Rock Climbing Knots: When a Knot Can Save Your Life

Climbing knots importance
Samuel Funt
Written by Samuel Funt

Rock climbing is a very dangerous activity, but also a hobby for some and a passion for others. Regardless of how risky it is, if one was armed with the necessary safety tools including rock climbing knots, there is no reason to why they should suffer from scratches, falls, and cuts.

The rope is the major part of the kit and should not be missed under any circumstances. The knots that you create on the rope will always have your back and save you from falling; resulting in an easy climb. These are the knots you must be aware of if you are a climber who loves to climb and wishes to do so in the correct and safe gear.

The common knots that are used by climbers^

  • The Alpine butterfly
  • Figure eight knot
  • Clove hitch
  • Prusik
  • Italian hitch
  • Double overhand figure eight
  • Overhand
  • Water loop
  • Fisherman’s and double fisherman’s loop

The two most common knots

The main two knots are the Alpine Butterfly and the Figure Eight Knot. The Alpine Butterfly is considered to be the most ideal and the best of all knots. This knot is formed by making single loops in the center of the rope in order to make the climbing experience easier.

The most superior knot is the bowline knot and if you are a good rock climber, then you need to know how this is made. The Double Alpine Butterfly on the other hand has two loops in the center of the rope. It is made in a similar way to the Alpine, with the only difference being there are two loops and not one.

Knots for climbing

Another knot that is easy to remember is the Figure Eight Knot. This has a high percentage of efficiency and is easy to create. It is also known as the double eight-knot as well as bunny ears. This type of knot is created in a way to help the climber keep balance between the weights on the anchors. Some additional knots include:

  • Blake’s hitch
  • Bowline
  • Alpine butterfly loop
  • Chain sinnet
  • Double Alpine butterfly hoop
  • Figure 8 directional
  • Distel hitch
  • Double overhand
  • Figure 8 double loop
  • Figure 8 bend
  • Flat overhand bend
  • Figure 8 follow through
  • Girth hitch
  • Munter mule
  • Klemheist
  • One-handed bowline
  • Zeppelin bend

All climbers must be aware of the common knots and must even be aware of how to knot these when the time comes. To enhance safety, two or three of the knots may also be tied together in order to give the climber more security and safety and a firmer grip.

Getting a rope to a knot

Rock climbing is classed as a complex sport, which is why knots are the central feature for the climbing activity. With a knot you can easily join many things, such as the rope to your equipment to your waist to climbing skills you perform and finally to rescue systems.

Rope to a knot

Even there are multiple rock climbing knots, it is not a must you know all of these. Even if you can master your way through some of the knots as well as their variations, that is you prepared in order to take a climbing experience that is fun, safe, and adventurous. The five basic knots all rock climbers should be familiar with are:

  • Hitches
  • Bends
  • Stopper
  • Single loop knots
  • Double loop knots
Knot typeBenefitCommon types of the knot
HitchesThe use of these knots allows climbers to tie a knot that conforms to the size of the object that it is tied to.Clove hitch;Prusik knot;

Italian hitch;

BendsThis type of knot is created when both ends of the rope are tied together with the same rope or by tying two different ropes together with one knot.Fisherman’s knot;Water knot double;

Fisherman’s knot;

StopperThese knots stop the other end of the rope from slipping or unraveling through another knot.Figure eight knot;Overhand knot;

Double overhand knot;

Single loop knotsThese Knots are helpful when a rope needs to be thrown at something that is hard to reach. Alternatively, it can also be used when you need to join a loop of rope whilst climbing. A main purpose is to wrap around an object or a person’s waist before tying.Bowline Alpine butterfly knot;

Figure eight loop;

Double loop knotsThese knots consist of two loops that enhance both security and hold than that of a single loop knot. This knot can be used in climbing whilst you are lowering or lifting another person. Alternatively, it may also be used when hanging.Double figure eight;Double Alpine butterfly;

Mentioned above is the basic procedure of the knots listed. Before you choose to embark on an adventure, it is important that you practice first. Once you have successfully mastered the basic knots and accomplished the normal and easier climbs, you can also try many other variations of the multiple knots and begin to prepare for your difficult climbs and skills. The rock climbing activity demands so much from a climber, things can include:

  • Skills needed to keep their body on the rock
  • Endurance and strength

One of the most unrecognized features of the activity is the knots that are used for the ropes. A climber must be aware of at least five to six different knots in order to make sure that their rope is secure whilst they climb and to eliminate any risks of falling from the cliff.

Knots type for climbing

When it comes to climbing equipment, ropes are in fact one of the most vital pieces needed for climbers. If a climber is unaware of how knots should be tied, then not only are they putting themselves in danger, but also their companion climbers.

Quick and simple knots

The knots we will discuss in this section are:

  • The figure eight knot
  • The clove hitch
  • The bowline
  • The water knot
  • The prusik
  • The double figure eight loop

The strongest knot a climber may use is the Figure Eight Knot. This knot is able to be tied in two contrasting ways and here is how. The first way is towards the end of the rope, which is referred to as a follow through with the second being in the centre. This is referred to as the bight. The safest and quickest ways to make a loop is by using the Figure Eight Knot in the centre. This is best to create a loop so an object can be secured and is the simplest knots one can tie.

Figure 8 knot

The Clove Hitch knot is used the majority of the time when setting belays up whilst a rock climbing activity. This knot is extremely easy to alter, unlike the Figure Eight Knot. If one continuously practices the Clove Hitch knot, there is no reason to why they cannot tie is using only one hand.

The Bowline knot is another climbing knot that is common. This is usually used by climbers for quickening their climbing binds towards the ends of the rope. The Bowline knot is not an easy one to learn, but can be amazingly used for securing a rope to almost any part of climbing gear. This is something that cannot be done with other knots. Similar to the Clove Hitch, this knot may also be tied with the use of one hand after some practice.

The Water knot is another type, which is perfect for connecting flat stretches of material, i.e. webbing or climbing belts. This knot is also helpful when joining two different ropes together. Once you have successfully tied this knot to the first piece of material, you simply need to follow the webbing backwards through the knot from the other end. The Water knot is the fastest knot one can tie.

The Prusik knot is known as the common climbing knot. It is usually used throughout self-rescue and can also be practiced when connecting objects to the rope. As the conditions of the rock creation change during climbing, one can easily adjust this knot whilst continuing to securely grip the additional rope at the same time. This is easily achievable irrespective of the weight of the climbing gear that is hanging from it. The Prusik knot is knotted using a loop rope, which is then able to be secured to itself using either one of the Water knot or the Fisherman’s knot.

The Double Eight Figure Loop knot is best as it allows one to create two climbing knots in one single loop, which is always better than one. The double loop is much better as it assures double capacity and safety needed to withstand the weight. This type of knot can also be referred to as bunny ears and it vital to keep the balance in between many anchors.

The Double Figure Eight Loop knot is a secure climbing knot and loops are able to be easily accustomed in this by moving the rope to either side. This loop is safer than the Double Bowline knot and is created in design of Flemish eight and uses a double rope. You may choose to place a stopper towards the ends of these loops if you wish. The knot is very safe and strong for both rock and mountain climbers.

Double Eight Figure Loop knot

This knot is used mainly for the purpose of safety. You simply need to make a loop on the centre. In certain rock areas and situations where ropes undergo less strain, this knot is very useful and also extremely easy to tie around the body of a rock climber. The knot is also used to join ropes for climbing connects and created in the form of double loops through a ring. In this knot, the single end of the climbing rope is always available.

The double loop knot is commonly put together by binding an unattached eight knots in a rope, which are then tied towards the working end of an object. They are highly secure climbing knots, which create loops in a particular way that climbers can manage to climb high places without placing too much strain on the rope.

Different climbing ropes

Typically, a climbing rope tends to be 200 feet or 60 meters long. However, you will also find there are longer ropes available up to 85 meters. Alternatively, some may even be longer than this. Due to the introduction of new materials, climbing ropes come with different characteristics and have massively changed and become more:

  • Lighter
  • Thinner
  • Stronger

The two main types of ropes are:

  • Dynamic climbing ropes
  • Static ropes

The dynamic ropes are able to stretch beneath a shock load and can absorb a part of the shock force in order to protect the climber. These are created for top roping or in order to belay a lead climber. Manufacturers of the rope tend to use three or more colors for the covering in order to differentiate the dynamic ropes from the static ropes.

The static ropes are more resistant to and scrapes and scuffs, they are more durable, and they lack elasticity.  These ropes should only be used where shock loading never happens, such as: cannoning, spelunking, rappelling (abseiling). These ropes may also be used in order to belay a climber. A lead climber should never use this type of rope because if a fall occurs, this type of rope lacks the elasticity needed in order to minimize an injury. The covering for this rope usually comes in two colors.

Climbing ropes and equipment

The bottom line

Now that you are familiar with the knots and their advantages, it is time you learnt your knots, especially if climbing is an activity you love to do. If you are familiar with the basic knots for rock climbing, maybe it is time you got your head around some of the more complex ones.

Not only will these help enhance your skills for the activity, but may also help to save your life or the lives of fellow climbers who are climbing with you. Once you have successfully mastered one knot, it is recommended you then move on to the next instead of learning a bunch of them all at once.

Samuel Funt
Samuel Funt

Samuel is a prepper with over 15 years of experience. Samuel is excited to share his knowledge and the things he learns while travelling in British Columbia, Canada where he lives and around the world.

  • Raul Walter

    It is important to learn the basic knot designs as it is important to have a flexible and vigorous rope to work with. Additionally, the more I find out how to tie a secure knot, the more I enjoy the experience and worry less. It gives me the ability to climb safely.

  • Hey Raul,

    Knots can be used in our every day lives and when it comes to rock climbing, the knot you use should be one that does not unravel easily.


  • Marcus Brown

    My favorite knot is a trucker’s hitch. I learned it when I was a child. When you tie it people think you really know a lot about knots. Haha. Next is a jug sling, close hitch, and bowline which are often used when required. There are still a lot more that I want to learn, probably a knot that is easy to tie but does not slide off easily.

    • Samuel Funt

      You are better off, Marcus. Knowing the basic knots such as the trucker’s hitch is important, because it’s a resourceful knot. This article is more than enough for learning essential rock climbing knots.