How To Tie A Square Knot | Step-By-Step Instructions

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September 20, 2019 / Comments (38)

Camping Survival Skills

Often called the reef knot, the square knot is one of the most commonly used knots. Following the instructions here on how to tie such a knot can be a lifesaver.

RELATED: Tie It All Together With These 9 Survival Knots

In this article:

  1. The Square Knot
  2. Uses for Square Knots
  3. When Not to Use a Square Knot
  4. Step-by-Step Instructions

How to Tie a Square Knot to Add to Your Survival Skills

The Square Knot

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The square knot is probably the best-known knot or at least one of them. It is also sometimes referred to as the reef knot used primarily to join two ropes, cords, or lines of similar thickness.

Square knots are easy to tie and the perfect knot choice for many things, but there are also times when you should not use them. We encourage you to learn as much about basic knots as you can, so you can use the right types of knots for the right situations.

Uses for Square Knots

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  • First aid, to tie bandages
  • A common knot used in surgery
  • To tie boot or shoelaces
  • To tie belts and sashes
  • Tying the reefing points of sail when the wind blows up
  • To tie plastic bags and trash bags

When Not to Use a Square Knot

Square knots are not your best choice when you have two different thicknesses you wish to join. They slip when you tie them with a nylon rope and will also slip if it is not under tension.


Square knots can be dangerous if misused and should never be used in critical situations where lives might be at risk. This is simply due to the potential instability of the knot.

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Unfortunately, many accidents took place as a result of trying to join two ropes with a square knot.

RELATED: Best Knots For Camping And Survival

Step-by-Step Instructions

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Pay close attention to these steps, as a square knot is often tied wrong. You will end up with a “granny knot,” which may slip under a heavy load.

See how this type of knot looks like or tied by using two colors of cord.

1. Remember: “Right over left, left over right.”
2. Take one line in your right hand, and one in your left and lay the right over the left.
3. Pass the right end over the left end and back under the left.
4. Pass the left end over the right end and back under the right.
5. Check the knot (the two loops should slide on each other)
6. Tighten by pulling both strands on each side of the knot.
7. Backup the square knot by making an overhand knot using the working end of each side of your knot.
8. Backing up a knot is important with a knot like the square knot, otherwise, it can slip.

This video from Art of Manliness will show you how to tie a square knot:

Now you know one more type of knot to add to the knots and hitches tricks you can pull off your sleeves for camping and survival. Remember, while this is a simple and reliable knot, it has its limits, so use it the right way for your own safety.

How would you use this type of knot? Let us know your thoughts about it in the comments section below!

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***Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational purposes only. Please read our full disclaimer.***

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 20, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

38 Responses to :
How To Tie A Square Knot | Step-By-Step Instructions

  1. richard1941 says:

    For joining two cords I prefer a Zeppelin hitch. It has less tendency to slip or come apart when unloaded. It is easy to tie, I leave googling it as an exercise for the student.

    As for me being a sailor, does anybody want to give me the second most happy day of my long boating career? My boat is totally powered by renewable green carbon-free power (wind). Lots of cheap fun still left in it.

    Advice: do not allow your wife to stand with one foot on the dock,and the other foot on the boat, unless the boat and dock are connected with something. Wife does not like boat!

  2. richard1941 says:

    Also, most advanced cell phones can download knot tutorials. Highly recommended. You can’t know too much about this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This makes no sense … in the video he gives you the tip right over left left over right……. but in the first diagram they do it opposite ? What the heck?

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