Knots

I am a knot and splice geek. I'll try to keep myself to the basics, but if anyone has any requests let me know. Also, as shameless advertising I will construct knot boards to order. Pick the theme, nautical, climbing, other decorative knots and so on all for a reasonable price...

Choosing rope and light stuff

For the most part, all you will really need is paracord for general purpose uses and monofilament in your survival kit. In the army we carried a length (about 2-3m) of thicker cordageArmy toggle rope (a toggle rope) for various uses as required, including the cheerful task of rolling over dead bodies as a precaution against booby traps. Hopefully you won't need to use your rope for that more than a couple of times per hiking expedition.
Cordage must be looked after and stored properly. Standing on a climbing rope, for example, is punishable by death as it works dirt into the rope which can cut fibres.

Coiling rope

For a longish rope (say >10m) there are two main approaches (I prefer the first - and will add photos soon):

1. Make a simple coil of about 40cm diameter, and finish it off with some wraps in much the same way as you would do a whipping.

2. Starting from the midpoint of the rope, form loose loops of about 90cm (size as required for convenience), then finish it with wraps and a half hitch. The ends can be tied to form a loop that can go over your shoulder.

The traditional army toggle rope (above) was stored using a boy-scout method which was nice and tight, and such a pain in the ass to redo you could never be bothered undoing and using it. For short lengths (say, 5m) Method 1 works just fine. I used to string mine between two carabiners on my webbing. Out of the way, but accessible and quickly stowable.

Here are a handful of knots you should know. Fishing knots are specifically for fishing line - the rope/string knots won't hold. I have tied them in larger stuff so you can see them.

Knots

I got a bit carried away with the knot-tying here. So here's a convenient table to get to where you want to go - click on the knot name. Use the Back to top button to get back here.

Knot list

Stopper knots Bends Loops Hitches Lashings
Overhand knot Reef knot Bowline Half hitch Square lashing
Figure 8 knot Sheet bend Bowline in the bight Clove hitch Diagonal lashing
Sheet bend Triple bowline Constrictor knot Shear lashing
Double sheet bend Figure 8 Quick release knot Round lashing
Fishermans bend Butterfly knot Timber hitch
Double fishermans bend Tarbuck knot Belay hitch
Figure 8 bend Butterfly knot Prusik knot
Double Uni knot Blood knot Bachmann knot
Tape knot Dropper knot Klemheist knot
Honda knot

Stopper knots

Stopper knots are used to secure the end of a rope so it won't run through a hole in a block, or to prevent it from fraying. The Figure 8 is more secure, yet easier to untie.

Overhand knot
Overhand knot
Figure 8 knot
Figure 8 knot

Bends

Bends join ropes together.
The Reef knot is typically remembered by Left over right, right over left. It is a basic way of joining ropes of equal width. Make sure it has the form as illustrated - otherwise it is a granny knot. The reef knot will collapse if pressure is applied from one end.This distinguishes it from the Granny knot which is considerably weaker.

Reef knot start
Reef knot start
Reef knot completed
Reef knot completed
Granny knot (avoid!)
Granny knot

A more secure bend, and one that is advised for joining ropes of unequal diameter is the Sheet bend. For added security an extra wrap can be taken to make a Double sheet bend. Extra wraps can be taken as required if security of the bend is questionable. And for those who are snickering out there - no the name 'sheet bend' has nothing to do with any bedroom shenanigans. A sheet is, in sailing terms, a rope that secures a sail to the boat. As opposed to a halyard which hoists the sail.

Sheet Bend
Sheet Bend
Double Sheet Bend
Double Sheet Bend

A more secure method of joining ropes is the Fishermans bend. This is tied as two Overhand notes with the opposing ropes through the middle of the overhand knot. Pay particular attention to the alignment of the standing part (the holding bit - not the loose floppy bit) of the ropes - they need to lie along each other. The knot must look like Fisherman Bend 'b)', and the tail ends of the knot must end up naturally on the opposite side of rope. Despite its simplicity, it is possible to screw this one up a bit with rope ends on the wrong (same) side of each other.

Fisherman Bend a)
Fisherman Bend a)
Fisherman Bend b)
Fisherman Bend b)
Fisherman Bend c)
Fisherman Bend c)

The Double fishermans bend is the same as above, but with an extra turn before tucking the loose bit in. As above, make sure the shape is as illustrated before tightening. It's kind of a fishermans bend on steroids.

Double Fisherman Bend a)
Double Fisherman Bend a)
Double Fisherman Bend b)
Double Fisherman Bend b)
Double Fisherman Bend c)
Double Fisherman Bend c)

Another strong bend - albeit a bit bulkier - is the Figure 8 Bend. Tie the knot by constructing a Figure 8 stopper knot in one line, then trace the second line through, following the knot. Look for the nice flat Figure 8 shape before working tight.

Figure 8 Bend a)
Figure 8 Bend a)
Figure 8 Bend b)
Figure 8 Bend b)

These knots won't hold well in monofilament or other fishing line. A more secure knot to use for this is the Double Uni or Grinner knot. Here I've tied it in larger stuff because for some inexplicable reason monofilament didn't photograph well.

Double Uni knot a)
Double Uni knot a)
Double Uni knot b)
Double Uni knot b)
Double Uni knot c)
Double Uni knot c)
Double Uni knot d)
Double Uni knot d)
Double Uni knot e)
Double Uni knot e)
Double Uni knot f)
Double Uni knot f)

The Tape knot is used for joining flat lines such as climbing tapes. It follows the same principle by threading through the knot as the Figure 8 bend above, but only requires an overhand knot to start it. As above, ensure the knot is nice and flat before snugging it tight.
Tape knot a)
Tape knot a)
Tape knot b)
Tape knot b)

Loops

Loops form, well, 'loops' in a rope. Some are tied with a loose end - at the end of the rope. Others can be tied in the bight - in the middle of a rope.

The Bowline is a strong, easy to tie loop, and can be untied relatively easily. There are a few things to note. It's good to get in the habit of making the starting loop over the top of the standing part. Then to remember the tying sequence - The rabbit comes out of the hole, goes around the tree, then back down the hole... What he does behind the tree is ripe for speculation. When completed it has the characteristic shape pictured.
Be careful to ensure the bitter end (the floppy loose bit) comes down into the knot on the inside, not the outside of the rope as in the Outside bowline. this form is far weaker and prone to collapse.

Bowline start a)
Bowline start a)
Bowline end b)
Bowline end b)
Outside bowline: Avoid!
Outside bowline: Avoid!

The bowline can also be tied as a Bowline in the bight if you don't have access to the floppy end of the rope. Double the rope, then start the knot as per normal. However after the 'rabbit has come around the tree', the double loops are passed through the single loop that has just passed the tree. Sorry, it's a bit of a messy illustration. I'll work on a better one. It yields two loops so can be rigged as a makeshift harness - one loop under your bum, the other around your lower back.

Bowline in the bight a)
Bowline in the bight a)
Bowline in the bight b)
Bowline in the bight b)
Bowline in the bight c)
Bowline in the bight c)

Yet another form - the Triple bowline gives three loops - useful as a makeshift harness again with a loop under your backside, above your backside, and under the arms. Double the rope and tie the bowline as usual. The bight in the doubled rope formed as the rabbit goes back into the hole forms the third loop.

Triple bowline a)
Triple bowline a)
Triple bowline b)
Triple bowline a)

The Figure 8 is very strong and easy to tie. It is a staple knot for rock climbing, and used whenever a secure loop is needed such as tying into a climbing harness. As with the Figure 8 bend above, it can also be tied by re-threading through. Otherwise, just tie the knot as you would the Figure 8 stopper knot, but with doubled rope.

Figure 8 bight

The Butterfly knot is tied in the bight. Climbers use it to tie into a rope, for example when traversing snow slopes. Make two clockwise twists as shown, then drop the resulting loop behind the rope. Carry this loop upwards through the resulting bight. This knot has a characteristic X of the lines across the main rope when tied correctly. It is very secure, but hard to untie.

Alpine Butterfly knot a)
Alpine Butterfly knot a)
Alpine Butterfly knot b)
Alpine Butterfly knot a)
Alpine Butterfly knot c)
Alpine Butterfly knot c)
Alpine Butterfly knot d)
Alpine Butterfly knot d)

Tarbuck knot. A precursor to the figure 8 as a climbers tie-in. It's a slip-and-grip knot - don't use on a sheathed rope (eg. kernmantle). I just included it for historical reasons, and because it's cute. It is fairly simple. Form a bight, and take two wraps around the rope toward the bight. Come back, take a wrap under the standing end and pass it through its own loop.

Tarbuck knot a)
Tarbuck knot a)
Tarbuck knot b)
Tarbuck knot b)
Tarbuck knot c)
Tarbuck knot c)

Blood knot. Fishing knot. Used to fasten a hook to line. Or in this example for illustrative purposes, a carabiner pretending to be a fish-hook.

Blood knot a)
Blood knot a)
Blood knot b)
Blood knot b)
Blood knot c)
Blood knot c)
Blood knot d)
Blood knot d)

A Dropper knot is used to form a loop in the bight of a line. It is very useful for constructing longlines and jigs for fishing. The loop can be threaded though the eye of a hook and over to easily secure a hook, which can then be equally easily removed.

Dropper knot a)
Dropper knot a)
Dropper knot b)
Dropper knot b)
Dropper knot c)
Dropper knot c)
Dropper knot d)
Dropper knot d
Dropper knot e)
Dropper knot e)
Dropper knot f)
Dropper knot f)

Honda knot. A lasso knot. Very simply tied: Make an overhand loop as a stopper knot, form a loop and pass a bight through from the stopper knot end. The bitter end is then passed through this bight so you need access to the floppy end.

Honda knot a)
Honda knot a)
Honda knot b)
Honda knot b)
Honda knot c)
Honda knot c)

Hitches

Hitches secure a line to a rigid or semi-rigid (don't be rude, campers!) object such as a post or thicker cable.

The Half hitch is a staple method of securing a line to a post. Typically a round turn is taken around the post or line, and two half hitches are used to prevent it working loose, and an additional turn (not pictured) is taken around the post to dampen the effect of any shock loading collapsing the knot. Take care when doing the hitches that they are identical - ie they come over the standing part of the line on the same side, as pictured (if you look closely). The knot is weaker if the bitter end of the second hitch goes in on the same side the first hitch exits.

Round turn
Round turn
Half hitch
Half hitch
Two half hitches
Two half hitches

The Clove hitch is used to secure a line to a post, or a thicker base rope. It is prone to collapse when loaded from one end. The rope can be threaded as shown, and the knot can be tied in the bight. The standing and bitter ends should be in the inside of the knot, in opposite directions.

Clove hitch a)
Clove hitch a)
Clove hitch b)
Clove hitch b)

Two variants on the Clove hitch are: The Constrictor knot, which differs only in that the bitter end is secured under the standing end. This ensures that when load is applied, the knot will lock onto itself and not collapse as the Clove hitch can do. In contrast a Quick release Clove Hitch has the bitter end dogged so it can be quickly released. Ideal for tying a quick knot from your shelter guy rope to a convenient branch-
Constrictor knot
Constrictor knot
Quick-release Clove hitch
Quick-release Clove hitch

Timber hitch. Use to haul logs when there's no convenient knobby point to tie to. Secure it with half hitches as required.

Timber hitch a)
Timber hitch a)
Timber hitch b)
Timber hitch b)
Timber hitch c)
Timber hitch c)

Belay hitch. For emergency abseil/rappel or belaying a climber. Also called a Munter or Italian hitch. Asbeiling on it will impart a twist on the rope during use, so you'll have to shake out the rope twist after use.

Belay hitch a)
Belay hitch a)
Belay hitch b)
Belay hitch b)
Belay hitch c)
Belay hitch c)

Prusik knot. Use to clamp a loop onto another line. Used as an ascender knot, and to haul along a fixed line. To loosen the knot, grip and slide along the rope. Release it, and it will clamp when load is placed on the loop. Its a bit of a disconcerting habit to get into - letting go of the knot so it will hold! It is also often carabinered to a harness as an abseil/rappeling backup. As it is a slip-and-grip knot, caution should be used with sheathed ropes such as kernmantel climbing ropes, even though that is its primary use. As a caution - the loop I've tied here is too long for use as an ascender rope. If you fell on it, it might be hard to reach to release it! I'll fix the illustration soon...

Prusik knot a)
Prusik knot a)
Prusik knot knot b)
Prusik knot knot b)
Prusik knot knot c)
Prusik knot knot c)
Prusik knot knot d)
Prusik knot knot d)

Klemheist knot. Used for the same purpose as a prusik knot, however unlike the Prusik it is directional. It is quick to tie and undo and less likely to jam than a Prusik knot. The knot starts with a loop. A bight - in this case on the left - and wrapped from underneath around the standing rope 4 or so times. The exact number will depend on the relative thickness of the ropes. You will have to experiment. Then the end is brought back over the knot and through the original loop. In this illustration, the knot locks when loaded from the left. Where the carabiner is. It can be shifted along the rope as with the Prusik by gripping and sliding. As above this one as tied is a bit too long for use on an ascender rope. It's a useful one when you need to haul a rope under tension.

Klemheist knot a)
Klemheist knot a)
Klemheist knot b)
Klemheist knot b)
Klemheist knot c)
Klemheist knot c)
Klemheist knot d)
Klemheist knot d)

The Bachmann knot is used for the same purpose as a Prusik or Klemheist knot, and is essentially a series of loops around a carabiner and the base rope. It has reasonable gripping properties, and is less likely to jam due to the carabiner. Moving it along the rope is easy - just push the carabiner along (assuming - as above - you can reach it after falling. D'oh! What was I thinking?).

Bachmann knot a)
Bachmann knot a)
Bachmann knot b)
Bachmann knot b)
Bachmann knot c)
Bachmann knot c)

Lashings

Lashings are invaluable for securing poles together in the manufacture of shelters, tripods - anything where sticks need to be secured. They all reply on some variant of wrapping around the two items, then binding it by frapping turns. I love that name...

The Square lashing is used to fasten two poles as right angles to each other. Start with a Constrictor knot around one of the poles, then take the rope around the poles in the square shape as illustrated. Work it tight as you do this. Then, take turns around the center of the lash (the frapping turns), working them tight and securing with half hitches. Finally, secure the lash with a few half hitches around one of the poles.

Square lash a)
Square lash a)
Square lash b)
Square lash b)
Square lash c)
Square lash c)
Square lash d)
Square lash d)
Square lash e)
Square lash e)
Square lash f)
Square lash f)

The Diagonal lashing serve a similar role to the square lash, but works on poles that may not be at perfect right angles. Start with a Constrictor knot around both poles, then wrap 3 or 4 times on the first diagonal - tightening at every stage - then around the next diagonal. As with the square lash, take frapping turns around the center of the lash to tighten it. Secure these turn with half hitches, then finish the lash with half hitches to secure. Beautiful...

Diagonal lash a)
Diagonal lash a)
Diagonal lash b)
Diagonal lash b)
Diagonal lash c)
Diagonal lash c)
Diagonal lash d)
Diagonal lash d)
Diagonal lash e)
Diagonal lash e)
Diagonal lash f)
Diagonal lash f)

Use the Shear lashing when you want to join two poles side by side in a joint that is designed to tighten under pressure. Start with a Constrictor knot around one pole, then beginning wrapping around both poles. Keep firm, but it doesn't need to be excessively tight. Pass the loose end through the middle of the lashing to form the frapping turns and tighten the lashing. Finish with a clove hitch. If you want to make a tripod, use three poles and lash each pole to its neighbour.

Shear lash a)
Shear lash a)
Shear lash b)
Shear lash b)
Shear lash c)
Shear lash c
Shear lash d)
Shear lash d

Use a Round lashing to join two poles in line. Start with a Constrictor knot around both poles, and tightly wrap together. Finish with a Clove hitch. For added security, form another mirror image Round lashing.

Round lash a)
Round lash a)
Round lash b)
Round lash b)
Round lash c)
Round lash c)
Round lash d)
Round lash d)
For Pete's sake, Eazy, Reggie - whatever your name is! Enough knots already!
Ok... I've been a very bad boy. Sorry.