How To Tie Knots Essential to Backpacking

Backpackers.com — You either know how to tie knots or you don’t. And, in day to day life you might not use knots all that often. It depends on the profession, of course, but necessary is not a word many people use to describe knots.

That changes once you start backpacking and camping. Suddenly knowing how to tie knots is essential. If you’re backpacking or camping in a group, there’s usually someone who knows their knots. This is fantastic in the moment — getting into the wilderness and having someone hang your food, tie off your tent in a windy environment, or fashion a sweet taut-line is all well and good.

But the moment you head out alone, or without that clutch person, your knot skills are non-existent. We think it’s a good idea to know some basic knots. And the funny thing about knot tying is that it’s not all that hard to learn. Ten practice runs in your house should do it. Create some shortcuts for yourself to remember, and you’ll be good to go.

Nature Reliance School

We scoured the web for excellent instruction videos, and found this one by the Nature Reliance School to be the most helpful. It is simple, clear, and includes 5 of the best knots for backpacking. Craig Caudill, the director of Nature Reliance, explains how:

Nature Reliance School is an excellent online tutorial program for learning all manner of wilderness survival skills. You can access some of the classes for free, or subscribe to the program.

The Knots

The knots that Caudill goes over are excellent. So here they are in order.

1. Half Hitch — The half hitch is your basic, incredibly useful knot. If you’re not sure what to tie, in most cases tie a half hitch. Then tie another one. Two half hitches will make the knot load-bearing, as the video above describes.

2. Fisherman’s Knot — This one attaches any two ropes together. It’s great for creating a longer line of rope, which comes in handy when you have no idea how long of a rope you’ll need.

3. Prusik Knot — This is how to tie a knot on top of an already taut line — like another rope. It takes a bit more effort than the last two, but is excellent for hanging things and having a moveable knot on a line.

4. Trucker’s Hitch — This is a universal knot — with a thousand names —  for tightening down something. The description in the video above is a little hard to see, so here’s another video for the trucker’s hitch.

Granted, the video above gives you five other knots to try, most of which are covered here already. It’s always good to have a couple options, and for those learning knots, seeing it more than one way is best. The trucker’s hitch is the first knot on the video above, and is the best how to we found.

5. Clove Hitch — Another knot with many names, the clove hitch is an excellent knot for all uses. It is similar to the half hitch, and secures something (like a twig, in the video, or bait in a trap) and holds it tight. This is a great knot to tie off your hanging food in the wilderness.

6. Bowline Knot — For whatever reason, Caduill did not include the bowline knot in his video. The bowline knot is a universally recognized knot and is very simple to make. It is incredibly strong and can be tied around objects to hold fast, perfect for tying off a tent, for instance. Here’s a great how to video for the bowline knot.

These six knots should cover you in most wilderness situations. The bowline, half hitch, and fisherman’s knots are the most useful and simplest, so if you struggle with knot-tying, get those three solid. The best way to practice is to take some ropes and practice tying off your gear in your house or yard. Good luck!

dbzweier bio pic 2018

Daniel Zweier

Daniel Zweier is Editor-in-Chief of Backpackers.com. Beyond orchestrating the daily flow of Backpackers.com, Daniel writes surrealistic short fiction and novels, adventures into the backcountry and abroad, surfs, reads, drinks tea, and obsesses over gear. A lot of gear. Visit his website if you want to learn more about his authorial pursuits.

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