5 Knots to Know with Craig Caudill

Craig Caudill is an author, educator, and avid outdoors-man that teaches wilderness survival and bushcraft courses through his Nature Reliance School. The "Knotty Professor” sat down to tell us about 5 useful knots that every bushcrafter should know, but let it be stated here and now that he is not claiming these to be the 5 best knots.

People from Wazoo Survival Gear, Georgia Bushcraft, and Nature Reliance having a conversation about knots and hitches

According to Craig, “you got to figure out what works best for you,” and the best way to do that is by learning (and using) as many knots as you can. 

But before we get knotty, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about some knot terminology:A piece of cordage displaying knot terminology working end, loop, bight, and standing end

  • The working end (also known as the leading end or running end) is the part of cordage active in tying
  • A loop is the “hole” created by crossing cordage over itself
  • A bight is a length of cordage that does not cross itself and is arc shaped
  • The standing end is the opposite of the working end and is typically not used
  • A round-turn is a loop around an object

Knot vs. Hitch

  • Hitches must be tied to something and secured by tension 

  • A knot exists on it’s own and gets its strength from the way cordage wraps around itself and objects

1. Two Half Hitches

This is one of Craig’s favorite hitches for securing and hanging large loads. It’s easy to tie and stays secure under tension, but what makes this versatile hitch so great is how easily it releases when pressure is released. 

The process of tying two half hitches is simple:Craig Caudill shows the steps for tying two half hitches

  1. Wrap the leading end around something (like a tree or bail of hay) to make an underhand loop

  2. Feed the leading end down through the loop to make your first half hitch

  3. Repeat step two by feeding the leading end down through a new loop to create another half hitch

  4. Cinch the hitch tight around the object that it’s being secured to

Craig Caudill shows how to tie a round-turn and two half hitchesAnother variation involves wrapping the line fully around the securing object before tying the hitches so that it creates a round turn that absorbs tension.

Whichever variation you use, just remember one half hitch is made by leading the working end under, down, and through the hole.

2. Pile Hitch

Craig Coudill shows the steps for tying a pile hitch“The pile hitch is one of the simplest things I’m going to show you tonight,” Craig said--and he wasn't lying. A key feature of this one comes from the way that it leads with a bight made from the middle of a length of cordage (so you don’t have to worry about using one of the ends). 

  1. Make a bight to use as the working end

  2. Wrap the cordage around an object to make an underhand loop

  3. Pass the bight over the securing object and tighten the hitch

Just like any other hitch, the pile hitch is meant to perform under tension, which makes it great for pulling things like logs and loose brush.

3. Bowline Knot

The reigning king of knots is the Bowline Knot, and it must receive the credit it deserves. The bowline is not only useful for securing large hauls, but it’s also a great rescue knot since it can be secured to the body and pulled without cinching up and causing injury. Plus, it uses less cordage than most other knots while maintaining an impressive degree of strength (the figure-eight knot is only slightly stronger).

Here’s how to tie the king of knots: Craig Coudill shows the steps to tie the a bowline knot, also known as the king of knots

  1. Create a loop

  2. Pass the working end up through the hole

  3. Wrap the end around the line

  4. Pass the end back down through the hole

  5. Tie an overhand knot near the end to secure the bowline knot.

A good way to remember this knot is the rabbit comes out of the hole, runs around the tree, and then runs back down the hole. 

4. Overhand Loop Knot

This knot couldn't be simpler, but don’t underestimate it’s range of utility. Craig told us that when he was a boy, he used the overhand loop to catch feral dogs that were troubling his family’s livestock.Craig Coudill shows the steps for tying an overhand loop knot

Even though he teaches trapping techniques that utilize cordage, Craig recommends against these types of traps in the real world since most critters you get with cordage will chew their way through it.

To tie an Overhand Loop Knot:

  1. Take the working end and lay it back against itself to make a bight

  2. Create a loop and pass the bight over itself and through the hole

  3. Tighten and dress the knot so that it looks pretty (dressing increasing the knots strength)


5. Clove Hitch

Craig Coudill shows the steps of tying a clove hitchLast but not least, we have the clove hitch. This one is definitely not recommended for catching critters, but it can be very useful when making tarp structures by making a “bushcraft button.” Simply secure a clove hitch around a small rock that is covered by the tarp, and viola! You now have an anchor point that is typically stronger than factory issue grommets. 

To make a clove hitch: 

  1. Create a loop

  2. Create a second loop to the left of the first one

  3. Stack the first loop onto the second loop

  4. Place over object to be secured

  5. Tighten and secure with a half hitch (or two)

Bonus Variation

What if you can’t pass the loop over the object you're hitching, like a tree? Or what if you need to tie the hitch to a horizontal structure? Craig was kind enough to explain another way to tie the clove hitch:Craig Coudill shows how to tie a clove hitch without having to pass it over an object

  1. Wrap line around object

  2. Wrap around again, but make sure the line goes over and above the first round turn

  3. Pass the running end through the second loop and tighten

  4. Secure with half hitch 

Craig Caudill's Nature Reliance SchoolKnot-craft is a useful life skill that can be practiced virtually anywhere with nothing more than a short length of cordage. According to Craig, the bowline and clove hitch are used by everyone from sailors to arborists to bushcrafters, but rock climbers are his go-to for advice since their ability to tie knots can be the line between life and death (by the way, none of the knots in this article are intended for climbing).

Nick tends to remember knots by their functional application, and there are many neumic devices for remembering to aid you as well. But just like with any outdoor skill, the best way to learn about knots is to just go outside and start tying, and check out Nature Reliance’s YouTube channel for more info about knots. 

What are your top five knots? Tell us in the comments.

SKILLSeries is a live video partnership between WAZOO and Georgia Bushcraft to help you learn while introducing you to people who are masters in their fields. We've decided to summarize these information rich videos into articles so you can get the main points on each topic and quick-reference notes that you can easily refer back to as a refresher.

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.