“To tie a knot seems a simple thing, and yet there are right and wrong ways of doing it………..Very often it happens that lives depend on a knot being properly tied.”

–  Robert Baden-Powell, “Scouting for Boys”, 1908.

There are literally hundreds of different knots out there from which to choose. Knowing which knot is appropriate for which task and how to properly tie the knot is an integral part of your backcountry skill set.

The truth is that for backpacking purposes, you only need to know a handful. Forget about the rest. They’ll only make your head hurt.

Below are six knots that we have found useful for backpacking purposes. For detailed step-by-step diagrams, click on the name of the knot in which you are interested. The links will take you to and, both of which are excellent sources for anything and everything to do with knots.

TIP: When it comes to tying knots, repetition is key. The more you practice, the better you become!

Useful Knots for Backpackers and Hikers

  • Reef (square) Knot: Used to tie two rope ends of the same diameter together. Appropriate for first aid, as it lies flat against the injured area.

  • Sheet Bend: Used for joining two ropes of different diameter together.

  • Bowline: A fixed loop knot that is handy for lowering packs, hanging food or in an emergency, lowering a companion.

  • Two Half Hitches: Ideal for securing a rope or guyline directly against an object (e.g. log, tree, post, rock).

  • Taut Line Hitch: An adjustable knot, useful for guying out a tarp or tent. Can be adjusted without releasing the rope/cord’s tension.