How To Tie A Square Knot, Clove Hitch, & Bowline

The following three knots are useful for survival, camping, general preparedness, and all sorts of practical knot tying tasks.

It would be beneficial to practice tying these knots enough times so that it becomes muscle memory. After that, quiz yourself once in awhile and tie them again to stay refreshed. There are additional useful knots to know how to tie, but lets start with these…

Square knot is useful for quick and simple tying of things; also for joining two sections of rope or cordage together. Note this type of knot has the potential to slip, so do not use for lifesaving operations.

Clove hitch ties a rope to an object and is useful for lashing things.

Bowline is one of the most important knots because it doesn’t slip. Useful for securing anything that you don’t want to slip, especially related to lifesaving operations, mountain climbing, or even securing a tarp.


How To Tie A Square Knot

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4


How To Tie A Clove Hitch

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3


How To Tie A Bowline

How To Tie A Bowline

This set of Outdoor Knots cards will serve you well whether you are lashing down a kayak on the roof of your car (use the Trucker’s Hitch), hanging an adjustable line in camp (use the Tautline Hitch), tying a boat to a dock (Cleat Hitch), or you just need a quick peek at the good old Bowline Knot while outdoors. And being completely waterproof solid plastic!

If you’re really into knots, this is probably the most complete knot book on the planet:
The Ashley Book of Knots

What are some of your favorite knots?


  1. Anyone that has spent any time at all on a Ranch or Farm is well aware of the usefulness of “tying a good knot”, especially if trying to ‘untie’ it afterwards.

    Knots like the Square Knot will continue to tighten with the more ‘pull’ you put on it, untying it may/can be almost impossible at times, especially if using a Nylon Rope.
    The Bowline or Double Bowline is a wonderful Knot, just remember the Boy-Scout saying, “The Rabbit comes out of the hole , goes around the tree and Back into the hole”.

    As with any tool, remember there many ways to use the tool; knowing what tool to use is most important. Knowing what Knot to use is extremely important, it’s a tool.

    Ken suggested a very nice book on knots, a little expensive for me, so do your homework and get a simple book (or print from the internet). My favorite is my old, VERY OLD, Boy-Scouts handbook of Knots.

    Favorite Knots for me, that I use;
    Half-Hitch or Slip Knot
    Fisherman’s Knot for tying hooks
    Four in Hand Knot, for tying on a Dress Tie
    Trucker’s Hitch

    Other than that, I use Duct Tape or a Chain

    1. The knot we should all become proficient with is the hangmans noose

      1. Nailbanger
        Man, your fast on the draw, you took my EXACT words I was gonna post.
        Or, maybe me and you are on the same wave length?

        1. Im pretty sure were not alone, theres most likely a few thousand or more folks out there muttering under their breath wishing they had access to nukes

        2. Term limits enforced, IF necessary, with a Hangman’s Knot, is, I believe, a very efficient solution to the problem of career politicians.

  2. As an Eagle Scout, I learned many knots which were very useful throughout my life. The truckers hitch has been one of my favorite as well as the taut-line hitch,bowline and quick release. One of my many requirements for my kids was to learn basic knots. Practice them over and over until they are second nature. This simple skill is surprisingly neglected by most people, especially how useful it is.

  3. I’ve spent the last 40+ years packing horses in hunting camps around western and northern Canada, the knots you showed get a lot of use. I also use slip knots, often with a half hitch so it doesn’t slip until I want it to, sheet bend for when the ropes are of different diameter and the truckers hitch is darn useful too.

    I’ve noticed a lot of young people have a hard time even tying their bootlaces properly. Must come from being raised with Velcro. What with bungee cords and ratchet straps, most folks don’t have to know how to work with rope or cordage anymore.

    I’ve seen a lot of granny knots that slip or bind, or slip then bind!, than proper square knots.

    Any knot when wet or frozen can be a bugger to untie, having a Leatherman in your hip pocket will save you from having to cut it

  4. – Four-in-hand? Heathen! Windsor or nothing! Otherwise agree on your list, NRP. Also the taut-line hitch, also have to agree on the hangman’s noose. I did have a lot of others memorized which I have used occasionally, like the barrel hitch.

    – Papa S

    1. I use a prussic a lot, for all sorts of things, climbing is primary, but even lashing pulleys or lines to secure stuff, fast and easy to reposition then load

  5. Thanks you for this article. It’s something that I really need to get familiar with as I am forever trying to get a knot untied or having trouble keeping one one! Thin line such as fishing line is the worst.

    1. – aka-
      Fishing knots are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish than working knots. Learn a Palomar knot to begin with, and a dropper knot will come in handy. Most of the name companies producing fishing line will provide pamphlets or online tutorials for free.
      – Papa S.

      1. OK and thanks. I did order the booklet that is mentioned and will go looking for these knots online. I only slip knot and one other one and they don’t work worth a hill of beans on plastic type fishing line!

        1. Hey aka

          A clinch knot works really well on monofilament line and very easy to tie. I am sure there are lots of pics online.

        2. aka
          after thinkin about it, I believe there’s a clinch knot and an improved clinch knot. improved clinch works best

  6. is a good site to look up/learn all kinds of knots. You can view animated tutorials on how to tie different knots. It has a bunch of categories to choose from.

    1. Thanks for that link. A pretty cool site! I see I have more knot tying to learn ;)

      1. Your welcome sir. It’s a fun way to teach or learn new knots.

  7. I bought the Ashley Book of Knots second hand years ago. A lot of fun to look at and a whack of info on the various knots and hitches used in old time trades.

  8. I’ve always been pretty helpless when it comes to knots. Which of these knots would tie a line between two trees (to hang a tarp over) and remain tight?

    1. Truckers hitch. You can find it on the link posted above.

    2. – I usually use a truckers hitch to set up the first (Head end) tree, and then a taut line hitch for the feet. Wrap a couple of turns around the tree before you tie it, if you have enough rope, especially if there is any wind.

      – Papa S.

  9. Learned to tie knots in Girl Scouts and never forgot them. Mostly I use a square knot and I can tie a bowline, but never was sure, until now what to use it for.
    Old man just told me he can tie a hangman’.s knot. Good to know.

  10. I have a piece of climbing rope that I keep by my recliner so that I can practice knots while I relax. Figure 8, figure 8 on a bight, butterfly, prussik, clove hitch. I lead climb 5.10d trad. Some of the best advice I ever got was that I need to be able to tie this knot (any knot) in the dark, after my headlamp is dead, lightning is crashing, and I am 3 pitches up (about 300 ft off the ground.

    If you leave some extra length on either side of a square knot, you can back it up with a fisherman’s on both sides and not have to worry about it slipping.

    Learning to tie webbing is a bit different than rope. Learn a follow through S instead of a square for joining different lengths.

    Something to keep in mind… any knot that “bends” the rope, weakens the rope. Dynamics of rope falls, static and dynamic rope strength, all play into what knot to tie when.

    If point A is 10 feet above you, you are point B, and point C is 10 feet below you…. A fall from B to C will stress the rope than from A to C. In that situation, dynamic rope will be fine, static rope will kill you.

    The thing I like best about climbing is that it is a sport that is entirely focused on protecting yourself from the consequences of high altitude vertical yoga. And then there’s also setting anchors and setting them in opposition so that a fall won’t “zipper” …

    There are lots of similarities between prepping and climbing… It’s all about protecting yourself from what would otherwise be inevitable in what most would describe as systemic catastrophe. Safety is based upon multiple anchors and redundancy (2 is 1…)

  11. What type of knot does your stomach use when it gets “tied in a knot”?
    I am sure NRP knows just what liquid will untie it.

    1. Skeezix;
      That would be a TP-Needed Knot, best to use copious amounts of Gin or Mint-Juleps to relax the said Knot and allow the symptoms to pass :-) :-)

      Hey you asked HAHAHAHAH

  12. Thanks for the post Ken! It made me remember/realize that as a youngster I could NEVER tie a proper trucker’s hitch! Now that I’m older, wiser and have access to countless YT videos, I’ll be practicing this during the Atmospheric River that is rolling over NorCal tomorrow!

    Stay safe everyone!

  13. It’s also worthwhile to have something on hand in order to be able to loosen a tight knot. Something along the lines of a marlin spike, or something roughly similar in shape. A nail or spike may be helpful also.

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