The 5 Knots Everyone Should Know

5 03 2012

I love knots, I tie them for practicality and I practice tying them for fun!  Whenever I travel I take a small section of rope because I know practicing knots will be a great way to pass the time.  In my trainings I prefer to see clean (dressed) knots, and often will ask people to retie a knot if a section is out of place.  After all, “a knot not neat is a knot that need not be knotted.”

So here it goes…  In my opinion the top 5 knots that everyone should know are:

#1 The Half Hitch.

-Simple knot, many uses.  Two half hitches will hold dang near anything as long as there is consistent tension.

-It will probably not get you any style points, however there is no reason why people should not know this knot.

#2 The Figure 8 (and its multiple variations.)  This is a great knot that is touted in the climbing community as one of the strongest knots that retain a high percentage of a rope’s breaking strength

-Here I just tied a Figure 8 on a Bight. (and safely clipped it to my coffee mug!) You may ask, “How do you tie that knot directly onto the coffee mug?”

-Glad you asked, you simply tie a Figure 8 Follow Though.  Same knot, tied differently will include the handle of the mug.

-Make your first Figure 8 by taking a bight of rope. (huh, that looks like a head. Did you hear what he just told me?)

-Next, I choke em,

-and poke em in the eye.

-(I am really a non-violent person!)

-Pull that working end out and then we we are ready to tie in the mug.

-The reason this is called the Figure 8 Follow Through is because after you include the mug, the next step is to follow the 8 pattern already mapped out.  The way I learned is very similar to others, and that is to “follow the race track!”  Meaning you follow the path of the rope exactly.

-Remember to dress the knot at the end, so that the ropes are parallel and not crossed.

-One of the bummers to the Figure 8 is that when it is loaded with a heavy weight or experiences a great amount of tension, the knot can meld together making it impossible to untie.  In those cases, only a good pair of safety sheers (or yes a knife!) will be able to undo this powerhouse of a knot.

#3 The Bowline One of my favorite and most practical knots.  This is a great knot that I use for multiple purposes when I want to tie the end of a rope to a fixed point.  Practiced enough, it is quick, easy and strong, with a bit more standing power than the Double Half Hitches mentioned above.

-Start by making a loop with the working end on top of the remaining rope.

-Then for fun’s sake, after you have run the working end through what you are securing, lets tell a story about a rabbit!!!

-The rabbit comes out of the hole,

-runs under a root,

-and then jumps back into the hole.

-Tighten it up and you have a secured bowline!

#4 is the slightly harder, and the more impressive Bowline on a Bight!  This knot is surprisingly strong and after taking a massive amount of tension, it will still easily untie. (For when you have to pull that car out of the mud/snow and still want your rope back!)

-Start by taking a bight of rope and then making a half hitch (or overhand knot).

-Then make it look like Mick Jagger by holding it so that the bight looks like a tongue resting on a bottom lip.  (What? You don’t know who Mick Jagger is?  Fine.  So it looks like Michael Jordan…  WHAT?!!! You’ve never seen… FINE!!, so it looks like ME after listening to Justin Bieber.)

-Next put your pincher fingers through the bight, going from underneath.

-And pinch the rope that is making the top lip.

-Next, without letting go of the top lip, flip the tongue over everything.

-This next part is a little difficult; you want to hold the middle of the knot loosely, while pulling the loops of the top lip in order to make the tongue up to meet the rest of the knot.

-Great knot!!  Test it by holding both the working end and the live end of the rope and the knot (not the loops.) and pulling them apart.  If your loop disappears you tied a slip knot (Bummer), if it hold, you have the beautiful Bowline on a Bight (Bomber!)

#5 The Butterfly Knot (more specifically an Alpine Butterfly)

This knot can be tied anywhere in the middle of a rope to provide a secure loop that can be pulled from both directions and will not come untied. There are many ways to tie this knot, here is one.

-Wrap a rope loosely around your hand so that you are holding 3 strands in your palm.  (I know, this is the only time I would tell you to wrap a rope around any part of your body.)

-Now you are going to move the strand closest to your fingers over the other two ropes and place it by your thumb.

-Repeat!  Take the strand now closest to your fingers and place it by your thumb.

-Now the strand that you just moved by your thumb should go under the two ropes to make your bight,

-Pull the bight out a little

-take out your hand and then pull the two ends of your rope apart to finish the knot.

These are the 5 knots I think everyone should know!  If you would like more practice, or want to learn some additional knots, visit one of my favorite sites,

It is an informative site, with much better pictures and a great resource.  (Yes, their pictures are better than mine. Can you believe it?)  If you want to talk knots with me, stop by the River House, I am sure I have some extra practice rope knotted up around here somewhere.

“It’s better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it!”

-Robert Brack


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