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How to Tie the 7 Basic Scout Knots

There are dozens of useful knots. By mastering these seven basic Scouting knots, you’ll be ready for just about any situation that calls for tying ropes together, forming loops, and securing ropes to objects.

After you have learned to tie a knot, practice it often. Carry a piece of rope in your pocket. When you have a few minutes to spare, pull it out and tie all the knots you know. Practice them enough that you can tie them quickly — even with your eyes closed. When you can do that, you will be ready to use these knots whenever they are needed.


SQUARE KNOT

The square knot has many uses, from securing bandages and packages to joining two ropes together. A square knot works best when pressed against something else and the ropes are of the same diameter. It should not be used to hold a heavy load.

Also called the joining knot, because it joins two ropes, it is the first knot you learn when you join Scouts BSA.

Tying a square knot is as easy as right over left, left over right. Here’s how:

  • Hold an end of the rope in each hand.
  • Pass the right end over and under the rope in your left hand.
  • Pass the rope end now in your left hand over and under the one now in your right.
  • Tighten the knot by pulling both running ends at the same time.

Learn more about the square knot.


TWO HALF HITCHES

A hitch is a knot that ties a rope to something. Two half hitches form a loop that can be adjusted to make it smaller or larger. You can use two half-hitches to tie a rope to a tree, ring or dock. Two half hitches are commonly used to tie guy lines onto a dining fly.

Here’s how to tie two half hitches:

  • Pass the running end of the rope around the post or through the grommet.
  • Bring the end over and around the standing part of the rope, then back through the loop that has formed. This makes a half-hitch.
  • Continue taking the end around the standing part to tie another half-hitch (this time outside the loop). Be sure to go around the standing part in the same direction.
  • Pull the knot snug and slide it against the pole or grommet.

Learn more about the two half hitches knot.


TAUT-LINE HITCH

To create an adjustable loop that stays in place, use the taut-line hitch. This is the knot to use for staking out the guy lines of your tent or dining fly because it can make a line tight, or taut.

Here’s how to tie the taut-line hitch:

  • Pass the running end of the rope around the tent stake.
  • Bring the end over and around the standing part, then back through the loop that has formed.
  • Go around the standing part inside the loop again (this time closer to the tent stake).
  • Going in the same direction, take the end around the standing part outside the loop to tie another half-hitch.
  • Work any slack out the knot.
  • Slide the hitch to tighten or loosen the line.

Learn more about the taut-line hitch.


SHEET BEND KNOT

The sheet bend is a very good knot for tying together two ropes. This knot won’t slip when ropes of the same or dissimilar material and size are tied together.

Here’s how to tie the sheet bend:

  • Make a bight in the end of the thicker rope and hold it with one hand.
  • Pass the running end of the other rope through the bight. Then take that end around and behind the bight.
  • Bring the end across the front of the bight and tuck it under its own standing part so that both rope ends emerge on the same side of the knot.
  • Tighten the knot by holding the bight and pulling the standing part of the smaller line.

When tying the knot, be sure that the working ends are on the same side; otherwise, the knot might be unreliable. If you tie a thick and thin rope together, use the thick rope to form the “stationary loop” and the thin rope as the “working line.”

Learn more about the sheet bend knot.


BOWLINE KNOT

The bowline knot forms a loop that will not slip. That’s just what you want for tying a rope around your waist or around someone requiring rescue. This knot is popular among mountaineers, climbers, sailors and others.

A bowline knot also works well for securing guy lines through the grommets on a tent or dining fly. It is also easy to untie.

You can learn how to tie a bowline knot around yourself, around a post, and in the free end of a rope. Here’s how:

  • Make a small overhand loop in the standing part of a rope.
  • Bring the rope end up through the loop, around and behind the standing part, and back down into the loop. The amount of rope remaining below the loop determines the size of the fixed loop in the finished bowline.
  • Bring the working end back down through the overhand loop so it exits the knot toward the inside of the fixed loop.
  • Tighten the knot by pulling the standing part of the rope away from the loop while holding the bight.

Learn more about the bowline knot.


TIMBER HITCH

The timber hitch is the perfect knot to use for dragging a log across the ground. It will stay secure as long as you are pulling on the rope. When you are done using the rope, the timber hitch is easy to loosen and remove from the log.

The timber hitch is also the knot that starts a diagonal lashing.

Here’s how to tie a timber hitch:

  • Pass the running end of the rope around a log.
  • Loop the end around the standing part of the rope, then twist the end around itself three or more times.
  • Pull slack out of the rope to tighten the timber hitch against the log.

Learn more about the timber hitch.


CLOVE HITCH

The clove hitch is a versatile knot that is often used in Scouting activities. Clove comes from the word cleave, meaning “to hold fast.” The clove hitch is used to begin and end many lashings.

Here’s how to tie the clove hitch:

  • Bring the running end of the rope over and under a pole.
  • Take the end around a second time, crossing over the first wrap to form the shape of an X.
  • Bring the rope end around a third time and tuck it under the X. The ends of the rope should come out between the legs of the X. If they come out to either side of the X, you don’t have a clove hitch.
  • Pull the ends of the rope to tighten the hitch.

Learn more about the clove hitch.

2 Comments on How to Tie the 7 Basic Scout Knots

  1. Great article! I shared this with my scouts so they can begin to identify different knots before learning to tie them themselves.

    To the other commenter, the taut line hitch does indeed work. We use it to secure sleeping bags. If your knot doesn’t work, it probably means you tied it wrong.

  2. The square knot is pretty but it rolls and fails when a tag is pulled across the knot or the is pulled over an obstruction such as a tree branch. Danger!
    The taunt line hitch does not work.
    The two half hitch is great. Point out that it is a clove hitch tied back on itself.
    The sheet bend also works to tie a line to a corner of a tarp or a sheet.
    The old rabbit and tree method of tying a bowline depends on direction of the loop. The snap method is better.
    Should add a double overhand loop and then how to use it to tie a truckers hitch to tie a tight line or secure a box.

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