How to Tie a Knot That Won’t Come Undone

In Skills and How-To by M.D. Creekmore2 Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

how to tie a knot

Do you know how to tie a secure knot? Well, every man should know how to tie a knot and you’re a man, right? Okay, then let’s get to it. Below are ten knots that every man should know how to tie. I suggest that you get some rope and tie each of the ten below twenty or more times each. Tie and repeat until you’re 100% sure that you know how to do it right the first time… even if you’re under stress.

These knots are great for everyday use at home and at work (depending on your job) and are also great to know for camping and survival purposes. You’ll be able to construct shelters, traps and snares, weapons and tools, and other devices, you should have a basic knowledge of ropes and knots and some of the terminology used with them.

The terms are as follows:

Bight. A simple bend of rope in which the rope does not cross itself.

Dressing the knot. The orientation of all knot parts so that they are properly aligned, straightened, or bundled. Neglecting this can result in an additional 50 percent reduction in knot strength. This term is sometimes used for setting the knot, which involves tightening all parts of the knot so they bind on one another and make the knot operational. A loosely tied knot can easily deform under strain and change, becoming a slipknot or, worse, untying.

Fraps. A means of tightening the lashings by looping the rope perpendicularly around the wraps that hold the spars or sticks together. Lashings. A means of using wraps and fraps to tie two or three spars or sticks together to form solid corners or to construct tripods.

Lashings begin and end with clove hitches. Lay. The lay of the rope is the same as the twist of the rope. Loop. A loop is formed by crossing the running end over or under the standing end to form a ring or circle in the rope.

Pigtail. That part of the running end that is left after tying the knot. It should be no more than 4 inches long to conserve rope and prevent interference. Running end. The free or working end of a rope. This is the part of the rope you are actually using to tie the knot.

Standing end. The static part of the rope, or the rest of the rope besides the running end. Turn. A loop around an object, such as a post, rail, or ring, with the running end continuing in the opposite direction to the standing end. A round turn continues to circle and exits in the same general direction as the standing end.

Whipping. Any method of preventing the end of a rope from untwisting or becoming unwound. It is done by wrapping the end tightly with a small cord, tape, or other means. It should be done on both sides of an anticipated cut in a rope before cutting the rope in two. This prevents the rope from immediately untwisting.

Wraps. Simple wraps of rope around two poles or sticks (square lashing) or three poles or sticks (tripod lashing). Wraps begin and end with clove hitches and get tighter with fraps. All together, they form a lashing.

how to tie a knot

The 10 basic knots and methods of tying them that you should know for survival purposes are as follows:

1. Half-hitch.

This is the simplest of all knots, and it used to be the safety, or finishing, knot for all U.S. Army knots. Because it had a tendency to undo itself without load, it has since been replaced by the overhand. 2. Overhand. This is the simple knot that most people tie every day as the first step in tying their shoes. It can also be used to temporarily whip the end of a rope.

This knot should replace the half-hitch as a finishing knot for other knots. This knot alone will reduce the strength of a straight rope by 55 percent.

how to tie an Overhand knot

2. Square.

A good, simple knot for general-purpose use, the square knot is basically two overhand knots that are reversed, as in right over left, left over right. It is used to tie the ends of two ropes of equal diameter together (just like your shoelaces) and must be secured with an overhand on both ends. It is easy to inspect, as it forms two loops and is easy to untie after being loaded.

how to tie a Square knot

3. Round turn and two half-hitches.

This is the main anchor knot for one-rope bridges and other applications where a good anchor knot is required and high loads would make other knots jam and be difficult to untie. It is used most frequently to anchor rope to a pole or tree.

Round turn and two half-hitches knot

4. Clove hitch and end-of-the-line clove hitch.

These knots can be used to fasten a rope to a tree or pipe, and they put little strain on the rope. They are easy to anchor knots, but tension must remain on the knot or they will slip. This can be remedied by making another loop around the object and under the center of the clove hitch.

how to tie a clove hitch

5. Sheepshank.

A method of shortening a rope, a sheepshank may also be used to take the load off a weak spot in the rope. It is a temporary knot unless the eyes are fastened to the standing part of the rope on both ends.

how to tie a Sheepshank knot

6. Double sheet bend.

This knot is used to tie together the ends of two ropes of equal or unequal diameter. It will also join wet rope and not slip or draw tight under load. It can be used to tie the ends of several ropes to the end of one rope. When a single rope is tied to multiple ropes, the bight is formed with the multiple of ropes.

 Double sheet bend knot

7. Prusik.

This knot ties a short rope around a longer rope (for example, a sling rope around a climbing rope) in such a manner that the short rope will slide on the climbing rope if no tension is applied and will hold if tension is applied on the short rope. This knot can be tied with an end of rope or bight of rope.

When tied with an end of the rope, the knot is finished off with a bowline. The non-slip nature of the knot on another rope allows the climbing of ropes with footholds. It can also be used to anchor ropes or the end of a traction splint on a branch or ski pole.

Prusik knot

how to tie a knot

8. Bowline and bowline finished with an overhand knot.

The around-the-body bowline was the basic knot used for rescue for many years, as it provided a loop to place around a body that would not slip or tighten up under strain. It has been replaced by the figure eight in most applications because the latter does not weaken the rope as much.

Bowline and bowline finished with an overhand knot.

Figure eight and retractable figure eight.

9. Figure eight and retractable figure eight.

This knot is the main rescue knot in use today. It has the advantages of being stronger than the bowline and easier to tie and check. One disadvantage is that when wet it may be more difficult to untie than the bowline after being stressed. The figure eight (or figure of eight) can be used as an anchor knot on fixed ropes. It can also be used to prevent the end of a rope from slipping through a fastening or loop in another rope when a knot larger than an overhand is needed.

M.D. Creekmore


  1. On the Square knot, you need to make sure that after tying, both running ends are on the same side of the knot, otherwise it will slip when tension is applied. We usually called the improper tied square knot a “granny knot”. From my days in the British Boy Scouts (pre 1963).

  2. Thank you, I learned all these back in 4-H 50 years ago but a refresher is a great thing.

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