CAMPING AND HIKING

Emergency Uses for Paracord: A Simple Cord That Could Save Your Life

Paracord uses the best ones
Samuel Funt
Written by Samuel Funt

The topic of the different paracord uses is an interesting one, because it focuses attention on the fact that survival thinking can be both short term and long term. For example, a group of friends who are planning to go camping in the woods for a weekend, will take on a more short term view of survival planning.

On the other hand, a family or community which is preparing for the different possible nightmare scenarios (both caused by nature or by humans) will be taking a much more long term view of survival. The good thing about this piece of equipment is that it applies to both short term and long term survival planning

One of the key benefits of paracord is the fact that it is so easy to take along with you. After all, a person’s ability to survive will depend heavily on the kind of equipment he has with him. Even a person who possesses much survival knowledge will struggle, if he has barely any tools or equipment with him. The great thing about paracord is that it comes in form factors, such as bracelets or keychain lanyards, which a person can have on him all the time.

Uses paracord infographic

This means that even if you get lost in the woods without your pack, or you find yourself in some other tricky scenario, you will always have your paracord.

The key attributes of paracord

To better understand how paracord can be used in survival situations, it can help to learn more about how this material came about and its composition. As its name suggests, this cord was originally used for military purposes. More specifically, it was used in World War II in the parachutes of soldiers. This created a number of requirements for this material.

First of all, it needed to be strong. It would be completely unacceptable for cord to be used in parachutes which couldn’t handle the weight, not just of the soldier, but also his weapon and all the other equipment that he was being deployed with.

Translated into more concrete numbers, this meant that the type 3 version of the cord, which was and is the most common version, had to be strong enough to carry 550 pounds without breaking. That is a lot of weight, especially given the fairly thin diameter of the cord. This 550 pound breaking point is also why paracord is sometimes called 550 cord. The cord is able to achieve this kind of strength because of its design.

On the inside of the cord, there are generally 7 to 9 strands of nylon. Each strand is itself actually made up of 2 further strands which have been twisted together, so there are actually 14 to 18 strands in all, on the inside of the cord.

Paracord uses

Then, the outside cover of the cord is made of 32 to 36 strands of nylon which have been braided to give it a more sheath like appearance. This nylon construction is what gives the cord its strength, but it also allows the cord to have some flexibility. Flexibility was important for the parachutes during the war because the slight stretching it allowed would absorb some of the shock when the parachute opened to catch the soldier.

In addition to the strength and flexibility of paracord, it is also important to note that the material is very light. For instance, a type 3 version of the cord which is 225 feet or 69 meters long will only weigh, at most, 1 pound. This was very important because this helped to lighten the load that soldiers were expected to carry, and this allowed them to save their paracord for use in other situations.

Today, this light weight is very important because this is what allows paracord crafts, such as bracelets, belts and lanyards, to be worn comfortably all the time. In addition, current versions of paracord come in various colors, so that the paracord you could be wearing will look rather good.

Using paracord to secure gear

Because of the versatility of paracord, there are a huge number of possible uses in an outdoor or survival type of situation. Some of these uses allow a person to set up, transport and secure important gear and equipment. In an outdoors situation, this can be useful for a number of reasons.

First of all, equipment may go missing or end up broken, which will force you to come up with some sort of workable solution while you’re far away from the nearest shop. Second, securing your gear for transport is important because you don’t want to end up losing things unnecessarily while you’re in the outdoors.

When it comes to how to use paracord, one of the things that this material is good for, is replacing lost or broken parts of gear or clothing. For example, during the transport of your tent, it is possible for the lines used to secure the tent to go missing or become damaged. This can also happen if the tent lines are exposed to high wind or other extreme conditions. If you have paracord with you, this will be less of a problem because the cord has the strength and flexibility to secure a tent to the ground.

Paracord can also be used for other more portable equipment such as your clothes and bags. The cord is strong enough to be used as a replacement set of shoe laces. It can also be used to replace a damaged belt or bra. In the case of a bra, a cord of the proper length can simply be tied in order to replace a damaged strap. In the case of a belt, there are two options.

You can either use a length of paracord as a makeshift belt by running it through the belt loops and tying the ends together, or you can use two lengths of cord as makeshift suspenders. Of the two, the suspenders will usually be easier to manage, since there’s no need to untie and tie the cord during regular use.

Survival Bracelet

It may also be necessary to transfer large piles of equipment to a lower or higher location, such as up a tree or down a steep slope. Paracord is particularly good for these kind of heavy loads because of its 550 pound breaking point. If the load is very heavy, it can be possible to increase the cord strength further by twisting or braiding together multiple sets of paracord. In the case of having to move equipment up, paracord can be used as part of a makeshift pulley system to better maximize lifting power.

As you can see, there are countless uses for paracord. Even more, due to the extensive types of knots, it can be transformed in a wide range of items that survivalists need on them at all times. To make things a bit more interesting, we put together some of the most interesting projects and you can see how to do them in our article on paracord projects.

Using paracord to increase safety

Paracord doesn’t just improve convenience and carrying capacity in the outdoors. It can also be used in various ways, to increase your safety as an individual or the safety of your group. One of the more straightforward uses is by using the cord to pull a bear bag up into a tree, away from the reach of most animals. This allows you to transfer food to a location separate from where you or your group are camped out.

Animals won’t be drawn by the scent of food into your tents, bags or supplies, and will instead end up somewhere further away. The bag will also be out of reach, so that your food will remain secure.

Another thing that paracord can be used for is making sure that the various members of your party stay together. Since the cord is very light, you can carry enough of it so that you can tie people to each other with the cord, in a way that doesn’t impede movement or increase fatigue. This can be particularly useful if you’re forced to walk through the night and not all of you have light sources.

The cord can be sufficient to keep all of you walking in line, within reach of each other. This can also be useful if you are moving through an area where avalanches are a possibility, or where ice appears to be thin. The cord could allow you to find other members in your group more quickly, in the event someone gets buried in snow, or in the event someone falls through the ice.

Paracord can also help with safety by allowing you to secure an area from animals, or even human intruders. Various tripwires can be set up using the cord, where the lines are attached to things that make noise such as pieces of metal, bells or other noise makers. This will allow you to more quickly learn if something or someone is approaching your camp, so that you can prepare. With more advanced knowledge, it will also be possible to use the cord to set up lines that are intended to impede movement or even set traps for approaching animals.

Paracord securing

In the event of a survival situation where you find yourself with barely any gear in the outdoors, the paracord can be used to create a makeshift hammock so that you can sleep above the forest or jungle floor. This will entail knotting and tying the cord into what is essentially a net, which can then be attached to a number of trees.

In all likelihood, this will not be the most comfortable place to sleep, but the cord strength will help to ensure that you do not fall to the ground below. This is particularly important because all sorts of insects, critters and predators make their way along the jungle floor at night.

Using paracord for medical emergencies

A medical emergency in the comfort on your own home is a problem. However, a medical emergency out in the wild is a much more serious matter. It may not be possible to contact emergency responders. You might have to find a way to get back to civilization, while nursing a serious injury. In these kinds of situations, paracord can also prove to be exceedingly useful. One use of paracord is in the construction of a splint.

The wilderness can be a dangerous place, even for experienced outdoors types, and falling injuries resulting in broken bones are not altogether uncommon. A makeshift splint can be constructed using tree branches, clothing for padding, and paracord to lash everything together into a stable structure. Done properly, the splint can help to avoid further injury and allow for some movement, so that more help can be found.

In certain cases, an individual may fall sick or be seriously wounded, so that walking is no longer an option for that person. In order to be able to transport him or her, at greater speed, it is possible to create a makeshift stretcher. The poles can be made out of longer tree branches, ski poles, or any similarly strong equipment. The main stretcher material can be made out of tarpaulin or even some types of clothing, such as jackets, which can then be supported and tied together using paracord.

In the unfortunate event that no such clothing or material is available, it can be possible to create the main stretcher material out of the paracord itself. The cord will simply have to be attached to the poles, and then run from one to another, similar to a shoelace pattern. While it may not be the most comfortable surface to lay on, the priorities in this case are the prevention of further injuries and speedy transport.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the paracord can be cut open, in order to access the thinner, finer strands inside. These can then be used in additional ways. For instance, if a person has been wounded and the injury needs to be sewn up, it can be possible to use the interior nylon strands as makeshift suturing material. Simply open up the cord sheath to access the interior threads, and then untwist these so that you can use just the single thread. This will, however, require access to a needle or something very similar, so it will be a good idea to keep a needle or two in your emergency supplies.

Using paracord to find food

Some survival situations last only for a day or even less. However, there are also situations where people need to survive in adverse conditions for much longer. It will soon be clear that a way has to be found to come up with food, otherwise the situation will very quickly deteriorate. In a scenario like this one, paracord could also be very useful. If you or your party are located close to a body of water, it may be possible to catch fish. In this case, the paracord will be cut open in order to access the thinner internal threads.

These can then be used as makeshift fishing lines. It can then be possible to carve fishing hooks from wood, create lures using cloth or shiny metal, and use a branch as a fishing pole or as a stake to which the line is attached.

Away from the water, it is also possible to create basic snares and other traps in order to catch small game. Once you have identified where small animals are likely to pass, there are various ways of preparing traps. A simple snare trap can be created using an internal strand of the paracord, shaped into the form of a noose which is then propped up by sticks and anchored to a secure spot. With some time and careful choice of location, this could allow someone to capture and eat small animals.

Paracord for food

If you find yourself in a location which appears to have bird nests or edible fruit up in the trees, a paracord can be useful in various ways. It may be possible to use the cord attached to a makeshift hook to either knock a nest or fruit out of a tree, or drag it off its position down to the ground. A more risky proposition involves creating a makeshift rope ladder which can then be used to climb up to where the nest or fruit is waiting.

We also have a very helpful article about living in the wilderness and coping with everything this implies. So, if you’re interested in learning more, check out our article on surviving in the wilderness.

Keep in mind though that, while paracord is designed to carry heavy loads, it may still be possible for it to give way, especially in the case of inferior versions produced for the civilian market. So it is important to be very cautious before committing a particularly heavy load or the weight of a human being, solely to paracord. In certain cases, it may be better to braid several cords together, or make use of additional means of support. While it is important to find new food sources, it is also vital to avoid injuries, especially serious ones.

There are much more other using options

When it comes to the various uses of paracord, these examples are only the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other uses, which have a bearing on a person’s convenience, comfort, safety, security, nourishment and other factors, while out in the wild.

Given the fact that paracord is so light and is available in many convenient form factors, there is absolutely no reason someone who is interested in survival should have no paracord on his or her person. You could wear a paracord bracelet or use a paracord lanyard or wallet. You never know when that cord could get you out of a jam, or help save someone’s life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samuel Funt
Samuel Funt

Samuel is a prepper with over 15 years of experience. Samuel is excited to share his knowledge and the things he learns while travelling in British Columbia, Canada where he lives and around the world.

  • Bobby L. Keiser

    Another valuable tip.

    Paracords can carry 550 lbs but not all of it, especially if there is an additional force acting upon the weight. Not the stunning weight of it. Do not, at any time, try to attach it to a 500 weight and drop it anticipating that it should hold it.

  • Bobby L. Keiser

    Another valuable tip. It’s good for the heap of 550lbs. Not the stunning weight of it. Do not try to attach it to 500lbs of something and drop it anticipating that it should hold it. So utilizing it for climbing most likely isn’t the best course of action.

    • Samuel Funt

      The most resourceful and affordable paracord for most survival situations is the 550, but if you doubt its ability to hold your weight, you can try out the 750 or 850 which are costly.

  • Hi Bobby,

    Yes, paracords have their weight limit and the additional force from gravity affects its strengths. While most can hold the weight of an average person, it is advisable to use cords in a group for better capacity.

    Samuel

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