Knot tying is an essential skill that everyone should know. Knots can be used in everyday scenarios as well as many emergency situations. A simple knot can be used in seemingly every possible scenario of your daily life, from tying your bootlaces to escaping from an upstairs window in a fire. But for those who enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, there are a few basic camping knots we should all learn.

Basic Knot Terms

Before we start talking about different knots, there are a few basic terms that we need to address.

In order to tie a knot, we, of course, need a rope. Many knots require only one rope; however, some, like the sheet bend, need two ropes. Most knot tying requires the rope to be secured around an anchor point, but some, like the slip knot or a figure eight knot, can be tied on the rope itself.

When we’re talking about tying knots, each part of the rope is referred to by a specific name.

The standing part of the rope is referred to as the standing end. This is the part of the rope that is not being used to tie the knot.

The free end of the rope is referred to as the working end. As you tie a rope around itself to create a knot, the free end is the end of the rope that you’re actively working with.

Some Basic Knots

In this article, we’re talking about 5 essential camping knots. But there are hundreds of knots out there that you could learn. Today we’ll be looking at the square knot, the bowline knot, the taut line hitch, the clove hitch, and the trucker’s hitch. Some other essential knots that would be good to learn would be the lark’s head knot, the figure eight knot, the half hitch, the overhand knot, the cow hitch, and the girth hitch, to name a few.

1. Square Knot

The first and most basic of camping knots is known as the square knot or reef knot. It’s one of the best camping knots because it’s used to tie two pieces of rope of equal thickness together. If you have two lengths of rope that you need to tie together to make a longer piece, the reef knot is the perfect knot for the job. Unless, of course, the two pieces of rope or different diameters, in which case you’ll need to learn to tie a sheet bend, which is very similar to the reef knot but with one slight variation.

Reef knot: One of the 5 essential camping knots every camper should know

How to Tie a Reef Knot:

  • Step 1: Take two ends of a rope, cord, or string in each hand.
  • Step 2: Cross the right end over the left strand, creating a loop.
  • Step 3: Bring the right end underneath the left end and back over the loop you created in Step 2.
  • Step 4: Take the left end and bring it over the right end and through the loop created in Step 3.
  • Step 5: Pull both ends tightly to complete the knot.
  • Step 6: You should have a knot that consists of two adjacent overhand knots, with opposite ends passing through each other’s loops.
  • Step 7: If done correctly, the knot should be symmetrical and lay flat.

Congratulations, you have successfully tied a reef knot!

2. Bowline knot

The bowline knot is one of the most essential camping knots out there. This classic knot has been used as a rescue knot for centuries. Once the loop is created, it forms an incredibly strong knot that won’t slide.

Bowline knot: One of the 5 essential camping knots every camper should know

How to tie a Bowline Knot:

  • Step 1: Create a small loop in the rope by passing the working end (free end) of the rope over the standing part (standing end).
  • Step 2: Bring the free end up through the loop you just created.
  • Step 3: Wrap the working end around the standing part of the rope, going behind the standing part and then back through the loop again.
  • Step 4: Bring the working end back down through the loop that you created in Step 1.
  • Step 5: Pull on the standing end to tighten the knot. As you pull, the loop that you created in Step 1 will form a loop that won’t slip, and the knot will take shape.
  • Step 6: Make sure the knot is secure by giving it a tug, then trim any extra line.

Congratulations, you have successfully tied a bowline! The bowline is a versatile camping knot that creates a strong, secure loop that won’t slide. Once you get comfortable tying it this way, there are some pretty cool rope-tying tricks you can use to tie it with one hand around your body.

3. Taut Line Hitch

This is absolutely one of the best camping knots out there. It can be used to string a ridge line from one tree to another for a tarp, secure guy lines to a tent peg, or any other task that requires some adjustment. This great knot is relatively easy to tie as it is composed of just three half-hitches,

Taut line hitch: one of 5 essential camping knots every camper shuld know

How to Tie a Taut Line Hitch:

  • Step 1: Loop the working end around something solid like a tree.
  • Step 2: Take the working end and pass it over the standing end, making a half hitch.
  • Step 3: Make another half hitch inside the loop.
  • Step 4: Now, cross the working end over the two half hitches and tie another half hitch on the outside of the loop.
  • Step 5: Tighten and dress the knot.
  • Step 6: Pull the working end to tighten the knot around the object, then adjust as needed to make it tight and secure.

This knot is one of the best camping knots because it can be used to adjust the tension on a line, such as guy lines or a washing line. It is easy to tie and untie, and it can be adjusted as needed to maintain tension on the line.

4. Clove Hitch

A clove hitch is used to tie a rope around a cylindrical object like a tree. The clove hitch is a secure knot that won’t slide when tied properly. It’s one of the least complex knots to tie but is still one of the best knots out there

Clove hitch knot: one of 5 essential camping knots every camper should know

How to tie a Clove Hitch:

  • Step 1: Hold the rope in one hand and wrap it twice around the post or object.
  • Step 2: Cross the working end over the standing end, then tuck it underneath both wraps of rope.
  • Step 3: Bring the working end back over the standing end and tuck it under the two wraps of rope again, but this time on the opposite side of the wrap.
  • Step 4: Pull it tight by tugging on the working end and standing end at the same time.

This is one of the best knots you can use to tie up the opening of a bear bag before hanging it up in a tree.

5. Trucker’s hitch

The trucker’s hitch is one of the only ways to create real tension on a line. When you want to have a secure ridge line for your tarp to make sure it doesn’t blow away in high winds, this is what you want to use.

Truckers hitch knot: one of 5 essential camping knots every camper should know

How to tie a Truckers Hitch:

  • Step 1: Tie a small loop in the rope near the end, leaving yourself enough of a working end to wrap around the object you want to secure it to.
  • Step 2: Wrap the working end of the rope around the object, then bring the working end back through the loop.
  • Step 3: With your left hand, pull the working end of the rope to tighten the loop around the object, creating a pully.
  • Step 4: With your right hand, pinch the working end where it passes through the loop to hold it secure.
  • Step 5: Then tie off the rope using a stopper knot.

This is a powerful and reliable knot, but it does require some practice to master.


If you spend any time outdoors, working with rope is a necessity. From tying two ropes together to making a usable ridge line to running pieces of rope out to wooden tent pegs, the uses are infinite. If you follow this guide, then you’ll be able to make fiddling with ropes a distant memory.

Josh Blaski

Josh is a writer, photographer, and outdoorsman based in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. When not on assignment, he spends all of his time in the outdoors, hiking, backpacking, hunting, and fly fishing.

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