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5 Essential Climbing Knots Every Beginner Should Learn

Essential Climbing Knots Every Beginner Should Learn

Rock climbing is an exhilarating and rewarding activity. It offers the perfect combination of physical and mental challenges that will keep you coming back for more. 

Before you hit the crag, there are a few things you need to know, like how to tie basic knots. Knots are an essential part of rock climbing, and they can be the difference between a safe climb and a serious injury. 

The five essential climbing knots every beginner should learn include:

  • Figure 8 Knot
  • Clove Hitch
  • Prusik Knot
  • Water Knot
  • Backup Knot

Keep reading to learn about the five essential climbing knots every beginner should learn.

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Figure 8 Knot

A figure eight knot being tied into a climbing harness

The Figure 8 knot is often considered to be one of the strongest knots available for climbers because it won’t slip or untie even when put under pressure. In fact, the more pressure you apply, the stronger the knot becomes! 

Figure 8 knots are made strong because of their large curvature compared to other knots. A technical report from Penn State University found that figure 8 knots kept 87% of the strength of the rope after multiple falls, compared to just 65% with an overhand knot. In other words, the bigger the knot (to a certain point) the stronger it is.

The figure 8 knot is used when tying the rope to your harness. This way, if you fall, the knot will never come loose. 

Additionally, it can be used as a stopper knot by tying off both ends around a carabiner so that they don’t move independently of each other which would create slack in a system, potentially causing dangerous situations while climbing or rappelling.

Before you can tie the perfect figure 8 knot, you need the perfect rope! Sterling’s VR 9.8 mm Dry-Core Rope is perfect and comes in a 40-, 60-, or 70-meter length.

Clove Hitch

The clove hitch knot is one of the oldest known knots and has been used for centuries in various sailing, climbing, and camping activities. It is a loop knot that is considered to be the simplest of all climbing knots and can be tied in the end of a rope to attach it to a stationary anchor or other object. 

The clove hitch can also be used to secure a line or rope around an object when you don’t have access to a quickdraw or other gear. This knot is incredibly strong and secure when tied properly, as well as being easy to tie and untie quickly. 

With its versatility, the clove hitch plays an important role in many aspects of climbing safety. Clove hitches work great with locking carabiners like Black Diamond’s HotForge Screwgate Carabiner.

A clove hitch allows climbers to quickly secure their ropes while scaling cliff faces or traversing over rock ledges and it also provides convenience during rappelling down from high places. Climbers often use the clove hitch knot as part of their anchor systems in multi-pitch climbs. 

The importance of tying a tight and secure clove hitch cannot be overlooked. As all climbers know, a mistied knot can mean the difference between a send and a big ouchie!

After you’ve mastered the figure 8 and clove hitch, you might be ready to hit some climbing walls! You can read about the best climbing areas for beginners at New River Gorge here!

A climber with a photo realsitic background climbing the side of a mountain, Art created by AI

Prusik Knot

The Prusik knot is an ancient knot that has been used since the 1800s. Originally, it was used to secure boat rigging, but its uses have evolved over time. It is now widely used in various climbing activities, including rock climbing and mountaineering. 

By the way, if you’re ready to hit the great outdoors, check out our article on the items you need to start rock climbing today.

The Prusik knot is a versatile and reliable knot that helps climbers ascend a rope or to be tied to an anchor point. It works by friction, so it can be easily adjusted depending on the particular situation or need of the climber.  Its versatility also makes it invaluable when carrying out rescue operations in difficult terrain or weather conditions.

The Prusik knot gets its name from Austrian mountaineer Karl Prusik, who first popularized and developed the use of this knot for rescue operations in 1931. He also created a variant of this knot known as the “Prusik sling” which is commonly used for rappelling down a mountain or for securing a climber’s harness to another rope. 

The Prusik sling is made up of two loops tied together with a third loop attached to one end of the two loops, creating a sort of lark’s head knot configuration. This arrangement allows for greater adjustability compared to other types of knots.

Water Knot

The Water Knot, also known as the Tape Knot or Ring Bend, has been used for centuries as a secure and reliable method for attaching two ends of rope without tying a knot. It is commonly used in rock climbing to connect two pieces of webbing. 

The knot’s strength comes from the fact that it takes advantage of friction generated when the rope is pulled taut, and any pressure placed on one end will be transferred directly to the other. 

The Water Knot’s popularity among climbers stems from its simplicity and strength. Its construction requires only two loops that are wrapped around each other twice before being cinched tight. This makes it easy for beginners to learn and master quickly, but also able to hold up under immense stress during ascents. 

In addition to its basic use with webbing and ropes, the Water Knot is also popularly used in slings and daisy chains due to its ability to securely join multiple sections together without compromising strength or stability.

Webbing is used mainly by trad climbers to create anchors or custom slings. The typical width of the webbing is 1 inch. BlueWater has an excellent spool of 1-inch webbing that is 30 feet in length. 

All in all, the water knot is an essential tool in any trad climber’s arsenal!

Climbing knots used by beginner AI created art

Backup Knot

The backup knot is often overlooked, but is an essential part of every climber’s safety and security. The backup knot was designed to provide additional insurance when it comes to protecting climbers from fatal falls. 

While primary knots are used for tying off a rope, the backup knot is used as an extra layer of security in case of an unexpected slip or malfunction of the primary knot. This is especially true when it comes to rappelling or using ascenders or descenders on difficult terrain. 

Without the added reinforcement of a backup knot, any slip-ups during such activities could result in unwanted consequences. 

For this reason, experienced climbers rely on their trusty backup knots to provide additional assurance when tackling extreme conditions out on the cliff face. 

That’s the basic climbing knots!

There you have it – five essential climbing knots every beginner should learn. Climbing knots are an essential part of any climber’s equipment arsenal. With hundreds of years of history behind them, climbing knots have been saving lives since their conception and should not be overlooked when it comes to ensuring safe climbs.

To recap, the five essential climbing knots every beginner should learn include:

  • Figure 8 Knot
  • Clove Hitch
  • Prusik Knot
  • Water Knot
  • Backup Knot

So whether you’re just starting out or looking for ways to stay safe as a more experienced climber, mastering basic climbing knots could make all the difference in staying secure while enjoying outdoor activities. 

Remember, safety is a priority in rock climbing, and understanding how to tie these basic knots is essential. Practice each knot until you can tie it without looking, and don’t hesitate to ask for help or guidance from a more experienced climber. Rock climbing is a fantastic sport that offers endless challenges and rewards. But most importantly, remember to always have fun!

Now you know your knots, start your adventure by getting the right climbing rope and rock climbing shoes for your adventures!


For more tips and guides on rock climbing, check out our rock climbing blog!

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