As times get tougher, people around the country have begun to do what they can to lead simpler, more efficient lives, as we in the survival community nod our heads vigorously in agreement. If there’s one universal idea survivalists and materialists alike can unite under, it’s the desire to be more frugal, and stretch our dollar further.
However, as the survival movement grows, more and more manufacturers are cottoning on to the trend, and are doing everything they can to profit off of the thronging masses. One such particular trendy item that has been thrust at us from every corner of the market is the paracord bracelet.
Originally sold as a survival addition for around $5 or $10, they have now become a sensational style additive, with some “designer” brands selling for several hundred dollars (no, I’m not kidding). The result is that a lot of people outside of the survival niche have been sporting them all over the world, not fully understanding, in many cases, the highway robbery that’s just been committed.
The truth is, these things just don’t cost that much to make, and with a little time and practice, you can make not only a paracord bracelet (to your specifications no less), but everything from leashes to rifle straps no less. So before you start shopping for another (because you can’t just have one) paracord bracelet in yet another color, check out some basic how-to guides, and see if you have the manual dexterity and patience to make your own paracord creations.
By the way, the bracelet made of paracord is one of the simplest projects you can work on. If you want to learn, please take a look at our tutorial on how to make a paracord bracelet.
Paracord: The new fiber of life
First off, understand that paracord is not a crazily complex thing to make, or get your hands on. Essentially, all it is, is a woven rope of thin nylon strands, as fine as human hair, woven together over and over again, and bound in a woven nylon casing, creating the cord you’re used to seeing.
This material, once upon a time, was originally known as parachute cord, and used by the US military for their paratroopers. The material was strong enough to withstand the enormous pressure of an opening parachute, and cheap enough to manufacture on a large scale in penny-pinching war times.
Now, the material has gained enormous popularity among civilians for its usefulness and versatility, particularly by us survivalists. Its strength and affordability makes it perfect for bulk purchasing, which many people don’t realize you can do. Many sites-and even farm supply stores-sell it either by the spool or by the foot, making it a lot more economical than purchasing small, individual knick-knacks.
Paracord comes in a number of thicknesses and strengths, each capable of supporting a different amount of weight. The most common is paracord 550, rated to support up to 550 pounds, though there are thicknesses available that can support up to 750 pounds! However, if you’re not planning on using it to take an elephant for a walk any time soon, 550 should be more than strong enough for whatever you use it for.
Paracord is highly affordable at this strength, with bulk prices ranging at around $50 for 1000 feet-more than enough for a hobbyist or a prepper. Shop around online, or call your local farm supply store to see what rates are like in your area. If you buy a large quantity, you may see some steep shipping for online purchases, so definitely buy local if you can.
Here are some awesome paracord braiding techniques to get you started on the road to making your own survival gear.
How to braid paracord: styles and techniques
Just like with any other craft or skill, there are a number of different ways to braid paracord, and there really doesn’t seem to be any one correct way to do it. The style you use will depend largely on the amount of time, patience, and skill you have, as well as the project you’ll be using the braid for. Here are just a few of the basic braids out there to get you started.
The seesaw knot
This is perhaps one of the fastest and easiest types of paracord “braids” that you can do, though it is essentially just a series of knots. Personally, I think this one looks best with two different colors, as you’ll be knotting together two double strands of paracord to make your braid.
Depending on what you’ll be using the braid for, start your project off by securing one set of your paracord ends off in some fashion (typically with a buckled bracelet, you would do this by creating slipknots to run through the female end of your buckle). Either way, just make sure you find the center of your two equal lengths of paracord or do your slipknot there, so that you have four strands (two of each color) lying side by side.
Then it’s simple: grabbing two cords at a time from one side, wrap them around the two cords on the other side to form a basic knot, or hitch. Then, grab the two cords from that side, and form a hitch around the other side. Continue in this fashion until you have the length you need.
Once you’re done, again, depending on the project you’re using it for, secure the ends with a couple of knots, and cut the excess off. Many people then take a lighter or match to the ends, which melts the nylon together, to prevent fraying.
The fishtail braid
This is another pretty basic technique that produces a really nice pattern. Ladies may already be familiar with this one in fact, as it’s done quite similarly to the very popular fishtail braid that’s being sported these days.
To start this one, you basically need three lengths of cord, prepped and attached to whatever project you intend to use it for. The important thing is, two lengths of cord stay immobile, while a longer one is woven through them, so if you’re making a bracelet, you might start by first measuring and attaching your two lengths of unmoving cord to your buckles, and the third longer length of cord only at the starting end, so you can weave with that one.
Once you’re ready to start, the technique is simple-just take your long cord-which should be sitting on top of your other two-and weave it over and under the left cord, then up through the middle of the two. Then weave it over then under the cord on the right, and back up through the middle. Repeat the pattern, weaving the long cord, again, over and under the left cord, and through the middle, and then over and under the right cord.
Continue in this fashion until you have your desired length. When you’ve reached the end, take the long, loose cord, and secure it by weaving it through the braids, then up through the loop created by the final braid. Pull it tight, then trim the excess, and melt the end.
This is definitely one of the most common and popular paracord braiding techniques out there right now. This knot is made with a single long strand of paracord, pulled halfway through a loop of buckle, and then the loose ends are woven into the loop in the middle.
To get started, find the center of your length of cord, and if you’re making a bracelet, pull the ends through one end of your buckle, giving yourself plenty of length to work your knots. To make your first knot, take the loose end on the right side, and run it under the loop in the middle, and take the loose end on the left side, and run it over the loop. Pull your loose ends taught, forming a knot over the loop in the middle.
Now, do the reverse, running the loose end on the left side under the loop, and the loose end on the right over it, and tying another knot. Continue in this fashion, making sure to alternate your knots (otherwise your work will begin to twist).
This is an intricate looking weave, but it’s actually pretty simple in practice. It produces a wide, flat band, making it really comfortable for bracelets, straps, and gun slings. If you plan to use this pattern for a paracord bracelet, it might be helpful to have a way of securing your buckles, so that you can focus on keeping your strands in order and at the proper tension for a tight, uniform braid, instead of having to constantly adjust your work.
Once you’re ready to begin, get a long length of paracord (12 feet if you want to make a bracelet), and begin by finding the center of it. Pull the folded center of the cord through one of your buckles, and pull the ends through that loop to form a cow hitch. Pull the ends of the paracord through the other half of your buckle, pulling one end out to each side.
Continue by pulling the ends back through the other end of the belt buckle, and up through its counterpart again, keeping one end on each side of your work, until you have six strands of paracord joining your buckles.
This weave works with six strands in the middle in groups of two. Start by taking the loose end on the right, and weaving it under the right two strands, over the second two, and under the left two. Then take the loose end on the left and weave it over the left two strands, under the middle two, and over the right two. Starting to see a pattern here? Pull your loose ends taught, and push the weave up before beginning your next series, being sure to alternate your over and under pattern as you progress.
To finish the weave, after your last series of knots, simply pull the ends through the loop created in the center of the pattern (you may have to use tweezers or hemostats to the get the ends through), and pull the work very tight. Then trim away your excess and melt the ends, and you’re done!
There are tons of different paracord braids out there, and honestly, sometimes it’s a lot easier to learn by watching than reading, so if this all seems daunting and complicated to you, try watching one of the many YouTube videos out there. Plenty of creative and talented folks have put together some really great video tutorials for you visual learners, and once you see these paracord braids in actions, you’ll realize just how simple they really are.
We also have a great guide for the most used knots, especially for creating a wide range of projects. So, if you want to learn more, take a look at the paracord knots article.
Putting paracord braiding to good use
With the basic braids mentioned above, your imagination is the limit on what you can make. However, being that this is a survival website, of course I’ve got to tell you about all of the awesome useful things you can make with all of those braids and weaves. Here are a few fun, simple projects to get you started.
This is a very easy project to get you started, and can save you some serious dough (have you ever seen the price of a rifle sling? Ouch!). First off, you want to decide what kind of paracord braid you want to use. Since guns are heavy, you’ll want to consider how comfortable the braid will be laying across your shoulder carrying some weight. I’d recommend the trilobite weave, as it has a nice flat shape to it, and can hold a ton of paracord, just based on its design. However, with that in mind, you’ll want to have at least 75 feet of cord on hand to do this project.
Begin by getting the sling hardware off your gun. If you plan to use the trilobite weave, it’ll be very helpful to mount the hardware to a piece of wood as you work. Keep in mind that this sling will not be adjustable, so measure how long you want it to be, then mount your hardware that distance apart. Other than that, it’s as simple as working your paracord through the hardware!
Also, if you want to see more interesting projects that may be of use in tour outdoor adventures, take a look at our Paracord survival belt tutorial.
There is nothing more frustrating than breaking a dog collar in the middle of a walk. Paracord is some of the toughest stuff around though, so as long as your knots are tight, it’s not going to break under the pressure of an excitable Fido.
Making a collar is almost exactly like making a bracelet, except that like with the rifle sling, you want to design it with comfort in mind. If your dog pulls against it, you want to make sure the band is wide enough to distribute the weight evenly, so something like a cobra or trilobite weave may be your best bet.
Just get some sturdy buckles (this is where it pays to customize-get some metal ones if you can find them!), measure your dog’s neck (adding about a half inch for comfort), and start braiding!
Self-defense key fob
This is a really cool idea that incorporates paracord braiding, a little steel ball, and a monkey fist knot! Attach it to something big and sturdy, like a carabineer, so you can put all the weight you want in it.
To start this project, you first want to make what’s called a monkey fist knot around a steel ball (or something equally heavy and intimidating-a pool ball would certainly make for a formidable weapon!). Form the monkey fist (check out our tutorial on how to make a monkey fist out of paracord) around the ball, securing the ends at the base when you’re done.
After the ball is done, simply start a braid of your choosing, preferably something strong and flexible, like a fishtail or seesaw braid. Then tie your ends off around your carabineer, singe the tips, and voila! You have a stylish and intimidating self-defense tool!
These are just a few projects to get you started, but there are plenty of other things you can put your paracord braids to use for. The next time you break a strap on a backpack, or outgrow a belt for that matter, don’t just go running to the store to buy a new one. Order yourself a big spool of paracord, and make something that will not only last, but will serve a dual purpose should you ever need it.
We put together an in-depth tutorial where we describe how to make various useful projects out of paracord. If you’re interested, please take a look at our paracord projects article.
Paracord braiding and prepping
Paracord has seen its rise in popularity-and with good reason. It’s not only incredibly cheap and strong, but can be used for a number of different projects, even drawing the crafters out to play with us survivalists. But this skill is not just a great project for the DIYer in all of us-it should play a vital role in everyone prepping skill repertoire.
The ability to fashion ropes out of anything, much less paracord, is incredibly useful. Start with taking these braiding techniques to your colorful paracord stash, and then move beyond that and challenge yourself even further. Can you turn flimsy vines into a sturdy rope with a fishtail braid? Can you make a sling to put your food sack in with scraps of fabric and a cobra weave? The ability to create a thick, sturdy material out of something small and flimsy can be an invaluable resource, especially for wilderness survival.
So stock up on all of your favorite colors, and get to braiding. Finally, boys get to join in on the fun too.