5 Essential Canoe Tripping Knots

5 Essential Canoe Tripping Knots

Have you ever been on a trip, in the pouring rain, struggling to get your tarp secured because you've forgotten that one knot to string up the tarp?

I have. 

Thats why we've compiled this list of 5 basic knots to review before heading out on your trip. 

As with most skills in life, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it!’ That’s why I recommend practicing these knots before leaving on your trip, while you still have access to the internet!

Knot 1: Trucker’s Hitch

This is a good one to start with as it is one you may be using before even leaving for the trip! 

This is a good knot to know as this is the knot I use when securing my canoe to my car or trailer. The great thing about this knot is it will quick release, no matter how much you tighten it up.

Another great use for this knot is when tying off your tent fly or possibly running a clothesline at your campsite.


My take: After twisting the rope 3 times and creating the loop with your line, don’t make that loop too big, as you put tension on the rope, that loop will grow as well. When fastening a canoe, I like to generally start that loop around the rocker of the canoe (when the canoe transitions from the side to the hull).

Knot 2: Half Hitch / Overhand Knot

Ahh, the half hitch, or as some refer to as, the ‘yep, I put a knot in that, so it’s not going anywhere…knot’

While the half hitch is not an overly complex knot nor is it always reliable on its own. However, I like to think of the half hitch as the complementary side, when tying knots. It’s rarely the primary knot for strength, but more used as a tool to hold another knot in place, and like the Trucker’s Hitch, will usually come out with relative ease.

A perfect example is the Trucker’s Hitch, where that does all the work, and the Half Hitch comes in and keeps everything tight and locked in. 


My take: There is no such thing as too many half hitches, especially when being used to secure the knot in place, so be generous. 

Knot 3: Reef/Square Knot

Need a loop of rope? The Square Knot will help get you squared away…

In all seriousness, the Square or Reef Knot is great when joining either two pieces of rope together, or the same rope to create a continuous loop. I should note that you can do this with a half hitch too, however, with half hitch it will form more of a teardrop, whereas the Square Knot will form a complete loop.

This is another easy knot to remember, as it has a nice little saying which I’m sure you’ve heard before…”Right over left, left over right.” FYI, when tying shoelaces, the first step is half a square knot!


My take: This is a great knot that I use a fair bit, while out on a trip but also around the house when needing to create a quick loop of rope.

Knot 4: Prusik Knot

Ever wish there were four trees in a square, the exact shape of your tarp? The Prusik Knot should help solve that issue.

For the average camper this is generally the only place you’ll use this knot, but the great thing about it is it takes very little, small diameter, cordage to make, and can create a somewhat adjustable and versatile campsite. 


My take: The key with this knot is dressing it once completed wrapping it around the secondary cord. Additionally, you want the square knot, used to create the loop, on one side of the Prusik attached bight (the loop that will be attached to a tarp), not dead in the center, that way if fastening a carabiner or if its been feed through the grommet of the tarp, the square knot is not sitting directly on it.

As shown in picture above, the Prusik (blue line), can ride on a piece of cord between two trees to create the required anchor.

Knot 5: Bowline Knot

Another knot, another limerick.

Up through the rabbit hole, round the big tree; down through the rabbit hole and off goes he.”

This knot is great for a variety of reasons; it never slips, easy to back off after being under tension, and quick to tie and creates a great way to anchor your rope to a tree. A definite must have when learning knots.


My take: This is probably the most versatile knot that I keep in practice. This is another knot that is very helpful in day-to-day activities as well as out on a trip.

What are your top five knots for your camping trips? What knot would you have liked to see?


Written By: Patrick Kirkwood

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