Top Knots Every Survivalist Should Know

If you've ever been to an Old fashioned lobster House or fish market on the east coast of the United States, you probably saw a large wooden plank on the wall displaying a number of different knots. Some almost seem as if they are merely decoration. But there are a few knots they're important to learn especially if you spend time in the wilderness.

It is not only important to learn how to tie knots, but you have to also know how and when to use each knot.

Here are some of the top knots you should have in your arsenal of skills.

Knots are divided into four basic groups:
  1. Bend – that is a knot designed to join two ends of a rope to each other or two ropes together.
  2. Stopper – that is a knot designed to prevent the end of a rope from slipping through and unwinding.
  3. Loop – that is a knot designed to secure a rope to an object.
  4. Hitch – that is a knot that secures part of the rope to an object by clinching or tightening that rope around the object.

Many of us know the basic simple top knots like a square knot and how to tie shoes, but knots can open up a world of uses. When you go camping or boating and you have the task of putting up your tent together or securing your food ropes are valuable pieces of gear. A rope can help you negotiate difficult terrain, protect your food from the wildlife,tie-down gear on the car, used for first aid, secure tarps and shelters, fasten guy lines on tents,  and fix up lines for drying washing, or hanging lanterns, securing boats and sailing lines and much more.

As an additional benefit, knot tying promotes increased hand-eye coordination skills and accentuates fine motor skills.  Rope can also keep a curious child occupied for hours, and help them develop motor skills.

Resources to help you master the knot-tying art

In case you really are eager to learn about the art of tying knots, we recommend a couple of resources that will teach you more than just the ‘how' of knot tying.

  1. The Ultimate Book of Everyday Knots: Paperback – Illustrated, April 15, 2012
    by Geoffrey BudworthThe Ultimate Book of Everyday Knots: (over 15,000 copies sold)

Buy this book on amazon

  1. Knot Tying Kit | Pro-Knot Best Rope Knot Cards, two practice cords, and a carabiner Ring-bound – September 15, 2020

Knot Tying Kit | Pro-Knot Best Rope Knot Cards, two practice cords and a carabinerGet this Knot-Tying Kit from Amazon

Types of Knots
Monkey's Fist

There are thousands of knot variations but there are some basic top knots that will keep you in good stead unless you want to learn the fancy variations for fun. If so, I recommend the Monkey's Fist, which can be turned into earrings and door stops, but if you think knots are harmless, please note that the monkey's fist knot can be used as a weapon if tied on a large rope. Carrying or attempting to use a monkey's fist as a weapon is a felony in the states of California, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, and Michigan. It is a gross misdemeanor in the states of Nevada and Washington. This is proof that knots are more than just a bit of rope.

Nautical Maritime Marine Sailor's Monkey Fist sailor rope knot Keychain key Ring

Purchase Keychain on Amazon

The image above demonstrates how a Monkey's fist knot looks like.

The basics you should know to go camping, boating, or use in your home, are less scandalous, and less decorative.

Square knot

This is the most basic type of knot.  It comes with a little rhyme right over left left over right.  Tighten.  This secures two lines and you use it in many situations.

A square knot tied in a rope.

The obstacle can be tying it wrong which turns it into a granny knot if you tie leftover left or right over right you end up with a knot that can easily become undone.


The next most popular knot is the bowline.  It creates a loop around an object and thus secures one end of the rope to that object. Its advantage is it can take a lot of tension and stress and yet can be easily undone.

bowline knot, top knots
A bowline knot

Make a loop around the object and then with the long end make another loop, this loop should have the loop coming upwards on the top side. With the running end come up through the loop go around the bottom and of the loop and back down into the loop. In another rhyme, the bunny comes out of the hole goes around the tree, and goes back in the hole.

The hitch knot

This is a compound knot that functions as a kind of a pulley and gives you a mechanical advantage in that the can person pulling can do so at three times his or her own weight. This is very good to attach to a tarp as it can be tied then tightened.

top knots, hitch knots
A Hitch Knot

Face the object and pass the running end of the rope around the object on the standing end of the rope make several turns around the rope come down and put a loop through the bottom loop. This really is best expressed by looking at pictures.

Clove hitch

Secures something to a stationary object. This is one often seen when securing a horse to a rail.

clove hitch knot, top knots
A Clove Hitch Knot

Pass the running end of the rope around your anchor point pull the running end up over the anchor point to form an x across the end, tuck the running end under the loop and tighten.

Taut line hitch

This looks similar to a bowline but has an extra step, its advantage is that it can create a taut line with a slide feature.

top knots, taut line hitch knot
How to tie a taut line hitch knot

Pass the running edge of the rope around the anchor point coil the running in twice around the standing line and make one additional coil and pass the running end through the loops on the outside of the coils and tighten the knot this way you can slide on the standing line to adjust the tension.

Tips to using knots

The time to start learning how to tie knots is not when you need to. Practice tie knots before you go on an adventure. Know knots are intended for and use each for its proper purpose. Try a number of different knots and some of the variations and find what not work best for you. In addition to knots know what ropes you need and what cords and know their advantages and limitations are. Buy good quality rope and cord this can make a difference.

PARACORD PLANET Paracord (50+ Colors) - 1,000 Foot spools - 250 Foot spools - 100 feet Hank

Purchase this Paracord roll from Amazon and use it to practice your knot-tying skills

If you know you're going to be using a lot of knots in serious situations go to an outdoor store and buy some short lengths of a variety of different kinds of ropes and try practicing your knot tying on a variety of ropes to find out what best works for you. Also, know the strength of your rope.