Tying knots isn't as tricky as it sounds, and it's more important than you may realize.
The ability to quickly tie the correct knot while in a backwoods situation could be the edge you need to survive. Or if that sounds too dramatic, it'll at least make your life easier.
The best way to learn is by repetition, so get a short (3 to 4 feet) section of rope. Keep this near your couch while watching TV, or in your desk drawer at work. Study the uses for each knot and come up with ways you could apply them to your own hunting, fishing, hiking or camping routines. This way, you're more likely to recall the correct knot for the appropriate situation.
There are four major categories of knots that will be discussed: hitches, bends, loops and lashings.
The timber hitch is a great fast-tying knot for hauling (as the name suggests) timber, or any similar items, for short distances. Under tension, the load causes friction to keep the knot together. Wrap the rope around a log and around the standing end three times, making sure each turn is gripped by the log.
The clove hitch is a very common knot and one you should put to memory. This type of hitch is most often used to tie line to a fixed object. However, it can slip without a stopper knot at the end. Wrap the free end around the object and cross over the rope and around the object again. Slip the working end under the second wrap and tighten the knot.
The Prusik knot is a great one to know when hanging treestands or rock climbing because it allows you to tie onto a rope and use ascending and descending heights. Start by forming a sling of rope or cord and wrap around the main rope. Slide one end of the sling through the other end to secure it to the rope. Then pass the loop through the center of the hitch three more times and tighten. Now you can attach your harness to the sling loop and get climbing.
Taut Line Hitch
The taut line hitch is perfect for securing an object under load that you may need to re-adjust. Wrap the rope around an object with extra rope to spare. A few feet from the object, wrap the free end around the standing end twice, working toward the object. Make one more coil around the standing line but on the opposite side of the first two. Tighten the knot and adjust for proper tension.
The rolling hitch is more secure than the clove hitch for tying onto a pole or another line. Start as if tying a clove hitch by wrapping around the pole or line and crossing the standing end. Wrap around the object another time, crossing over the standing line. Wrap the object a third time without crossing the standing end and pass under the last wrap.
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The square knot is an easy knot to tie, and should only be used for non-critical applications, such as tying off a tarp. If you're using it to join two ropes, be aware that this knot will come undone if not under tension, so again, only use it for unimportant tasks. Using two pieces of rope, tie two overhand knots and make sure the standing and free end exit the knot together.
Where the square knot suffers in stability, the sheet bend holds better, but it can still be worked loose if not under tension. It is primarily useful for joining two ropes of different sizes. Form a bight in the larger rope if there is one, and pass the smaller rope through the bight. Wrap the smaller rope around the tail and standing end of the larger rope, and finish by passing the smaller rope under itself.
The bowline knot forms a fairly secure loop at the end of a rope. Form a loop at the end of the line, and another smaller loop toward the standing end. Pass the end of the rope through the smaller loop and around the standing end, then back through the small loop. Tighten the knot to secure it.
Tripod lashing is really useful when setting up a basic teepee kind of shelter or tripod. To start, line up three poles next to each other. Tie a clove hitch to one of the outside poles, and then wrap all the poles, in total, about five times. Then wrap the free end between each of the three poles two to three times to secure the rope turns. Finish the lashing by tying another clove hitch. Then set up the poles, spreading them out evenly.
A square lashing is similar to the tripod lashing in that it is used to bind poles or logs together, but generally at a 90-degree angle. Set logs so they are crossing perpendicular to each other, and start with a clove hitch on one log. Wrap the standing end around the running end to secure the clove hitch further. From the vertical log, wrap the running end behind the horizontal log, in front of the vertical log, behind the horizontal log and back in front of the vertical log. Continue this sequence twice more for three total wraps. Tie a clove hitch and tighten it to finish the lashing.