Top 5 Bushcraft Knots

I was told many years ago that the entire world was once held together with cordage. That statement has stayed with me until this day. Being that I sleep under a tarp or in a tent more than I sleep indoors, I suppose that statement holds true to me in modern times, as well. 

 I must admit that choosing the best Bushcraft knots was not an easy assignment for me. There are so many great knots that do exactly what they are supposed to do and do it well. I’m proud of my knot skills, and  I personally use many different knots for various applications when I’m in the outdoors. So, I had to ask myself. “Self, if  I could only use five knots for the rest of my life, what would they be?” 

Well, that didn’t make things any easier either. It was like I was asking myself to abandon lifelong relationships with my most reliable friends. I would gladly delete half of my Facebook friends before letting go of these worthy allies. 

After strolling down memory lane for a bit and having to remind myself that I wasn’t actually saying goodbye forever, it was time to get to work.  I decided to write down all the knots that I regularly use and determine which ones I could eliminate. Then I came up with was a scoring system to weigh each knot’s utility. The scoring system consists of three categories.

Versatility – how many jobs can it do?

Functionality – how well does it do these jobs?

Ease and Simplicity – how much effort is required to do the jobs?

The scoring method was simple. It is a scale of one through five. One being the lowest score and five being the highest. Each knot had to score at least three points in each category or two fives in the other two categories. Of course, a few of my old favorites came right to the surface, and I would probably be burned at the stake for heresy if I didn’t include them. 

The Bowline

Versatility – 5

Functionality – 5

Ease and Simplicity – 4

This is the heavyweight champion of knots. I probably use this knot more than any other. When you need a knot that won’t let go under load and is easy to untie, no matter how much tension it was under, the bowline is the go-to. I read that John Smith wrote in his 17th-century journals that the sails of his ship would break before the bowline would fail. I use this knot as an anchor for ridgelines, hoisting bear bags, attaching my bowstring to the tip of my bow, tying guylines to grommets, or anything that needs an end of line loop. The list of possible uses could absolutely go on for days. 

The Trucker’s Hitch

Versatility – 4

Functionality – 5

Ease and Simplicity – 4

     This compound knot is most commonly used in Bushcraft to raise a ridgeline. But its origins lie in securing cargo to wagons, buggies, barges, and ships. In the days of old, before the invention of ratchet straps, the Trucker’s Hitch was a teamster’s best friend. This hitch provides a 2:1 mechanical advantage, where other knots are limited to and rely on the user’s brute force alone. What you have is basically an improvised or primitive pulley system. 

      I use this hitch to raise ridgelines, secure my kayak to the roof of my car, a clothesline in camp, and as a makeshift dog lead,  I even once used it to retrieve a carabiner from the top of a small tree after a student got it stuck throwing a bear hang. I simply wrapped the paracord around an adjacent tree and used it as a pulley to bend the tree far enough to the ground to untangle the carabiner. 

The Jam Knot

Versatility – 5

Functionality – 5

Ease and Simplicity – 5

       Mors Kochanski said that if he could only know one knot, it would be the Jam Knot. This knot has gotten me out of a jam, pun intended, more than once. This knot is probably the most simple and effective knot I know. It literally consists of making two overhand knots and then a loop through the second overhand. I recently used it to replace a broken buckle on my expedition pack while on a hike at work. So whether you need to attach gear to a pack, bundle firewood, or quickly lash a tripod, the mighty Jam Knot does the job.

The Taut Line Hitch

Versatility – 3

Functionality – 5

Ease and Simplicity – 5

          The Taut Line is my go-to for guying out a tarp or tent. This knot is an adjustable friction hitch, so you just wrap the guy line around a stake or tree and tie the knot. You then slide the knot, then it and tensions the guy lines. You can loosen or tighten the guy lines as needed if the wind picks up or if you need to raise or lower a tarp. It can also be used for a quick ridgeline that doesn’t require a lot of tension. The Taut Line can be used in place of a prusik knot for attaching and tensioning a tarp to a ridgeline. While not the most versatile of the knots, its functionality, ease, and simplicity balance the scale. 

The Marlin Spike Hitch

Versatility – 5

Functionality – 5

Ease and Simplicity – 5

I’m not going to talk about the origins of this knot because an entire article could be written on the subject. The Marlin Spike Hitch is everything that the clove hitch and lark’s head aspire to be in all three categories of scoring. It is basically the chassis for a toggle, but to say it is only that would be an oversimplification. I use this knot to help tension ridgelines, keep gear off the ground, tighten lashings, setting up my water filter for gravity feed, and many hammock campers use it to attach their whoopie slings. I’m proud to have this knot in my arsenal, and it certainly makes my time around camp much easier.

Georgia Bushcraft Blog | 2022

Author – Jack Rule

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One thought on “Top 5 Bushcraft Knots

  1. It has been a pleasure to have met and know Jack as part of the Georgia Bushcraft community. We learn something new or enhance our understanding of bushcraft practices on every encounter. His classes are well worth the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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One thought on “Top 5 Bushcraft Knots

  1. It has been a pleasure to have met and know Jack as part of the Georgia Bushcraft community. We learn something new or enhance our understanding of bushcraft practices on every encounter. His classes are well worth the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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