Spy School: How to Tie a Bowline Knot

One of the most important knots to know.

The bowline knot (pronounced ‘boe-lin) is one of the 4 fundamental maritime knots. Utilized since ancient times, the bowline creates a fixed loop at the end of a rope. This knot is easy to tie and easy to release when any load is removed, making it useful in many situations such as securing small boats and aircraft, and some rescue operations. Because of these characteristics it is colloquially known as the King of the Knots.Tying the Bowline is quite simple. There's a common story for remembering how to tie it about a tree, a rabbit, and its hole. Imagine your rope is the tree, and make a loop for the rabbit's hole. Bring the end of the rope – the rabbit – up through his hole, around the tree, and back down the hole. Done. Simple! Do it a few times and you'll get it right away.

step by step how to tie a bowline knot

To tie a bowline knot, follow these simple steps:

  1. Begin by forming a small loop near the end of your rope. The loop should be facing upwards, with the free end of the rope passing over the top of the loop.
  2. Take the free end of the rope and pass it up through the loop, then around behind the standing part of the rope (the part that leads back to the spool or coil).
  3. Bring the free end of the rope back down through the loop, following the same path as before. As you do so, you should see the loop start to take shape and form a secure knot.
  4. Tighten the knot by pulling on both the standing part of the rope and the free end. The loop should be tight and secure, but still easy to untie when the load is released.

With a bit of practice, you'll be able to tie a bowline knot quickly and easily, without even thinking about it. It's a knot that every sailor, camper, and outdoorsman should have in their repertoire, and one that will serve you well in all kinds of situations. So next time you need to secure a rope, remember the bowline knot, and tie it with confidence!

The bowline knot is a simple and effective knot that creates a secure loop at the end of a rope. It's easy to tie and untie, making it a versatile choice for a wide variety of applications. By following the simple steps outlined above, you'll be able to tie a bowline knot in no time, and be prepared for whatever challenges the outdoors might throw your way.

Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.