I like to consider myself a pretty crafty guy. I like to work with my hands and make things. I do some woodworking, a little loom knitting, and I make paracord bracelets and lanyards to sell at local craft fairs when we have the time. I have always got a stockpile of 550 paracord (usually in excess of 1,000 ft).
Seeing how it is one of Dave Canterbury’s 10 C’s of Survival, I figure I’m headed in the right direction by having a good bit of it around — even if I’m not making bracelets and stuff.
Aside from making cool looking bracelets and stuff, there are actually some survival uses for paracord during SHTF that you may not have thought about. Wear your paracord if you want, but learn how to use it in case of emergency!
What Exactly is Paracord?
Paracord is a lightweight nylon rope that was originally designed as suspension lines on parachutes. The outer nylon sheath is braided from 32 strands and the core contains multiple woven strands of two-ply yarns. The type of cord determines the number of strands in the core. The most common paracord found is a Military Type III cord — also called “550 cord” — which contains 7 inner strands and has a minimum breaking strength of 550 pounds.
The US military specification for paracord gives strength and construction parameters to which the final product must conform, as well as requirements for packaging and marking. Although the standard contains specific denier figures for the sheath strands and inner yarns, there are no overall diameter requirements for the cord itself. Below is a table of selected elements from the specification.
The core (also known as the kern) consists of several yarns, the number is determined by the cord type, and each yarn is made up of two or three (commercial) or three (MIL-Spec) smaller nylon fibers twisted together.
|Type||Minimum strength||Minimum elongation||Minimum length per pound||Core yarns||Sheath structure|
|I||95 lb (43 kg)||30%||950 ft (290 m; max. 1.57 g/m)||1||16/1|
|IA||100 lb (45 kg)||30%||1050 ft (320 m; max. 1.42 g/m)||<no core>||16/1|
|II||400 lb (181 kg)||30%||265& ft (81 m; max. 5.62 g/m)||4 to 7||32/1 or 36/1|
|IIA||225 lb (102 kg)||30%||495 ft (151 m; max. 3.00 g/m)||<no core>||32/1 or 36/1|
|III||550 lb (249 kg)||30%||225 ft (69 m; max. 6.61 g/m)||7 to 9||32/1 or 36/1|
|IV||750 lb (340 kg)||30%||165 ft (50 m; max. 9.02 g/m)||11||32/1, 36/1, or 44/1|
Paracord for Preppers
Whether you call it paracord, “550 cord”, or just plain parachute cord, preppers have been including it in their bug-out bags for a long time now. Over the course of the last 5 to 10 years, more and more people are using is to make paracord bracelets — a fashion trend that some don’t quite understand. A lot of people see the braided friendship bracelets and think they’re “neat” and “cute”, and they may be. But the ultimate idea behind the bracelets (and most any other paracord craft) is to have cordage with you wherever you go in case of emergency.
“So why all the fuss about paracord?” Simple. Paracord has so many uses!
You can do more with them than just making bracelets — you can make a lanyard to hang things around your neck (knives, keys, fire starters, etc), make a keychain fob to carry your keys, and the list goes on and on and on…
If you plan to make some bracelets, this jig will come in very handy, and will even help you measure the bracelet as you make it. You can use plain buckles or adjustable shackles, or you could go for the multitask angle and use this flint toggle and loop with serrated knife edge striker or a whistle buckle with flint fire starter and scraper.
Repair Your Emergency Gear with Paracord
Ripped clothing or tarps can be repaired by “gutting” the cord and using the internal strands along with a canvas needle (also one of the 10 C’s). Mend the rip just as you would with a normal needle and thread from a sewing kit. This is also a very sturdy repair for a canvas tent. …and if you’re missing a belt or suspenders to hold up your britches, tie them up with 550 cord!
Broken or busted equipment may still be salvageable. By tying the pieces together securely with 550 cord, you may still be able to use them. If you need more delicate paracord knots, use the inner strands instead of the whole cord.
Boot or shoe laces can be replaced with paracord. Cut a piece to the length you need it (measure the old lace and add an inch or two for good measure), then burning both ends to be sure they don’t unravel. Once you have the ends melted, carefully pinch them into a point with your fingers or a multi-tool — this makes threading them through the eyelets much easier. You can also use these paracord lacing needles to help thread the eyelets.
Broken or missing zipper pulls make using that zipper a total pain. Gut a piece of paracord and use a couple of the inner strands to thread through the zipper and tie off in a loop to replace the broken or missing pull. Likewise, you can use a small S hook like one of these (which also have multiple survival uses) to attach to the zipper and tie a loop on the end of it with paracord.
Repair or replace a knife handle by wrapping paracord around the tang between the butt and the blade. You can wrap the cord around for a quick-fix, or you can use one of these cool paracord knife handle wraps.
Repair your parachute. (I know… Who’d-a thunk it, right?) I know most people hear “parachute” and either think of military paratroopers or parachute pants (remember the 80s?)… I always think of these parachutes that we played with as kids in gym class.
Survival Uses for Paracord
If you are on the road and acquire a cache of gear, use some 550 cord to tie down some of the items to your luggage rack. Heck, you could just tie your luggage down with paracord when you’re on vacation, too. At least you know you will have some if you need it for an emergency.
During a SHTF scenario where OpSec is a requirement, you can use a length of cord to rig trip wires with bells (I always keep some of these in my tackle box) or cans as an early warning device. If you catch someone creeping around and need to detain them, use the paracord to tie them to a tree — don’t forget to gag and blindfold them with a shemagh or a bandana.
550 cord is rated for 550 pounds, but if you find yourself in a predicament where you need to lower yourself or an object down from a height, you might want to double or triple the cord for added safety. You could also get some 750 paracord for just such occasions, as well. It is usually thicker than 550 cord, and typically has more inner core strands, so this might actually be a better alternative for bulk carrying with your TEOTWAWKI pack. Add a few of these carabiners to create a pulley system with which to make your load lighter. You could even tie up some sturdy sticks into a rope ladder.
If you are climbing or even just hiking, you can’t always carry things in your hands. You might consider tying objects you are likely to drop around your wrist, ankle, or waist, or just secure it to your bug-out bag.
If you know your knots and have a little creativity, you can actually make a survival pack on the fly. Weave and knot together a netting, and then add a draw-string to hold it closed. This book teaches you to make paracord pouches — you can just make a really big pouch or multiples if need be.
Use some parachute cord to make a bow drill for fire starting. Find a fairly flexible stick and tie the paracord to one end. Bend the stick into a bow shape, and wrap the cord around the other end, finishing with a knot to hold the bow in its shape. wrap the bow string around your spindle and get that fire started!
If you are carrying a good bit of 550 cord, and your car gets stuck, you can make a tow line. If 1 strand of paracord has a tensile strength of 550 pounds, doubling it onto itself 10 times will make it strong enough to support 5,500 pounds (in theory). I wouldn’t recommend paracord to replace a good tow strap in your vehicle preparedness kit, but it will definitely help to get you out of a bind.
Count your paces on a hike with ranger beads. This device is just a length of paracord with a knot in the end, then 9 beads, another knot, 5 or more beads, and a third knot. As you are walking, you count the number of paces you take. For every 10 paces, you move one of the 9 beads toward the center knot. When you have walked 90 paces, all 9 knots will be in the same upward position. When you get to 100, you move the 9 back down, and move one of the upper beads toward the top knot signifying 100 paces. Then you start over with the bottom beads again. Make your own with some paracord and any kind of beads (like these cool skull beads).
If you need a flail type weapon for a SHTF combat situation, you can fashion a monkey’s fist. This is basically just a weighted ball on the end of a strap that is used like a medieval flail mace. The ball usually has a steel ball bearing or marble for a core, but you could use a fairly round rock if you are making one in the wilderness. These jigs help you learn to make one, too.
Using Paracord for Fishing and Hunting During SHTF
When you are all out of your homemade MREs during the apocalypse, you will need new ways to get food. Of course you can learn to forage for wild plants you can eat, but you should also learn to make snares out of the internal strands for trapping small game. This book is a really good read for learning how to make snares and traps.
If you are more of an active hunter than a fisherman, use some of your cordage to lash your survival knife to a long, sturdy branch or pole in order to use it as a spear for emergency hunting. Once you have your kill, use more cord to hang your kill in a tree while you are out hunting more yummy beasts.
If you have some really long lengths of paracord, you can use the internal strands as fishing line (but keep the outer sheath). If you don’t have any line weights, tie small rocks onto the line a few inches above the hook. No fishing hooks either? You will need to scavenge for something to make an improvised hook. (If you don’t have any of that stuff, get a small kit like this one to keep in your bug-out bag.) Now you’re all set to catch a mess of fish! Use the sheath you saved as a makeshift fish stringer.
Maybe you actually have some weights and hooks and would rather automate your fishing venture. If that is the case, use the inner strands of the paracord to make a trot line. If you’re really patient, you can tie the inner strands together into a fishing net (like Creek Stewart did here).
If you happen to be lucky enough to have a boat with you (you do keep one of these in your back pocket, don’t you?), use your paracord as a replacement anchor line to keep your boat in one spot in the water. If you’d rather secure your boat or raft to shore, use your cord as docking line and tie-off to a tree.
Camping with Paracord
Wet clothes are uncomfortable when you’re camping. Worse yet, they can be quite dangerous when you’re trying to survive. Use some 550 cord to hang a clothes line between trees to dry your clothes. Just be sure you have a roaring fire going, too, so you can stay warm!
While we’re talking about fire, you’re going to need lots of fire wood. Tie lengths of paracord around a firewood bundle for easier carrying. When you are ready to hang a kettle or cooking pot over the fire, form a tripod with branches and suspend the pot with paracord.
To make a quick shelter, tie a large tarp or poncho between two trees to keep off sun or rain. If the trees are close enough together, you can also tie up an improvised hammock. I’m already planning to pack an ultralight hammock and some descender rings in my pack so I can always sleep off the ground.
6 First-Aid and Hygiene Uses for Paracord
- Use the internal strands as dental floss.
- Tie straight sticks around a broken arm or leg to make a splint.
- Tie your injured arm up in a makeshift sling.
- Sew up a wound using the internal strands. For thinner thread untwist one of the internal strands.
- Make a tourniquet to slow loss of blood.
- Make a stretcher by running paracord between two long branches.