War brings out the best and worst in men. The worst is, well, you can read about the horrible things we have done to each other in many books. The best I think would be all the inventions and new uses for items that the necessity of war initiates. World War 2 brought the development and practical use of Penicillin (and a Nobel Prize in 1945 for Fleming, Florey, and Chain).
Radar – the first practical radar system was produced in 1935 by the British physicist Sir Robert Watson-Watt, and by 1939 England had established a chain of radar stations along its South and East coasts to detect aggressors.Lots more: Jet aircraft, computer technology, synthetic rubber, sonar, Jeeps, Nordon bomb sight, the A-bomb. Also, a little invention called Parachute cord (paracord) was invented. Before this, silken shroud lines were used. They had a tensile strength of about 400 lbs. With the advent of the paracord (also called 550 cord), thus began the adaption of uses of this wonder cord by paratroopers. This is basically lightweight nylon kernmantle rope, .125 inches diameter with 7 inner strands and a covering. More specifically, the sheath is braided from 32 strands and the inner seven cords are each a 3 ply braid (I know most of us have probably only used 2 ply braid, please read on). So there are really 22 pieces of useable cord here.
There are 6 different types of paracord made, type I, type IA, type II, type IIA, type III, and type IV. They each have a different minimum breaking strength, some differences in inner strand count, and use. The type III is what is known as 550 cord because its breaking strength is 550 lbs. The real-deal paracord is categorized as MIL-C-5040H T3. This is the one with the 3 ply inner strands and one of the strands will not be plain white. It will have a color code as to the manufacturer. This is about twice or a little over twice the price of consumer 550 cord. The consumer stuff will only have a 2 ply inner strand design. So, a little less usable cord and I suspect not a true 550 lbs. minimum breaking strength. Real 550 cord is more money because of the testing it must go through (minimal strength, heat resistance, elongation, quick drying, mildew resistant etc.) and the obvious reason: your life will be hanging by a thread, you want the good stuff!
I’m sure most of us have used the 2 ply inner strand cord. I know it’s what I have always used and it works plenty fine for camp chores. This article is to give you ideas for all the different uses of paracord (and how to carry it with you) and I’ll cover as many as I have used and heard about, but the only limit is your imagination. I’m sure there will be uses I will have left out that you know of, feel free to comment below and let us all learn. Two of the more difficult items to replicate in the field are cordage and tools. Not impossible but, better if you have them with you. If you have 100 feet of 550 cord on you, you’re doing good. Right off the bat, the rule of 3’s will need to be addressed and the 3 hours of exposure will be elongated if you can rig up a tube tent or lean-to shelter. Para-cord makes an excellent ridge line for your tube tent and will help secure that lean-to together in high winds.
As I sit here and write, many, many uses come to mind, too many to cover in one article but I will list everything I have come up with:
Shelter ridge line
Tent guy out string
Snares and traps
Rock sling/staff sling
Security (door lock, tattle tail with bell)
Sandals, with a piece of tire
Hang food from a tree in bear country
Bow drill string
Fishing nets (with enough cord)
Wash cloth (woven together like a crocheted pot holder)
A whole other article could be done on how to carry this wonder-cord. I prefer to use the Survival Bracelet (SB) and boot lace methods to have cord on me all the time. Straight away, pull those boot laces and replace them with 550 cord. I chose to use some which has the 3M reflective tracer weaved in for some margin of safety. Boot laces can be as long as 72" on some models, that’s 6 feet of paracord per foot. If you have a Survival Bracelet on too, that’s at least another 8 feet depending on how it was tied. Twenty feet of cord is good to have in a survival situation. If you tie a SB in what’s called a super cobra weave, you can lengthen the amount of cord to double what a regular one uses. There is no rule that says you can’t wear one on each wrist either ya know. Or clip them onto your pack, a couple in the car, etc. Depending on gear carried and clothes worn, you could get 100 feet of paracord on your person easily. If you wear a brimmed hat into the bush, a paracord hat band can be fashioned easy enough. Taking your Rossi single shot into the woods with you? A paracord gun sling will hold lots of cord. You can carry more paracord on your knife sheath, wrapped around it or weaved and hung below it. Even the knife handle can be made from paracord and give you just a little more. I like to error on the side of too much, I am not practiced enough to make cordage in the bush.
Just as important as having the cord with you is knowing how to tie some knots with it. Get yourself any knot book by Geoffrey Budworth. I have a few of his and they are very well put together. If you learn about 10 knots, you’ll be set for a long time. I hear there is an ongoing knot article in Self Reliance Illustrated magazine too, so check that out as well. Wherever you get some knot knowledge, learn it people. Quit buying those dang ‘figure 9’ things! At the very least you should know how to tie the following:
One stopper knot
This will give you enough knot know-how to secure loads, make a lanyard, tie off a boat, rig an A-frame tarp, AND, impress your friends! (Editor’s note: I know I’m impressed with Scott’s knot knowledge!)
So you have all this paracord on you for a day in the woods. You’ll get used to having it with you for backup so figure out what you can wear every day while you’re practicing (hence the SB and boot laces thing for me). The only way to figure out what you can use this cord for is to have some with you all the time, so keep some on you. I have used my SB numerous times just as is, clipping the bracelet around something I needed to secure quickly to the roof rack of my Jeep. I have used it to suspend a water jug at work for dipping a hot knife into while grinding. Once you pull it apart, you can’t get it back together so, make sure you need it. I have unwoven one to fix a pair of glasses with the small inner cords before. I have used one I took apart to tie off a door knob onto a railing for a bit of added security on vacation (when we go, I make sure the kids each have one on, even if they aren’t sure what to do with it at the time, I’ll have another 14 feet of cord with us). I fixed a co-workers belt failure at the beginning of the work day with some. I trucker hitched it up tight and it held all day he said.
Personally I’d pull the SB apart first and use that. There’s 56 feet right there if you pull the 7 inner strands apart and use them too. With strength of about 35 lbs. for the inner strands and approximately 300 lbs. for the sheath, you can safely take it apart and use it for different tasks without compromising safety. I have used the inner strands for extra guy wire on my tent before, it works great and I still have the sheath for heavier duty stuff.
What have you used paracord for? Was it an everyday thing, survival, or just something decorative? We would like to thank Camping Survival for supplying us with paracord for the article. They sell 1000 foot spools for a GREAT price. You can also purchase SB’s there if you don’t feel like making your own and "Knot cards" for $4. See, cheaper than those figure 9 things! Think "give a man a fish, feed him one day, teach him knots, feed him a life time" people.
Editor’s Note: While Scott is too modest to say it, you can also get survival bracelets and other custom paracord items off of him as well at his website, Scott’s Knots. The custom sling on the Rossi shotgun shown on this article is his work, as are the red survival bracelets that he did for the Leukemia Society!
Paracord Discussion Thread on the Woodsmonkey Forum