Knot of the Week HD: Can a One-Handed Bowline Save Your Life? - ITS Tactical

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September 29, 2015Loops

Knot of the Week HD: Can a One-Handed Bowline Save Your Life?

Knot of the Week HD: Can a One-Handed Bowline Save Your Life?


Today’s Knot of the Week in HD features one of my favorite knots that I wind up practicing on a fairly regular basis; the One-Handed Bowline. Not only is it fun to tie, unless you really had to in a lifesaving situation, but it can get competitive amongst other knotty friends to race and see who can tie one the fastest.

As the One-Handed Bowline has a lifesaving application, it’s important that you know the limitations of the knot that I address in the video below. This isn’t a loop that should be placed around your chest/armpits to pull you to safety up the side of a cliff, you could potentially asphyxiate before reaching the top.

One-Handed Bowline » Loops

(Strength: 2/Security: 2/Stability: 4/Difficulty: 4) See below for what these ratings mean.

The One-Handed Bowline is great for tying around your body in an emergency situation, like hanging on for dear life on a tree limb to prevent getting carried away downstream by raging rapids. Without letting go of the branch, you could maneuver a line thrown to you around your body and tie the One-Handed Bowline with, well, one hand.

Be careful with the application of this knot in emergency situations, just like with climbing knots, an improperly tied knot could produce a dire situation and safety must be observed at all times.

Not that you’d necessarily have time to tie a backup in a One-Handed Bowline, but I’ll mention that the strength and security ratings above for the standard Bowline are both increased if backing the knot up is feasible.



Each knot will be assigned a rating from 1-5 (1 representing the lowest score) based on the following four properties:

Strength – All knots will weaken the strength of  a rope, however, there are knots that are stronger than others. The scale here will reflect how strong the rope remains with the specified knot.

Security – The security scale refers to how well the knot will stay tied, and resist coming loose under a normal load.

Stability – Stability refers to how easily the knot will come untied under an abnormal load (i.e. the knot being pulled in a direction it was not intended to) A lower score here represents instability.

Difficulty – The lower the number, the easier a knot is to tie.


  • Earl Herman

    If done correctly, yes it can.

  • Flotsom

    Learned to do this in the Boyscouts when I was twelve. Its come in handy a bunch of times, especially when I had to attach a bowline to the bow hitch of a boat to get it towed out of the surf. Only downside is if this how first learn to tie a bowline you will constantly be tying this around yourself to look at the knot and then recreated it where needed. But for me, this is ingrained in muscle memory and I can whip it out at a moments notice.

  • 1 lucky fool

    In 1976 I joined our volunteer fire dept.. Many of the guys were WW2 vets. The Navy guys made us learn the one handed bowline. They said in the war, if you fell overboard or got blown off a flight deck, the boat wouldn’t stop or turn around. Your only hope was to hold on to a trailing line and get yourself tied in.
    Fast forward to 1998. We had a fast water rescue and the only way was to tether a boat from a line tied bank to bank. As a water rescue technician, I was able to swim the line over. Everything on the far bank was too wet and muddy, the water too swift and I was wearing out. Hanging on with one hand, I tied the rope round the tree with a one handed bowline. The line set, tethered boats attached, I was recovered, and the rescue attempt continued.
    I went back and told the old Navy guys, how I used the knot they taught me back in 1976. They were surprised and happy that I had kept practicing that knot all those years. THEN !
    They , to the man, gave me SHIT, like only old combat vets can, bout not risking my life for a drunken, drown guy !! They knew why, when you’re young you take life risks. But, if you live to an older age, LIFE, is more precious and valuable. I’m getting to that side of life now, and every breath has a little more meaning !!

  • Daryl Green

    Its the watch that caught my eye

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