If you've been following our site or magazine for a while now, you've probably heard us discuss the importance of cordage in survival situations. Paracord or other strong and lightweight cordage is especially useful for creating survival shelters. You just need a tarp or rain fly, a few lengths of cord, and some sturdy trees or other objects to serve as anchor points.

MCQbushcraft paracord knot shelter tarp cordage 1

With a large tarp, some paracord, and a little knowledge, you can have a survival shelter up in no time.

Well… actually, there's one more element you need: knot-tying knowledge. Without this, you won't be able to apply tension to your ridgeline or secure your anchor hitches, and you'll probably end up with a droopy shelter that blows away with the first gust of wind.

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The key to learning knots is clear instruction and frequent practice, so the following video from MCQBushcraft is a great resource. In this 17-minute video, host Michael McQuilton demonstrates eight essential knots, as well as some variations and additional tips. Whether you're a knot-tying expert or just starting to learn, you'll be able to learn something from his video.

Here's a recap of some of the essential knots in this video, along with their uses:

  • Overhand knot – Forming basic loops of cord, often used with a bead for lanyards
  • Clove hitch (two ways) – Tying a cord to a post or tree for short-term use (quick release)

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  • Reef or square knot – Connecting two strands of cordage
  • Half hitch – Tying a cord to a post for secure long-term use. Can be doubled for extra security, modified for quick-release, or strengthened with a toggle.
  • “Ratchet knot” – Improvised toggle-based knot for anchoring a ridgeline
  • Quick release knot – Another way to anchor and tension a ridgeline, with or without a toggle

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  • Prusik knot or friction hitch – Tying a small cord to a larger ridgeline at a 90-degree angle
  • Tensioning hitch – Applying tension to take slack out of a ridgeline or tarp tie-out
  • Extra Tip: “Hanking” a bundle of spare paracord for easy storage and fast deployment

For more knot-tying tips, check out our previous articles on the bowline knot and six paracord bad practices to avoid.

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