Top 7 Knots for Emergency Survival – Lifesaving Tips

In the realm of wilderness survival, the ability to tie knots is as essential as it is ancient. Knot tying is a fundamental skill that …

In the realm of wilderness survival, the ability to tie knots is as essential as it is ancient. Knot tying is a fundamental skill that can mean the difference between thriving and merely surviving.  In emergency situations, the right knot can secure a shelter, procure food, or save a life.

Here, we will explore seven critical knots that every outdoor adventurer should master for emergency survival.

1. The Bowline

The bowline has been the cornerstone of rescue operations for centuries. Known as the ‘king of knots’, it creates a fixed loop that will not slip under tension, which is invaluable for rescue scenarios or when you need a non-slip loop at the end of a rope.

How to Tie It

Step 1: Start by forming a small loop (the rabbit hole) leaving enough rope for the desired loop size.

Step 2: Pass the end of the rope (the rabbit) up through the loop.

Step 3: Wrap the end around the standing part (the tree), and then back down through the loop.

Step 4: Tighten by pulling the standing part away from the loop while holding the tail.

Practical Applications

  • Hoisting a person for rescue.
  • Securing one end of a rope to a fixed object for a shelter.
  • Creating an anchor point in a pinch.

2. The Square Knot: A Binding Classic

The square knot, also known as a reef knot, is a simple and effective binding knot. It’s perfect for tying two ropes of similar thickness together, making it ideal for securing gear or bandaging with strips of cloth.

What to Do?

  1. Take two ends of rope and cross them over each other to form a simple overhand knot.
  2. Take the two ends again and tie another overhand knot, making sure both ends exit the knot together on the same side they entered.
  3. Pull on all four ends to tighten the square knot securely.

Practical Applications

3. The Taut-Line Hitch

The taut-line hitch is an adjustable loop knot for use on lines under tension. Its beauty lies in its adjustability; it can be slid up and down the standing part of the rope to increase or decrease the loop size.

How to Tie It

Wrap the working end around the standing line twice inside the loop. Then, bring the working end back over the standing line to make one more wrap outside the loop. Tighten the knot while sliding it to adjust the tension.

Practical Applications

  • Adjusting the guy lines of a tent or tarp shelter.
  • Securing loads on a vehicle or backpack.
  • Creating adjustable clotheslines.

4. The Figure-Eight Knot: The Stopper

The figure-eight knot is a robust stopper knot that prevents ropes from running out of retaining devices. Its large and strong loop is perfect for heavy-duty tasks.

What to Do?

Step 1: Make a loop by laying the working end over the standing part.

Step 2: Bring the working end around and behind the standing part.

Step 3: Pass the working end down through the loop and pull tight.

Practical Applications

  • Preventing ropes from slipping out of carabiners.
  • Stopping the end of a rope from fraying.
  • Acting as a stopper in a pulley system.

5. The Clove Hitch: The Quick Secure

The clove hitch is a versatile and quick knot for attaching a rope to a tree, pole, or carabiner. It’s easy to tie and untie, even after bearing a heavy load.

How to Tie It

  1. Wrap the rope around the object.
  2. Cross over the standing part and wrap the rope around again.
  3. Tuck the working end under the last wrap and pull tight.

Practical Applications

6. The Sheet Bend: The Joiner of Unequals

The sheet bend is designed to tie two ropes of different thicknesses together. It’s a reliable knot for when you need to extend a rope or join two dissimilar ropes.

What to Do?

First, form a bight in the thicker rope. Then, pass the end of the thinner rope through the bight from behind. Wrap the thinner rope around the back of the bight, tuck the end of the thinner rope under its own standing part, and pull tight.

Practical Applications

  • Joining ropes of different diameters.
  • Making a longer rope in a survival situation.
  • Tying off a bundle or package with a rope.

7. The Prusik Knot: The Climber’s Companion

The Prusik knot is a friction hitch that can be used to attach a loop of cord around a rope. It is unique in that it is both movable and gripping, sliding when not under load, and holding firmly when tension is applied.

How to Tie It

Step 1: Loop the cord around the rope twice, passing the end through the loop each time.

Step 2: Adjust the knot to ensure it is snug and the coils are neat.

Step 3: Test the knot by pulling on the loop to ensure it grips the rope securely.

Practical Applications

  • Ascending a rope in an emergency climb.
  • Creating a makeshift pulley system.
  • Securing yourself to a rope for added safety.

Why Are These Important?

Knot Name Importance in Survival Situations
  • Vital for rescue operations.
  • Creates non-slip loops for secure anchoring.
  • Essential for hoisting and safety.
Square Knot
  • Ideal for binding and securing gear.
  • Useful for first aid in bandaging.
  • Effective for tying together equipment.
Taut-Line Hitch
  • Adjustable for shelter building.
  • Secures loads dynamically.
  • Useful for creating variable tension in lines.
Figure-Eight Knot
  • Acts as a strong stopper.
  • Prevents rope from slipping through gear.
  • Essential for climbing and securing equipment.
Clove Hitch
  • Quick to tie for temporary holds.
  • Effective for starting and ending lashings.
  • Useful for mooring small crafts.
Sheet Bend
  • Joins ropes of different thicknesses.
  • Extends ropes for longer reach.
  • Binds items tightly together.
Prusik Knot
  • Allows for rope ascension.
  • Creates movable anchor points.
  • Secures the climber to a rope for safety.


Can I use any type of rope for these survival knots?

The type of rope can affect the performance of a knot. For survival situations, it’s best to use a static rope, which doesn’t stretch much under tension, for most applications. However, some scenarios may benefit from dynamic ropes, which can stretch to absorb energy, such as during climbing.

The material and condition of the rope also impact knot security and strength.

How do I maintain rope integrity when tying and untying knots?

To maintain rope integrity, avoid pulling knots too tight, as this can damage the rope fibers. Also, when untying, do not use sharp objects that might cut or fray the rope. Regularly inspect your rope for signs of wear or damage, and practice tying knots so that they can be untied without excessive force.

Are there any tools to help tie these knots in challenging conditions?

Yes, there are several tools that can assist in tying knots, especially in cold or wet conditions where dexterity might be compromised. Knot-tying tools, like the marlinspike or a fid, can help in working with tight knots or threading ropes through small spaces.

Additionally, wearing gloves with a good grip can aid in knot-tying when hands are cold or slippery.

How do weather conditions affect the knots I should use?

Weather conditions can affect the choice and security of knots. Wet conditions can make some knots slip more easily, so it’s important to use knots that cinch down and hold tight when wet, like the bowline or the clove hitch.

In winter conditions, avoid knots that become too tight to untie, as they can freeze in place.

Is there a difference in knot effectiveness with synthetic vs. natural fiber ropes?

Yes, synthetic and natural fiber ropes behave differently with knots. Synthetic ropes, such as nylon or polyester, are generally stronger and more durable but can be slippery, requiring knots that hold well under tension.

Natural fiber ropes, like manila or sisal, may not be as strong but often provide a better grip for knots due to their texture.

How often should I practice these knots to ensure proficiency?

Knot proficiency comes with regular practice. It’s recommended to practice these knots until they can be tied confidently and correctly without reference. Periodic practice is important to maintain muscle memory, especially for emergency situations where speed and accuracy are crucial.

A good practice is to review and tie these knots several times throughout the year or integrate knot tying into regular outdoor activities.


In conclusion, mastering these seven knots can significantly enhance your survival capabilities in the wilderness. Each knot has its unique function and application, and together, they form a versatile toolkit for the savvy survivor.

Remember, the best knot is the one you can tie correctly and confidently when it matters most. Practice these knots until they become second nature, and carry this knowledge with you into the wild. Your preparedness could one day turn a dire situation into a story of survival and success.