5 Rope Knots You Need to Know How to Tie | ITS Tactical

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5 Knots You Need to Know How to Tie at All Times

By Bryan Black

We’re doing something different today with our Knot of the Week series and taking a look at five knots that you should know how to tie at all times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with friends and had to tie something or someone down and everyone just looks at me.

No matter how often I remind them they need to read our KOTW articles and watch the videos here on ITS, I thought I’d put together an article on what I consider to be the knots I use the most on a regular basis and why you should have them at your disposal. Below you’ll find links to our original articles on ITS with tying instructions, as well as embedded videos that take you step-by-step through each of them.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to remember all the knots we teach here on ITS and knot tying is a depreciable skill that needs to be practiced. So let’s look at five, in no particular order, that you should know how to tie with your eyes closed or even underwater.

Bowline / One-Handed Bowline

Bowline Knot

A Bowline is one of those knots that useful for many applications, putting a loop into a knot that won’t seize up on you, or more importantly a One-Handed Bowline that could save your life one of these days.

It seems like I’m always tying a bowline to secure a line to a fixed point. It’s a great all-around knot and one you should definitely know both on its own and one-handed.

Click Here to View Bowline Steps on Flickr

Click Here to View One Handed Bowline Steps on Flickr

Taut-Line Hitch

Taut Line Hitch

I feel like the Taut-Line Hitch is one of the most underrated knots out there, it’s extremely versatile and great for applications where you can have varying tension, such as securing a load. It’s most common application is providing adjustable tension for guy lines on a tent or tarp.

Some interesting sliders and devices now appear on tents’ guy lines to adjust tension. Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer a Taut-Line Hitch.

Click Here to View Taut Line Hitch Steps on Flickr

Threaded Figure-Eight

Figure Eight Knot

Another knot that’s underrated in it’s ability to get you out of a jam is the Threaded Figure 8.

While the application I’m mentioning almost needs to be paired with a Swiss Seat at the least, nothing beats the Threaded Figure 8 to safely get you down from heights, whether on purpose or in an emergency situation.

Click Here to View Threaded Figure Eight Steps on Flickr

Double Fisherman’s Knot

Double Fisherman Knot

For joining rope together or making an adjustable loop out of two of these knots, the Double Fisherman’s Knot can’t be beat. Preferably the rope you’re joining together should be around the same diameter, as there’s better knots to join sections of different diameter rope such as a Beckett’s Bend or as it’s commonly known, a Sheet Bend.

Click Here to View Double Fisherman’s Knot Steps on Flickr

Power Cinch Knot

Power Cinch Knot

Another little known and underrated knot is the Power Cinch. Another great way to add tension to a line without the possibility of it slipping loose like I’ve seen Taut-Line Hitches do, yet very easy to pull down in a hurry. This is what I use for any kind of trunk line while I’m camping or putting up a shelter. Tensioning knots are something you should know and the reason I’ve included two of them in these five. I always see people over-tying objects in the back of a truck or in many situations where all they’re doing is trying to secure a load. Regular half hitches work fine, but that extra effort both in tying and removing all those knots simply isn’t necessary if you know the right knots to use in the first place.

Click Here to View Power Cinch Knot Steps on Flickr

Honorable Mention – Chain Sinnet

Chain Sinnet

One last knot I’d like to mention is the Chain Sinnet, I literally tie this multiple times a week into all my extension cords and I can’t tell you how much time and aggravation it’s saved me over the years. I was first taught this by an old employer who wanted their extension cords tied this way and I’ve always remembered it because of it’s efficiency. Mark this down as one to take a look at too if you’ve got the time for a bonus knot.

Click Here to View Chain Sinnet Steps on Flickr

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  • SquarePeg

    All great knots. However, I feel you missed a top 5 knot….the truckers hitch. Nothing beats it for securing a load. I lOve knots and use them almost daily. Keep up the good work!

    • Nick

      He did list the truckers hitch. He calls it the “power cinch.” Watch the video- youll see its just a truckers

  • Dave

    All usefull knots except the last one. The chain sinnet may be handy, but it will ruin your extension cords.

  • Tim Liston

    Flickr photos don’t appear to be working.

    • Thanks for the heads up on the photo issue.

    • Hey Tim,

      Looks like Flickr was/is having some intermittent issues. Looks to be working fine now! Thanks for the heads up!

  • Mike D

    Glad to see the Taut-Line Hitch is on here! It truly is a versatile knot, my favorite by far. I learned this knot about 10 years ago in the Civil Air Patrol, we were setting up a poncho between tents for improvised shelter. Since then, I’ve used every chance I’ve gotten. Great write-up!

  • Joseph S

    These are all knots I learned as an Eagle Scout, with the exception of the power cinch (which is really just an application of half-hitches and slip knots). My troop made it a point to make sure everyone knew square knot, slip-knot, clove hitch, timber hitch, two half-hitches, taut-line hitch, sheepshank, bowline, sheet bend, and fisherman’s knot by the rank of Tenderfoot. Thanks for the article.

    PS You could really benefit from a GoPro in videos like the power cinch so that you don’t have to stop, move the camera, and start again. It also might help when teaching things that make the most sense when taught in point-of-view (i.e. knots).

  • Mike Adams

    Thanks for the step-by-step and videos.

    I’m concerned about the safety or backup knot on your bowline. It’s unconventional and because of that I’m wondering if it is safe. Have you considered the “yosemite” finish or other finishes that bring the tail back through the knot?

    I’m also curious why you tie a safety in the figure 8 follow through knot.

    Thanks again!

  • Ian Delmar

    Excellent resource! All helpful knots to know right off the back of your hand! thanks!

  • Sham

    Double fisherman make great water bottle lanyards for any water bottle that has a lip on it I keep about four tied in my truck

  • JC

    That last one done without doubling over the line is a lifeguard loop – keeps the line compact but won’t snarl when paying out.

  • Crooks

    Great Article! But what about that ubiquitous Square Knot?

  • DB

    What you call the power cinch is what I’ve known as a trucker’s hitch for many years. When you make the first loop if you twist it 3 times instead of just once before pulling the second loop through it will jut fall apart when you undo it instead of having to yank it.

  • Great idea to outline these knots. As mentioned by another commenter, the safety of the bowline you display here should be addressed. The main problem is that the tail should be longer and finished with a fishermans. This knot is GREAT to release after being loaded; however, it can slip if not finished correctly. When tying in with this knot, I use both the yosemite finish with a fisherman for the tail. Something to consider when highlighting the bowline.

    Also surprised I didn’t see the clove hitch on here.

  • Ryan

    Good article, but how did the Munter Mule (hitch) not make the list?

  • Mike

    Obviously everyone has their own favorite knots, so any list of “Need to know” will be debated. I am curious though why you included the Threaded Figure 8 and the Bowline. In my experience, they are both secure loop knots and end up with pretty much the same function.

  • Waykno

    Good article. Yes, this open to debate but these are good ones. I like and use the taut-line hitch but the adjustable grip hitch is better–close though. To an earlier reader: square knot–boo. No offense. Siberian hitch for a guy line on a tent ridge line, ties in about 5 seconds and releases in less, then use one of the two first mentioned above for tension to the other tree/pole. Heh, heh, this is like the top 5 guns or knives–all will differ with you but these are good ones. Of course, one cannot confine it to 5–maybe 10-15 would be better suited. Keep up the good work.

  • Waykno

    Bowline is very good but… do a double bowline and it is premium. Instead of one loop at the beginning, make two, then proceed as usual. At the finish, if one chooses for added security, simply tie an overhand knot around the loop where it would just touch if you didn’t. Hope that makes sense.

  • JWhite

    No truckers hitch? No timber hitch? The timber hitch is super easy, as is the truckers hitch. Love those knots for tarp camping.

  • Mr Sheesh

    Question – is the http://www.itstactical.com/skillcom/knots/ 404’ing intentionally? I’d love to be able to see all your excellent knots articles in one nice list 🙂

  • Spencer

    Nice! Love these. I used to use the chain sinnet to shorten ropes on side curtains for stage crew. I didn’t know what it was called back then. Very informative!

  • Thanks for the good knot info – I have to confess I’m one of those square knot guys when I’m tying down a load in my truck; I’m going to learn the power cinch now – makes a lot more sense – keep up the good work

    • @Brad Glad you enjoyed the article! Thanks for the comment and kind words, the power cinch is definitely a good one for your toolbox 🙂

  • StayPositive

    Excellent tutorial and much needed.  Takes “tie a knot and hang on” to a whole new level.  Outstanding presentation and thank you so much for all the work that went into it.

  • Brad B

    Love the tutorials but have one thing to say. The Taunt-Line hitch is wrong, it should be basically a clove hitch with an extra turn (or 2 if you need more friction).

    • Brad B

      And I’m not trying to nitpick but it’s pronounce Bow (as in bow and arrow) Lin….

  • MoRoadie

    I like this article in the fact that it is very informative. As a down rigger for the entertainment industry i already know most of these, bu this gives me something that I can pass to apprentices learning the tricks. My only issue is that the pictures for the bowline show you finishing the knot with a half hitch stopper. I just feel like this should be labeled. Other than that, awesome!

  • DonPearce

    Knots, Every Boy Scout or Girl Scout will know!

  • I like the selection of knots.  I have used some of these camping and a few other random knots along the way.  One I use for fishing and for misc around the camp for tying two ropes together is the blood knot.  It will not slip on you!

  • VulGerrity

    Please don’t use a Chain Sinnet for extension cords.  It will significantly reduce the life span of the cable, and doesn’t make it easy to just run the line out quickly.  For cable, whether it’s power, video, audio, etc, the only good method for wrapping is over under.  It prevents the cable from twisting, doesn’t pinch it in any way, keeps the cable relaxed, and allows you to easily throw the cable out or just set the coil on the ground, grab an end and run with it.

    Over over “works” but it can actually stress the cable, and is more prone to kinks.  When doing over over, the side of the cable on the inside of the coil ends up being shorter than the cable on the outside of the coil (think about the coil as a circle, the inside of the coil has a smaller diameter than the outside).  With over under, each coil switches the outside to inside and vice versa.  Furthermore, the switching of coils helps prevent any given coil from slipping under another coil and getting tangled while pulling out the line.

    Footnote: If you’re wrapping super heavy gauge power cable some people say that over over or the figure 8 method for coiling is acceptable.  Figure 8 wrapping does essentially the same thing as over under, and is easier to coil,  but nothing else is able to just be thrown out like over under.

  • coma

    I’m surprised no one noticed… the tautline is tied incorrectly.  The final loop needs to pass OVER the standing line and then passes around and through.  This incorrectly tied version is much more prone to slippage.  It’s the reversal of the final loop that really clinches under tension.  Here’s a picture of a correctly tied tautline.  Notice the difference in the final loop.

    • Kevin Hickey

      @coma Both are called the Taut Line Hitch.  In fact there are others that share this name.  The version with a reversed last turn is less likely to rotate, causing it to slip.  See Ashley’s Book of Knots as a reference.  The problem is that some of these knots are so old that different groups called knots by different names and called different knots by the same name.  200 years ago, sailors might use one name, farmers another.  The name does not always determine the knot.  Nevertheless, I would trust Ashley on this one.  He knew more about knots than anyone that has ever lived.  His book has 4000 knots in it!

  • TylerGreen

    i just got a job doing tree removal and I am pretty sure these knots will help me

  • TylerGreen

    anyone know a place in Shreveport or Bossier City Louisiana that’s has good tactical cargo pants and boots for sale

  • jleworth

    I was at Wal-Mart the other day and I saw what they claim to be a new design for a tie down strap. They call it the Tactical Tiedown check it out, http://www.tacticaltiedown.com/. Any chance you could demonstrate how to tie it?

  • Climber Ben

    I do work at heights for a living.  The knots we use regularly: Double Figure Eight (usually a double on a bight leaving 3 loops sticking out of it), Alpine Hitch, Munter Hitch, Fisherman’s knot, round turn and two half hitches, clove hitch, double fisherman’s, and we use fisherman’s as a stopper knot, and water knots for when we use webbing.  Probably a few more not coming to mind.

    That’s the funny thing about knot lists…  whoever writes the list assumes any possible readers will have the exact same usage scenarios.  I almost never use a bowline, and especially never use as fall protection.  On the other hand, when I go sailing, I pretty much only use bowlines and cleat hitches and very little else.  That said, I should probably memorize the taut-line or power cinch…  I always feel like I suck at securing loads.

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