How To: Tie Three Essential Knots

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From Xplor: March/April 2018

The right knot can secure a canoe to a dock, pitch a tent, join two ropes together, or rescue a victim from a fall. Learn how to tie three easy — but incredibly useful — knots.

Sheet Bend

Got two ropes you want to tie together? This is the knot you use. It even works when one rope is thicker than the other.

  1. Form a bend in the end of the thicker rope. (If both ropes are the same thickness, it doesn’t matter which one you form into a bend.)
  2. Bring the other rope up through the center of the bend, wrap it around and behind the back of the bend, and tuck it under itself.
  3. Tighten the knot by pulling on all four strands of rope at the same time.

Two Half-Hitches

In knot-tying lingo, a hitch is a knot used to secure a rope to an object, such as a branch, pole, or ring. Two half-hitches is an all-purpose knot you can use to hang up a clothesline, tie a tent line to a stake, or secure a boat to a dock.

  1. Wrap the rope around the object you want to tie it to.
  2. Take the short end of the rope and wrap it around the longer, main part of the rope. Bring the end of the rope up through the loop you just created.
  3. Repeat the previous step to create the second of the two half-hitches.
  4. Tighten the knot by pulling on the end of the rope. Slide the hitch up against the object.


The bowline makes a loop at the end of a rope that won’t slip shut. You can use it for many things, including hanging a bear bag from a branch, anchoring a rope to a tree, or rescuing someone who has fallen down a cliff.

  1. Form a small loop. The part of the loop leading to the end of the rope needs to be on top. Leave enough rope below this small loop to form a bigger loop in the size that you need.
  2. Bring the end of the rope up through the small loop, go around the back of  back down through the small loop. To remember this step, pretend that the end of the rope is a squirrel: The squirrel comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole.
  3. Tighten the knot by pulling on the two strands that come through the small loop and the rope above the small loop all at the same time.

Beware: A bowline will stay tied as long as there is a load on the loop. But if the loop goes slack, the knot can come untied.

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This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White