To advance in Scouting, you’ll need to know how to tie and use different types of knots effectively. If you haven’t yet learned each of these knots, take the time to watch the videos in this article and practice the tying techniques yourself. The best way to learn is by doing, so follow along with your own rope and you’ll learn these knots in no time!
Knots are a crucial part of Scouting and outdoor survival. The 7 knots a Scout must learn to reach the First-class rank are the:
- Square Knot (Tenderfoot 3a)
- Two Half-Hitches (Tenderfoot 3b)
- Taut-Line Hitch (Tenderfoot 3c)
- Sheet Bend (Second-Class 2f)
- Bowline (Second-Class 2g)
- Clove Hitch (First-Class 3b)
- Timber Hitch (First-Class 3b)
By learning these knots, a Scout will be able to safely secure their shelters and supplies using only a length of rope.
One important thing to keep in mind is that all 7 of the knots that you’ll be learning fall into 3 main categories:
- Bends: Used for connecting 2 lengths of rope together.
- Hitches: Used for connecting rope to an object.
- Loops: Used to create a loop in the rope.
Understanding these categories will help you to choose the right knot for each situation. Below, I’ve created a video that details the tying method and uses for each knot you’ll need to know. However, if you’re looking to learn a specific knot, I’ve embedded a dedicated video in each section.
Square knot: 0:04 Two Half-hitches: 0:37 Taut-line Hitch: 1:17 Bowline: 2:16 Sheet Bend: 2:54 Clove hitch: 4:00 Timber Hitch: 4:54
Hopefully, these resources will provide you with all the information you’ll need to learn these useful knots and complete your rank requirements!
Knots For Tenderfoot
To earn the Tenderfoot rank you’ll need to learn the square knot, two half-hitches, and the taut-line hitch. These knots lay the foundation for your Scouting journey, and are especially useful when setting up tents or overhead tarps.
Square Knot (Bend)
The square knot, also called a ‘reef knot,’ is the first knot you’ll need to demonstrate to earn the rank of Tenderfoot. The square knot is great for beginners, as it’s quite simple to tie but can slip if put under too much pressure. Fun fact: most shoelaces are tied using a variation of the square knot.
Practical Uses of a Square knot
The square knot is a type of line joining knot that’s most commonly used for tying bandages or loosely securing a parcel. While camping, a Scout might secure their clotheslines or connect an item to their backpack using a square knot. However, square knots should not be trusted under heavy loads as they are likely to come apart.
Two Half-Hitches (Hitch)
Two half-hitches is an easy knot to tie and can be used to temporarily attach a line to a tree, post, or ring. However, this knot should not be used to fasten objects for long periods of time. Once tied, the knot formed by two half-hitches can move along the rope, allowing the loop to become larger or smaller.
Practical Uses of Two Half-Hitches
When fully tightened and cinched around an object, two half-hitches can be reliably used under tension. However, if the loop is not cinched around the object, a light pull will cause the knot to slide and the loop to close. When I was a Scout, I commonly used two half-hitches for:
- Securing loose ends of a rope.
- Hanging clotheslines.
- Fastening a line to a ring.
- Looping through tent rings and attaching around trees to create more stability in bad weather.
Taut-Line Hitch (Loop/Hitch)
Somewhat similar to two half hitches, the taut-line hitch is also an adjustable loop-knot hitch that can be tied around trees, loops, or poles. However, the loop formed using a taut-line hitch will not slip if put under tension.
Practical Uses of a Taught-Line Hitch
The taut-line hitch is a very useful knot to know, as it can slide freely but will jam under load. This means that if you have a rope with a taut-line hitch around an object, you can slide the taut-line hitch, making the loop bigger, which will increase tension on the line. When camping, I’ve used taut-line hitches when:
- Setting up a hammock.
- Securing loads to vehicles to easily adjust the binding’s tightness.
- Securing and tightening the staked-in corners of a dining fly.
Knots For Second-Class
Sheet Bend (Bend)
The sheet bend can be used in similar situations as a square knot but is much stronger and more reliable for joining two ropes together. Unlike a square knot, a correctly tied sheet bend will rarely slip when placed under heavy tension. In fact, sheet bends are even reliable when connecting two ropes that differ in thickness and material.
Practical Uses of a Sheet Bend
Sheet bends should be used in place of a square knot anytime you don’t want the connection to easily come undone. Sheet bends are also effective for joining together 2 ropes of differing thicknesses. Here are some ways a Scout might use a sheet bend knot:
- Securing a critical load in a vehicle (be sure to leave a long ‘tail’ on the end of your knot).
- Connecting loose equipment using one rope.
- Lengthening your usable line by tying two shorter ropes together.
The bowline is one of the most commonly-used loop knots and will hold under tension. Able to be tied quickly and in different parts of a rope, the bowline is commonly used in rescues or other emergency situations.
Practical Uses of a Bowline
Tying a bowline creates a fixed loop that will not change in size, slip, or jam when placed under pressure. In Scouting, a bowline can be used in many different ways. These include:
- Tying a line around yourself, trees, posts, or other objects.
- Securing the top of a dining fly.
- Using a bowline as a grip to pull or rescue someone.
Knots For First-Class
Clove Hitch (Bend)
The clove hitch is an easy knot to tie and is best used to secure a line around a cylindrical object. This knot can be formed in a few different ways, one of which is by forming two loops, one left over right, one right over left, and then placing the second loop over the first and tightening around a post. Be warned, a clove hitch will likely slip if put under heavy tension.
Practical Uses of a Clove Hitch
Clove hitches are important knots used to start lashings or secure lines to posts. Be sure to only tighten a clove hitch by pulling both ends lengthwise. Otherwise, you may make the knot unreliable. Some common uses of the clove hitch in Scouting include:
- Starting and ending lashings.
- Affixing objects like carabiners to the midpoint of a rope.
- Quickly attaching a rope to a cylindrical object.
- Securing loose ends of a long rope.
Timber Hitch (Bend)
The timber hitch is an effective knot for securing and hauling large cylindrical objects like logs or branches. It’s easy to tie and remove but will come apart if tension is not maintained in the rope. When tying a timber hitch, typically, the more loops you make back on the looping line, the stronger the knot will be. You should have 3 loops, minimum.
Practical Uses of a Timber Hitch
After becoming a Star Scout, I found myself using the timber hitch more and more often. This is a great knot for stronger Scouts to use during service projects to pull heavy objects. Here are the most common ways I’ve seen the timber hitch used in Scouting:
- Hauling a bundle of branches to use in a campfire.
- Having multiple Scouts pull away large objects or debris during service projects.
- Securing and pulling large cylindrical objects.
Learning to use knots effectively is a major step toward becoming an Eagle Scout. If you’re between the ranks of Tenderfoot and First-class, I’d highly recommend you check out my article on the 5 Keys To Advancement in Scouting. There, you’ll learn a few unexpected ways to take charge of your scouting journey and form a plan to earn Eagle!
I hope you found this article helpful! Be sure to check back here often, because I’m constantly putting out new content to help Scouts like yourself. Until next time, happy trails on your Scouting journey. 🙂