5 Best Survival Knots – Strong Life Saving Knots You Need To Know

By SS Contributor | Last Updated: July 5, 2017

Survival KnotsThese Five Survival Knots Can Save Your Life in the Wilderness

Whether you’re an avid camper, a determined mountaineer, or a wilderness explorer, there’s one critical skill you need to have in your repertoire

It’s something you did as a kid for fun and now it can save your life as an adult – tying knots.

Various expert sources place emphasis on the same types of knots as lifesavers in outdoor situations.

Well, today I’ll tell you about a few of those important knots and show you how to tie them like a pro.

Here are the top five survival knots you should master:

  • Figure Eight Knot
  • Bowline Knot
  • Clove Hitch
  • Sheet Bend
  • Taut-Line Hitch

However, before we deep dive into these 5 essential survival knots, you’ve got plenty of paracord, right?

I sure hope so but in case you need some or want to upgrade your cordage, here are 6 good paracord brands to choose from.

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Figure Eight Knot

Figure Eight Survival Knot
There are three main variations on a figure-eight knot: the simple figure eight, figure-eight follow-through, and figure eight on a bight. The first knot, as the name implies, is a basic figure-eight knot.

The two others add to the original configuration and expand the uses of the knot. This is one of the strongest knots you can tie and it maintains up to 85 percent of the rope’s strength. This means that the rope is unlikely to break while you’re using it.

Survival Uses

In its simplest form, a figure-eight knot at the end of a rope can keep you from sliding off it. It’s secure and won’t come undone because of pressure. You can also create knots along a rope that stay in place and are large enough to grab onto when climbing.

The figure-eight follow-through is one of the most useful types of knots for climbing. One reason is that you can make a secure loop at the end of a rope with it, an advantage when someone needs to be hauled up safely.

And it can also be used as a foothold when grabbing onto the rope is difficult because of weather conditions.

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Figure Eight On A Bight

Figure eight on a bight knot creates a strong loop at the end of the rope that can be clipped onto an anchor. You can also create stable loops in the middle of the rope to use as handholds or footholds.

It’s an important survival knot for anchoring, especially when working in high winds or carrying gear up or down a steep incline.


The biggest drawback of using the figure-eight knot is that it can be extremely hard to untie. This is especially the case if it has been used over and over again. It also uses a lot of rope length. On the other hand, it’s easy to tell if you’ve tied it the wrong way with a quick examination.

Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The only real mistake you can make with a figure-eight knot is to add an extra loop to the figure. This is easily spotted by examination, though.

Detailed “How To” Video

Bowline Knot

The Bowline Survival Knot

Like the figure-eight knot, the bowline will hold thousands of pounds of pressure. One difference is that it’s easier to untie after use than a figure eight. The bowline may be the most dependable of all the survival knots you need to learn. It’s also a versatile knot, and there are a variety of ways to use it.

Survival Uses

You can tie the bowline around things or through them, and tie it around yourself (even one-handed). Being able to tie it with just one hand can be a boon when you need to tie a knot in an emergency.

A bowline knot forms a loop at the end of a rope, and the knot tightens more with any increase in pressure on the loop. That’s why it’s useful for hanging items from tree limbs, like food and survival gear.


The bowline can’t be depended on when climbing, in part due to human error. It’s not terribly difficult to use the bowline incorrectly.

If the loop is pulled in a sideways direction, it’s possible for the knot to come untied.

Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Because of the possibility of the knot becoming undone, creating a stopper knot beneath the bowline will increase its safety.

Detailed “How To” Video

Clove Hitch

The Clove Hitch Knot

A hitch is a knot that connects a rope to an object. The clove hitch is a simple but important survival knot that’s easy to tie. The benefits you get from it are that it doesn’t loosen or slip, and you can lengthen or shorten the rope without untying the knot.

Survival Uses

A clove hitch isn’t as strong as the figure eight or bowline knots, but it’s a good knot to use for anchoring. It will help you fasten a shelter because it stays tight and doesn’t usually slip or loosen.

The clove hitch allows the rope to adjust without untying the knot, making it useful for lowering heavy objects or moving them to a higher spot.


Constant movement, like the kind caused by a fierce wind, will eventually loosen the knots, causing a shelter to become unstable. Checking the knots frequently will allow you to adjust and tighten them.

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Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The clove hitch works best if there’s pressure on the line, which is why it’s good for keeping a tarp or tent stretched. Don’t use a clove hitch if the object it’s tied to rotates because the knot could come untied.

Detailed “How To” Video

Sheet Bend

The Sheet Bend Knot

If you need a longer piece of rope than you have available, the sheet bend will allow you to safely tie shorter pieces of rope together. It works even if the two ropes are dissimilar sizes and/or each is made of a different material.

Survival Uses

Any method of using rope for survival can benefit from the sheet bend. It’s a way to put every scrap of rope or paracord to good use.

It’s also an efficient way to tie together several short strands of cord to make a cargo net if you don’t have enough longer rope to use.

And cargo nets are a basic building block in the making of hammocks, stretchers, snowshoes, and fishnets.


The sheet bend isn’t a very strong knot, coming in at a breaking strength of 55 percent. It can also come loose if the rope is particularly smooth or if there isn’t much pressure on the knot.

The Sheet Bend 2

If the two ropes are different in size, making a double bend with a smaller or more flexible cord makes the knot more secure.

Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The most frequent mistake is tying the sheet bend with the short end of one rope on the wrong side of the knot. This is sometimes called the “left-hand sheet bend”. You can check your work by making sure that both free rope ends are on the same side of the knot.

Detailed “How To” Video

Taut-Line Hitch

The Taut Line Hitch Knot

The main benefit of the taut-line hitch is that it can slide up and down the cord and tighten it. This keeps the rope taut and makes the amount of pressure adjustable. The hitch is also easy to untie when no longer needed.

Survival Uses

A taut-line hitch is what you use when sheltering under a tarp.

Stringing a rope between two trees and laying your tarp over it is the first step in creating a buffer between you and the elements. To make the tarp into a shelter, you need a firm, tightrope to hang it from.

A taut-line knot allows your loop to slide and grip which makes it much easier to stake in a large waterproof survival tarp.


The taut-line hitch won’t work for getting a rope tight and keeping it that way. It’s best for easy duty tasks and it requires often adjustments.

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Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them

It’s not hard to accidentally reverse the direction of the rotation when tying the knot, causing it to be weaker. You can check this by making sure that the rope ends face in the same direction.

There are different variations of the Taut-Line Hitch. The one shown above is the Midshipmen’s Hitch which is the most secure but may be harder to adjust after going through a heavy tension.

A lot of people tend to tie the Magnus Hitch which is harder to twist but has a higher chance of slipping. To tie the more secure variation of this hitch, in the last part, remember to reverse the direction when tying the last half hitch.

Detailed “How To” Video

Why Learn Survival Knots?

The short answer is that they can save your life and these five important knots are a good start. The more of these dependable survival knots you learn, the better off you’ll be under adverse conditions.

If you have to navigate difficult terrain while hauling supplies, some types of knots will help make it easier and safer. If you’re lost, the right knots for fishing and trapping game can keep you from starving.

There’s a reason firefighters and Coast Guard rescue crews learn how to tie survival knots. In a life or death situation, a secure rope can save someone from a burning house or a raging storm.

You can meet with fire and flood in the backcountry as well, and you’ll need to know how to erect a sturdy shelter to protect you from the elements.

That’s why it’s best to start with these five knots and practice frequently until you can tie them easily. You won’t regret it.

Author Bio

Paul Turner is the owner of Take Outdoors, a website for outdoor enthusiasts. If you are new to camping, he’s written a comprehensive guide to Camping for Beginners that may interest you.

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