by Mountain House February 01, 2021

10 Reasons Why You Should Own a Paracord Bracelet for Outdoor Survival

Ever see one of those hardcore backwoods folks or prepper fanatics sporting a woven cobra bracelet? Chances are, it’s not simply a fashion choice: it’s a don’t-leave-home-without-it survival tool called a paracord bracelet. Whether the task calls for finesse or heavy-duty gruntwork, they come in mighty handy.

And speaking of handy, there’s no more convenient way to lug around a useful length of 550 cord than as a bracelet. Slip it on your wrist for your next camping trip, and you’ll quickly forget it’s there—until you actually need it for something, in which case you’ll be glad you included this unassuming-looking accessory in your backcountry outfit survival gear. So, want to dive in and learn more? Here we go!

What Is A Paracord Bracelet?

Red paracord bracelet on table.

Image by Biea from Pixabay

Also known as “survival bracelets,” “550 cord bracelets'' or “parachute cord bracelets,” paracord bracelets consist of nylon woven cords twisted together to handle heavy loads. Small but mighty, they’re a multi-tool of choice by campers, climbers, hikers, survivalists, military soldiers and outdoor enthusiasts due to their extreme handiness and versatility in emergency situations. We’ll talk much more about their purpose and why they’re so popular throughout the rest of this article, but know that their survival uses are just about endless.

Comparing Paracord Types

Your paracord survival bracelet could conceivably be made of several different kinds of paracord. Learning the basics of telling apart this cordage isn’t getting too down in the weeds: it’s essential for making sure you’ve got paracord that’ll reliably serve your needs, whether it’s just as a once-in-a-blue-moon survival backup tool or a regular part of your prepping practice or bushcraft.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the main kinds and categories of paracord and some of their important attributes:

  • Type I Paracord: Boasts a minimum breaking strength of 95 pounds and a single core yarn. Comparatively inexpensive.
  • Type II Paracord: Uncommon. Minimum breaking strength of 400 pounds, and four to seven yarns within.
  • Type III Paracord: The go-to paracord for most outdoor users and survivalists, for good reason: strong, versatile, and affordable. Minimum breaking strength of 550 pounds—the derivation of the common shorthand name of “550 paracord.” Seven to nine core yarns.
  • Type IV Paracord: Exceptionally strong cordage, with a minimum breaking strength of 750 pounds and 11 core yarns. Significantly pricier than 550 paracord, and for the most part not necessary for the average outdoor recreationist or prepper.

“Military-spec” vs “Commercial-spec” 550 Paracord

It’s also worth talking briefly about “military-spec” vs “commercial-spec” 550 paracord.

Authentic military-spec paracord should be made entirely of nylon, with seven three-ply yarns. 

Commercial-spec paracord may have the same composition, but they also may be single- or double-ply, and the inner strands may be polyester instead of nylon. Depending on your needs, commercial-spec paracord may be perfectly acceptable. Keep in mind, however, that polyester threads won’t bond with nylon, so commercial-spec paracord that incorporates both those plastic materials has less all-around utility than a 100% nylon (or, less desirably, a 100% polyester) length of cord.

What’s in Paracord?

Paracord consists of an outer sheath that contains several inner yarns, each composed in turn of up to three strands. Nylon is the traditional material employed in paracord, but as we’ve already mentioned polyester is also used.

Does Paracord Stretch?

High-quality paracord, such as military-spec cordage, should be able to stretch by a minimum of 30 percent. Keep in mind that a strand of paracord under a sustained load will eventually be subject to “creep,” or permanent stretching; this can be combated by doubling or tripling up the cordage.

How Long Is A Paracord Bracelet?

You can never really have too much paracord, but given your ability to fashion a longer piece of rope or string by knotting or melt-fusing individual strands the compact braided survival bracelet is a convenient, space-efficient way to have a useful amount at the ready. Such a bracelet generally includes 20 or more feet of paracord.

Why Do Soldiers Use Paracord Bracelets?

Paracord gets its name from “parachute cord,” which suggests its widespread historical use (particularly during the Second World War) by the military as suspension lines for parachutes. But soldiers quickly found many different ways to use this versatile cordage, including for boot laces, rigging items to pack exteriors, erecting emergency shelters, and securing loads. Paracord remains popular in the military for the same reasons it’s beloved by survivalists and outdoorspeople: the possibilities of using it for practical and emergency purposes out in the field are just about endless.

Can I Shower With My Paracord Bracelet?

You can indeed shower with your paracord bracelet. Paracord will shrink a little the first time it gets wet, and then stabilizes. Before working with paracord, including braiding it into a bracelet, it’s not a bad idea to “pre-shrink” it by soaking it briefly in hot water and then allowing it to thoroughly dry.

What Are Paracord Bracelets Used For?

Orange paracord bracelet on wrist.

Image by M W from Pixabay

It wouldn’t be difficult to rack up a list of dozens of paracord uses, but let’s take a look at just 10 that really showcase how utilitarian and versatile a survival bracelet can be for any outdoors person or prepper. Each of the following will be explained in subsequent sections, but here’s the quick list:

  1. Wilderness first aid
  2. Catch a fish
  3. Make a survival snare
  4. Build a survival shelter
  5. Make repairs
  6. Raise a bear bag
  7. Fashion a lanyard
  8. Start a fire
  9. Suspension lines & tripwires
  10. Boating Uses

1. Wilderness First Aid

Among the chief survival bracelet uses is as first-aid material. For instance, you can use paracord to fashion a sling in order to stabilize an injured shoulder, arm, or collarbone, or to apply a splint to a fractured, dislocated, or otherwise banged-up limb. If you need to transport a wounded or sick person, meanwhile, you can also use paracord to create a readymade stretcher by stringing it in a web pattern between a pair of straight and sturdy branches. Here’s a handy list of typical uses:

Paracord Uses for First Aid

  • Tourniquet:In last-resort situations, you can use paracord as an emergency tourniquet by knotting it above a wound and tightening it until bleeding stops.
  • Splint:Stabilize an injured limb or joint using soft padding and a rigid object such as a length of pole or a stout branch, all secured with paracord.
  • Sling:You can also readily create a makeshift sling by looping paracord around the back of the neck and tying it to the wrist and elbow—just make sure to use some padding between the cord and the injured person’s neck to prevent chafing.
  • Stretcher:Transport an injured person by tying paracord lengths between two poles, or, if those aren’t available, by creating a stretcher entirely made of cord using a webbing structure.

2. Catch a Fish

Unsheath the paracord’s inner kerf strands, and you’ve got a go-to fishing line: all you need is a hook, some suitable bait, and no small amount of patience.

Conversely, you could also fashion agillnet to snare a finned meal. Use two ropes of paracord for the top and bottom lines—the floatline and the leadline, respectively—and string some of the inner yarn between to form a mesh. The gaps need to be large enough for a fish’s head to enter, but too narrow for the body to pass through. You can use chunks of wood as floats and stones as anchors for the leadline; more paracord comes in handy for securing these to the gillnet. Keep in mind we’re talking about a survival situation here: obviously you otherwise should be abiding by any and all angling regulations.

3. Make a Survival Snare

The same applies here: by no means are we advocating going off and snaring woodland creatures willy-nilly. If you’re staring down a SHTF type of situation, however, and you’ve run out ofMountain House meals, you might try your hand at building a survival snare for squirrels, rabbits, and other small quarry using paracord’s inner yarn.

4. Build a Survival Shelter

Among the many other things to do with paracord? Put a roof over your head in a survival situation. Whether you’re rigging a mainline for a tarp or lashing together branches or boughs to make a lean-to, the cord—wielded with a firm knowledge of basic knots, of course—helps you quickly construct an emergency shelter if the weather turns grim or if you need a safe, secure spot to tend to an injured member of your party.

5. Make Repairs

The inner yarn of a piece of paracord makes the perfect in-a-pinch thread for sewing up rips in garments, backpacks, and other equipment.

6. Raise a Bear Bag

If you’re camping in bear country—and given the American black bear’s re-expanding range, that applies to much of North America—it’s vital that you secure your foodstuffs, trash, and toiletries from the shaggy bruins. That means either packing along a bear-proof canister (required in more and more national parks, particularly those with grizzlies, and essential if you’re camping above timberline or anywhere else suitably tall trees are few and far between) or using that paracord bracelet of yours to hoist a bear bag off the ground.

This can actually be more complicated than it sounds: you need to string the bag such that it’s at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet or more away from the closest tree trunk or bough. That means finding a tall-enough tree with a long-enough branch, or two trees close enough together to string a line between but clear of intervening branches. And make sure you hang the bag 100 feet or more from your campsite, just in case its odors attract a snuffling (and ultimately frustrated) bear.

7. Fashion a Lanyard

Perhaps you’re traversing a particularly confusing stretch of country, or you’re lost and attempting to scout your surroundings along exact bearings so you’re able to return to your original location if need be. If you want your compass close at hand for such tricky navigation work, use a length of paracord to tie it around your neck for easy access.

8. Start a Fire

You can use paracord in a few different ways to get an emergency fire going. Separate out the inner strands and use these as tinder, for example. Some paracord companies actually include specially flammable strands as part of the core.

Alternatively, you can use paracord to work a bow-drill-style fire starter (just be patient).

9. Suspension Lines & Tripwires

Not just for parachutes—you can use paracord for suspension lines in any number of bushcraft contexts. If you feel the need to secure your camp from intruders (perhaps in one of those hypothetical big-time SHTF scenarios) you can also rig up some perimeter tripwire by tying paracord at shin-height between trees. You could even incorporate some bells, metal utensils, or other noisemaking items to the tripwire to set up a rough-and-ready alarm system.

10. Boating Uses

Paracord’s a handy rope to have in your watercraft, and not just to create some fishing line in a pinch! You can also use it for temporary mooring, to tow an object, or to throw a floundering person a literal lifeline.

Quick Tip: How to Untie Paracord Bracelets

More than a few survival-bracelet wearers have been a little flummoxed on the best way to actually unbraid one. Some bracelets have a quick-release knot, while others are a bit more complicated: you may need to use a knife blade, a pair of pliers or scissors, or some other tool to wedge out the melted rope ends.

Stay At Home Idea: DIY Paracord Projects

The myriad uses of paracord extend to DIY craft projects that join together fun and practicality. You can, for example, test your paracord braiding skills to make your own survival bracelet, lanyard, or belt.

Another at-home paracord project with real value is fashioning a self-defense keychain that incorporates a so-called “monkey fist.” Also colorfully known as a “Celtic slammer,” this involves a steel ball, round stone, or other heavy object wrapped tightly in a paracord ball and wielded with a sufficient length of cord to protect oneself from an attacker.

A Little Paracord Bracelet History

Red & blue paracord bracelet.

Image by Paracordstyle from Pixabay

We already talked about the origins of paracord as a military-grade parachute cord during World War II—and the many secondary uses soldiers found for the cordage, including snug, rugged boot laces.

But paracord’s save-the-day uses haven’t only been restricted to Planet Earth itself. In 1997, astronauts upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope discovered breaches in the unit’s protective insulation. Forced to improvise with some input from Mission Control, they patched the holes using paracord along with wire, plastic ties, and other tools on hand. Not bad!

Paracord: A Camper's Best Friend

Pink & purple paracord bracelet.

Image by Paracordstyle from Pixabay

As we alluded to at the start of this piece, we’ve only sketched out a few of the many possible survival bracelet uses. Keep an eye out for a future blog post going into more detail on paracord and its multiple functions out in the woods! For now, check out some great emergency survival foods to stock up on.

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