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Half Hitch as a Bowline Backtie

A half hitch is an overhand knot tied around departing cord. It's the simplest way to secure a bowline waist loop for critical uses like climbing.
Text and photos by Steve Howe
Need a primer on knot tying terminology? Click here.
  • Start with a snugged-up <a href="/skills-how-to-tie-a-bowline-knot/slideshows/102">bowline</a> tied belt-tight around the narrowest part of your body.
  • Take the free end and wrap it around a departing portion of the waist loop.
  • Insert the free end through the resulting loop - going AWAY from the knot.
  • Pull it tight.
  • CAUTION: Always look closely at the result. The bowline should be an obvious bight of rope "choked off" by a loop to the standing end - NOT a slipknot with backtie.
Start with a snugged-up <a href="/skills-how-to-tie-a-bowline-knot/slideshows/102">bowline</a> tied belt-tight around the narrowest part of your body.
Image 1 of 5

Start with a snugged-up bowline tied belt-tight around the narrowest part of your body.


Page 1

Is that a bowline with a half-hitch or a sheet bend with a half-hitch?
— Foxman

A Half Hitch is not an Overhand, its a Half Hitch. You are showing an Overhand Knot and that's the correct knot for this application. The picture is clearly a Bowline, not a Sheet Bend.
— Terry Pogue

Foxman, from your question, I assume you're already aware that a bowline and a sheet bend are the "same". That is, the twists in the rope are identical. The only difference is which of the lines coming out of the knot are the tails vs. the bight in the bowline.

As for the picture, it looks like it probably is actually a bowline. Without seeing more of the rope it's impossible to say for certain. I believe part of the confusion is that the tail of the working end incorrectly finishes outside the bight of the bowline. This is important b/c having he tail exit "into" the bowline's bight makes the knot more secure (less likely to untie on its own). This is less of a concern when the bowline is backed-up as shown above.

This leads me to my last comment. Backpacker, I would call this a "bowline with an overhand back-up" rather than a "half hitch back-up". A half hitch, like all hitches, must, by definition collapse once its host is removed. In the above pictures, what is shown is an overhand knot tied around one side of the bight of a bowline. If you remove the line that creates the bowline's bight from the back-up knot, you would still have an overhand knot in the tail of the working end. Ergo, it is not a hitch and is, in fact, an overhand knot.

It's just a picky nomenclature thing, but if you're putting it on your website, you might as well get it right :-)


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