How to use paracord – 21 practical uses

550 paracord

What exactly is paracord? 

Also known as 550 cord, paracord is a light nylon rope that was first used during WW2 for the suspension lines of US parachutes.

It is a relatively small diameter (only 3-4mm thick) kernmantle rope, which means it consists of an interior core (Kern) that provides the strength that is protected by a woven sheath (Mantle). Think of it as a bunch of small ropes with a wrap over it.

There are various types of paracord (with four classifications, I-IV, according to military specifications), and you’ll likely see Type III the most, as it’s the most popular.

Type III indicates a minimum break strength of 550 pounds, hence the name “550 cord”.

Type III paracord, 550 cord, generally consists of 7-9 core yarns which can consist of 2-3 nylon fibers per core.

You’ll see some discrepancy in these general standards, as it boils down to manufacturer preference and whether or not it is MIL-Spec or commercially produced.

Paracord is known for having some quality attributes, which contribute to its popularity. It has a history of being durable, quick-drying, strong relative to small size, lightweight, and resistant to rotting or mildew. It really is all-weather cordage.

lanyard on comb with spool of paracord

What can paracord be used for? 

We’re glad you asked. Here are just a few examples of its many uses:

1. Shoe or boot laces

If you want your broken-in work boots or hiking boots to last a bit longer, or just want a stronger and more reliable pair of footwear, switch out your laces for paracord.

The plus to this is that you always have paracord on hand in case of an emergency.

2. Mending broken equipment/gear

That time you’re standing in a foreign airport and your backpack strap decides to break, use your paracord to piece it together enough to keep you moving on.

3. Emergency sling

For an emergency, the ability to tie something up, together, or off can make a big difference in your ability to stabilize until you can get additional help.

4. Zipper pull

edc organizer with paracord zipper pull
Adding paracord to your zipper pulls can make getting that stuffed bag ready to go much easier. 

5. Fishing net/line

Taking the core yarns out can give you plenty of strong string to make a makeshift fishing pole or fishing net. 

6. Emergency shelter support

Paracord and a tarp can mean the difference between being drenched or having a secured shelter to keep you out of the elements.

7. Snare

Use paracord to build a small game snare in a survival situation. Put it to work while you are busy doing something else. 

8. Weapon Sling

Paracord can be used to mend or supplement a broken sling on your trusty rifle. Carrying your weapon by hand is not something you want to do when you are trying to manage difficult terrain.

9. Lashing

Use paracord to lash cross poles at camp, erect a tripod for cooking, or to fabricate an impromptu hunting blind. 

10. Bow drill

A good piece of paracord enables you to make a bow for your friction fire. 

11. Tying up bear bags

Car camping or setting up camp in the backcountry, you still need to keep your food away from unwanted visitors. 

12. Handle wraps

prybar with paracord handle wrap
Add some comfort and personality to your favorite piece of gear with a paracord wrap.

13. Clothesline

Whether you’re doing a thru-hike or just a short weekend, time spent outdoors means that a quick rinse out of clothes can be necessary.

Throwing your clothes up on a paracord clothesline gives you the airflow for quick-drying clothes.

14. A multitude of braiding projects

victorinox swiss army knife with paracord lanyard and bead

15. Pet leash

If something happens to your pet’s leash while you are out and about, you can quickly make an impromptu leash to get you home.

16. Firewood sling

You can hastily secure a bundle of firewood to make it easier to transport. It works well for small to medium kindling as well.

17. Fish stringer

There’s nothing worse than catching that first fish and realizing you are without a stringer. If you have some paracord on hand your problem is solved. String him up and get back at it.

18. Wild game hanger

When it comes to processing larger wild game there are some advantages to being able to hoist all or part of the animal off the ground. While not ideal on very large animals, it can work in a pinch.

19. Backpack lashing

If you need to secure various items to the exterior of your backpack, paracord will do the trick. You should be able to tie up anything from that dirty mug from breakfast to your sleeping pad or wet gear.

20. Securing a spearhead

If you are in need of making a spear, you can use your paracord to secure your knife to a suitable handle. Ample paracord and a secure wrap can help maintain the integrity of the blade during use.

21. Gear identification

Use different colored paracord to organize tools and gear by the task. If you use organizers or pouches you can use orange paracord pulls or tags for fire tools, blue for water, red for medical, etc. It allows for quick and easy identification when digging through your kit.

If you want to kill some time grab some paracord and use a little “Googling” and you find more than enough paracord projects to give you hours of enjoyment. If you choose wisely, they may even be useful.

I prefer to buy paracord that is made in the USA and it can be had for a decent price. If I’m looking to buy a single color and I want to save money I will buy a 1,000-foot spool, which I can usually find for less than $50.

For smaller quantities, I just stick with the 100-foot bundles. There are a variety of colors and I’m sure you can find one that suits your needs. The 100-foot lengths will typically cost you about double what the 1,000-foot spools cost in terms of price per foot.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless in regards to its uses and functionality. Combine that with the fact that it can be carried by methods such as belts, bracelets, slings, lanyards, coils, and in briefcases, bug out bags, vehicles, etc. Why wouldn’t you keep some around? You never know when you just might need it.

What do you use paracord for and how do you store it while carrying?

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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