The Power of Paracord (And How to Make Sure You Always Have Some With You)

by Paul Kirtley

There are many clever ways of carrying paracord in your kit and on your person.

But don't forget the basics.

Why do we want to carry paracord?

Under what circumstances might we need to use it?

Cordage from Natural Materials:

There are a variety of natural materials we can utilise for making cordage and bindings - plant fibres, tree bark, withies, roots, sinews or rawhide, for example. Most of these methods require some skill or time for processing.

Strips of willow bark drying on a rack

Willow bark destined to be cordage, drying after being boiled up with wood ash on a Frontier Bushcraft Intermediate course. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Some types of natural cordage are not suitable for certain applications. Some sources are seasonal. Others are only available in certain geographic regions. In some environments, in some seasons (typically winter), it can be impossible to improvise cordage from natural materials.

Hence, it is normally at least useful, and sometimes critical, to carry some cordage with us. This can of course be natural cordage if it is well made and suited to the potential uses.

String is a Very Important Thing

There is a multitude of uses for cordage. From fishing lines to bow-drilling, from traps to shelter-building, the list is almost endless.

As Spike Milligan pointed out, "String is a very important thing."

Cordage for Emergencies

Many who include some random cord in their daypack or rucksack do so for some ill-defined sense of "just in case".

On a trip, having some strong nylon cord to replace a bootlace or fix a rucksack can certainly make life easier.

For more serious situations, having decent nylon cordage can mean the difference between lighting a fire with bow-drill and not.

Bow-drill set using paracord

Good quality cordage is required for bow-drill friction fire-lighting. Photo: Emma Hampton.

In fact, there are many potential uses for strong cord in an wilderness emergency or survival situation.

Thinking about what you might need to use cordage for, and under which circumstances, will make sure you have the right type. It will also make sure you have enough.

The Power of Paracord

Genuine parachute cord has a breaking strain of 550lb. It has a tough outer and multiple inner cords. This makes it a durable and versatile cordage to have with you in the great outdoors.

Paracord with inner strands showing

Paracord is durable and versatile. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Paracord Survival Bracelets

Popularised by proponents of every day carry (or EDC) survival kit and adopted more widely by outdoor enthusiasts, it seems that paracord survival bracelets have become something of a badge.

I have yet to see anyone willingly take one off their wrist and use the cord.

I've even had someone on a bushcraft course ask me if I had any spare cord they could use. When I pointed out they had a paracord bracelet on their wrist, they said "yeah but it's a hassle to undo..."

One of the more popular ways of constructing these bracelets from paracord is to employ Solomon's Knot.

Visually attractive, they are indeed a bit fiddly to undo. Particularly if you have cold hands.

Everyday carry survival items

A survival bracelet amongst 'every day carry' survival items. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

While I think it's worth having extra cord with you, especially on your person, you shouldn't overlook other, more easily accessible means of carrying extra paracord.

How to Carry Paracord Without Noticing

Replace Your Bootlaces with Paracord

People often say about bow-drill "you can always use your bootlace". Yes, possibly. But not all bootlaces are made equal. Paracord is probably better quality than your bootlaces. Add a little more length than you need for your laces (you can always wrap the extra around your ankle).

Boots with laces replaced by paracord.

Replace bootlaces with paracord. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Replace Drawcords with Paracord

Much of your camping and outdoor kit has drawcords: Stuff sacs, rucksacks, jackets, etc. Replace these cords with paracord and you'll have metres and metres of it amongst your kit.

Paracord replacements for stuffsac and rucksack side-pocket drawstring

Replace drawcords with paracord. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Keep a Hank of Paracord in your Pocket

The most easily accessible means of having a useful length of paracord on your person is in your trouser pocket. You can hank up 5-10 metres and not know it is there. It is instantly deployable (unlike the paracord bracelet which needs unpicking) and does not disrupt the function of other equipment (such as stuff sacs). It is also actually on your person, whereas other equipment might not be.

Paracord hank

A hank of paracord this size is easily stowed in your pocket. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Melt The Ends

Melt the ends of your cord to stop it fraying, which it will otherwise do alarmingly quickly.

Paracord ends burnt and sealed

Melt and seal the ends of the paracord so that it stays in good condition and doesn't fray. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

String is Good for the Soul

Even if you don't put much store in having some cord in your pocket for physical emergencies, it can be good for the soul.

As John Hegley wrote in 'Can I Come Down Now Dad',

"If you're depressed
and your life don't mean a thing
pop into a hardware shop
and cop hold of some string."

Hardware shops are few and far between out in the wilderness, so best have some in your pocket for this reason too....

Let Us Know What You Do...

What methods do you use to make sure you have cordage with you? What extra tips & tricks can you offer? Let us know in the comments below...

The following two tabs change content below.
Paul Kirtley is owner and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog as well as for various publications including The Bushcraft Journal and Bushcraft & Survival Skills Magazine.

 

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Tiley

If the shape of your knife sheath allows it (it’s best if the sheath is rectangular in shape, rather than tapered or following the knife blade’s curve), you can wrap a good length of paracord around it, pushing the two ends through the hole at the bottom from opposite sides. Then, what I tend to do is cut two one inch thick sections from an inner tube and slide them over the cord. The inner tube holds the cord in place and also provides a useful, tight-fitting slot for a firesteel, if your knife sheath is not equipped to carry one. That way, you have cordage that is not a fiddle to undo, a source of a spark and a means of encouraging your fledgling fire to keep going on those wetter days. A bit like most of this summer, actually…!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Good tips Richard. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Reply

Ray Hutchinson

I always have a few feet of paracord about me with a paracord bracelet. I have more in my bag, somewhere between 100 and 200 foot. I made a bigger paracord bracelet style strap to hold my rain jacket to the outside of my bag.

Reply

Dave Cohen

I just carry a 20 metre hank in the top of my pack. Plain and simple. No fashion or craft accesory. No fiddling about or fuss. Simples.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Simples indeed 🙂

Reply

Craig Johnson

I carry a hank in my pocket of about 20 ft, I wear a paracord bracelet and I also have made a hat band for my hat.

I have done a tutorial for it if anybody is interested : http://fieldandwoodcraft.forumotion.co.uk/t59-3-plait-hat-band

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Craig,

Thanks for posting a link to your tutorial. I’m sure some people will find it very useful.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

dave

Makes bonza fishing line especially when greased and sows holes in yer kecks nicely. owt wrapped round yer neck or wrists is a good way to get in trouble due to snags etc and doesnt take much imagination to think of things that can and will go wrong. machinery, trees, rivers, rocks, holes etc etc will bite yer when yer least expect it. not worth it for a fancy decoration to give yer a few fires, especially when theres loadsa places to keep p-c. in pockets, in a bag, on yer belt, or double up the p-c on yer boots as the lace loops on most boots tend to be uniform sizes and big enough to do so. the chances of yer being bare arsed in the bushes with zero places to keep cord is quite slim. the chances of getting stuck or worse due to p-c decorations is a lot greater. 😀

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Dave,

All good points, particularly about snags in water.

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Stewart Lomax

Paul,

I have made some bracelet’s and would agree with your comments… too much hassle to undo.
I carry a couple of 10 metre lengths in the top of my rucksack when away on expeditions. I have used it for washing lines, replacement guys, rigging a shower curtain and suspending a camp shower. To name a few. Like the old question “how long is a piece of string?” the list is endless.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Stewart,

Nice to hear from you.

I agree – I think whatever else you do, it’s hard to beat some simple hanked-up lengths in your pack.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Windy

Having some p-c around at all times is great. I use it regulary for putting bunches in my hair, or tying it up in a bun. I have also used it to tie around my trouser legs after a particulary brutal chicken vindaloo, and am happy to report absolutely no leakage whatsoever.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Windy you are a master of innovation and lateral thinking 😉

Reply

Austin Lill

A Soloman bar attached to a rucksack zip (as a pull) works well.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Austin,

Good point – additional zip-pulls are useful, particularl in cold climates when you might be wearing gloves or mittens.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

jeffro

Have to agree with Dave, used the stuff for 30 years and found the most logical and convenient place to have it is under your chute in your Daisy Roots and 10 meters tucked away in yer sky rocket.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Agreed! 🙂

Reply

Dave

I would say that Para cord has almost endless uses.
I daisy chain mine, i have 7 or 8 25ft lenghs in my pack.

Reply

John Swarbrick

John Hegley is a Genius…

The following is from ‘Five Sugars Please’

My Brothers Advice

The morning I started out for infant school
My older brother told me to remember
That girls never prosper
I don’t know where he got this motto
Nor did I understand it’s meaning
But because he was my example
I repeated the words to everyone I met
And did not get a girlfriend until I was twenty – seven.

A good poem and pertinent in regards to a lot of Bushcraft advice…

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Sage words 🙂

John Hegley is indeed a genius.

And.

Eddie don’t like furniture.

Reply

Dave Gregory

I have an ex issue Wilkinson Sword survival knife with paracord wrapped around the handle, if nothing else it makes it easier on the hands! I also made my rifle sling out of paracord, approx 80 feet. Most of my key rings, bag zip pulls are made of paracord and of course not forgetting the obligatory survival bracelet and watch strap! There are plenty of colours available and pretty cheep if you know where to look. I get mine from: http://www.theparacordstore.co.uk

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Dave,

All good tips. Particularly like the rifle sling idea – was that using Solomon Knot or simple daisy-chaining?

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Paul Gray

I have always loved paracord……..the wonder stuff; and enjoyed this blog.

But…just wanted to remind people not to make neck ‘lanyards’ out if it for holding whistles, knives, and keys etc…….it is too good a method to hang yourself…it is 550 after all!!!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Paul,

Long-time no-speak!

It’s great to hear from you. And you make a good point about not hanging yourself in the name of paracording everything in sight.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Steve Bayley

I’ve pretty much always got a few metres of paracord in my pocket, and have replaced most draw-cords with it too. In my bergan I tend to keep a fair length of around 10m handy for rigging hanging lines etc. and have another for odd-jobs where the cord gets cut. If it’s practical I collect up the odd lengths when breaking camp and join them back together with a fisherman’s knot. That way I always have a good strong single length of cord plus a length of odds and sods which can also be pressed into service as a continuous line (all be it of reduced strength) if need be. I often have a shorter length of thinner cord handy too for tying prussic-knots to paracord. Recently I’ve found 550 paracord available with a single thread of reflective material woven into the mantle, this is great stuff for rigging tarps so that the guy lines are easier to spot at night.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your comments. There’s a couple of very useful tips in there! 🙂

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Windy

Paracord string vest and jockeys to match in fetching olive. These always guarantee availability of cord for me plus the ventilation is outstanding, as it naturally wicks sweat and pumpage through the gaps.

🙂

Windy

Reply

Paul Kirtley

I’m not sure I needed that image in my head 🙂

Besides, it sounds a little, errm, windy for use in Scotland….

Reply

Windy

🙂

Reply

WoodsmokeBob

Always pre cut mine into lengths of 25ft, 12ft, 6ft and 3ft and keep them either attached to my tarp eyelets or hanked up in the same drysac as my tarp. 100ft gives you 1x 25ft for a ridge line, 2x 12ft for pegging out the tarp if you raise one edge with some poles, 4x 6ft for general pegging out and 8x 3ft for lashings, odd jobs and extending a length that is too short to do the job. That way you never have to waste your paracord by cutting it and ending up with loads of odd bits all different sizes. I daisy chain or hank my longer pieces and lay all my shorter bits in a bundle and put a simple overhand knot through the full lot – stops them moving about!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Bob,

It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for your comment – there’s some useful suggestions in there.

You’re right about ending up with lots of odd bits of paracord. I have a shoe-box that I keep odds and ends of cord in and generally find uses for it on lanyards, zip-pulls, etc. But it’s easy to waste cord if you are not careful. Thanks for your tips!

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

david

hi paul
i have para cord as boot laces. my keys are held on a para cord dangler from my belt also keep para cord as a hat band. but i always keep para cord in the land rover. the stuff is invalueble
david dunmow

Reply

david

i would like to add to the para cord chat .if you have a tilley hat you can keep some extra cordind inside the pocket in the top of your hat
david

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi David,

Yep, that’s a good extra tip.

Thanks,

Paul

Reply

Rob Kleinlugtenbelt

Nice to read all tips.
When searching YouTube, I stumbled upon a quick release parachord bracelet. Just search for ‘milipede bracelet’ or look at http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=auRJT6eLfXM

Rob

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Rob,

Thanks for sharing this link. That’s handy and gets around my main criticism of the Solomon’s knot-type of paracord bracelet.

For those who are interested, here is the non-mobile site link to the video on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auRJT6eLfXM

03:15 for the quick-release in action.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Dan

Looks cool I picked up an even simpler way of linking cord from and keep a few feet on my keyring, technique is simple enough you just tie a loop then feed a loop from the working end through it then repeat working the loops tight each time you move onto the next finishing by just passing the end through the last loop. You end up with something that looks like a plaited rope, it takes up about a quarter the length of the actual rope and when you want the cord undo the end and pull the whole thing unravels in a fraction of a second.
Believe you can overlap the loops, though I haven’t worked it this way myself I have seen it used to turn 40 feet or paracord into a belt for a pair of trousers.

Reply

Matthew Mutch

I still love paracord bracelets but have long given up on the Solomon. It is a great way to store more cord per square inch, yet the difficulty in undoing it is far too much effort when you really need it. I recommend any variety of sinnet knot. The chain, or double chain. I can store the same amount of cord yet because the sinnet is formed by making a loop of a loop, you can release it in moments, even with your teeth if needs be. By the way Paul, great site and when I can manage any money from my student lifestyle (not boozy, just poor!), I would love to come on a course and meet you. You’re a true inspiration.

Reply

Paul Richards

Great tips Paul, thanks!

How about a head-up on the best way to wind your 550. I used to wrap it around my hand and get it in a right old mess when releasing it.
Now I saw a YouTube vid on a better way: figure of eight around your thumb and little finger, allowing you to just pull an end a get it out quick, but I bet a lot don’t know this, and I’m certainly not convinced I’m mastering it properly. Your method would be very well received I sure!

Thanks
Paul

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your comment.

Yes, it’s easy to end up in a tangle.

Good idea about sharing the hanking method I use…. I’ll add it to my list 🙂

What do you prefer – video or pictures (or both?)

Cheers,

Paul

Reply

Paul Richards

More is more Paul. I think that’s the saying! 😉

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Something like that 🙂

Reply

Phil Bond

Hi Paul, I am currently making a para cord belt, should allow a good 20-30 m of cord to be carried effortlessly 🙂

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Great stuff Phil! 🙂

Reply

Jim Gohl

Recently, one of the dogs managed to step into a trap on a walk around the farm. I had to make a litter to drag him home. Good thing, I had some string with me. Also a good thing, I remembered a movie where Indians made litters to drag behind horses to carry gear as they moved their camp. It all worked out well, thanks to the string

Reply

R Zadim

Although I have plenty of black and od paracord, I also have 200 feet of phosphorescent paracord basking in the gardenroom sunlight. Easy to string out on the floor when a blackout stops by, Only had to use it twice for the purpose in the past couple of years but it was useful. In a SHTF situation the usefulness increases (IMO)

Reply

mackie1506

Hi Paul.
I am fortunate to have a sister that will do almost anything for me.

I purchased 100m of p/c and asked her if she would try to make a scarf out of it. This she did and I ended up with a 5ft long and 5inch wide neck warmer, and easily unravelled..

I would like to say thanks Sue.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

You are a lucky man 🙂

Reply

Adrian

Hi folks, i may get slated for this but after years struggling to find a good quality parra chord I’ve found that climbing accessory chord is far superior in quality,strength and abrasion resistance. I also hank my chord but with a slight difference. I double the chord to start with then at the end poke the loop on the end through the loop where my thumb was. You end up with a hanging loop that is easy to clip to yourself or your kit. I know my description my not make much sense,but its difficult to explain without pictures or video. I tend to carry three sizes of chord as i like to have options available.
All the best Adrian

Reply

Adam

What brand of boots are the ones in the picture?

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Adam,

Lowa Military GTX and Rogue Rangers.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Adam

Even in an urban going to work situation you can carry para cord. I wrap some around my breif case handle to make for better grip and i can neatly store a metre of ot like that. A further 4 m is wound round the shoulder strap of my case or the straps of a small back pack if Im carrying that instead.

Reply

Gary

Great tips Paul for carrying paracord. As Richard points out, wrapping some cordage around your knife sheath is great way to carry some extra cordage. On tapered sheaths I have first put down a layer of electricians, cloth friction tape (sticky both sides), then wrap cordage over it with either paracord or #36 bank line and then cover the cordage with a wide ranger band cut from a bicycle inner tube. Doesn’t add much weight or bulk to your sheath knife but all the components can come in handy for many uses and/or repairs. With the wide ranger band attached one can also carry additional small items strapped to your sheath knife. For example I keep a couple of magnetized sail needles between the tape and cordage and then a small bag of tinder quicks between the cordage and the ranger band.

Reply

Barry Dutton

When I started into all this, I was like….. “Why don’t people just fire a pile into their shoes and boots and replace the laces, that would make a lot of sense!” — and I see that as one of your early points here, which warms my heart man. LOL. It is times like this I feel like less of a dummy amen. Have a nice weekend Paul, thanks for your input this week on that post on FascistBook. Appreciated brother. Canadastan loves ya! (:

Reply

Robin

Hi Paul,

I have always carried my pocket knife, attached to my belt, with 5 meters of paracord. Recently, stolen from you, I have a firesteel in the other pocket again tethered with 5 meters of paracord.
Always there, easily accessible and doing a job.

Robin

Reply

Kevin

Great article, relatively new to the idea of carrying para cord but as a sea kayaker my tow-line has been used for a thousand and one things, from extra tent guys, washing line, tying boats to rocks in a gale.

I’m about to go in search of paracord to put into the top pockets of all my rucksacks, but wonder if you could specify precisely what “is” paracord. Outdoor shops seem to sell a multitude of string in different thicknesses, from the kind of line that climbers use to attach protection through to thin and full thickness climbing rope. How thick is paracord and is it always green? Is all paracord equal or is there one that stands out as more useful than others?
I hope this doesn’t sound too simple, Thanks,

Kevin

Reply

dave H

Hi Paul, thanks for some useful tips, I keep 50m hanked up, plus a canvas bag with assorted lengths hanked up for immediate use. I was given a p-c bracelet years ago but have to admit i have never tried to undo it.
All the best, Dave.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Back to home page