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Knots You Need To Know - To Make Life Easier

Updated on July 20, 2016

K.I.S.S. Keep It Super Simple.

Every day I tie knots. Every day I see those that suffer because they do not. A good knot is one you can tie quickly, in any situation. Cold wet hands, or hand covered in gloves, are a few situations that test your knot tying skills. Just as important as tying knots is the ease at which they can be untied. What is the sense of tying a knot quickly only to have to cut the knot open to release. Knowing what is a good knot is part of the skill.

There are a few simple knots that make your day go more smoothly and keep you safe. Your life could one day depend on your skill and knowledge of knots. Best to know a few well and lot's not at all.

Everyone was taught a simple reef knot since they were small. Many shoes keep coming loose because the shoelaces were not tied correctly. Tie it right, it will keep you safe. Let me show you a few more.

photo credit

Carrick Bend
Carrick Bend

Knots, Bends and Hitches - Coonections for Life

What's the Difference?

Everyone knows what a knot is, many know what a hitch is but what is a bend?


A fastening made by tying a piece of string, rope, or something similar.


To fasten or catch temporarily with or as if with a loop, hook, or noose. Any of various knots used as a temporary fastening.


Nautical To fasten: Most bends are sailors knots.

Knots, Bends and Hitches - Coonections for Life - Knots

Here is a list of knots, bends and hitches I use most of the time with slight variations depending on the circumstances. Knowing these knots will get you out of trouble most of the time. There are thousands of knots and variations, each with a specific task or function. Like any job, if you use the right tool for the job , it is not only easier and faster but safer. So too goes for using the right knot for the situation.

Encyclopedia of Knots and Fancy Rope Work
Encyclopedia of Knots and Fancy Rope Work

This one shows the fancy knots - the sailors of old may have started something.

This book has knots that any macremer would shiver in their boots for.


  1. Square Knot - Also known as the reef knot, shoelace know, bandage knot or scarf knot. It is used for fastening two similar sized materials together in a flat knot. Everyone who ties their shoes correctly , uses a square knot. Those who don't end up tying and re-tying their shoes over the course of the day because they inadvertently tie a granny knot. You can tell right away when you see the ears cocked at odd angles instead of lying flat and even. It is used to make a scarf lie flat or a sling to lie comfortably in a First Aid situation.
  2. Bowline - This knot is used to put a loop in the end of a rope. If you were in a situation that required you to throw a rope to someone in a life saving act, this is the knot you'd want to know. It is fast and easy to tie and untie if need be. There are countless uses. Use it to tie up you dog to a post so the knot slides around the pole and you dog doesn't get tangled and get a shorter and shorter lead.
  3. Figure Eight This is a stopper knot. It is used to make a knot in a piece of rope so that the end doesn't come through a pulley or eye of a hook or loop. It is also easier to untie than a simple half hitch which is the intuitive knot one would tie. Another use of this knot is as a basis for other knots. The trucker hitch uses it as does the package knot.

Boy Scouts Handbook (The First Edition), 1911
Boy Scouts Handbook (The First Edition), 1911

I was given this book as a present one year... it is one of my favorite books - still.


  1. Sheet Bend This is a simple knot used to connect ropes of different sizes. Used mainly for tying a small throwing line to a larger rope that is more difficult to tie. A double sheet bend is more secure. These types are knots are extremely useful when you are dealing with thicker polypropylene rope that doesn't take well to tying.
  2. Carrick Bend Similar in function to the Sheet bend, the carrick bend is used to connect two larger diameter ropes together. Stiff rope is more difficult to tie into more intricate knots so this one is a classic. It is also used as a decorative knot. Woven mats are made with small diameter cord following the same track over and over.

Knots, Bends and Hitches - Coonections for Life - Bends

Most bends are sailors knots and are typically used to fasten one rope to another. They need to be able to be tied quickly and untied just as quick, in any weather. You'd be surprised at the uses you'll find for these knots.

The Arts of the Sailor [Illustrated Edition]
The Arts of the Sailor [Illustrated Edition]

You have to get the illustrated edition...


Knots, Bends and Hitches - Connections for Life - Hitches

Most hitches are temporary knots - quick to tie and untie. Most are also tension knots meaning they must be under tension to be secure. The Clove Hitch being the exception there. The Clove hitch is used many to hold or secure some other type of knot as it can be tied under tension to secure something.

I use a lot of hitches to quickly fasten something down to secure it or to tie a rope onto something so it can be hauled up to a different level. Good hitches can be quickly tied and untied with gloved hands making your work faster and easier to do.

  1. Half Hitch This knot is used to end many other knots and hitches but shouldn't be used by itself as a stopper knot as it jams to tight to undo easily. I include it here as it is integral to other knots like tauntline and truckers hitch or the round turn two half hitches. Even the timber hitch is improved by the use of the half hitch.
  2. Timber Hitch This wonderful knot is used to bundle and bunch of material together. It is a tension knot , meaning it is useful under tension but falls apart easily when not. I use it when I start a lashing as it is quick and easy and doesn't use up much rope.
  3. Clove Hitch This knot is used as a finishing knot or a holding knot. It is easy to tie and untie. It is used to tie the drop-lines of a fishnet to the main hawser or carrier rope. I use it for finishing off a lashing because it can be tied under tension. It can be used to tie off to a post or railing to secure a line that is not necessarily under tension - like a clothesline.
  4. Tauntline Hitch This slider knot is used for making an adjustable loop, tying a trap or tent fly. It is also a tension knot so when not under tension it can easily be undone.
  5. Truckers Hitch This knot is used to fasten a load down on a truck or camper. It allows for a 3 to 1 pulley-like purchase allowing you to tighten the load more securely.

Tying your shoes
Tying your shoes

As Simple As Tying Your Shoes

The Reef Knot

Why is it some people are always stopping to retie their shoelaces? Are they not strong enough to tie them once? I feel it is far more simple than that. They were taught wrong or didn't pay enough attention to what they do when tying their shoes. Instead of tying a flat Reef Knot they tied a Granny Knot which slips easily.

You want the laces to lay flat, be even and look good. You also want it to be quick to tie and untie.

To tie laces quickly and correctly use a reef knot. Simple left over right and under then right over left and through. Most use loops for the last part so it makes a bow.

The illustration shows the steps. Most stop at 5 and are done. I go one step further and double wrap one bow. Go to 8 and your laces will not slip and are still able to untie easily.

How simple is life when you know how to tie your own shoes.

The second most common use for the reef or square knot is in first aid. The square knot lies flat so it is more comfortable when tying bandages and slings. Think about it when you are tying your scarf as well.

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.

Thomas Jefferson

the Bowline
the Bowline

Are You At The End Of Your Rope?

The Bowline

The bowline is an easy knot to make and a very useful knot. It puts a no slipping loop in the end of a piece of rope. You can make the loop as big as small and large as you like or need.

It is typically used as a rescue knot. a fast and simple knot you can tie around yourself or to make a loop you can hook around something.

Once you know how to do this knot you'll be surprised at all the uses you can find for it. My first dog was a hyper mutt we rescued and he was always getting tangle up in his leash when he was tied to the clothesline pole out in the back yard - before we built the fence. That was before I used a bowline to tie him to the pole. The bowline connection would allow him to run around the pole and it would spin with him and never get tangled up.

This can also be tied in the middle of a rope to put a non-slip loop where you want it. Think of mountain climbers linking each other by rope - that is called bowline on a bight. A bight is a section of rope with no access to the ends. If you want to chain your kindergarten kids in a row to go on a field trip walk - rope them up.

Truckers Hitch

Here's a knot I like to use when I have something to tie down on the top of the truck or when I am securing a load like my canoe. I also use it to tension a ridge line, between two trees, for tarps when I am camping out.

It can be handled several ways but the easiest is to secure one end of the rope to the frame of the truck and throw the rope over the load.

On the other side of the truck make a figure eight knot in a bight so you have a loop in the middle of the rope. Now draw the end of the rope down through a frame or other attachment point and back up to this figure eight loop.

Pulling the end of the rope through the loop now gives to a 3 to 1 pulley action to draw the load down tight before securing the end of the rope with a few half hitches.

figure eight knot
figure eight knot

Knotty or Nice

The Figure Eight Knot

What happens when you put your hoodie or sweat pants in the wash and it looses its tie string? You spend 5 minutes fishing the string back in and then tie a knot in the end so it doesn't come out again - right?

Most people intuitively tie a over-hand knot in the pull-string. It makes sense because this is the first knot we were taught as kids. It's how everyone starts tying their show laces. But if you tied that simple overhand knot in the end of the single string you'd have a permanent knot. Under pressure that knot will jam up so tight it is almost impossible to untie, and being jammed so tight it simply slides back through the hole. No Good. Add a simple twist to the equation and you turn that overhand knot into a figure eight knot. The resulting stopper knot is larger so it won't pull through the hole again but you can also easily untie it if you need to.

The figure eight is so versatile, it is used for many applications. I used to use it when tying up packages with string before mailing them. (No one does that anymore). I still use it to tie ribbons on my Christmas presents.

Another use is in technical climbing or recreational rock wall climbing. It is used to tie the belay rope onto your harness. Simply tie a figure eight knot then loop the rope through the harness loop then follow the figure eight knot back on itself. This knot will hold your weight and not jam up making it very easy to untie when you are safely back on the ground.

It is also the start of the truckers hitch and many other knots for the simple reason that it can be undone easily and not jam up like the simple overhand knot. Remember that then next time you play with a piece of rope.

I'm Still Working On This One But I Would Like Your Suggestions

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    • Stefan Dobrev profile image

      Stefan Dobrev 

      20 months ago

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @AnonymousC831: I should update this one with more this summer. Check back.

    • AnonymousC831 profile image


      4 years ago from Kentucky

      Great lens, glad I found this.

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @socialcx1: I am honored it passes muster. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • socialcx1 profile image


      5 years ago

      I'm a sailor so really enjoyed this lens.

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @lesliesinclair: I'm working on it. Just lost my camera in a canoeing upset though. Long story....

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      5 years ago

      It looks like quite a resource, but maybe you'd like to add some photographs, to break it up

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      5 years ago

      This is really helpful, and I agree everyone needs to know this. Pinned to my board "This I want you to Know." I think that I use granny knots because I have a hard time keeping my shoes on - I will practice on the reef knot.

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @Socialpro54 LM: Thanks for visiting.

    • Socialpro54 LM profile image

      Socialpro54 LM 

      5 years ago

      nice lens about knots,

    • Frankie Jr profile image

      Frankie Jr 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Great lens! I was in the Army and we had to learn most of these knots. I had forgotten many of them, but I still have to tie a Reef Knot everyday. I am tired of my laces untying all the time, so I just do another bow on top of the last.

      I am going to use the extra wrap with one bow tomorrow and see how that holds up and go to step 8.

      In step 2, does it matter if the left goes in front of or behind the right bow? It is going to take a little practice going behind, because I have never done it that way.

      Thanks for the lens!

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes the bowline in one knot I remember well and use for lots of situations. It was probably drilled into us because it is a knot for safety or rescue. Be prepared and all. Thanks for the tips. Yes I plan to extend this lens a bit more soon.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I was in the US Navy many moons ago, but one knot that we had to learn in boot camp was the bowline. This lens is great, you can easily add to it or you could make a series of "how-to" type lenses, each focusing on a particular knot and it's uses, using this lens to link to them all, just a thought.

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @geosum: Yes Granny knots are typical and so easily done when knot paying attention. :)

    • geosum profile image


      5 years ago

      Interesting lens. One of the ones I do best is called the 'Granny'.

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for the visit and comment. Yes that quote made me chuckle too. Grab a rope and start practicing. You learn best by doing.

    • Northerntrials profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @maryseena: Knots are a definite life skill. An important one. As simple as they are to learn how to do and the benefit of using them, it is crazy not to know as many as you can.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      There are a lot of knots that I would like to learn. Great Jefferson quote btw! Thanks for the informative lens!

    • maryseena profile image


      5 years ago

      Well, this lens reminds me of my father who always thought learning to tie different knots is a life skill. I'm not an expert on knots but handy with a few necessary ones. Thank you for all the info you've shared.


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