If you’re an experienced outdoors person you will know how important having some cord on your person or in your backpack is. In this article I’m going to give you the full run-down on paracords and why you shouldn’t leave home without some.
What Is a Paracord?
Paracord is a parachute cord, so you know it’s designed to be strong and not let you down. It’s manufactured to a few different grades/strengths, but the 550 is the standard that most people use and it’s never going to let you down.
It’s lightweight, nylon, incredibly strong, and is widely used by military personnel. Paracords have become more and more popular for ‘civilians’ to use in recent years, especially outdoors and survival enthusiasts.
This is mainly because it’s just such a versatile piece of kit. Plus, paracord bracelets hit the market a few years back combining a little bit of fashion while making it accessible and handy to have some cord on hand.
Another cool feature is that the yarns can also be pulled out from inside the outer core of a paracord. These yarns can be used for all kinds of survival things and can even be split further down into strands.
The 550 Type III for example has between 7-9 inner yarns of 3 strands, so that’s a lot or usable cord. The inner yarns are better for fishing line or smaller knots, and you’ll find yourself needing to split these out when the main cord is too thick for some uses.
If you don’t yet have some paracord as part of your backpack you’re missing a vital tool. The paracord bracelets are really popular right now and the easiest way to carry it with you, so there are no excuses.
The following video takes you though some basic uses and shows you how to split out a paracord and uses the inner cords:
How Strong Is Paracord?
In a couple of words – extremely strong! Paracords are used as the main support lines in parachutes, and military personnel use them when they are training and on active duty.
There are 6 different types of paracord that reflect their different minimum strengths as follows:
Type Minimum Strength (lbs)
The minimum strength is the point where enough force is applied to break the cord. This doesn’t mean the cord will snap at this point, it’s just a guideline.
This means that the type III would need at least 550 lbs of force to snap, impressive! There is almost no chance you’re ever going to break it under normal use, if you notice frayed bits of damage over time then obviously you will loose a little durability.
What Is Paracord Used For?
The uses for paracord are almost endless and you will come up with most of the uses that you need yourself. Most people think they were doing fine without owning a paracord, yet end up making good use of their survival paracord bracelets as soon as they start wearing them.
So if you’re thinking of a gift idea for someone who hikes or camps you have the perfect gift. Like I mentioned already if you don’t have one – what are you waiting for?
To give you some ideas, here are some of the most popular uses of paracord:
Making a Tourniquet
Should you find yourself in need of making a tourniquet to stop a wound bleeding, or just to squeeze something with a lot of force then you can use your paracord.
Loop it round a twig or something similar and start twisting around your target. There is no chance of the cord breaking, all you need to keep an eye on is not tightening it too much.
To Tie up Your Gear
There are always items, backpacks, sleeping bags, and other bags that need securing and if you’re missing a tie you’ll thank yourself for having that paracord around your wrist.
Securing Your Tent
Whether you have left some of your tent ties at home, or it’s so windy that it needs some extra stability. It doesn’t get better than using some paracord to add some extra stability to your tent.
You can also use it to secure tarps, rain fly’s, hammocks, or anything else in between two trees securely.
Making a Fishing Line
Another common use is to make fishing line from the inner strands of a paracord. You need to separate and pull out the inner strands from the main cord as they are much thinner, but still incredibly strong nylon cords that will help you reel in a catch.
Making a Bow Drill
This is digging into survival skills, but it’s also fun to make your own fires. A bow drill is the method of spinning a twig against dry softwoods to start a fire through friction, I’m sure you’ve seen this before if not done it yourself.
Here is a handy video tutorial I found if you want to see this use of a paracord in action:
Hanging Hot Pots over an Open Fire
Looking for something to tie your pot of cowboy coffee or water over an open fire? Paracord will do the trick, I’ve seen it used for this numerous times. Keep the cord a sensible distance from the flames of course.
Fixing Wardrobe Malfunctions
Having paracord on hand might come in handy just when you need it to replace a broken lace, act as a belt, or tie the bottom of your pants tight to keep water out.
Why Is It Called 550 Cord?
The ‘550’ tag is given to the cord because that’s how many pounds the cord can take before breaking. There is a 750 grade cord if you’re wondering what the strongest grade is, but I think you’ll agree that 550 is more than strong enough.
The 550 cord uses 32 strands of nylon outer sheath woven together for that incredible strength. It also has an inner core of 7-9 nylon 3-ply yarns. 550 paracord diameter varies a little as the number of yarns can vary, but it’s typically around 4mm.
You may have also seen the cord being called MIL-C-5040H Type III. This is the technical standard that’s specified for U.S. Military issues paracords. The military demands on the best quality cords as for obvious reasons, being let down isn’t an option.
So, if you’re picking up some cord from a reputable manufacturer of the same spec you know you’re getting the military grade cord.
Making Sure You Have the Real Deal
Much like any product, paracords are sold all over the world by lots of different suppliers and under diffferent brands and you need to have an eye out for the copy cats.
Don’t just go for any cords you see labeled as ‘military spec’, or ‘550’. Look at the details of the cord you’re looking at and make sure it’s 100% nylon. This includes the outer cords, and the inner strands and yarns.
Cheaper versions have some polyester in their composition. These will be a lot less expensive, but the obvious trade-off being they are not as strong. For me, if you’re buying a paracord you may as well buy the real deal. It’s going to be by your side for a long time saving you when you most need it, paracords are worth every penny.
How to Store Your Paracord So It Lasts
I’ve spent most of this article explaining how indestructible this cord is, and it’s true. There are still some measures you can take to extend the life of yours however.
The only element that really degrades paracord over time is UV light. It takes a long time, but leaving your cord in UV light along with general wear and tear will take its toll over the years.
When you’re not using it I recommend storing the cord in a cool, dark place. Like your backpack, or if you’re wearing a bracelet then keep it under the cuff of your sleeve.