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Say goodbye to the rat’s nest of overhands you’ve been using, and learn the perfect knot for every backpacking situation with our Essential Outdoor Knots course on Outside LEARN instead. From bowlines to backpacker’s hitches, you’ll learn everything you need to know to hang bear bags, set up hammocks, and more. Outside+ members can join the class now; get a taste of everything there is to learn below.
Watch: Master your ropework with Essential Outdoor Knots on Outside LEARN today.
This classic knot is useful in situations where you’re connecting two pieces of rope. You can always add more pieces of rope, and this knot can be used almost anywhere, especially when you need to tie something loosely to your pack, or make extra line for a tarp or rain fly. Bonus: It’s easy to untie, even with a lot of stress added to it.
STEP BY STEP: Holding the two ropes together at one end, take the left strand under the right and under, then right over left and under. Take the left part of the rope, put it over the right and wrap around. Take the new right side of the rope, put it over the left end and wrap it under. Watch the video
The backpacker’s hitch is for wrapping a rope around a tree, making it useful for securing your hammock, clothesline, or tent. It’s also popular for hanging bear bags.
STEP BY STEP: Take the loose end of the rope and make at least three wraps around the tree and tuck the loose end under the last loop. The version shown is a slippery backpacker’s hitch, which can be easily untied by pulling on the loose end. Watch the video
Overhand on a Bight
This simple knot makes an adjustable loop anywhere on a rope. Easy to tie and untie, this fairly strong knot is often used to secure tent stakes.
STEP BY STEP: Take the end of the rope and make a loop, also known as a bight. Tie an overhand knot with the loop. Watch the video
A Surgeon’s Knot is a square knot with two turns instead of one, making it especially useful for tying your boots. This knot is unlikely to slide when tying two pieces of rope, or boot laces, together.
STEP BY STEP: With one rope/lace, take the left end and wrap it twice around the right side Take the new right side and wrap it once around the left. Watch the video
This quick and easy knot, also known as a Lark’s Head knot or a Cow Hitch, is used to secure rope easily around trees or pre-existing loops on your pack.
STEP BY STEP: Take the middle of the rope, wrap it around the tree, then pull the ends through the loop you just made. Watch the video
Taut Line Hitch
A taut line hitch is used to secure a loop in a rope with adjustable length. This is especially useful for clotheslines, tent stakes, hanging a bear bag, or tying down gear.
STEP BY STEP: Wrap the loose end of the rope around the tree, then wrap that end around the rope twice inside of the loop you just made and once outside. Watch the video
A bowline knot is the ticket when you need a loop that won’t move. Backpackers can use it to tie off a bear bag or secure a canoe to shore. It is also classified as a rescue knot – you can tie it with one hand in cases where your other hand is immobilized. (Make sure to finish the knot with an overhand and a half-hitch if using it to hold a person.)
STEP BY STEP: Make a loop in the rope. Take the loose end of the rope, put it through the loop, wrap it around, and go back down through the loop. Watch the video
This knot is useful for connecting two pieces of rope of different sizes, in case you need a longer rope but are short on usable cordage.
STEP BY STEP: With two ropes: Make a bight with with the bigger rope and take the smaller rope in the other hand. Put the smaller rope up through the bight, wrap it around the back of the big rope, and pull it through the loop you just made. Watch the video
This knot is an easy way to tie off or secure the opening of a bag that you’re going to be opening and closing a lot, as it is easily loosened and tightened.
STEP BY STEP: With one rope: Take one end of the rope, wrap it around the bag, and make an X in the front of the bag. Wrap the rope around again in the same direction, and tuck the end through the X. Watch the video
The Trucker’s hitch is useful for securing gear to the top of your car. The loops can be modified and secured by a half-hitch for added stability.
STEP BY STEP: Tie a slip knot near your gear. Bring the end of the rope down to wrap it around your cargo hold. Bring it back up, pull the end through the loop of the slip knot, and pull the end down and tie a half hitch at the end of the rope. See the slideshow