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Nobody enters the wilderness expecting bad things to happen to them, but when they do, the supplies you packed for your trek will help determine your ultimate fate. Are you prepared with the right equipment and have you learned the right skills? Having the proper gear is one thing, but knowing how to use it is something else entirely.

However, one of the best survival tools you could ever pack — which is also the easiest to use — is a good length of high-quality paracord. Despite seeming like a simple piece of small-gauge rope, it is very strong and is one tool with the most uses in the great outdoors.

Paracord is employed by survivalists all over the world. It is extremely durable for hardcore jobs yet light enough to carry with ease. It is sometimes referred to as 550 paracord because it can handle 550 pounds of weight. Another feature is that inside each cord are seven individual strands. Those strands are each composed of three fine threads, perfect for more delicate tasks. Having this variety is what makes paracord so valuable a tool in absolutely any survival scenario.

Consider this just a small sampling of the dozens of things paracord can do for you in the wild:

  • Lashing together shelter
  • Rigging a pulley system for hanging gear
  • Traps, lures, and snares
  • First aid
  • Fishing line
  • Dental floss
  • Sewing thread

Cordage Preparedness There are a number of survival tools that can be improvised in nature, like firestarting tools, hatchets from chipped stones, and spears from thin branches. Cordage though, at least enough to be useful, can be a little more difficult to produce in the wilderness. Unless you have the right vegetation — like dogbane, milkweed, or the inner bark of a tulip tree — along with the time and skill to craft it, it’s a good idea to carry some in your provisions.

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Paracord is so beneficial in an emergency that many people incorporate it into their everyday attire, knowing that by doing so, it affords them the comfort to be prepared at all times, just in case. There are a host of items which all can be created from this reliable form of cordage, and some of them are quite fashionable.

  • Belt
  • Keychain
  • Bracelet
  • Shoelaces
  • Gun sling
  • Dog leash
  • Zipper pulls

Wrapped in Usefulness

One of my greatest passions is to invent multi-purposed survival tools. As a survivalist myself, I know the importance of being able to free up space and weight in a pack, while providing a great working tool. After all, pounds equal pain out on the trail.

THE MANY USES OF PARACORD

Since its invention and use as suspension lines during World War II, paracord has been well adapted to thousands of uses, as its popularity as a well-rounded solution to any number of problems continue to grow. Dozens of companies have not only incorporated a useful length of paracord into their various products, but they have encouraged its use by offering it in a variety of lengths and a rainbow of colors. Here are just a few creative ways people have used paracord:

  • Secure a tarp between trees
  • Hang tools from your belt
  • Secure things to the outside of your backpack
  • Make a tourniquet
  • Secure a splint
  • Make an emergency belt to hold your pants up
  • Make emergency suspenders
  • Replace broken or missing shoe laces
  • Repair a zipper pull
  • Secure your boat or skiff to a tree
  • Make a tow line; double or triple up for extra strength
  • Create a makeshift lanyard
  • String a clothesline
  • Make traps and snares
  • Replace damaged or missing draw strings in packs, bags and sweat pants
  • Keep rolled up items secure
  • Create a neckerchief slide
  • Make a sack for carrying gear
  • Make a pet leash
  • Secure a garbage-bag rain poncho around your body to keep you dry
  • Hang food in trees to keep the bears away
  • Create a trip wire
  • Use as sewing thread
  • Use as fishing line
  • Emergency dental floss
  • Emergency suture material when there is nothing else available
  • Make arts and crafts to stave off boredom

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Editors Note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.