Several ways a paracord can be an outdoor enthusiast's best friend

Monte Garlick

Several ways a paracord can be an outdoor enthusiast's best friend

By Robert Williamson, Contributor | Posted - Feb. 24, 2021 at 7:01 p.m.

4 photos

SALT LAKE CITY — Could a paracord survival bracelet really save your life? The knowledge of how to use the paracord in a survival situation very well could.

Paracord can help take care of the four main needs in a survival situation: shelter, fire, water and food. If you are an outdoor enthusiast spending time in the backcountry, it's worth having a bracelet or just carrying a decent length of paracord and the knowledge of how to use it.

What is Paracord?

Paracord, as its name indicates, was originally manufactured for parachute suspension lines during World War II, according to Outdoor Life magazine, and is now a utility cord with many uses.

One use of the specialized nylon cord, as pointed out by the Ramblin' Jim outdoors blog, is that of a survival bracelet. Most survival bracelets are made from paracord known as the 550 Type III cord made of nylon, the blog says. The paracord recommended for survival needs is paracord with an outer nylon sheath — known as the mantle — which is made of 32 woven strands. It also has a core of seven to nine individual nylon filaments twisted together similar to a string; this part is called a kern. The inside filaments are not secured in place, meaning that each individual filament can be removed, the outdoors blog notes. Being able to remove each individual string or filament is what makes paracord such a useful survival item.

If you do not want to wear a survival bracelet, is it a good idea to carry a coil or chain-stitched section of paracord in a backpack or outdoor survival kit anyway. A loosely chain-stitched, 2-foot section of paracord will yield as much as 10 to 12 feet of usable cord when unraveled. The paracord can be useful around camp even if it is not used in a survival situation.

Also, consider carrying it in high visibility colors that will stand out to searchers in a rescue situation.


A suitable length of paracord can be used to lash three poles, such as small tree trunks or tree branches of similar diameter, into a tripod shape to create the frame for a wickiup-style shelter. The paracord provides a strong connection point for the frame and allows the shelter to hold up other branches, brush and thatching materials to create a very serviceable shelter.

Paracord can also be used to lash downed branches onto the trunks of two standing trees to form a frame for a basic lean-to shelter.


Carrying a good lighter when going into the backcountry is always a priority. Knowing how to build a fire with a bow and drill can add a measure of calmness if the unforeseen happens and you are lost in the woods or unable to get to your vehicle or camp before nightfall. Paracord in the 550 type has a good diameter and strength for stinging the bow.

The best bows are made from a tree branch 18 to 25 inches long, about a half-inch in diameter, and with a slight curve. Paracord can be strung from one end to the other. If you practice building and using a bow and drill while camping or just spending time outdoors, you can gain confidence in this type of primitive fire-making.


Paracord can be used to make a small tripod and as a suspension cord to hang a pot, plastic water bottle or container made from natural materials over a fire to boil water if it's from a questionable source. If you have a tarp and rain is in the forecast, the paracord can be used to loosely spread out and hang the tarp to catch rainwater.


Hopefully, a survival situation does not last long enough that food becomes an issue, as the human body can go about three weeks without food. If a long-term situation of survival is unavoidable, the inner filaments of the paracord can be removed and used to make traps and snares like the Piute deadfall and spring pole, and to lift pole snares. Using snares and dead-fall traps should only be used in survival situations or in accordance with existing state fish and game laws.

The inner filaments are small enough in diameter that they can be used as fishing line. In long-term survival situations, paracord filaments can also be used to make a bowstring for a simple bow and arrow set.

Other uses

Paracord can be used in first aid by loosely but firmly tying a branch or slab of bark to help stabilize a broken arm or leg. By lashing three or four poles or branches together, a rescue stretcher can be created to carry or drag someone who cannot walk on their own.

With enough cord, a person can also create a hammock for sleeping off the ground.

Braiding a survival bracelet

Monte Garlick of Caldwell, Idaho, and a veteran of Desert Storm, became familiar with paracord while serving 20 years as a U.S. Army infantryman. He loves braiding and creating with paracord.

"I've been doing this paracord stuff for about six years now," Garlick said. "I use the 550-size cord. In the military, we called it 550 cord because one strand is supposed to hold 550 pounds. I haven't tested it at that strength, but I have used it for a lot of different things that most people would use a rope for."

He not only braids survival bracelets but also makes other useful and novelty items from the cord. He sells these items and donates 50% of the profits to veteran groups.

Other individuals and companies make bracelets too. Some incorporate survival items into their creations. You can find them with signal whistles, small knives, fire starters, fishing line and hooks, snare wire, compasses, and LED lights.

If you're crafty and would like to take a shot at making your own survival bracelet, REI's blog also has instructions for making one style of paracord survival bracelet.



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