Helpful Knots to Know for Camping Trips


Learning to tie the right knots for camping will make it a much smoother experience. Various knots have different uses, whether it’s for tightening your tent lines or hanging a bear bag. Knowing the right knot to use for hiking and climbing can keep you safe during those activities. There are even knots that are helpful when bandaging a scrape or cut.

Which knot do you use to tow your vehicle when it gets stuck in the mud? How do you create multiple secure loops for hanging clothing or lanterns? We’ll answer these questions and more.


Square Knot

Beginning with one of the simplest knots, the square knot is a basic knot to use for holding a bundle of things together. The reason the square knot is secure is that the ends of the rope come out of the knot evenly. Because of this, pulling on the rope only makes the knot tighter.

Some people call the square knot a reef knot. When you tie your shoes, you’re making a “slippery reef knot” by doubling the shoelace on the second lap. This makes it easy to untie it by grabbing one end of the string.


  • Extend the length of a line.
  • Tie up a bundle of wood.
  • Tie up a bandage.


  • It’s more prone to slippage than many other knots.
  • It can be easy to accidentally tie a less secure granny knot by mistake.


A bowline is slightly more complex, and it’s often used to create a secure loop that’s easy to untie after use. Although it’s strong and stable, it shouldn’t be used in a life or death situation because it unties easily when there’s no pressure on the knot.

The loop that’s created with the bowline won’t get larger or smaller, and it can hold a lot of weight. It’s convenient for hauling things up without squeezing them since the size of the loop remains stable. It’s also good for securing a load to a car luggage rack. Just thread the free end through the loop before cinching it tight.


  • Hang a bear bag.
  • Use with a boating anchor.
  • Secure a load on the top of a car.


  • Once the weight is removed, the knot loosens.
  • It must be used correctly for knot to stay tight.
  • It’s not safe enough for climbing.

Figure Eight

The figure eight knot is easy to make and it’s a dependable knot for stopping a line from moving through an opening. Yet it’s still easy to untie even after being jammed tightly against an aperture. It’s also the basis for some more complicated knots. Other names for the figure eight knot are Savoy knot and double stopper.

The figure eight can also be used with doubled line at the end of the rope to create a secure loop. Doubling the entire rope in a figure eight knot creates a Flemish bend or figure eight follow through. This is an extremely secure knot that tightens with the pressure of a load, making it useful for climbing.


  • Climb using the figure eight follow through knot.
  • Create multiple loops on a line for hanging items.
  • Tow a vehicle out of the mud.


  • The figure eight follow through knot takes two steps to tie and untie.
  • The figure eight follow through can also be difficult to untie.

Taut Line Hitch

This is one of the most useful knots for putting up a tent because it allows you to adjust the tension on the line. The taut line hitch is a secure knot that can be used for a variety of camping needs.

Another version of the taut line hitch is the midshipman’s hitch. It holds well and can withstand a great deal of tension, but it’s not adjustable. It’s been used for repair missions to the Hubble Space Telescope!


  • Use as a guy line for a tarp or tent.
  • Anchor a dining or tent fly.
  • Hang a clothesline.


  • It may not hold under all conditions.
  • It doesn’t work as well with stiff polypropylene fiber rope.

Knots are not a minor issue

As you can see, being knowledgeable about knots applies to every aspect of camping. Start with the best cord for tying knots, and practice tying them before you go camping. Your experience will be so much better with a taut tent and secure bear bag. We’ll leave you with the following observation, attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”

About the author: Paul Turner is the owner of Take Outdoors, a website for the outdoor enthusiasts. If you are new to camping, he’s written a comprehensive guide to Camping for Beginners that may interest you.