Strings, ropes, strands, fibers, and textiles are the basis of many human technologies, and they have existed as such largely unchanged until the advent of industrialization and synthetic textiles. I would like to present eight essential knots that I feel are important for the reader to be familiar with and know how to tie. They will empower you with a greater ability to survive on your own wits with the right equipment in the wilderness, and they’re simply fun to make.
The overhand knot is the most simple knot to make. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can tie this knot. It’s not very useful, not very strong, and tends to slip very easily, but it is typically the first step of any more intricate knots.
The Reef Knot or Square Knot
The reef knot, or square knot, is a simple knot used to tie two lines together. It’s simple and quick and easy to repair a break in the field, and offers a temporary solution while a more permanent knot can be put into place if necessary. The reef knot is one of the most simple of knots to make, but many people often incorrectly tie the second half causing them to roll over. The end that wraps around over the first half needs to wrapped around the outside on the other half symmetrically causing the strands to form two overlapping loops over each line. This knot only works well if the two lines are closely matched in diameter (preferably from the same cord stock), otherwise the sheet bend knot should be used with lines of significantly differing thickness or materials.
The Two Half Hitch Knot
The two half hitch knot is an essential knot that is used to string a hammock between two trees or posts, and is also well suited to form the core of more intricate cord weaving designs. The ring can either be nailed into place, secured with a metal strap, or tied to an anchoring structure with another line.
The Bowline Knot
The bowline knot is a maritime knot that is found in all known seafaring cultures. It will anchor a loop to the end of a line that will not move and will handle high strains without slipping. It typically forms one end of a line with a taut line hitch on the other side to give you variable strain on fixed lines. Like most other knots, this may be used as the basis of more intricate weaving patterns.
The Taut Line Hitch
The two half hitch knot is an American tradition handed down from generations that has been taught by the Boy Scouts since their founding in 1910. It provides an essential means of setting up tent lines secured to ground stakes or pegs, and provides sturdier support for shelter than almost any other more modern plastic quick release mechanisms. Typically used with a two half hitch knot on the other end, this knot also needs the short end secured with a two half hitch knot to prevent it from slipping.
The Figure Eight Knot
The figure eight knot is an essential knot to secure the loose ends of cords used for other more intricate knots such as the taut line hitch, the clove hitch and others. It’s a very quick and simple knot to make, but make certain that you fold the first loop over itself a second time to keep from making the knot a simple overhand knot.
The Clove Hitch
The clove hitch is pretty simple and used to loosely bind a line to post of some sort. Historically used to bind horse reins to hitch posts in addition to the highwayman’s hitch, it is also useful in securing lines used in the construction of improvised lean-to shelters and cooking tripods.
The Sheet Bend Knot
The sheet bend knot is a fairly simple knot, and is much better for securing two lines of differing thickness together than the reef knot. This knot along with the clove hitch is essential to the construction of fishing nets and any sort of corded netting.