Paracord is a wonderful tool to have at your disposal and has a great many uses. It can be used for a number of projects ranging from weapons and tools, to everyday home use, lashing and tying and even paracord belts and clothing! (Check out the list of 101 paracord projects – our favorites from across the web.)
In this article we are going to take a look at how to get started with paracord, specifically where to begin, how to buy the best paracord and some example projects to get you used to working with this great survival material.
What is Paracord?
‘Para’ cord is short for parachute cord and is used by airborne military units together with their parachutes. It is the preferred material for this job primarily because of its superior strength when compared to traditional rope. It is also lightweight and doesn’t stretch like rope does.
Paracord has been adopted by the survival and preparedness community over the last few years as the ‘go to’ material for shelter building and more recently, those ever clever preppers are coming up with some modern and ingenious uses.
What gives paracord its strength?
Paracord is made up of 2-parts:
- The inner strands
- The outer casing
On their own, these are fairly strong but cannot carry a heavy load. However, once combined, they form a very strong and unique piece of material that can hold up to 550lbs of weight.
This is why you may also see this cord referred to as “550 cord”, “550lb test parachute cord” and even “survival cord”.
They are all referring to the same thing, however they are not all made to the same standards.
What to look for?
When buying paracord there are a few tell tale signs to look out for which distinguish the good stuff from the cheap imported kind that you don’t want to trust in a SHTF situation.
- Inner stands – Most well made paracord has a minimum of 5 strands and more recently the even stronger cordage has 7 smaller inner strands.
- Price – At the time of writing you can buy a 100 ft coil of paracord for around $8 – $9. Any less than this and I start to question where the product is made and how good it will hold up.
- Made in – Where the product is made is also a sign of quality. I try to buy products made in USA when possible, however it isn’t always easy.
Where to buy Paracord
There are hundreds of places that now stock paracord and we have sampled a few ourselves for our own crazy projects.
Here are a few we can recommend (we are not affiliated with these guys in any way):
- Paracord Planet
- Bored Paracord
- The Paracord Store
- Paracord Galaxy
If you are unsure, drop the above an email and they will get back to you. Most of them also have Amazon stores so you can check out the user ratings and find a supplier to suit you.
Building a Paracord jig
Before you start your first project, there is a tool you can knock up in 30 minutes that will save you a ton of time and make your projects that much more enjoyable.
The tool I am talking about is a paracord jig and you can learn how to make one by watching the video and using the steps below:
5 Beginner Projects
Here are 5 paracord projects that are great for when you are just starting out. If you try something outside of your skill set, you may get discouraged.
Build up your skills and practice before you tackle some of the harder paracord projects.
1) Boot Laces
Arguably, the easiest project to tackle first, however, you will learn a lot about how to work with the cord. When you cut it the outer casing has a tendency to ‘shrink’ away from the end, or the inner strands may start to come away.
You will learn how to cut and reseal the cord, which is the most important lesson.
2) Tarp Ridge and Guy Lines
Shelter is an important part of survival in fact it is 2nd in the survival rule of 3’s.
- 3 minutes without oxygen
- 3 hours without shelter
- 3 days without water
- 3 weeks without food
Without shelter, within 3 hours you could succumb to extreme heat or cold. Knowing how to make shelter using a simple tarp and paracord setup can literally save your life.
3) Survival Bracelet
A survival bracelet is the one project we all look forward to making, be it for a survival use or a fashion item for the kids, knowing how to make one and wearing one wherever you go is a great idea and a smart addition to your EDC (Every Day carry).
There are many tutorials on making a survival paracord bracelet and here is one of our favorites:
The Mad Max Survival bracelet
4) Paracord Donut
The paracord donut is a way of storing your paracord so that it fits neatly into your bug out bag without getting tangled and snagged on other items you have.
They are easy to make if not a little challenging to start, which is why this is a great project for paracord beginners.
5) Paracord fast rope
A fast rope or quick rope is also a great way to carry your paracord in your pack. It’s neat and can stow easily and is great for quick and easy access to your cord in a survival situation.
Making a fast rope takes practice, however they are simple to make as this video demonstrates:
Looking for more paracord projects and ideas?
We recently published an article that will give you 101 paracord projects to get your teeth into, but be careful, once you get the bug there is no stopping you!
Let us know what your next paracord project will be in the comments below.
Billy is an Outdoor and Survival enthusiast, who loves camping and hiking. You can follow along as he earns his stripes over at PrepperZine.
Billy’s Fun Facts: – Lives in the southeast, Georgia to be specific. Drives a beat up Ford F150. Enjoys the shooting range way too much. Catch up with Billy on the PrepperZine Facebook page.