What is Paracord?
Paracord is a term thrown around by preppers, outdoors persons, and survivalists who know how useful it is. But for the new prepper, what is this paracord?
Paracord is a lightweight nylon rope originally used for the suspension lines of US parachutes in WWII. When they landed, they would often cut off this line to use for other purposes. Since then, it has found a multitude of uses.
When preppers speak of paracord, they are generally referring to 550 paracord (also called 550 cord, or type III paracord) which means it has a strength of 550 lbs.
There are other types of paracord, some of which are heavier and stronger, like type IV 750 paracord (750 lbs strength), and several which are lighter. You can find 425 paracord (425 lbs strength), 275 paracord (275 lbs strength), and type I paracord (95 lbs strength). These lighter, lower strength paracords are often used in crafting and in hobbies due to their smaller diameter.
Commercial Grade vs. Military Grade (MilSpec C-5040H)
550 Paracord is also often referred to as being commercial grade or meeting military specs. To check to see if your cord meets the military specs, (MilSpec C-5040H), cut the cord and pull back the outer protective sheath and check the inner strands. They must meet all 4 of these requirements:
- Must have 7, 8, or 9 inner strands
- Each of the 7, 8, or 9 inner strands must be made up of exactly 3 inside strands
- All of the inner and inside strands must be twisted
- Manufacturer must include a twisted COLORED inside strand as the Manufacturer’s Identification Marker Strand
I checked one of my 550 paracords that mas labeled as “Military Grade” and this is what I found:
- Must have 7, 8, or 9 inner strands. YES, mine does have 7 inner strands.
- Each of the 7, 8, or 9 inner strands must be made up of exactly 3 inside strands. NO, mine has only 2 strands
- All of the inner and inside strands must be twisted. YES, each of mine has all the strands twisted.
- Manufacturer must include a twisted COLORED inside strand as the Manufacturer’s Identification Marker Strand. YES, mine does have two colored twisted strand that appear to be manufacturer ID marker strands. (This is often done as a cheap trick to make it appear to be the stronger MilSec Paracord)
Because it does not meet ALL 4 requirements, this is commercial 550 paracord and clearly NOT MilSpec military grade 550 paracord. This makes quite a bit of difference in strength, but it is also much less expensive than true MilSpec 550 cord. This is common in most of the commercial type II, 550 paracord, but because this is still a very strong cord, I am willing to accept the trade-off.
There are also some new variations available in 550 paracord for the preppers and survivalists. Some have inner strands of fishing line, waxed jute (to use as a fire starter), and a fine multi-purpose wire (used for animal snares, etc.).
Uses of 550 Paracord
Obviously, paracord can be used in any situation where regular rope can be used, but it is far more versatile. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Tie downs on a tent
- Securing a tarp for a shelter
- Make a sling for your injured arm
- Emergency tourniquet
- Use as a makeshift belt
- Make an EDC keychain
- Replace drawstring in sweat pants or jacket
- Use as shoelaces
- Tying things down in truck bed
- Used to tie things together
- Use as a clothesline
- Hanging food in tree away from pedators
- Use for a pet leash
- Use to tie up a person (intruders,etc.)
- Make a trip wire
- Make a Monkey Fist knot for self defense
- Make a rock sling
- Use a a lanyard to hold items (knife, keys, tools, etc.)
- Use in a bow drill to make a fire
- Make into a belt
- Make a bracelet
- Make a necklace
- Hang a cooking pot over a fire
- Make a hammock
- Make a swing
- Cleaning out inside of a dirty hose or water line (tie a knot in middle and pull back and forth)
- Use to pull loads (sled, wagon, logs, etc.)
- Hanging a lantern
- Replacement pull cord for small engines (lawn mower, chainsaw, etc.)
- Tying items to your backpack
- Use to lash poles together (make improvised stretcher, pole structures, etc.)
- Use to wrap a handle on tools (knives, hatchets, flashlights, cups, etc.)
- Use to lower thing down from heights
- Use as a zipper pull
- Use to make a ladder
- Make show shoes
- Mooring line for boats
- Weave multiple cords together to make a tow rope
- Use for water rescue
- Make a plant hanger
- Make a bottle holder
- Make an Altoids EDC Survival tin holder
- Use to make traps
- Use to replace a broken drawer handle
- Use to tie back curtains
- Used to make a bullwhip
Using inner threads of Paracord:
- Use as suture material
- Use as sewing thread
- Uses as fishing line
- Use as dental floss
- Make an animal snare
- Make a fishing net
This will give you a few ideas on how important paracord can be to you as a prepper in both daily use and in the event of some emergency or disaster. Make sure to have plenty around, so it’s there when you need it! Get it from Amazon
Let me know if you have found other unique uses for paracord. Add pictures to share your ideas in the comment section below!