The Bowline

Essential knots, part 1.

For outdoor recreationists, cam-straps sit proudly among the world’s greatest inventions—we use them to quickly and securely strap down boats, bikes, coolers, gear, you name it. But they can’t do everything, and sometimes a rope and a good old-fashioned knot are in order. Though oft-neglected, rope-craft is an essential skill for self-respecting outdoors-folk, and the bowline (pronounced boh’-lin) is a simple, strong, easy-to-undo knot that serves a multitude of purposes, from tethering a dog to tying off a raft. Here’s how to tie it.

1. At the end of your rope, make a loop about a foot up from the tail (this distance will vary based on application). The short end should be on top of the long end.
2. Run the tail through the loop from back to front, then around the long end and back through the loop.
3. Grasp the long and short ends in different hands and pull apart, bringing the knot tight. 

Now, dress the knot, removing any twists or binding—a clean knot is a happy knot. You can open the bowline up and slide the ends in and out to enlarge the loop or decrease the tail, then re-tighten. You can also add an overhand knot to the tail end for additional security, though a properly-tied bowline shouldn’t slip. Practice this knot until it becomes second-nature, and you’ll be surprised at how often it comes in handy—and how much better you feel about it than that cheesy overhand knot you used to tie.