Beyond tying your shoes, it’s altogether possible the only knots you know are the ones you make up on the spot. To the uninformed, complex knots seem like magic tricks. But you don’t need to improvise the next time you lash something down. Practice this handy arsenal of essential knots instead.

Square Knot. Also known as the reef knot, this is your best bet to connect two different ropes together for added length.

The Bowline. One of the most important knots for sailors, this one is perfect for forming a strong loop capable of holding heavy loads.

Two Half-Hitches. An ideal knot for tying anchor points or binding rope to objects, posts, and trees.

Taut-Line Hitch. Similar to the two half-hitches knot, the taut-line adds an adjustable hitch that allows you to lengthen or shorten your rope under load. Perfect for attaching tent stakes to rainfly lines.

Clove Hitch. Another binding knot, the clove hitch is useful in creating a solid anchor point and the best knot for tying logs together when making a raft.

Figure-Eight Knot. One of the simplest knots you can learn, the figure-eight acts as a stopper for climbers and sailors who don’t want ropes to slip out of retaining devices like pulleys.

Sheet Bend. Use the sheet bend instead of the square knot when you need to tie two ropes together, but the ropes are made of different materials or are different widths.

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