Life Saving Rope Skills

Bowline Life Saving Knot

The most important knots in the world

The bowline (rhymes with “colon”) is reputedly the most important knot in the world. It is listed in the Ashley Book of Knots. The bowline is sometimes called the King of Knots because it has the best qualities of knots — ease of tying and untying. If ever you’re in a crevasse or deep water and someone throws you a lifeline, the bowline is the one knot you need to know. It is The Rolling Hitch is grossly underestimated in its survival skills value. Knowing this knot speeds up some of the most frequently-encountered survival activities, like preparing a shelter or securing gear.

The bowline knot is a lifeline

To haul you out of the water or any other predicament, your life saving knot needs to be easy to tie, and it should not slip. That is, it needs to form a loop around your body that will not cinch down and suffocate you while you’re pulled out, with your entire body weight on the knot. The bowline is perfect for this, and you need to know the quick and easy way to tie it.

Most videos on the Internet show you how to tie the bowline using the old “rabbit hole and tree” thing, but you need to know how to tie it the way sailors do. There’s a reason sailors tie the bowline the way I demonstrate in this video, and that reason is…. real life. When you’re actually living out real life and you have to tie the bowline, this is the way you do it. It’s fast, easy, and effective in every way that matters to you.

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Sure, if you’re trying to teach someone how to tie the bowline, it’s easier to teach them using the rabbit hole and tree method. But if you’re using the bowline, you’re better off knowing how to tie it the way it’s shown here.


The “real” way to tie the bowline is the way sailors actually do it on the job. I know because I used to work on a shrimp boat, and we tied bowlines more than any other knot. It is structurally identical to the Sheet Bend. The only difference is that the Sheet Bend joins two ropes, and the Bowline forms a loop in a single rope.

The rolling hitch secures cover

I most often use the rolling hitch to secure a tarp, hang a hammock, or draw a tautline for a shelter (in fact, it is also called the tautline hitch). It’s the perfect way to pull a line tight between two object. For example, if I need to pull a line between two trees and hang a tarp over it to form an A-frame shelter, the rolling hitch is the knot I’ll use to pull and hold the line taut. Also, if I need to secure a load in my pickup truck, I’ll use the rolling hitch. When I arrive at my destination, I can easily loosen the line and release the load without cutting — and wasting — a single inch of rope or paracord. (I often mention paracord because it really is the best kind of rope or line to have in a survival situation. Be sure to get the “550” kind that is actually mil-spec. It matters).

Rolling Hitch

Use the Anchor Hitch (or Bend) to tie your rope off at one end

If you want to secure your rope to a branch, use the anchor bend, shown in the video below, which also illustrates how easy it is to tighten and loosen a load with the rolling hitch:

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