Introduction: Quick Skills #1: 5 Simple Knots for Survival

Picture of Quick Skills #1: 5 Simple Knots for Survival

Hi Instructables Community,

since this is my last Instructable for 2015 I thought it was nice timing to release my new series "Quick Skills". The main focus of this series will be to teach skills for survival, prepping and general outdoor situations in a compact format and to motivate viewers to try for themselves. Similar to the Mini Projects series the idea is to motivate people to do something useful if they have a few minutes of time to spare.

I chose five of the easiest knots that can be used for a wide range of applications. Since there are many more useful knots I decided to split this subject into multiple Instructables.

0:14 - Figure 8 Knot

0:40 - Overhand Loop Knot

1:13 - Reef Knot

1:43 - Sheet Bend

2:15 - Clove Hitch

If you like this Instructable please vote, fav, share, subscribe & comment. You can also check my YouTube, Facebook, Blog and Twitter for current and upcoming projects.

Take care, stay safe and last but not least:

Happy new Year 2016

Cheers Alex

Step 1: Figure 8 Knot

Picture of Figure 8 Knot
ABoK Ref:


Alternative Names:

Figure-of-eight knot, Savoy Knot, Flemish Knot, Double Stopper

Main Purpose:

The Figure 8 is used as a stopper knot to prevent ropes & lines from slipping/sliding from retaining devices.


Apart from its simplicity this knots main advantage is that it doesn't bind even when jammed tightly.


Its main strength is also its main weakness as it may become undone and has to be retied. To reduce the risk you should ensure that the free end is 3-4 rope diameters standing out.

If safety is a factor such as in climbing you should use the "Double Overhand" knot (which is presented in Pt.2)

Step 2: Overhand Loop Knot

Picture of Overhand Loop Knot
ABoK Ref:


Alternative names:

Loop knot, Overhand Knot on a Bight

Main Purpose:

This knot is created by tying an overhand knot with a loop on a bight (folding a piece of rope so that the two parts lie alongside each other).


Easy to tie and can be tied in the middle of a rope since no working end is required.


It might jam tightly when under stress and becomes difficult to untie; is a 50% rated knot meaning that the strength of the rope is be reduced (e.g. 50 pound line will be only a 25 pound line).

Step 3: Reef Knot

Picture of Reef Knot
ABoK Ref:


Alternative names:

Square Knot, Hercules Knot

Main Purpose:

The main reason why I included this knot is as a warning to not use this knot to join two ropes or to use it in any area where safety is a concern such as in climbing or when moving heavy loads!!!

You can use it to tie your shoelaces or a parcel ;)


Easy to tie

Weaknesses:The knot is not secure because it slips and becomes undone!!!

Step 4: Sheet Bend

Picture of Sheet Bend
ABoK Ref:


Alternative Names:

Becket Bend, Weaver's Knot, Weaver's Hitch

Main Purpose:

To join two ropes together, more specifically to join two ropes or lines of different diameters together.


Easy to tie and secure

Weaknesses:Beginners should be careful to ensure that the thicker rope is used for the bight.
Thanks to LaurJ for pointing out that this variation is less secure then when tied in a way that both working ends should come out at the same side ( in this case up). To tie the knot more secure you should form the loop of the larger diameter rope with the working end facing up. The other steps remain the same.

Step 5: Clove Hitch

Picture of Clove Hitch
ABoK Ref:


Main Purpose:

A hitch is used to tie a rope to an object. This knot can be used to start and end a lashing.

Do not use it to secure climbing ropes or in any other safety relevant situation.


Easy to tie

Weaknesses:The knot may slip and/or bind when under tension. If used to attach objects to each other you can secure the knot with two half hitches. Also a stopper knot (e.g. Double Overhand Stopper Knot) may prevent the free end from slipping.


warriorethos2 (author)2016-02-14

lets_prep_together, lots of good knots that remind me of when I first went into the military and the instructors were teaching us all about knots or rigging as they called it. I was fallowing the email traffic and the suggestions from everyone which you tried to correct and use in your instructable. All the suggestions are well made and I am glad everyone is looking and thinking safety especially when talking about survival techniques. I like that you added the alternate names that was suggested for clarification. In the military we tied a rope around two trees or posts and practiced the knots off that main rope in order to see our work better and so we could also practice tying the knots with one hand or using the buddy system. If you build a rope bridge you will use some of the survival knots and you can see how important it is to use a stopper knot so the ropes don't start slipping and your bridge starts sagging till it gives way. Tie the bridge four feet off the ground first if you have never done it. Good luck in the contest.

Alex 2Q (author)warriorethos22016-02-15

Hello warriorethos2,

thank you very much for reading this Instructable and for taking the time to write me your feedback. Thank you also for the suggestion with the rope bridge. We used to do something very similar as a refresher each time we did rope work (e.g. rapelling etc.). I will put this on my list for another Instructable.

Thank you for your service.

Best Regards Alex

leifforrest (author)2016-01-12

I know it's been mentioned several times, but the bowline is the one knot that could save a life. The one handed technique is great to know because one end of the line can be thrown down to the victim and they can hang onto to the line while they tie the bowline around themselves with the other hand. The guy in this video uses his grasping hand to assist in the last part of the knot tying, but if your fingers are nimble, you can totally wrap the working end around the standing line with one hand. It's easy to learn too, using the triangle method of instruction.

Alex 2Q (author)leifforrest2016-01-14

Hi leifforrest, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Since there have been more requests and suggestions with regards to the bowline I have decided to make a dedicated Instructable for Bowline variants and tying techniques after I'm done with part three of this series.

Cheers Alex

BrianB53 (author)2016-01-11

* If you are teaching the fig-8 as a stopper knot, then you should advise to leave more tail so it is less likely to come untied. Or, teach a double overhand. Stonger and definitely wont untie on its own.

* If you're teaching the fig-8, why not teach the fig-8 on a bite as step two, rather than an overhand on a bite? It is stronger and wont bind as easily. As I've taught many people over the years: "If you can tie an overhand knot, you can tie the various fig-8 knots."

* I would suggest adding alternative names the knots my go by. For instance, the Reef knot is also widely known as the square knot. Your audience may know them via other names, but wont recognize them due to not being very familiar with knots in the first place. They may think "ok, dont use the reet knot. I shall continue to use the square knot". Yes, that means you will need to do a bit of research to look up the more common names for these knots, but it will help your audience over all.

* Sheet bend is only dependable if the line remains under tension. For applications where the tension comes and goes, it is important to remind users to recheck the knot. A double sheet bend if the ropes are significantly different in diameter. If the rope on the right is too small, it will still slide through.

* "Do not use it to secure climbing ropes or in any other safety relevant situation." In the manner you show it being tied, I would agree. However, the clove hitch is used in rock climbing applications all the time with an alternative tie method. It is used to secure a climber to a belay station on a very regular basis. The knot is adjustable and remains secure. To make the way you've tied it more secure: more tail end, and adding a stopper knot so it doesn't slide through.

Alex 2Q (author)BrianB532016-01-14

Hi BrianB53, thank you very much for reading and for taking the time to write me your suggestions.

I have now started to make changes to existing Instructables and will take your advice into consideration for future projects.

Check your inbox you got mail ;)

Cheers Alex

Fezder (author)2016-01-11

Looking these knots makes me feel really lazy for not to learned them.....thanks!

Dan39 (author)2016-01-08

Looks like you are a good video editor, but this tutorial is meh. You should pair up with someone who is an expert in a field and you be the creative video/editing guy.

You are playing it off as you just labeling that overhand on a bight wrong, but I'd bet you planned on doing a Figure-8 on a bight and tied it wrong, but the video was already done and put up before you were told. The FIgure-8 on a bight is always the knot taught right after the figure-8, and is usually preferred over the overhand on a bight.

You should leave a much longer tail end when done tying a knot. Clove hitches often slip before tightening up, and in your demonstration the end would slip through very easily. In life safety situations the tail end should be used to tie a safety knot (overhand around the standing end).

Alex 2Q (author)Dan392016-01-10

Hi Dan39,

thanks for reading and for your feedback. I have taken additional care with my latest project to ensure that all knots are correctly tied. I do not pretend to be a subject matter expert and I'm always happy about constructive criticism where it is due.

Cheers Alex

Dan39 (author)Alex 2Q2016-01-10

Good to hear. You did do a great job of actually showing how to tie the knots :) Hope to see more! Thanks for replying!

RickS70 (author)2016-01-07

I liked them...nice job.....I would have liked to see the truckers knott

Alex 2Q (author)RickS702016-01-10

Hi RickS70, thanks for your feedback. I will have to see how o implement the truckers hitch as it is not exactly a simple knot.

Cheers Alex

RickS70 (author)2016-01-07

went to your site.....nice....

blue_buddha (author)2016-01-07

I'm surprised you didn't include the bowline. It is easy to tie and probably the most versatile knot there is.

Microbe (author)blue_buddha2016-01-07

Yep...the bowline. If you know no other knot this is the one

Phil_S (author)blue_buddha2016-01-07

Have to agree. A sod to remember without (up the hole, rabbit, round the tree, back down the hole again) - guaranteed no-slip, gets better with weight on it.

Prussik loop is another of my favorites, climbers love them and I use them for roof repair work on a confidence line. A rope-made ascender/descender/belay if you don't have the real thing to hand.

Alex 2Q (author)Phil_S2016-01-07

Hi Phil_S, thanks for reading and commenting. Bowline is part of part 2 which should come out later today or tomorrow. The Prussik will be featured in the third part of this series.

Cheers Alex

devonfletch (author)Alex 2Q2016-01-07

Gotta get the Constrictor knot in there, somewhere. This almost-impossible-to-undo knot is very handy, even functions as a permanent whipping on the end of a rope. Expect to need a sharp knife to cut the knot, if it's pulled up tight!

Alex 2Q (author)devonfletch2016-01-07

Hi devonfletch, thanks for reading and for your suggestion. I will add the constrictor knot on the list for part 3.

Cheers Alex

Phil_S (author)Alex 2Q2016-01-07

Cheers and well done.

Knots are a bit like shark-infested waters. Every trade, sport, activity will have their own favorites. However, if you only had one knot that you could make with eyes closed, hanging off a precipice, bowline is going to be a good choice. A totally dependable, non-slip, self-tightening, universal loop, a potential lifesaver. One on each end of a short rope gives you something to quickly loop round a branch and the other end for a foothold.

noahspurrier (author)blue_buddha2016-01-07

The bowline is the best knot! The trucker's hitch is also cool and comes in handy often, but I can never remember how to tie it. My ex girlfriend could tie it. We'd drive loads in a pickup truck held secure with a truckers hitch. They never came loose on drives between San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Alex 2Q (author)noahspurrier2016-01-07

Hi noahspurrier, thanks for reading and your suggestions. As for the bowline please see my above comments. I think the trucker's hitch is a great knot but since this series is called "5 Simple knots..." it just doesn't fit in. I will think about a way to feature it in a future Instructable.

Cheers Alex

Alex 2Q (author)blue_buddha2016-01-07

Hi blue_buddha, as a matter of fact I'm just in the middle of editing for part 2 which features the bowline as the very first knot. To be honest I'm not quite sure what led me to the decision to use it in the second part.

Cheers Alex

LaurJ (author)2016-01-07

The sheet bend is made the wrong way and can capsize under tension. The free ends should come out on the same side, always. Otherwise the tension on the thicker rope tends to pull it away from the knot, enabling the bitter end of the thinner one to slip through the loop, capsizing the knot (The wiki article on sheet bend has helpful pictures)

devonfletch (author)LaurJ2016-01-07

Thanks, LaurJ. Never knew that!

A similar rule applies to the bowline: The bitter end must go 'round the standing end, or the knot can invert, and become a slip-knot.

And, yes, the bowline should be included in any 'essential knots' list.

Alex 2Q (author)LaurJ2016-01-07

Hi LaurJ, thanks for reading and for pointing out the issue with this variation of the sheet bend. It is true that the sheet bend tied the way you describe it is more reliable however the method described in this Instructable will work for 90% of the applications an average person would use it for. Nevertheless I will make a remark in the Instructable accordingly.

Cheers Alex

manicmonday (author)2016-01-07

Your reef knot is a square knot. When tying your shoes it's important to use that knot. The variation (granny knot) is not as secure. With a granny knot your working ends stick out at odd angles instead of laying flat with the main line.

MrsGC (author)2016-01-07

Thank you for this instructable. The reason the Reef Knot (Square Knot) collapses is because it is designed to take stress from the inside; originally it carried the full weight of sails. When used under internal load such as a carpet roll or some other item that wishes to expand slightly, it has no trouble holding. For anyone interested in knots, the International Guild of Knot Tyers based in the UK can be found at and many of their members have extremely clear websites. There is also a forum where beginners and experts are welcome.

Alex 2Q (author)MrsGC2016-01-07

Hi MrGC, thank you very much for this constructive post it's really appreciated.

Cheers Alex

stannickel (author)2016-01-07

Thanks for posting this. Everyone should know how to tie a decent knot.

Alex 2Q (author)stannickel2016-01-07

Hi stannickel, thanks for reading and posting. That's exactly what I thought when I made this Instructable.

Cheers Alex

magstar6247 made it! (author)2016-01-03

this is great! thanks!

Alex 2Q (author)magstar62472016-01-04

Hi magstar6247,

that looks great thanks for sharing.

Cheers Alex

magstar6247 (author)Alex 2Q2016-01-06

I have subscribed to your YouTube channel.

Alex 2Q (author)magstar62472016-01-06

Hi magstar, thats great thanks a lot.

Cheers Alex

C3idotnet (author)2016-01-04

excellent, the only thing I would say is to group specific knots together. Eg. Putting half hitch demo with clove hitch if you mention either.... (as in the example above). Great job.

Alex 2Q (author)C3idotnet2016-01-04

Hi C3idotnet, thanks for reading and your suggestion. For the second part I was thinking about having a knot for each category (e.g. hitch, bend, stopper etc.).

Cheers Alex

C3idotnet (author)Alex 2Q2016-01-04

Hi alex, my suggestion would be by type of knot use, eg. Climbing, attaching, easily loosened, etc.. that way 3ach tutorial could include the similar knots...otherwise, you would see hitch and half hitch differently...I guess that's the toughest part, where to draw the line.. ;;))
Either way good luck and keep up the good work... Mike
Count me in!

Alex 2Q (author)2016-01-02

Hi wkamil, follow the link in the Ible to get to the video. When you are on youtube and logged in with your google/youtube account click on subscribe on my channel page and the comment bar below the video. Let me know if you have further questions.

Cheers Alex

DamianTheGreat (author)2016-01-01

Great Tutorial

Alex 2Q (author)DamianTheGreat2016-01-02

Thanks a lot Damian.

Cheers Alex

DonaL3 (author)2016-01-01

Great as far as your Knots go, but of the forty knots the BSA teaches, some camps/troops teach even more, Bowline is very important.

It is a safety knot that one can tie around them selves with one hand, if they have a broken arm from a fall & some one can pull them up to safety.

Alex 2Q (author)DonaL32016-01-01

Hi DonaL3,

thanks for your feedback it is very much appreciated. As a matter of fact I have the bowline knot already on my list for part two of this series.

Cheers Alex

Heyup (author)2016-01-01

Great tutorial

Thanks John :)

Alex 2Q (author)Heyup2016-01-01

Hi John, thanks a lot.

Cheers Alex

DonaL3 (author)2016-01-01

Here is a look at Bowline knot.

Alex 2Q (author)2015-12-31

Hi wkamil, yes I do just ask some of the previous winners. The winner is chosen randomly (well most of the times there are just one or two people commenting so it is quite easy ;) if there are more comments I use a randomly generated pick).

Cheers Alex

chiefjudge09 (author)2015-12-30

Decent write up, but thats not a figure 8 loop. Thats an overhand knot on a loop.

Alex 2Q (author)chiefjudge092015-12-31

Hi chiefjudge09, thanks for reading and for pointing out my mistake. It seems like I rushed the release without properly checking pics, video & text. My apologies and promise to take more time and care on the next project.

Cheers Alex

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