You’ve probably seen, or at least heard of the paracord “survival bracelets” that seem to be all over these days. By the way some people talk about them, you’d think they were magical, giving the wearers unusual powers of life, no matter what comes their way. But no, they’re not magical; they’re just one more tool to use in order to survive.
Even though these survival bracelets don’t have magical powers to help you survive, there are a lot of ways that they can help you. So strapping one of these things around your wrist might just make a difference if you’re caught in a survival situation. Of course, you’ll need some other things to go with it; but using a paracord survival bracelet helps you to add one thing more to your everyday carry (EDC), helping to ensure you always have the minimum necessary to survive.
But Why Paracord?
The real key to these bracelets is the paracord itself. Paracord is short for “parachute cord” and was developed back in World War II, when the Army and Marines were both experimenting with the theory of “vertical envelopment” more commonly referred to as “airborne.”
Parachutes have to be very strong. You don’t get a second chance with them. If they don’t work right the first time, there is no second time; so, they tend to be over-designed. Then, of course, the Army being the Army, they tend to go for overkill in the design of their equipment, so they wrote a MILSPEC (military specification) for paracord that makes it look like the Superman of all cordage.
What we normally call paracord is actually one of six different types of parachute cords. For survival purposes, we use type III, which is capable of supporting 550 pounds. This has also gained it the nickname “550 cord” for obvious reasons.
Not all cord sold as “paracord” is really paracord. You want to make sure that your bracelet is made of MILSPEC paracord. Otherwise, it probably won’t really hold 550 pounds. I’ve seen some that were packaged and sold as paracord, which would only support 170 pounds, roughly 1/4 of what type III paracord is supposed to support.
The key to paracord is the way it is manufactured. To meet MILSPEC standards, there must be 7 to 9 core yarns, with a sheath structure of 32/1 or 36/1. The most common way that cheap paracord is made is to cut the core yarns to three or even to one. But those aren’t true paracord and won’t support as much weight.
The Paracord Survival Bracelet
A typical paracord survival bracelet will have 8 to 10 feet of cord in it. Basically, it works out to 1 foot of cord for every 10 feet of bracelet. There is also a way of making a double wide bracelet, which uses about double the cord. If you were to make one of these yourself, all you would need to do is continue the normal pattern, doubling back over itself.
The obvious advantage of this is that you can carry double the amount of paracord, without using any more space on your body. More cord means that you can do more with it, increasing your chances of survival by that much more. If you really want to make sure you have enough, use a paracord belt. That requires more than 50 feet of paracord, giving you quite a bit of paracord to work with.
The other thing to look at on a paracord bracelet, besides how much cord it is using, is the buckle. It used to be that a buckle was a buckle, but nowadays, ingenious manufacturers are incorporating other useful EDC items such as a whistle for signaling for help and a compass to help you find your way.
Some Practical Uses for Paracord
Okay, so you’re in a survival situation and need to use your bracelet. You whip it off your wrist, unbraid it and now you’ve got 10 feet of very strong cord. What can you do with it?
- Build a shelter – If you are going to build a shelter, you will probably need to tie branches together. Paracord is great for it.
- Hang a tarp – You can also make a good shelter by tying a tarp up and making a tent out of it.
- Hide your food – You have to keep food out of the reach of bears. Hanging it from a tree branch is perfect for that.
- Tying yourself in the tree – You can sleep in a tree, sitting on a branch and tying yourself to the trunk, so that you can’t fall out.
- Make a backpack – If you have a jacket or piece of tarp, you can tie your stuff into a bundle with the paracord, and make arm loops to carry it like a backpack.
- Carry your compass – You can hang your compass around your neck from a piece of paracord.
- Make a belt – It may not be elegant, but a piece of paracord can keep your pants from falling down.
- Make a sling – The ancient weapon of the sling can be made from paracord.
- Make a gun sling – If you’re carrying a rifle and don’t have a sling, make one from paracord.
- Make a medical sling – Have a problem with your arm and need a sling for it? Make it out of paracord.
- As a pressure bandage – It’s not the best, but a piece of paracord can be wrapped around a bandage to put pressure on and reduce bleeding.
- As a tourniquet – Once again, this isn’t the best use of paracord, but you can use paracord for a tourniquet in an emergency.
- Secure a splint – Speaking of medical uses, you can also use paracord to tie a splint in place.
- Tow a car – You might need a bit more paracord than what is in your bracelet, but you can use paracord to pull a car, even though the car weighs more than 550 pounds. Just divide the weight of the car by 550, rounding up. That’s how many lengths of paracord you have to have between the tow car and the one to be towed.
- Rappel down a cliff face – This is another use where you’ll need more paracord than you can hold in a bracelet. But paracord is strong enough to allow you to rappel down it.
- Replace a broken bra strap – Stuff happens at times.
- Shoe laces – Don’t they always break at the wrong time? Well, a piece of paracord makes a great replacement. In fact, replacing your normal boot laces with paracord is a great way of ensuring that you have a few more feet of paracord in your EDC.
- String a clothesline – At some point in time, you’re going to need to wash your clothes. Tie a piece of paracord between a couple of trees for a good makeshift clothesline.
- Tie up your sleeping bag – Anything you are carrying, such as a sleeping bag, which needs to be tied up to keep it together can be tied up with paracord.
- Make a spear – Tie a knife blade or chipped obsidian knife blade to a stick with paracord to make a survival spear.
- Use it for a bowstring – If you have a springy sapling, you can make a makeshift bow out of it, using the paracord for a string.
- Use it for a leash – Keep your dog from running away, chasing squirrels.
- Tie up bad guys – If you catch an enemy and need to keep him under control, tie his hands and feet together with paracord. For that matter, you can tie him to a tree.
- Start a fire – Make a bow drill, using the paracord for the string.
- Cook your food – Hang a pot or kettle over the fire with paracord.
If You Take the Paracord Apart, You can:
The strands inside the paracord are useful by themselves, if you take the paracord apart. They are strong enough for a number of uses, and the outer sheath can still be used as well.
- Make a snare – The smaller size cord is less visible, making a better snare for catching small game.
- Make a trip wire – Small game aren’t the only thing you may need to catch. If you need to set up an alarm that people are approaching, there’s nothing easier than a trip wire.
- Repair clothing – Those inner cords make a rather thick thread, but if you need to sew up a backpack or pair of jeans, it will work just fine.
- Go fishing – Use the inner stands for fishing line, catching some dinner.
- Dental floss – Yes, it can actually be used as dental floss, although it is a bit on the thick side.
- Suture a wound – Not the best suture material around, but it’s better than nothing.
This is by no means a complete list, but it should get you going in the right direction. The thing is, having a piece of rope is extremely handy and paracord is a very strong piece of rope in a very small package. That makes it the ideal rope for using in a survival situation.
What have you found paracord useful for? Let me know via the comments.