Paracord is an essential piece of emergency/survival gear. There are several characteristics and properties that qualify cordage as authentic “paracord”. All ‘rope’ is made of strands that are either braided or twisted together. Structurally, paracord uses the kernmantle technique similar to how rope for mountain climbing is made.
Its outmost layer is a braided nylon sheath of 32 woven nylon strands. It provides abrasion protection to the inner core, offers additional strength, flexibility and durability to the paracord.
The inner core or ‘kern’ typically consists of up to seven strands of twisted nylon that, along with the sheath, provide strength and additional elasticity. Each of those seven strands are three twisted nylon yarns. “Wilderness” or emergency-grade paracord will also incorporate a strand of monofilament fishing line (10# weight), waxed jute to be used as tinder and some even a strand of Aramid (kevlar) fiber.
Paracord is dynamic in that it stretches to a degree before breaking while supporting maximum loads. There are several strength categories of “paracord”, the most common and popular being ‘550’ – a number that designates its breaking strength of 550 pounds in a typical fall test. Generally the range of stretchability in paracord is between 30% – 40%, meaning that a ten-foot section under maximum weight load could stretch to about 13’ before breaking.
Nylon is the material of choice for official paracord because it is waterproof and resists mildew. It also offers elasticity and smoothness. However, it is prone to UV damage over time.
Paracord can be simply coiled and bundled for stowing in a pack, wrapped around knife/axe/saw handles and certain other gear or it can be woven/braided into “emergency/survival” bracelets or “grenades”.
Weaving paracord into an emergency bracelet is a popular, stylish method of always having cord handy for emergency situations. Each inch of wristband length equals a little over one foot of paracord for simple patterns, slightly more cord is used in creating more complex or wider braid patterns.
The cord can unbraided and be used like any other cordage. It can also be unwoven/deconstructed and then strands can be tied together to create longer segments for fishing line (some cord includes monofilament line as one of the internal strands); twisted into use for sewing; rigging snares, myriad other smaller cordage uses.
Some bracelets incorporate survival items such as fish hooks, line, clips, blades, and flint fire starters in a cavity within the weave. Others rely on a multi-purpose buckle for survival options.
Outdoor Edge’s Paraspark bracelet, for example, features a 1.3-inch knife blade within the buckle and a ferro-cerium rod imbedded into the clasp. A small signaling whistle is molded into the buckle and a dome compass is affixed to the band.Along with a knife, fire-starter kit and whistle, paracord is among the most basic, yet essential pieces of survival gear an outdoors person should carry – all part of the need to always Be Safe; Be Smart; Have Fun!