Apart from the survival knife, multi-tool and duct tape, paracord is one of the primary must-haves in any survival kit. From its original application as suspension line for parachutes in WW2, airborne infantrymen found that this light, durable and flexible cord had many more uses in the field, and opted not to bury it along with their parachutes to conceal their drop. Paratroopers used paracord to secure tarps and tent lines, replace boot laces and jury-rig emergency stretchers. Since then, military personnel and civilians alike have adopted paracord as their go-to material of choice for survival situations and EDC. NASA astronauts even used this indispensable cordage while fixing the Hubble Space Telescope.
For this piece, we’ll talk about why you should keep paracord handy, plus offer a few tips on how to use it.
Why you should carry paracord
As mentioned above, paracord is a tried-and-tested material used by the military for a number of applications and situations. Depending on your knowledge and skill, a sufficient amount and properly-tied paracord can serve as part of a first aid kit, a fire-starter, shelter material, climbing line or even as a way to tow a stuck vehicle.
In the past, paracord could only be bought in military surplus stores. Nowadays, it’s not unusual to find paracord in mainstream retail stores or find it available online. Some enterprising businesses offer paracord bracelets so you can have the material on your person at all times, and some have even increased its usefulness by adding flint and steel to the buckle, a compass or even a concealed handcuff key.
What type should you use?
There are different types of paracord varying in tensile strength, or the measure of how much weight a material can pull before breaking. This is measured in pounds.
The usual paracord gauge or thickness used is 550, meaning that it can handle loads to 550 lbs. Each type (see table) of paracord also has a different number of “core yarns” or inner strands of yarn that comprise its center and affect the cord’s utility and tensile strength.
|Minimum Strength||# of Core Yarns|
4 to 7
4 to 7
7 to 9
There are many ingenious uses for paracord, especially in emergency situations.
- Tie between trees to hang a tarp for shelter
- Create a string and bow for fire-making
- Improvised stretcher
- Tourniquet for stopping bleeding from wounds
- Sling for broken arms
- Splint for broken legs
- Emergency dental floss (inner strands)
- Emergency wound sutures (inner strands)
- Replacement straps for bags
- Replacement slings for rifles
- Making snare traps for small game
- Making a survival spear
The Cobra knot
This is one of the most common ways to tie paracord, since it gives way more strength to any DIY project. It’s the type that’s used to make paracord bracelets. Once unraveled, almost anything made with the Cobra knot can provide a useful length of paracord. Treat the Cobra knot as an “entry-level” knot; you can learn and apply other knots, just be sure that the knot you tie is a load-bearing type and can take reasonably heavy loads. Here’s a simple illustration of how the Cobra knot is made:
Possible craft projects
Below are samples of the hundreds of possible craft projects for paracord. The idea behind these projects is not just to create useful tools with this versatile material, but to keep a supply of paracord within reach for when SHTF.
The DIY projects can range from the simple and obvious, to the amusing and why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas.
Steering wheel wrap
Wrap your truck or car’s steering wheel for a better grip; this affords a whole lot of control when your hands get sweaty. It can also keep your wheel cooler if your car was parked in the sun on a hot day. This supplies about 80 feet of paracord when unraveled.
A custom-made paracord rifle sling can provide a level of comfort for the gun’s owner that you won’t get from your garden-variety gun slings. These can be made entirely with paracord, or made over an existing sling to increase its comfort and durability.
Outdoorsmen and preppers with a canine companion favor this project, as it keeps a considerable amount of paracord handy while taking Fido out for a walk on the trail or just around the block.
Lanyard for knife/machete retention
A paracord lanyard makes for an excellent retaining device for your survival knife or machete. With this attachment, you don’t have to worry about losing your grip on the knife/machete, or having them fly off your hand when chopping or sawing.
Get fishing line from the inner strands of paracord and attach to hooks.
The inner strands are also thin and strong enough to serve as dental floss.
Even mundane personal items like this belt can be made with paracord, and plenty of it. A belt for someone with a 32-inch waistline has about 50 feet of paracord.
If your timepiece’s strap has worn off, make your own watch strap.
Lash your survival knife to a long pole with paracord to make a spear for hunting fish or small game.
No single article can cover the staggering number of items you can make with paracord, and these are a tiny sample of the many possible applications. This is a material you should definitely have in your survival kit. Note that some of the items featured can already be bought as finished products, but it would be best that you learn how to make them yourself.
Stock up on and learn to use this indispensable lifeline, since the life you save could be your own.