Lightning Bowline Knot – Step by Step How to Tie It

This is a method for tying a bowline, good if you want to make the loop itself up really fast, but have some time to prepare in advance: if you were setting some kind of snare or trap for example.

Lightning Bowline knot final

If you leave a long working end after the slipknot, you can choose how big the loop should be when you make it (this is also beloved of sailors: the knot can be prepared ahead of time, and the loop made up to fit a mooring or pile just right when necessary).

Step 1. Start with a loop. Note which way round the loop is: the lower part in the picture (which will be the working part) is above the upper (standing) part:

Lightning Bowline knot step 1

Step 2. Make a bight in the working part:

Lightning Bowline knot step 2

Step 3. Pass the bight up through the loop:

Lightning Bowline step 3

Step 4. Pass the other end (which now becomes the working end) through the bight. This is the step which forms the loop, so if you pass the end around something before it goes through the bight, that something will be in the loop when the bowline is made:

Lightning Bowline step 4

Notice which way it is passed: it looks like the end will finish up ‘outside’ the bowline which would be wrong, but actually this is the right way, and the passing the end thrugh the bight the other way (which seems like it would end up correct) will finish wrong.Try it for yourself and see.

Final step. Pull on the end and tighten the knot. It will ‘capsize’ which means to change shape as you tighten it, but don’t worry, it’s meant to:

Lightning Bowline knot final
Lightning Bowline knot final

Related Knots

The standard Bowline has many variations, both in how it is tied (with different combinations of where the anchor, tying hands and loop are) and the final result.

The Portugeuse and Spanish Bowlines and the Bowline on a Bight all have two loops and the Triple Bowline has three.

Check out even more knots in our survival knots guide.


This is a very useful way of tying the bowline, and helps to develop ‘rope literacy’. You should learn a different way of seeing how the bowline works, and a better appreciation of how line can form knots by learning and using this method.

‘Lightning Bowline Knot Pinterest image

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