If you’ve ever had the fortune to watch any survival show — like Man vs. Wild or Survivorman — or you’ve delved deep into a book about survival, you have likely heard of paracord. This material, a woven nylon rope of sorts, is favored by outdoorsmen around the world for its nigh-unmatched versatility and durability. And while it’s an indispensable tool in the wilderness, it can also be remarkably useful in normal day-to-day life.
In fact, it could be said that paracord is limited in its usefulness solely by your own imagination. And since its such a cheap material to purchase in its raw form, we’re strong supporters in the idea that everyone should keep a bundle in their homes, even if only for emergency use in a bug-out bag. And to support that idea, we’ve put together the following guide covering the best everyday uses for paracord.
What Is Paracord?
From Parachutes To Bushcraft & More
Although it certainly doesn’t get the credit it deserves, nylon definitely ranks amongst the greatest inventions of the 20th century. First created back in 1953 by a man named Wallace Hume Carothers for long-standing material brand DuPont, nylon can be found in everything from clothing to toothbrushes, to cookware, and more. It’s renowned for its strength; pliability; resistances to water, dirt, dust, mud, and the list just keeps going. It’s so strong and durable, in fact, that the military chose it as the primary material in crafting parachutes — both for the canopy of the devices themselves, as well as the cords that attach them to the person using them.
Perhaps obviously, that’s where paracord was first utilized and it remains intrinsically tied to it to this day — both in name and in purpose. However, paracord itself has also taken on a life of its own, often utilized as a go-to survival tool for bushcrafting outdoorsmen but also integrated into a wealth of production gear — including everyday carry tools, backpacks, etc. You can also get it on the cheap as raw material to be used however you see fit. And, as you’ll see, it is as versatile in normal day-to-day situations as it is out in the wilderness.
For reference: the most common and popular form of paracord is Type III or 550 paracord. The “550” in the name refers to its tensile strength — meaning it can support up to 550 pounds of pressure before it reaches its breaking point. Other types follow the same naming conventions, so you can choose whichever suits you best or just roll with the clear industry standard.
Ad-Hock Clothing Support
Obviously, the best tool for holding up a pair of pants is a belt. That is, after all, specifically what they were designed for. However, if for some reason you don’t have one and you’re in need of a quick and easy solution, paracord can serve as a temporary fill-in. Its high tensile strength ensures that it won’t break, even if you only use a single strand. And since it’s so resilient, you can repurpose it for other uses once you’re finished. Of course, if you like the idea of an actual belt made from paracord, there are a number of brands out there that craft woven paracord belts, as well.
As mentioned, one of paracord’s greatest strengths is its, well, strength. That being the case, it makes for an excellent binder or tie-down — like if you’re transporting, say, a bit of lumber in the back of your truck and you don’t have any proper purpose-built tie-downs for the occasion. You can also use paracord to secure a tarp over your firewood stores, bind a bundle of gear for storage, and more. You could even use it to hold together carpentry work while the glue dries.
In this day and age, most folks are content to dry their clothes in a dryer and take their more delicate garments to the dry cleaner. That’s not always possible or necessary, however. If you’ve got something that needs to be hang-dried, but you don’t have the means to manage that, you can always string up a bit of paracord over an available expanse and use it like a clothesline. Since the tensile strength of 550 paracord is so high, you could probably hang your entire wardrobe on a single strand without incident.
General Medical Use
One of the big reasons paracord is so popular with survivalists is that it can actually serve a number of handy medical functions — specifically when it comes to bracing and binding wounds or, in a worst-case scenario, as a last-resort tourniquet. Perhaps obviously, this translates directly to non-wilderness first-aid, as well. There might be tools better suited to its purposes — actual slings or bandages — but, in a pinch, paracord is one of the best substitutes around.
Take a look around the knife world, especially when it comes to fixed blades, and you’ll see paracord utilized in a few different ways. One of the most beneficial, however, can be found when wrapped around a knife handle. The nature of paracord, its pliability and naturally grippy attributes, make it exceptional for adding grip. And while you can find production knives with pre-wrapped paracord handles, you can also use your own paracord in a similar fashion. Simply weave the paracord around any kind of handle and it will help increase the grip and give you better torque. This is exceptionally useful when applied to hand tools that require twisting or wrenching as a part of their operation.
An exceedingly underrated hobby and skill, knot-tying can be remarkably useful when properly applied. In fact, it can even work in conjunction with many of the other paracord uses on this list — including but not limited to putting up a clothesline, using paracord as a tie-down, weaving paracord onto a knife handle, and more. It’s also especially useful in nautical applications — ranging from tying a boat to a dock to securing sail lines — as well as in the outdoors — like securing your tent, setting up animal traps, and more.
One of the most common applications for paracord, at least in regards to purchasable gear, is to repurpose it into lanyards and/or zipper pulls. And while there’s plenty of gear that comes with paracord already attached — like jackets, backpacks, and even EDC knives — you can also use your own and attach it to anything that is lacking a zipper pull or lanyard. It’s worth noting (as with many of these applications), if you’re going to be attaching paracord as a lanyard, it’s a good idea to burn the ends to keep them from fraying — adding a bit more longevity to the application.
As mentioned, 550 paracord is named for its high tensile strength of 550 pounds. And that means, unless you’re actively trying, it’s pretty tough to break. That also means paracord is a good deal stronger than most other similar strands of fabric, like shoelaces. As such, and especially for outdoor-focused footwear, it makes an exceptional shoelace alternative. And since its available in so many different colors and patterns, you can easily customize it to your specific footwear and/or personal style. If you’re really intrepid and you have a sturdy piece of tire rubber (or similar material), you can also use paracord to construct a complete pair of sandals.
It should be made abundantly clear: you should absolutely not use paracord as a vehicle tow. Even reinforced and doubled over, it’s not made for this purpose and the results could potentially be disastrous. That being said, smaller-scale applications — like dragging a small wagon or sled — is a perfectly manageable use for paracord in a pinch. It’s probably not something you want to rely on in the long run, but if you need to, say, go grab some firewood from your stores and haul it back inside your cabin over the snow, it’s not a terrible idea to tie some paracord to a sled and ease your burden by dragging it behind you, rather than carrying it all in your arms.
Although there are a few common threads throughout this guide, it’s worth noting that this is hardly an exhaustive list of all the possibilities of paracord. In fact, it’s such a versatile material that its potential is limited more by your own imagination than any other factor. The above applications are some of the most common and relatable, but there are so many other possible uses that don’t quite fit into the above categories. But discovering what they are is going to depend on you and your own experimentation and creativity.
The 12 Best Paracord Knives
As mentioned above, handle wraps are one of the more common applications for paracord. And while you can do it yourself, there are also some bladed tools that already come equipped with the material. You’ll find the cream of the crop on our list of the best paracord knives.