one of the strongest knots you can tie and it maintains up to 85 percent of the rope’s strength. This means that the rope is unlikely to break while you’re using it.

Use: A figure eight knot at the end of a rope can keep you from sliding off it. It’s secure and won’t come undone because of pressure. You can also create knots along a rope that stay in place and are large enough to grab onto when climbing, you can make a secure loop at the end of a rope with it, an advantage when someone needs to be hauled up safely, as a foothold The figure eight on a bight creates a strong loop at the end of the rope that can be clipped onto an anchor. You can also create stable loops in the middle of the rope to use as handholds or footholds for anchoring, especially when working in high winds or carrying gear up or down a steep incline.

To master the tying of knots takes practice, but for sure it is worth your time as your life might depend on it. Take it seriously and learn it well before heading to your wilderness adventure.


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