In order to be prepared for an outdoor adventure, every camper needs to know certain survival skills. Knowing how to choose a campsite is essential knowledge, as well as how to light a campfire. To go on a camping trip without knowing how to tie proper camping knots would be just as bad an idea as going without a tent. We use different knots all the time when camping, they’re very important in making sure your gear stays where it’s supposed to be. If you sleep in a hammock, then the knot is the most important part!
In recent times, knot tying has become less of an essential survival skill. However, we still believe that safely and properly tying different knots and hitches is something that’s very useful to any outdoors enthusiast. Boy scouts and girl guides spend their childhoods perfecting these knots, and then as we grow older they’re disregarded and forgotten. Every camper needs some knot knowledge up their sleeve, so we’re here to tell you what you need to know.
We’ve compiled this list of the best camping knots, covering a range of purposes and situations. There are many more knots you could learn, to see them all check this out, but the ones on this list are the most useful for camping. Get these important knots down and you’ll never have to worry about loose guy lines ever again. From the square knot to the double-figure 8, and a whole load of hitch knots, for essential backcountry tying, this article has got you covered. Any backpacker needs to be prepared for an adventure in the backcountry, and these essential knots can help.
There are a few terms used when describing knots, we’ll briefly explain the definitions here so there’s no confusion. There’s also some terminology you should know which we’ll use when describing how to tie each knot.
- Knot: A fastening or splice made by intertwining one or more ropes (or other material). Knots hold their place once tied.
- Hitch: A knot that involves another object, such as a stick, post, rig, or another rope. A hitch may hold its place once tied, however it may also slide depending on the type.
- Lashing: A lashing is a more complex hitch, and involve using a rope to secure two objects together.
- Working end: The active part of the rope.
- Standing end: The part of the rope not active in knot tying.
The clove hitch is a basic knot, used for quickly securing guy lines to a tree or post. It can slip when used without other knots as a backup, but it’s a good quick knot to secure later. This hitch knot is an essential camping knot, good for tying back tree branches in a rush. It’s also an important knot for attaching your gear to a carabiner, or another suspended object like a cooking pan.
To tie a clove hitch on a tree, firstly make a loop of rope around the tree. Then, make a second loop and pass the free end of the rope under the second loop before tightening. Tying a clove hitch over a post or stake is even easier. Just make a loop in the free end of the rope and slide it over the post. Then, make another loop in the same way, put this loop over the post just above the first, and tighten the hitch.
This is a classic knot used for connecting lines, for example tying two ropes together to make a longer rope. The square knot is also a good knot for bundling together firewood. It’s a more secure and stable version of the knot we all use to tie our laces. Also known as the reef knot, this secure knot is one of the best knots a camper can learn.
To tie a square knot, start by lapping one rope right over, then underneath the other, then tying the same again in the opposite direction; left over right then underneath. When the working end and the standing end of each rope are side by side (not crossed over) you’ll know you’ve done it right.
A bowline creates a fixed loop at the end of the rope, one which cannot shrink or expand. This knot is often used to secure a load because it doesn’t slip. The bowline knot cannot be tied or untied when there’s weight in it, which makes it very useful, and one of the most important knots for every camper to know. It has almost limitless uses, for example to bowline knot is ideal for lifting and tying a bear bag above the ground.
To tie the bowline knot, start by making a loop on the longer end of the rope. Pass the working end up through the loop and around behind the line. Next, pass the working end down and through the original loop again, maintaining the shape of the second loop you create. The second loop becomes the bowline loop, so lastly you’ll need to tighten the upward-pointing rope to secure the knot.
Taut line hitch
The taut line hitch can be used to take the place of a slide and can be used to create loops that are tightened and loosened. One very useful application is to tent guy lines, where it makes them secure but adjustable. You could also use it to hang up your hammock, making it easily adjustable. If hanging your hammock is the reason you want to know about the best camping knots, we suggest you check out our article on the best hammock knots.
To create a taut line hitch, start by wrapping your rope around a solid, unmoving object such as a tree or tent stake. Create a loop, then with the free end of the rope, wrap the main line twice around the inside of the loop. Lay the free end of the rope over the two wraps, and wrap it around the main line. Draw the tag end through the loop you just created, and cinch the wraps until tight. Finally, pull on the standing line. This should make the taut line hitch grip the loaded line, and your knot is complete.
The overhand knot is the most basic knot, most people already know how to tie it without knowing the proper name.
It’s a useful element in many other knots, and alone it can be useful as a stopper to prevent a loop from sliding beyond where it’s intended. To construct an overhand knot, make a loop out of rope and run the working end through it. Tighten, and then that’s it.
Figure 8 knot
The figure 8 knot is another basic knot that can be used to create a stopper anywhere on a rope, but the stops are also used to create several other knots as well. This knot actually damages rope a lot less than a simple overhand knot.
To tie a figure 8 knot, first pass the free end of the rope over itself to form a loop. Continue under and around the rope, and finish the knot by passing the working end down through the original loop.
The trucker’s hitch is one of the most useful and important knots in a camper’s repertoire. It allows a length of rope to be pulled incredibly tight and is simple to learn. If you need to tighten lines a lot before securing them, like for tying down tarps or securing loads, then this is a knot you need to learn.
Start the trucker’s hitch with a figure 8 knot, then pass the free end of the rope around whatever you’re tying it to. Then pass the rope through the loop, pull the working end tonight, and secure the free end of the rope with two half hitches, just below the loop.
Double figure 8 knot
Popularly used by climbers, the double figure 8 is an easy knot to untie, but harder to master. The knots structure means allows equal weight distribution between two points, making an important knot for backcountry use. It’s most useful for climbing and caving expeditions but is also helpful for holding the weight of different items such as bear bags.
To tie a double figure 8, form a long loop in your rope. Create two double loops, and make a figure 8. Pull the end of the loop through the bottom of the figure 8 and pull it into place, then run the same original loop beneath, up, and over the rest of the knot. Pull it tight to secure the two loops, and your knot is complete. This is a complicated knot to learn, but if you can master it then you’re one step closer to being a backcountry expert.
The fisherman’s knot is used to quickly tie together two ropes of equal diameter. A useful one to know, but not the most secure knot. This knot is especially useful for anglers (the clue’s in the name) and can be used to attach a fishing hook to the end of a rope or line. This knot weakens the rope it’s used on, so don’t use it in any critical situations, particularly when using a slippery synthetic rope.
To tie the fisherman’s knot, first tie a loose overhand knot with the working end of the rope, around the other rope. Repeat with the working end of the second rope, around the first, and tighten both knots.
Two half hitches
Two half hitches can be used to quickly secure a line to trees or poles. It can be used to hang up a gear in a hurry, as it’s quick to tie and untie. You can also use it to tie up loose ends, like with a truckers hitch, or to tie up tarps and hammocks.
To tie two half hitches, start by wrapping your rope around the standing end and through the inside of the loop created to make the first half hitch. Pull the line tight and you should have two half hitches, one next to another. For added security, tie an overhand knot at the end of the line to prevent slipping.
A bend is a type of knot that connects one rope to another. The sheet bend is an important knot to learn because it’s the best for joining together two different materials or two different sizes of rope. The sheet bend can even join together ropes or materials which can’t usually be connected, which makes it one of the most useful for a camper to have in their repertoire.
When tying a sheet bend knot, first bend the thicker or more slippery knot into a “J” shape, like a fishhook. Pass the second rope through the hook shape from behind, and wrap it around the entire fish hook once. Then, tuck the smaller line between itself and the other rope. If the two ropes used are the same, then the sheet bend will resemble a square knot. If you need to tie a sheet bend with fabric, such as a tarp, then collect and squeeze the material into a “J” shape, and then run your rope around the “J”.
This hitch knot is often used in sailing and construction work and has been for centuries. You can use the barrel hitch to secure a bucket, barrel, or another cylindrical object, and lift it while keeping balanced. This useful knot would work well on a bucket if the handle has broken off.
To tie a barrel hitch knot, first place the object you wish to lift on top of the rope. Tie an overhand knot on the top of the object, then open up the overhand knot until it wraps around the sides of the object. Tie a square knot and then lift.
This very useful knot creates a loop that can be used as an ascender or descender. This is a “slide and grip” style knot, which can also be useful for adding a loop to a rope where neither end is free.
To tie a Prusik knot, you’ll first need one short rope and a separate long rope. Tie a loop in the short rope, and secure it with a solid knot such as a square knot. Then, wrap the loop around the long rope three times, making sure each wrap lies flat against the long rope. Pass the loop of the short rope under itself and pull it tight, and now so long as there is weight under the loop, the Prusik knot will tightly grip the longer rope. When the weight is taken off, the Prusik will be able to slide up and down the longer rope, just by pushing the wraps.
Having a category of essential camping knots memorized is a great way to make sure you stay safe on camping trips. Any outdoor excursion is about being prepared, whether it’s remembering to bring along your best camping headlight, or knowing how to properly extinguish your campfire. Staying safe in the outdoors is a priority issue, and tying proper camping knots is one thing everyone needs to do to stay safe.
The best camping knots are very useful to campers and anyone who spends time outdoors. Use these knots to properly secure your tent guy lines, suspend your bear bags, and make sure you don’t lose any tied-on items from your backpack. Whether it’s for storage or safety, knowing how to tie proper knots is a valuable skill.
We have a few final tips when it comes to tying the best camping knots, remember these few things and your knot-tying will be the better for it.
- Don’t give up: Knot tying isn’t easy, and some knots on this list such as the double figure 8 are rather complex. Practice makes perfect, so keep practicing your knots in your free time. Complicated knots take years to master, so don’t give up after just a few tries.
- Learn the basics well: Put in the effort to do the basics properly, just because they aren’t complex doesn’t mean they’re not important knots. Make sure you have the basics of knot tying down before you move on to more complicated knots.
- Never entrust your life to an unknown rope: If you don’t know the strength of a rope, don’t trust your life to it. No matter how well you tie a knot, if you don’t know if a rope is strong enough to hold your body, then it isn’t safe.
Knowing how to tie proper camping knots is about peace of mind; if you do a good job, you won’t have to worry about your stuff being secure and safe. Camping knots are useful outside of the backcountry too and can come in very handy in your daily life. Learn a few of these essential camping knots, and you’ll find no shortage of uses in and out of the backcountry.
Bonus tip: Watch this video to see how to make the complicated double figure 8 knot!