If there is one aspect of survival that I am not crazy about, it is tying knots. Do not misunderstand me. I know my knots, and I use them all the time. Working with cordage is vital to survival and prepping. It is just a skill that has taken a lot of time and frustration to hone. Because of my struggles, I have realized that there are only a few knots that I use on a regular basis. While I am no sailor, I have become fairly proficient at these simple knots and will walk you through how to tie them yourself.
This is one of the simplest knots you can tie, and most of us learn it as a child. It is the first knot used when tying your shoe. However, as a survivalist I use it most often to create a loop in cordage. If you fold the end of your cordage back on itself, you form a loop which you can adjust to whatever size you like. You then fold the end of the loop back across the rest of the loop at 90 degrees, wrap it around, and pull it through the hole. Once you pull it tight, this gives you a solid loop that you can use for a variety of other knots and purposes.
I first learned this knot in Boy Scouts, and use it all the time to tie two ends of cordage together. Grasp one end of cordage in each hand with the ends facing each other. Take the end in your left hand, wrap it over the piece in your right hand, and pull it through. You have now switched ends so that the end that was in your left hand is now in your right and vice versa. Next take the end in your right hand, wrap it over the end in your left hand, and pull it through the loop. Pull it tight and the knot itself should be roughly square shaped. I was always taught the phrase ‘left over right and then right over left’.
This knot can be used for a variety of different purposes that require a self-tightening knot. I use it most often for building primitive snare traps to catch small game in the wild. This knot starts with an overhand knot to create a loop at the end of your cordage. Then, simply feed the other end of the cordage through the loop. This creates a new, adjusting loop that will tighten down on anything that applies pressure to the inside of the loop.
If you wish to make a slipknot that will tighten down and stay tight, there is one adjustment you can make. You can squeeze the base of your loop together and fold the end of the loop back towards yourself. This creates two small loops, one on each side. You can then feed the end of your cordage down through the right loop and up through the left. You will notice that this makes the slip knot tighter so it is more difficult for animals to get free.
This knot is absolutely vital for lashing poles together. I use it most often when building shelters or other structures in the wild. Whenever you lash poles together, you must secure the cordage to one pole at the beginning and the other pole at the end. To tie the clove hitch, wrap the cordage around the pole once and then cross over the first wrap when you come around for a second time. This should create an ‘X’ on your pole. Then as you finish your second wrap, stick the end of the cordage directly under the center of the ‘X’ and pull it tight. You can then lash your poles and finish off with another clove hitch.
This knot is most often used to secure a load. That might be securing tarps over firewood in a truck bed, or securing a Christmas tree to the roof of your SUV. In this case, the end furthest from where we are working is already secured to one side of the load. Start by using an overhand knot to form a loop in the center of your cordage at least a couple feet from the end. Feed the end of the cordage around or through something solid on the frame. Pull it back and through the loop you created. You have then created a version of a slip knot. Pull it downwards as hard as you can and then use a few overhand knots to secure the cordage in place. You want one overhand knot to wrap around a single strand, and then another to wrap around the whole loop. This should be strong enough to secure even the heaviest load. You can even use this knot to help you fell trees safely.
This knot is designed to connect two pieces of cordage end to end. Fold back the end in your left hand onto itself to create a loop. Run the end in your right hand up through the loop from the bottom. Then wrap it around the loop going under and then back towards yourself. Finally, run this end underneath only that same piece of cordage inside the loop but not underneath or through the loop itself. Once you pull it tight you should have two pieces of cordage every bit as strong as a single piece.
Cordage is one of the most valuable tools you can have in a survival situation. Any time I hit the woods I have paracord attached to my water bottle, attached to my wallet, used in my survival bracelet, and replacing laces in both of my boots. At any given time I have over 100 feet of cordage with me if I split open all of the paracord. However, all of this is worthless without the ability to successfully tie knots. I suggest you get some cordage, watch a few videos on YouTube, and practice these knots before you actually need them. It could save your life.