Paracord - A Quick Rundown
It's pretty safe to say that if you were to pack only ONE item to bring along with you into the great unknown, it's not a towel. Paracord is so versatile that if deployed properly, it could make the difference in whether or not you make it back home to your loved ones. Even if it's not for that one scenario you hope to never face, this universal tool is so much more than just a cool bracelet or new boot laces.
A Little Background:
So what makes paracord so special? On the surface, if you're comparing your standard nylon cord you would purchase at the hobby store to the 550 (we will go over this number shortly) Type III paracord, it's hard to justify the extra cost. However, if you've ever had to use either in a practical application, you know there is a significant difference.
The name paracord comes from it's military roots, where it was originally designed to line the parachutes of soldiers. Since then, it's use is only limited by the imagination. There are various types of cord available, but for the purposes of survival and practical use, we will mainly talk about the type III 550 paracord. This is because of it's "most bang" for your buck when it comes to strength compared to cost. Obviously you can really splurge and go for the type IV stuff, but expect to pay up to 100% more for an additional range of tensile strength you may never get to test out.
What's the 550 mean again? So that answer is simple. Remember, the usage and nomenclature is rooted in the military. The 550 simply means that it has a rated optimal tensile strength of 550 lbs. You may hear that number and think you could repel with this stuff. I would NOT recommend that. Some packages even warn to not use paracord for climbing. I won't go over physics here, but remember your 200 lb body is not going to equate to 200 lbs of tension uniformly across the entire length of paracord. Trust me. It's science.
SOOO, I bought this stuff... what next?
Like I mentioned earlier, you are really only limited by your imagination. Some people prefer to carry a bundle of paracord as part of their pack because most would agree, you can never have too much. It's light and compact, so why not. Nowadays however, there has been a recent trend in creating bracelets, belts and lanyards made of paracord. Doing this definitely will save on pack space considering one bracelet can often times unravel to have at least 30 feet of usable paracord.
Bracelets are cool, but it's more important to understand how paracord can help you as a tool as opposed to a fashion accessory. Before you decide that you NEED paracord for your pack, make sure you have a decent understanding of these very useful and widely used knots:
- Figure 8
- Clove Hitch
- Girth Knot
- Slip Knot
- Constrictor Knot
- Timber Knot
- Cobra Knot
Do you need to go back to the boy scouts in order to learn these? No, Youtube and google are your friend in this case. If you click the link, I've provided a quick video going over a few of these.
Understanding these knots and being able to deploy them under pressure are crucially important. Take the time to practice one or two of them to the point that you are no longer "loop, swoop, and pulling" your shoe laces. This might be extreme, but forget the adage of "can't tie a knot? tie a lot".
Now that you've mastered a few knots, the bragging rights will come with all of the cool crafts and practical tools you can make using paracord. Who knows, you may someday open your own Etsy shop. Below I've listed a few useful tools to make with paracord, and if for nothing else, can help pass the time.
So these are just a handful of the different crafts you can make using this lifesaving tool. Once you click one video, you'll find yourself going down a rabbit hole of all the other things you could make in your spare time. Just remember, be patient and take your time. Some of these things require quite a bit of dexterity and sometimes tiny fingers.
To get you started, you can grab you a few bundles of paracord here