Ever see one of those hardcore backwoods folks or prepper fanatics sporting a woven 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. The uses for paracord (i.e., parachute cord)—still a military staple—are just about endless. The most common form, 550 cord, has a strength rating of 550 pounds, and multiple strands of it twisted together can handle much greater loads. You can also unravel the component nylon strands (seven to nine of them) in order to access the finer yarn—also called “guts” or kerf—within, which is just as useful. Whether the task calls for finesse or heavy-duty gruntwork, paracord comes 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. It wouldn’t be difficult to rack up a list of dozens of paracord uses, but let’s take a look at just a few to really showcase how utilitarian and versatile a survival bracelet can be for any outdoorsperson or prepper.
Among the chief survival bracelet uses is as first-aid material. For instance, you can use paracord to make 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.
Unsheath the paracord’s inner kerf strands, and you’ve got go-to fishing line: All you need is a hook, some suitable bait, and no small amount of patience. Conversely, you could also fashion a gillnet 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 a survival situation here: Obviously you otherwise should be abiding by any and all angling regulations.
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 of Mountain House meals, you might try your hand at building a survival snare for squirrels, rabbits, and other small quarry using paracord’s inner yarn.
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.
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.
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 six 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.
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.
More than a few survival-bracelet wearer has 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.