Wanna Get Knotty? Survival Knot Series: The Bowline

Survival Knot Series: The Bowline

The incessant reference to all of these “fiscal cliffs” in the past several weeks makes me think about a very important survival knot that everyone should know. If I could only teach one survival rescue knot, it would be the bowline.

The bowline is designed to create a very secure non-slipping loop at the end of a rope. This loop can be tied around your waist in the event you need to be hoisted up from the bottom of a “physical” cliff. I wish I knew a knot that could save us from the fiscal kind.  You’re on your own with that one.

Besides rescue, the bowline knot has many other practical survival functions. Two bowlines can be used to tie two ropes together. It can be used to create a loop in the end of a rope for a snare noose. It can also be used to tie off a boat or canoe when at shore. It is a great survival knot to learn. In addition, the bowline is one of the few knots I know that can be tied using only one hand. It’s not hard to imagine that one arm might be injured if you’ve fallen to the bottom of a cliff. Or, you might be holding onto the cliff with one hand. Being able to tie a one-handed survival rescue knot then becomes a matter of life and death.

To tie the bowline, you need only remember the following pneumonic: “The rabbit runs out of his hole, around the tree and back into his hole.”

Below is a step-by-step tutorial showing how to tie the bowline using this pneumonic.

Start by running the rescue line around your waist.

STEP 1: Create “the rabbit hole” and “the tree” by making a loop in the long end of the rope. Notice the right and wrong way to make the loop.

STEP 2: Now take “the rabbit” and make him come out of “his hole” …

STEP 3: Around “the tree”

STEP 4: And back in “his hole”

STEP 5: Pull to tighten.

Now, once you’ve mastered this knot using both hands, it’s time to try it one handed.  Good luck!

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


Creek Stewart is the Owner & Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor Survival School located in Central Indiana & online at

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