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Bush Craft: Know your knots


We use knots everyday for a multitude of purposes, and just about everyone knows the granny knot; it must be the most widely used knot throughout the world.

If you are sat around the campfire feeling a bit bored, or you’re fed up with your friends’ tales of, “I’ve been there, done that”, here are a few useful knots to practise. They each have a strong point when it comes to specific lashing needs; it’s worth knowing which will prove most handy.

Two pieces of terminology you will hear when it comes to knot discussions are these: ‘Bight’ (this is where the rope is folded back on itself to form a loop), and ‘Live end’ (this is the end of the rope).

For ease of demonstration, where two ropes are involved, I have used two different coloured ones of different sizes.

Sheet bend

A quick and easy way of joining two lengths of rope together. It can be used for ropes of similar or different thicknesses, and even for attaching a rope to a tarpaulin which has no eyelets. Form a bight in one length of rope. Pass the end of the other rope through the bottom of the bight, around the back of the bight, and then come back to the front passing through itself. If being used to attach a rope to a tarpaulin, twist the corner of the tarpaulin and twist back on itself to form a loop. The rope is then looped through this. Tension needs to be kept on this knot, otherwise it will come loose.

Fisherman’s knot

Another easy way of joining two lengths of rope together. Start by forming an overhand knot. Thread the rope through this and tie an overhand knot over the original rope. To tighten the knots, pull them together. This knot is hard to untie if it has a lot of tension on it. Note that it’s also not really suitable for nylon rope either, as the knots can come undone.

Slip knot

A very basic, simple and easy knot for many applications. In the rope tie an overhand knot, and thread the other end through this. To secure the knot, tie off with a half-hitch. There is an easier way to make this knot, but it’s difficult to explain. Let me try, though. Form a bight in the rope. Fold that bight backwards towards you so now you have two loops. Now fold those two loop downwards together, and push one through the other.

Clove hitch

Because of its ease of tying, and untying, the clove hitch is a very useful knot to know. It is generally used to attach a line to a post. Loop the live end of the rope around the post from the front, bring it across itself and pass it back around the post. Pass the live end through itself at the front. Pull the loops together and tighten. To make the hitch even more secure, pass the live end through the first loop. This now becomes a constrictor hitch.

Quick release knot


There’s nothing worse than tying a knot and then having difficulty untying it. This is where a quick release knot comes in handy; when you give the free end a sharp tug, it will untie. Form the rope into a bight (one end should be longer than the other; the short end is the live end, and the long end the standing end) and pass it around the post. Bring a bight from the standing end through the first bight. Take the live end and form a bight, which is passed through the loop of the second. The knot is tightened by pulling the standing end. To untie the knot, pull on the live end.

Wakos transport knot

This knot is useful for lashing loads to a roof rack. Take the rope and make a loop. Slightly down from this, make a bight and pass it through the loop, and then make a twist in it. Pass the rope through the anchor points and then through the twist. Pull on the rope to tension it and secure with two half-hitches.


This is not technically a knot, but a hitch. It is a sliding loop that will not slip under tension. When tension is taken off, the knot will slide, and is easily untied. One of its most useful applications is to tension guylines of tents, awnings, hammocks, etc. It is a simple, uncomplicated knot to tie and is generally formed from paracord, or thinnish cord. Form a bight and loop it around the guyline. Pass the free ends through the loop. Keep the tension loose. Pass the free ends through the loop again, but do not allow them to cross. Gently tighten the turns. You now should have four turns of the main rope.

Reef knot

A useful knot for using in a first-aid situation, such as tying bandages or slings, as the knot can quickly be untied. It also lies flat so is comfortable against the skin. Take the two ends of rope, pass right end over left, and then under it. Now take the left over right, and under it. The knot should resemble two bights evenly linked together that slide on one another. Pull tight. If the bights do not slide, you have tied it wrong.