In addition to a great knife, one of the most important items that should be in your everyday carry gear is paracord. This simple thing can be adapted for almost any use; it’s relatively inexpensive, and in certain situations, it could save your life. In fact, there’s really no excuse not to carry paracord. This article will serve as a complete guide to paracord. In it, I will explain everything you need to know about this useful tool, including; what paracord is, uses for paracord, and how to best choose and store your paracord.
What is Paracord?
Paracord is an extremely useful and versatile nylon rope commonly found in survival gear kits. As such, paracord is very appropriate for everyday carry. You can use this lightweight, multi-purpose rope for just about anything.
Originally used in the military, paracord became available to civilians after World War II as military surplus. Since then, paracord has been used for everything from day-to-day needs to emergency and survival situations. One of the most famous applications of paracord in history occurred when astronauts used paracord to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
The official name for paracord rope is 550 Parachute cord (sometimes just called 550 cord, or 550 paracord). It’s called 550 Parachute cord because it was originally used in the suspensions lines of parachutes and because it can hold up to 550 pounds. In order for a rope to be classified as Paracord, it must consist of a braided sheath on the outside with multiple interwoven nylon strands inside. Usually, there are 7 to 9 inner strands of nylon rope and these inner threads can even be unraveled into 2 to 3 additional, and even smaller, threads of their own.
Paracord is three times stronger per mass than standard nylon cord. But more importantly, the inner strands of paracord are what give paracord its versatility.
The Four Different Types of Paracord
Though 550 paracord is the most common type of paracord, there are actually four distinct types of paracord available. Each paracord size is rated for different weights and each one has unique strengths and weaknesses.
1. Type I Paracord
Type I paracord is rated for up to 95 pounds of weight. This cord has only one internal strand and as such, is only used for light-duty tasks or decorative uses. It is great for attaching loose gear to your belt or bag and for making lanyards. This cord is much thinner and weights only one-fourth the amount of standard 550 paracords, so you can carry much more of it in the same allocated space. One of the strengths of Type I paracord is that it is extremely cheap to purchase. Example.
2. Type II Paracord
Type II paracord is rated for up to 400 pounds of weight. This cord has between 4 and 7 internal strands and can be used for much more strenuous tasks than Type I paracord. However, even though Type II paracord is rated for less weight than the standard 550 paracords, it is more expensive (because it’s much more rare). On top of that, Type II paracord can be difficult to find for sale. Most cord purchasers simply skip Type II paracord and purchase the cheaper and stronger 550 paracord.
3. Type III Paracord (Standard 550 paracord)
Type III paracord is your standard 550 paracord and as such, it is rated for up to 550 pounds of weight. This cord has between 7 and 9 internal strands and is considered “middle of the road” for paracord strength. Example.
4. Type IV Paracord
Type IV paracord is rated for up to 750 pounds of weight and is the strongest type of paracord. This cord has 11 internal strings. The downside of Type IV paracord is that is more expensive than your standard 550 paracord. Type IV cord can be up to twice as expensive as the standard Type III paracords available on the market. Example.
Types of Paracord
|Type I||Type II||Type III||Type IV|
|Rated strength (lbs)||95||400||550||750|
|Uses||Very cheap. Usually only used for light-duty tasks and decorative uses.||Not found any product of this type yet. I would suggest to go straight to type III/550 paracord. That type is both cheaper and stronger.||Middle of the road in terms of both strength and quality. Usable for the vast majority of survival applications. And highly affordable.||Very strong. But significantly more expensive than type III.|
Military Grade Paracord
It is important to note that paracord comes in both commercial-grade and military grade. The best paracord is military grade paracord because it is always made according to the four main types of paracord (I, II, III, and IV) and only with nylon. Commercial grade paracord is commonly made out of different kinds of fabrics, such as polyester, and with different amounts of internal threads.
It can be tricky to tell if a specific paracord being sold is truly military-grade based on the advertisement alone. But, there are a few ways to tell if paracord is military grade.First, true military grade paracord will be labeled as “MIL-C-5040”, not just “military spec” or “military grade.” Additionally, it will be made of 100% nylon. If a paracord is made of polyester or cotton, then it is commercial grade only. Also, the best paracords on the market are those made in America.
First, true military grade paracord will be labeled as “MIL-C-5040”, not just “military spec” or “military grade.” Additionally, it will be made of 100% nylon. If a paracord is made of polyester or cotton, then it is commercial grade only. Also, the best paracords on the market are those made in America.
If you’ve already purchased the paracord, you can check to see if it is military grade by cutting into it. The strands of military grade paracord will be color-coded based on the manufacturer due to military requirements necessary for quality control and tracking. If the strands of your paracord are not colored, it is not military grade. And if they are, also check that there are at least 7 strands and that those strands unravel into 3 (not 2) individual threads (yarns).
See this video for more details:
What can you do with Paracord?
At first glance, paracord looks pretty similar to your standard nylon rope. And of course, you can use paracord for the same tasks that you would use regular nylon rope for. However, paracord far outstrips standard nylon cord in usefulness. This is because paracord can be modified to fit additional situations.
For example, let’s say you have just one foot of paracord, but you need five feet for a specific task. No problem! Just cut the cord and pull the inner stands apart. Those inner strands can be spliced together and will reach a new length of around 8 feet. Impressive right?
Of course, the new spliced-together cord will not be as strong as the original paracord. But since each inner cord is composed of 2-3 even smaller threads it will still be relatively strong. This is because even if one of the small threads break under the stress of the task, the other threads will still be complete.
So what can you do with paracord? Well, like any light-weight rope, paracord is great in both everyday scenarios and emergency situations. The following list is only a fraction of paracord uses:
- Turn into a lanyard, bracelet, or keychain
- Replace broken shoelace or drawstring on a pair of pants
- Fashion a pet leash or collar
- Secure knife to stick to make a spear
- Create straps for bags, rifles, or anything else you need to carry
- Raise an item or yourself (It is important to note that paracord is not designed to be used for rappelling or mountain climbing. However, in an emergency situation, paracord can certainly better than no cord at all when attempting such dangerous activities)
The above-listed paracord uses alone are justification to carry paracord in your survival gear kit, the trunk of your vehicle, or your bug out bag. But don’t forget, paracord is even more useful when it is broken down into its internal threads. The inner strands of paracord can be used to:
- Fashion a hair tie
- Create fishing lines, and set small game traps
- Start a fire by making a bow drill or by pulling apart the tiny threads and making them fluffy, then lighting them on fire
- Holding branches together for a make-shift shelter
- Weave into a net for hunting and fishing, a ladder, or even a bridge if you have enough paracord
- Attach a branch as a splint, create a sling, or in extreme circumstances, use as a tourniquet
The tiny threads that make up the inner strands can also be unraveled for delicate tasks like:
- Repairing torn clothing
- Use as dental floss
- Use as suture thread
And don’t forget, that outer casing left over after removing the internal threads is still useful for basically the same tasks that it was useful for before removing the internal threads. However, it will be much weaker and more prone to snap.
How Should you Store Paracord?
Because paracord will eventually start to degrade if continuously exposed to UV light, it’s best to store your paracord out of direct sunlight when not in use. It’s also a good idea to keep your cord, as well as the rest of your survival gear, in a cool, dry place such as a waterproof bag or container. An unused and properly stored length of paracord shouldn’t really expire, but before using the paracord for anything risky you should check the length of cord for fraying damage. When in doubt, it’s always best to use new paracord in dangerous or risky situations.
If you are more concerned with being able to easily access paracord at any given time, rather than prolonging the shelf-life of your cord, there are multiple ways to travel with paracord so that you never accidentally leave it at home.
- Wrap it around the handle of your knife, walking stick, or other everyday carry gear. The slight elasticity of nylon makes for easy and snug wrapping. Not only will you have access to paracord if needed, but you will have fashioned a comfortable grip for your gear.
- Fashion the paracord into a bracelet, lanyard, or keychain
More on Paracord Bracelet Uses
If you are artistically inclined, there are tons of do-it-yourself instructions available online for creating paracord bracelets, also known as “survival bracelets.” Paracord can easily be woven together using techniques similar to those used by pre-teens to make friendship bracelets. More than just fashionable, a paracord bracelet can come in handy for emergency situations.
Paracord bracelets can be made with or without buckles and can be completed in a quick afternoon session. All you need to create your own bracelet is a length of paracord, a lighter to burn the end of the cord (to prevent fraying), and scissors or knife. Just google “How to Make a Paracord Bracelet” to get started. I recommend looking for an article with step-by-step photographs showing each phase in the paracord weaving process. It can be tough at first, but once you’ve got the hang of the pattern, weaving paracord into a bracelet is very repetitive and even relaxing.
In addition to bracelets, paracord can be fashioned into belts, watch bands, keychains, rifle slings, and tons of other easily accessible items. Of course, keep in mind that you can always purchase a pre-made paracord bracelet, lanyard, or keychain if you are not particularly crafty.
Given paracord’s exceptionally versatile list of uses and it’s low cost, it is certainly a good idea to keep some paracord handy while engaging in everyday activities. And you never know, in an emergency situation, that paracord bracelet or spool of paracord in the trunk of your car could end up saving your life.References