How to Tie 6 Popular Knots

a square knot tied in a rope on wood

The art of tying knots dates back thousands of years. Rope even predates the wheel! With a good knot, you can haul a load, hang a swing, secure your valuables to the roof of your car for a road trip, and pull off countless other tasks with ease. Here are six of the most popular knots to master.

1. Square Knot (Reef Knot)

You may not know it, but you've probably tied millions of square knots. This surprisingly secure knot looks more complicated than it is, and it's especially useful for tying two pieces of rope together. To do so, twine the two ends of rope (the first move in tying your shoes) together twice, leaving several inches of rope on either side of the twined area. Take two ends of the rope above the twined section and twine these pieces together over the twined portion of the rope. Pull tightly to make a square knot.

square knot

2. Figure Eight

Not only can the figure eight knot be used on its own as a good "stopper" knot, it's also a foundation step for several other types of knots. Learn how to make a beautiful figure eight, and you'll be able to master many other knots. To make this knot, form a loop in one end of your rope. Take the hanging end of the rope past the loop and wrap it loosely under the rope, then back over and through the loop. Just like that, you've made a figure eight.

figure eight knot

3. Clove Hitch

This knot is so popular, you probably already know how to do it, you just don't know what it's called. If you need to secure a line to a tree, a post, or some other stationary object, the clove hitch it the knot you want to use. All you need to do is loop the rope around the object, then make another loop. The end of the rope should be passed under the second loop. Tighten the knot, and you have a clove hitch. You will need to use another knot to keep your clove hitch from slipping. It's a good knot for quickly securing something for a short period of time, but in the long-term, or for heavy loads, you'll need additional knots.

clove hitch knot around a pole

4. Two Half Hitches

If you need a quick but certain way to secure a line to itself or to a still object, make two half hitches. Wrap the rope around the still object, then take the end of the rope and pass it through the loop you made. Repeat this, wrapping the rope end around the line again. This is how you make two half hitches. Keep them from slipping by tying a standard knot at the end of the rope.

two half hitch knot

5. Trucker's Hitch

Everyone should know how to tie a trucker's hitch knot. This knot is highly effective for securing a load, because it can be tightened up so well. To make this knot, start with a Figure eight knot. Take the free end of the rope, wrap it around the item you are securing, and pull that end through one of the figure eight loops, but hang onto the rope end. Pull the rope end tight and secure it to the rope with two half hitches. You've made a highly secure trucker's hitch.

trucker hitch knot

6. Square Lashing

If you ever need to build something out of poles or planks, you need to know how to make square lashing knots. You can technically build just about anything with a good square lashing, from rafts to bridges to castle towers. On a simpler scale, this knot is used to bring two poles together.

square lashing knot

Start with a clove hitch tied to one of the poles. Wrap the rope around the junction between the two poles, going over and then under. Repeat this, spiraling outward with each new wrap. Pull the rope up and wrap it between the poles. You will cross over your previous wraps. Finish off the square lashing with a square knot, and secure the rope end with a clove hitch. This is a complicated but extremely secure knot that's strong enough for you to build just about any structure you can imagine.