Knot tying has always been one of those key outdoor skills that the inexperienced take for granted. The experienced outdoorsman, however, has had enough success and failure to know that there are right and wrong knots for certain jobs.

But first, it helps to know a few strange terms. Put it simply, a knot is some kind of fastening or splice made by intertwining one or more ropes or some other flexible material. After tightening a knot, it should hold on its own. A hitch is a little bit different. It’s like a knot, but it generally involves another object like a stick, a post, a ring, or occasionally another rope. Properly tied, hitches can hold their place, or they may be able to slide, depending on the hitch you choose. A lashing is like a hitch, but slightly more complex. Lashings involve the use of a rope or similar material to secure two or more objects together. To grossly oversimplify all this, the knot is just rope fastened together; the hitch is a rope fastened to an object; and a lashing is a rope fastening multiple objects together.

A good knot can save lives when you’re dealing with a survival situation, performing first aid, and when working over heights or water. But, you have to know how to tie it. So make sure you know what to do with your rope the next time you head into the wild by learning these 20 essential knots.

1. Square Knot

how to tie a square knot

The square knot is a classic for connecting lines and tying knots. Whether you are tying two ropes together to make a longer rope, or you are tying up a bundle of firewood to carry, the square knot is a winner. It’s much more secure and stable than its cousin the granny knot, which everyone is probably familiar with as part of tying their shoes.

How to Tie a Square Knot:

You can tie a solid square knot by lapping one rope right over left, then underneath the other, and then tying the same again in the reverse direction—left over right and then underneath. You’ll know you did it right when the working end and standing end of each rope is side by side (not making a “cross” like a granny knot).

2. Clove Hitch

how to tie a clove hitch

The Clove Hitch is an easy knot to tie, and it secures a line to a tree or post quickly, but it does slip when used alone, without any other knots as a backup.

How to Tie a Clove Hitch:

To create a Clove Hitch on a tree, make a loop of rope around the tree. Then make another loop and pass the free end of the rope under the second loop before tightening. To tie this one over a post or stake, just create a loop in the free end of the rope and slide it over the post. Then make another loop the same as the first. Put the second loop over the post (just above the first loop) and tighten the hitch.

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