Knots to Know

Knots and Boy Scouts go together like campfires and cobbler. Here’s how to tie three of the knots required to reach First Class, plus four more that can be very useful.

Knots. It all begins with rope — different sizes, lengths, widths, and strengths, depending on its use.

Ropes used for climbing can bear more than two tons of weight. Thinner, lightweight cords are used for lashings and tying off tent stakes.

Although they are still used in horse packing and sailing, natural-fiber ropes are mostly a thing of the past. Most ropes for outdoor recreation are made of nylon for durability and elasticity.

To prolong the life of your rope, protect it from dirt, sunlight, chemicals, and abrasion. When you store
a rope, coil it following its natural lay. Don’t wrap it around your arm and through your outstretched hand like an extension cord. Keep it in a bag for storage.

Fortified Square Knot

The basic square knot, or “joining” knot, is the first knot many boys learn on the night they join a Scout troop.

1) “Right over left and under, left over right and under, then pull.”

2) The fortified square knot strengthens the basic knot by adding an overhand knot to each end, which makes it less likely to slip.

Taut-line Hitch

This is the knot campers use to adjust tension in a tent’s guyline. It works best with cord that is at least ¼-inch thick.

1) Wrap the rope around a secure object such as a tent stake. Bring the leading end under the standing rope and wrap the end around the standing part two times.

2) Finish by bringing the leading rope above the two loops and finish with a half hitch; pull tight.

Grapevine Knot (also known as the Double Fisherman’s Knot)

This useful knot ties two ropes of equal diameter securely together. It’s secure enough to be used in rappelling—but can be difficult to untie.

1) Place two lengths of rope parallel to each other. With the leading end of the lower rope, tie two overhand knots around the upper rope; pull the knot tight. With the leading end of the upper rope, tie an overhand knot around the lower rope.

2) Pull the knot tight.

Clove Hitch

This easy knot can be used to tie a horse to a post. It’s also the knot used to start and finish most lashings. The knot is tied with two loops of rope stacked on top of one another so that they interlock and hold firm. This is one of the quickest knots to learn.

1) Wrap the rope around a post and cross it.

2) Wrap the leading end of the rope around the post again and tuck it under itself below the cross.

3) Pull tight.


This loop knot is popular among climbers and sailors. It’s a secure knot that will not slip or loosen. In a rescue, a bowline can be tied around a person’s waist so he can be hoisted to safety.

The bowline is often taught using the story of the rabbit and the hunter.

1) Form the rabbit’s hole by making a loop in the rope. Take the leading line (the rabbit) up through the hole.

2) The “rabbit” sees a hunter, runs around the tree (the standing line of the rope)

3) It goes back into the hole. Pull both ends of the rope to finish the knot.

Prusik Knot

This knot is used by climbers to ascend a rope and by rescuers to raise and lower people and equipment. The climbing rope should be thicker than the accessory cord (usually 5 to 7 millimeters).

1) Tie a grapevine knot to make a secure loop.

2) Use a girth hitch (also known as the cow, lanyard, lark’s foot, lark’s head, and strap hitch) to

3) secure the cord with the grapevine knot around another rope.

Chain Sennit

To shorten a long line of rope, such as a painter attached to the bow of a canoe, use the deceptively simple chain sennit. When you need the full length of line, a quick tug frees the entire rope without any kinks or knots.

1) Make an overhand slip knot.

2) Pull the loose end through to make another slip knot.

3) Repeat as many times as necessary and pull tight.




  1. Why is the ONLY knot that is not shown the taut-line hitch?? As a new Scouter, this is the first one I have come upon that at Cub Resident Camp it was expected that I knew/could utilize, and I had no clue. No one has ever asked me to tie/use any of the others, but there are pictures for each of them. Lack.

  2. How about the sheepshank? Thanks what the wanted Fred McMurray to tie in “Follow Me Boys!”

  3. Why are only 3 of the eight basic knots mentioned? Why not the others, you know: sheepshank, sheet bend, Timber hitch, two half hitches, and taughtline hitch?

  4. One of the tips I use for the bowline is to have them visualize a highway on-ramp, or “make a number ‘6’” then come back up inside the loop of the “6” to make the pass around the standing end. I’ll also have them hold the “6” with their thumb in-line with the standing end, so that when they make the pass around “the tree”, they are going around their thumb. Sometimes helps the initial tries to keep everything oriented the same way until they see where all the loops & ends are supposed to go. For fun, have a contest to see who can tie the fastest one-handed bowline around their waist. Method to describe this one is: you just fell down a well & broke one arm. The Scout at the top of the well has a rope, but can’t tie the knot. You grab the end of the rope, rotate your body so that you’re pulling the rope behind your back, with the hand holding the end of the rope, pass over the standing end, “scratch your belly-button” while still holding the end, then pass the end carefully around the standing end, catching it again & pulling it back through the loop your wrist is inside. When you’ve let your wrist “escape”, you’ve tied the knot. Works nicely for demonstration with a braided bridle rope, about 1″ in dia. Pieces of this kind of rope of two colors makes it easy to demonstrate knots in front of a larger group–easier to see where the rope is going without fingers blocking the view.

  5. I know this is an old posting but I hope someone with advice will stumble across it.

    I want to learn a good hitch for connecting a line to a carabiner or other clip. A simple knot like a bowline etc has a tight bend of one line across the clip so the strength is about half the line strength.

    Is there a knot that would double up the line & loops so the strength of the connection is closer to the full line strength?

    • Try kleimheist or a variant, it uses turns around beener and rope. look at climbing knot books for others like it.

  6. You should NOT use a clove hitch to tie a horse. Were the horse to panic (and they don’t need a reason), you would find it nearly impossible to release the horse. There are many better knots to use.

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