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The One Knot To Rule Them All and How To Tie It

Posted by Jamie Canterbury on February 18, 2021   •   bushcraft camp, knots

Arbot Knot

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Whether you’re going camping for the weekend or plan to travel through the great wilderness, you know that packing the right materials is your key to survival—and one of the most critical pieces of gear you could bring along with you is cordage. 

Cordage is one of Dave Canterbury’s must-haves on the 5 C’s of Survivability. Since it can help gather, store, and build, cordage is just as important as bringing a cutting tool, combustion device, a cover for shelter, and containers for water and food. 

Of course, bringing cordage will serve you useless unless you know how to tie the right kind of knot. But the question is: What kind of knot can be used for just about anything? 

Benefits of Using Cordage To Tie Knots

Practicing tying knots with cordage is excellent for enhancing your hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, which is why it’s such a crucial lesson in pathfinder schools. Mastering  the usage of cordage effectively, like with knot-tying, can save your life in many ways, like:

  • Keeping your shelter secure
  • Tying your supplies together
  • Securing food away from predators
  • Climbing steep drops and cliffs

There are thousands of different knots that you could use outdoors. But almost everybody has their favorite go-to knot that is versatile and can be used for anything. Shawn Kelly of Corporals Corner and the Pathfinder School shares his favorite knot to use for camping. 

How To Tie The Arbor Knot (Step By Step)

According to bushcraft expert Shawn Kelly, first thing’s first: It’s essential to K.I.S.S.

“I’ve been asked the same question over and over and over again: If I had one knot, just one, what would that be?” says Shawn. “I like keeping things simple—or K.I.S.S: Keep it simple stupid. So, I got to thinking about that: The one knot to rule it all for me is the jam knot or the arbor knot.”

The arbor knot is nothing more than two overhand knots and a loop. Here’s how to tie one step-by-step: 

Step 1: If you are not tying the knot around anything, create a U-shaped loop so that both ends of the cordage are parallel to each other. 

Step 2: Then, start with an overhand knot or a loose pretzel knot so that you have a loop and a knot. 

Step 3: Inside the loop of the pretzel knot, pull to create a slipknot. 

Step 4: From here, you’re going to do a second overhand knot. Twist it over itself and go through the hole to develop another pretzel knot. 

Step 5: Lastly, pull so that you have a jammed knot.

How To Tie Arbor Knot Infographic

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The arbor knot is typically used for fishing rods, which means that it’s helpful to have something to wrap the loop around. You don’t have to tie it around anything to have a successful knot, but until you get the hang of it, practicing around an arbor (as pictured) or a stick will do the trick. 

When to Use the Arbor Knot

The arbor knot is a typical fighters’ knot that is most commonly used to line the fishing reel’s arbor. Arbor knots are designed to be strong and nearly unbreakable, which means that they’ll stay intact even if your rod is being pulled overboard. 

“Taking that knot and simply placing an object inside that loop and tightening it down—that’s one thing,” says Shawn. “But to truly master this knot, you have to tie it around an existing structure.”

Next time you’re outdoors and want to give the arbor knot a whirl, try to tie it around a vertical structure, like a tree. When you perfect this knot, you can use it to secure almost anything.

What is the Canadian Jam Knot?

When the arbor knot is used in Bushcraft, it’s called the Canadian jam knot. This knot is not only used for fishing, but can be used with cordage to hold together heavy loads, like a sleeping bag, hiking gear, or gathering materials.

Arbor knots or jam knots are excellent for anything that requires binding and hitching. They are perfect for constructing a bundle of objects, like sticks and brush, which can save you a ton of time when you’re gathering material to build a fire or shelter. 

Because of its resistance to jamming, the arbor or jam knot is exceptionally hardy and hard to untie—truly making it the one knot to rule them all. 


What’s great about the arbor knot is that it’s easy to do, yet it maintains versatility. There are no fancy tricks or complicated steps: Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to master it.

Knowing your way around a rope can help make your trip outdoors a hundred times easier. The arbor knot is a simple knot that gets almost any job done, so you can use it to secure your food, shelter, gear, and to gather supplies. 

If you plan on going camping, there are plenty of other things you should add to your packing list. Make sure you refresh your 5 C’s of Survivability and check out essential tips and information, like what to pack for the ultimate wilderness survival kit. You can also find plenty of how-to videos and tips by experts like Shawn Kelly on Self Reliance Outfitters’ YouTube channel.

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