Save Your Life With a One Handed Bowline - ITS Tactical

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Save Your Life With a One Handed Bowline

By The ITS Crew

One Handed Bowline

For this week’s Knot of the Week, we’ll be looking at a very important knot called the One Handed Bowline.

What separates this knot from a traditional Bowline is the ability to truly tie this knot one handed, and around your body in an emergency.

Say for instance you were hanging by a tree limb for dear life as raging rapids were attempting to sweep you downstream. Without letting go of the tree branch, you could grab a rope that was thrown to you, tie the One Handed Bowline, and be pulled to safety.

This use of the One Handed Bowline is more for water rescues, as attempting to pull someone up the side of a mountain with a line under their armpits could potentially asphyxiate them before they reach the top.

If you need to hang suspended from a rescue line, simply tie the One Handed Bowline and step onto it with you foot and hang on to the line. Be careful with the application of this knot in emergency situations.

One Handed Bowline » Loops

(Strength: 2/Secure: 2/Stability: 4/Difficulty: 4)

Please refer to our Knot of the Week introduction post for a description of what these ratings mean.


  • Tying in an emergency or rescue situation
  • Tying on the waist to drag an object

Tying Instructions:

  1. Wrap the line around your waist so that the working end is on the opposite side of the standing part
  2. Ensure you have at least six inches of line past where you’re gripping the working end
  3. Without ever releasing the line from your hand, bring the working end over the standing part
  4. Now around the standing part and back into your chest, creating a loop on your wrist
  5. Pass the line around the standing part and to yourself
  6. You should now have made a wrap around the standing part and be holding the working end
  7. Continuing to grab the working end, pull your hand towards you and out through the loop on your wrist
  8. *If there is too much tension on the rope, this movement will be impossible*
  9. Once through the rope, pull to tighten up the bowline
  10. You can also back up this knot after it’s tied by simply adding an overhand knot with the working end.

View the gallery or YouTube video below and follow along with the steps above, be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any questions!


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  • Bow -Lin! Bolin!
    Like, Bo Diddly!
    Like, Row your boat!
    Like, Tow a car!
    Line, like Lynn the girls name
    You are hurting my Navy Sensitive ears! 😉 there are BM’s rolling in their graves every time you say that. ;-P
    Anyway, my R.I.P. Instructor used to tie his this way for SPIE Rigging. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world but could never get a good enough view to see him do it to learn how he did it.
    Now I know! Thanks ITS!

    • Funny enough dude, the way I pronounce it on the video is the way I learned to pronounce it in the Navy from my instructors… LOL

    • Gray

      In the uk all the salty sea dogs say it “bow-Lynn”!

  • Well back in the 40’s when Doc was in, I guess they said things differently……

    • LOL!! You got that right Justin! Doc had to make the rope himself if he wanted to tie knots.

  • This was one of those knots I became extremely proficient with in Boy Scouts. Couple of us would always have contests to see who could tie it the fastest, which worked great until we all got it down to sub 2 second times.

    • wrestlingnrj,

      Actually just taught this to scouts last weekend, and it was great to see their faces when they got it right. There’s something about this knot that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something great when you get finished tying it.

  • I am 40, was not in the Navy in the 40’s 😛 Dicks! And when Noah told you to row you got to rowing.
    Anyway young Squid, I will forgive you as I know your background was in SpecWar so you probably never even set foot on a real ship, hell I have probably flushed more Salt Water than you have seen. ;-P
    I refer you to Wikipedia
    The bowline (pronounced /ˈboulin/ or /ˈboulain/[1])
    Original name in print was the Boling Knot
    So nah na na na na nah!

  • randypb

    A new term: tactical trash talkin’. It’s great! Keep it coming.

  • I always learned it as the “Bo-Line.” Knew a guy who (with two hands) could tie this knot in under a second just by flipping the rope around and PRESTO it was done. Try doubling the rope over (bite) to make for two loops. This allows for a makeshift climbing harness to be created on the same stable knot as your rib crusher.

  • Rib crusher is required in some instances and is a necessity in others. Use a seat to get a victim out and use the “Rib crusher” to keep the victim in it. We used it for a safety line (Required) when SPIE Rigging.
    The use of chest lines are numerous such as what Bryan detailed about being in the water and only having one hand.
    He may not know how to pronounce it ;-P but he sure knows how to tie and use them.

  • Michael Liptak

    Thanks, just another awesome article… but I’ve got a question. Why are the ratings (one-handed-bowline 4-4-4-4 and bowline 2-2-4-3) different?

    • Michael, thanks for the catch on the ratings. The one handed bowline should share nearly all the same ratings as the previous bowline. We’ll get that updated.

  • Jeff Sharp

    This is a great knot. I learned this knot in my swift water rescue tech class. It looks harder than it really is. In order to pass our class we had to tie this around a person underneath a small waterfall, very fun.

    • Jeff, interesting requirements for this knot. I’m a firm believer in the water as a training tool. It adds just a bit of stress to knot tying and can provide a good challenge too.

  • bluesrocker

    When I was in the navy one of my Senior Chiefs tied a one handed bowline in a heaving-line with just a couple flicks of his wrist.  he was holding it then tossed it there it was.  He didnt wrap it around his waist or anything like that.  Needless to say we were amazed.  How did he do it?

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