All Tied Up: Useful Outdoor Knots to Know

Whether you’re tying your tent’s rainfly down in a nasty storm, lashing your kayak to a well used roof rack, or making some on-the-trail gear repairs, knowing some essential outdoor knots is a skill every modern outdoorsman needs to master. We’ve been brushing up on a few in preparation for spring camping and climbing season, and have put together a handy little guide for a few of our favorites.

Taut Line Hitch

This hitch can slip along your rope or cord, holding fast under a load. That makes it a perfect option for staking our a tent or shelter, as you’ll be able to balance the tension at each lashing point.

Step 1

Taut Line Hitch-1
Make a turn around your tent stake or post. Make sure you give yourself about a foot of slack on the free end of your rope.

Step 2

Taut Line Hitch-2
Coil your your free end twice around the taut working end.

Step 3

Taut Line Hitch-3
Make one addtional coil below the first two.
Step 4

Taut Line Hitch-4
Pull your hitch tight. It should slide freely along the rope, expanding or contracting the loop you created.

Square Knot

The square knot is an all purpose knot for securing non-critical items. We often use it to tie bundles of firewood together quickly. It is important to note that you shouldn’t use it to join two ropes together, or in a situation where you must trust your weight to the knot, as a square knot can loosen and pull free.

Step 1

square knot 1
Tie an overhand knot, right end over the left.

Step 2

square knot 2
Tie a second overhand knot on top of the first, left end over the right.

Step 3

Pull your knot tight, ensuring that the free ends of each side are coming out on top. This ensures you didn’t tie a granny not that will pull free as soon as it is loaded.

Figure 8 Knot

The Figure 8 is the strongest knot for creating a loop at the end of a rope, and is the most common way that rock climbers tie in to the rope. It is easy to visually inspect, ensuring safety – especially when you and your climbing partner double check each other.

Step 1

Figure 8 Knot-1
Start with a bend in the rope, ensuring you have a long tail to work with.

Step 2

Figure 8 Knot-2
Twist your bend twice, then pass the free end through the loop you created.

Step 3

Figure 8 Knot-3
Pull the free end tight, and you will have the first figure 8.

Step 4

Figure 8 Knot-4
Retrace the figure 8 you created, leaving a small loop at the end.

Step 5

Figure 8 Knot-5
Grab the loop at one end and both ends of the rope at the other and pull tight.


The Prusik knot makes a secure loop along a tight line. This is useful for lashing guylines on a shelter and as a backup knot when descending a climbing rope. You can buy premade loops for a Prusik, or tie your own loops using a double or triple fisherman’s knot.

Step 1

Prusik Knot-1
Make your sling and lay it behind your larger rope.

Step 2

Prusik Knot-2
Girth Hitch your sling around the rope. Pull the loop through the center of the girth hitch at least three times.

Step 3

Prusik Knot-3
Pull your Prusil tight. Pull on it to ensure it “bites” onto the standing rope. If it slips, you can retie it with more loops in your girth hitch for added strength.

Waterman’s Knot

When working with webbing, climbers often tie cut lengths into slings. This knot is best used with flat nylon webbing rather than with rope.

Step 1

Waterman's Knot-1
Tie an overhand knot in one end of the webbing.

Step 2

Waterman's Knot-2
Trace your original overhand knot with the opposite end of the webbing

Step 3

Waterman's Knot-3
Pull the knot tight, ensuring that your free ends are at least two inches long to inspect for slipping, and that your loop is large enough for what you need.


The bowline is the easiest way to create a secure loop at the end of a rope. Additionally, it is easily untied, even after loaded with heavy weight. If you were a boy scout you probably learned this knot for potential rescue situations, and how to tie it around your body with one hand.

Step 1

Bowline Knot-1
Form a small loop at the end of the rope

Step 2

Bowline Knot-2
Bring the free end of the rope up through your loop

Step 3

Bowline Knot-3
Wrap the free end around the standing line, and then back down through the loop.

Step 4

Bowline Knot-4
Tighten the knot by pulling on the free end while holding on to the standing end. The loop should remain secure.


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