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Aug 16, 2017

How to Tie the Most Useful Knot in the World

created at: 04/16/2013

This how-to is not for sailors. Nor anglers, mountaineers, first responders, or anyone else who need to know a huge diversity of knots, their strengths and weaknesses, and what situation calls for each.

This is for the rest of us. Those of us who go through normal life and its adventures, and encounter rope, twine, string, line, paracord, and the like, and when we need to secure it, say "Should I tie this like my shoes, or in a square know that I know will be nearly impossible to get off when I'm done."

The truth is, at this point in our lives, we're probably not going to learn how to tie a complex calvalcade of knots, and even if we did, would probably not have enough opportunity to practice them in real world situations in order to commit them to long term memory.

But, still, we should all know how to tie at least one pro-level option, and so we say to you — if you're only going to know how to tie one kind of knot, let it be:    

The Bowline. 

Sure, you've heard of it. Here's why it's great: 

  • It's the most useful knot in the world for the widest variety of applications. It's utilized in all sorts of situations that require rope, by a diversity of cultures and traditions. 
  • It's secure. Quite secure, in fact. It will hold when kept under tension. (Of course, don't use it when climbing, where a safety knot it required.)
  • It will not slip when placed under load. 
  • It can be used to tie two ropes together.
  • It can be tied one-handed, which is helpful when you're using your other hand to hold the thing you're tying it around.
  • And, most-importantly: it easily comes undone, no matter how much weight is put on it. 

See? Versatile as can be, and actually quite easy once you practice it five or six times. Here's how to do it: 

You'll only need to work with one end of the rope for a bowline. If you're trying to tie two ropes together, make a bowline in one rope, then loop a second bowline around it with the other. 

 

Make a loop in the rope, leaving a bit on the end to tie the rest of the knot. The rope will pass over the top. How much excess you leave will determine the size of your loop.

 

Insert the open end through the loop...

 

...and pull it through slightly. 

 

Then, wrap the open end behind the main line above the loop. This is the key to the bowline, and the most important part to commit to memory.

 

Then, just pass the open end back through the loop... 

 

... and pull through the other side. 

 

Pull it tight to secure. 

 

That's it! Here are the steps I say in my head to remember:

Loop over top, pull through, wrap behind and around, pull through. 

Practice it fourteen times, and you'll never forget. 

To secure a bowline around an object, just make your initial loop, and wrap the open end around the object. Complete the know on the same side as the loop, and the know will tighten around the object. 

To undo it, just grab the knot where the open end has passed through the final time. This will relieve the tension, and the knot will fall apart. 

 

Done. Remember, it's: Loop over top, pull through loop, wrap behind and around, pull through loop. Now that you know it, you'll use it all the time. 

Have fun out there, and be safe and secure!

 

 

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Leticia on Aug 18, 2017:

Squirrelfarts: Yeah, that's it. I learned it in Portuguese and my translation, along with my memory was lacking.

This knot is also used to attach the sails on a small sailboat. When I took a sailing class many moons ago, my classmates were impressed at how quickly I learned the knot. I was cheating, I didn't learn it, I just remembered.


Leticia on Aug 18, 2017:

Squirrelfarts: Yeah, that's it. I learned it in Portuguese and my translation, along with my memory was lacking.

This knot is also used to attach the sails on a small sailboat. When I took a sailing class many moons ago, my classmates were impressed at how quickly I learned the knot. I was cheating, I didn't learn it, I just remembered.


William on Aug 17, 2017:

A double bowline with a backup knot is actually a great climbing knot, although a lot of people flip out when they see someone using anything other than a figure 8. It's nice because like you said it's easy to tie and easy to untie, even if you've been hanging on it all day.


Squirrelfarts on Aug 17, 2017:

I also learned this in Boy Scouts, and similar to what Leticia said: the rabbit (end of rope) comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back down the hole.
We also learned a one-handed tying method that I've forgotten, but seems useful to revisit, just in case.


Leticia on Aug 17, 2017:

I learned this when I was in the boy scouts - over twenty years ago. I still remember the mnemonic we used to tie it. The rope with the loop is a tree with a hollow, you go in the hollow, around the tree and in the hollow again.

This one, the sailor's knot and the slip knot are the ones I still use to this day.