10 Survival Uses For Paracord

It’s difficult to name a survival item more useful than paracord. You could argue that a knife or multi-tool is more important in emergency situations, but this article may change your mind. Paracord, or parachute cord, is often carried in the form of survival bracelets. This practical accessory is popular with all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts and survivalists for its many practical uses. 

Some people always remember to bring their best paracord bracelet on every hiking trip and camping expedition, while for others it’s an everyday carry (EDC) item. You never know when an emergency situation may take place, so it’s always best to be prepared. Out in the backcountry, the chances of you needing your paracord are increased, so we’re going to share 10 survival uses for this invaluable tool. 

 

A hiker in the mountains with an orange backpack.

Most people include paracord in their emergency bug out bag.

 

What is paracord? 

Paracord is a type of thin rope made from nylon. Many small strands of this lightweight material are inter-braided to create an incredibly strong length of rope. Paracord is special because of it’s incredible strength-to-weight ratio; there’s no other material which could carry as much weight while being light and convenient enough to carry everywhere. 

The most common type of paracord is Type III, which has a breaking strength of 550 pounds. 550 paracord was first used as suspension lines by paratroopers in World War II but uses for this incredible material have extended far beyond in the modern-day. Paracord was recently used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, a testament to the quality of this material. 

Parachute cord is still used by the military and many other organizations to this day, as well as being popular with civilians. Not everyone needs paracord for its survival potential, however, as many appreciate the simple utility of this material. There are plenty of everyday paracord uses that show that everyone can benefit from a paracord bracelet. 

 

Everyday paracord uses

There are plenty of reasons that people carry paracord that isn’t centered on survival. Many people carry it as a lanyard or keychain rather than in their bug out bag, which is reserved for life-threatening situations. For example, a paracord bracelet is the ideal backup dog leash. You can carry it without any extra weight but it’s strong enough to work as a leash should you need it. Paracord can also come in handy to sting up your hammock or make a DIY zipper pull. 

These are some of the most obvious uses for paracord, but you can get seriously creative. If you cut a short length of paracord and remove the inner strands, you can use them just like dental floss. While this isn’t technically a survival situation, being able to floss wherever you are could save you a dental emergency! The uses of paracord are practically endless, and some of them could really save your life. 

How to use paracord in survival situations

In a true survival situation, dental floss will be the last thing on your mind. Luckily, if you have your paracord bracelet then you’re much better equipped to handle anything. Having such strong cordage easily accessible out in the wilderness is a serious advantage, one only made possible by paracord’s lightweight nylon fibers. One of the most straightforward uses for paracord in emergencies is as a rescue line. 550 paracord can take the weight of most people, so swamps and quicksand are much easier to overcome. Now we’re going to explain 10 survival uses for paracords which could one day come in very useful.  

 

Paracord.

Paracord can be used for everything from climbing to making dog leashes.

 

1. Tourniquet

One of the most dangerous injuries, when it occurs far away from a hospital, is uncontrollable bleeding. If you suffer a serious cut or contusion out in the backcountry, or even worse, lose a limb, there won’t be enough time to see medical attention. In a situation where rapid blood loss is life-threatening, your priority has to be the preservation of the supply. Arterial injuries, or any bleeding that just won’t stop, needs to have a tourniquet applied as fast as possible. 

Time is of the essence when you or another person is losing blood, so it’s vital to act fast in this situation. You need to cut off the blood flow to the injured area as soon as possible, to limit the amount of blood volume that could be lost. If you carry a well-equipped first aid kit, you might have a rapid application tourniquet ready to use. However, paracord can be used in an emergency as a tourniquet, and we’re going to explain exactly how. 

Firstly, you need to braid your paracord so that it’s at least an inch in width, as any thinner cord could cut into the skin and cause further damage. In an emergency situation with uncontrollable bleeding, time is of the essence, so braiding your paracord needs to be done fast. When you’ve created a rope from ½ to 1 inch in thickness, you’re ready to stop the bleeding. 

Wrap your braided paracord one time around your injured limb, just above the wounded area. Tie the rope in a secure knot as tight as you can around your body. Then, take a medium-sized stick from anywhere around you and insert it into your tourniquet through the knot. Now, twist the stick around so that the paracord becomes tighter around it, constricting the blood flow to your injury. Keep tightening your tourniquet until the bleeding stops, and then secure the stick with another length of cord so that it can’t unwind. 

Making a paracord tourniquet is an emergency measure that could truly save your life out in the wild. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation to need this technique, you’ll need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Applying a tourniquet will help you to survive, but your wound still needs attention as soon as possible. The limb below your tourniquet shouldn’t have its blood supply cut off for longer than necessary, as this can cause its own problems. As soon as you’ve managed to stop bleeding, elevate your injury, cover it to reduce the chances of infection, and make your way to the hospital with haste. 

 

2. Splint

While an open wound is the most obviously life-threatening injury that might need your attention in the wild, broken bones can also derail your trip. Bone, muscle, and joint injuries aren’t as dangerous as blood loss, but they can still cause severe pain and lead to other problems. If you’re on a hiking or camping trip and suffer an injury that immobilizes you, a rescue could be necessary. However, you may have to wait sometime for help to arrive, so using paracord to treat your own injuries could preserve your health until then. 

Damage to a bone, joint, or muscle can increase your chances of catching hypothermia or suffering exhaustion and dehydration. You can use your handy paracord survival bracelet to lessen your injuries until you reach medical attention, by creating a DIY splint. Immobilizing your injury could be just enough to stave away the pain so that you can make it back to civilization, or wait for rescuers to arrive. 

Making a splint from paracord is quite straightforward, you just need a soft material to create some cushioning. Socks, a piece of clothing, or a blanket might be required depending on the size and location of the injury. Use a hard object such as a walking stick to form a solid splint, and lay it next to your limb. Before continuing to the next step, you might also want to braid your paracord into a thicker rope for added splint strength. 

Using your cushioning material to ensure the splint is comfortable, wrap the paracord around your limb. Tie down your splint securely, but not tight enough to restrict blood flow. The aim of your splint is to add support and stability and reduce pain by limiting movement. If you need to splint an injured joint, tie up the paracord above and below the joint. Use the splint to lock your joint in a straight line and prevent any bending or flexing. 

3. Sling

Depending on the location of your in-the-wild injury, you might need to use a sling to stabilize movement. You’ll usually need either a splint or a sling to help keep your limb still, but some

injuries such as a broken arm may need the attention of both. Many arm and shoulder injuries will benefit from a sling to help reduce pain and further damage. This happens by elevating the injured limb and preventing more movement which could make it worse. 

As with a splint, you’ll need a straight rigid stick to provide stability, as well as some spare clothes or material for cushioning. Tie a slip knot in your paracord and tighten it around the wrist of your injured arm. This length of paracord should also wrap around your splint and cushioning material. Then, pass the paracord up around your neck and then secure it at your elbow. Add another piece of padding to prevent the cord from rubbing the back of your neck. This DIY paracord sling should hold your arm close to your body, so you can keep it safe until you reach medical attention. 

 

4. Emergency Shelter

Outside of life-threatening injuries, there are many other ways a paracord survival bracelet comes in handy in survival situations. If you find yourself caught out in a rainstorm, or stranded far from home, you may need an emergency shelter. Luckily, a makeshift tent can be easily made as long as you have a few simple supplies on hand. As well as a length of paracord, all you need is a waterproof tarp to build a DIY survival shelter

Firstly you’ll need to create a paracord ridgeline to hang your tarp over. This simple setup is the same as a clothesline and can keep you dry in emergency situations. Getting caught in the rain is a minor inconvenience in the city, but having dry shelter can save your life in the wild. If you can’t find two suitable trees to tie up the ridgeline, a pair of hiking poles work just as well. Simply use two secure knots to suspend your length of paracord above the ground. Lay your tarp over the ridgeline, and use some rocks to add tension and create a tent structure. 

 

A tent during sunset.

If you get caught out in bad weather, a tarp and some paracord will help keep you dry.

 

5. Bow Drill Fire Starter

If you forget your flint or traditional fire starter, paracord can be used to start a campfire. This is another life-saving use for paracord bracelets, as without a way to create a flame you may not be able to cook or keep warm. Using a bow drill requires a little practice, as it’s by no means the easiest way to start a fire in the wild. However, if you have no other supplies, you should still be able to make this DIY firestarter. You can even use your boot laces if you don’t have any paracord. 

To create a bow drill, you’ll first need an appropriate bow. This should be a stick with a medium bend in it, strong enough to take a little pressure. Securely tie your paracord around one end of the stick, and then use an adjustable knot to tie on to the other end. A second stick (called a spindle) can be twisted into this cord like a tourniquet. Then, one end of the spindle sticks into a dry fireboard, while the other end needs to sit in a second piece of hardwood in your palm. Rapidly pull the bow backward and forwards to create friction in the fireboard, until you see smoke and feel heat. Then, add your tinder and watch the flames grow. 

Using a bow drill to light a fire in the wild is very difficult, but it could be your only option in a survival situation. If you use this method, just be careful of allowing the paracord to slip. Remember that this nylon rope is technically made from plastics, so should it touch the hot part of your bow drill, the cordage could melt. Damaged paracord has much-reduced strength and should not be trusted with your weight after exposure to heat. 

 

6. Fishing Line

The interior strands of paracord are strong enough to use as fishing line, and the ideal size too. You’ll need at least 10 to 15 feet of paracord to make a fishing line, which is a great way to find food in an emergency. Fishing is one of the best sources of nourishment available in a survival situation. Remove the outer sheath of your paracord to reveal the nylon strands within. 

You can use a paracord for hand fishing, attach it to a long stick to create a pole, make a trot line, or even weave a fishing net from the strands. This way, you have a better chance of catching enough food to survive, as fishing with a single line can be very time-consuming. When you’ve caught a few fish, you can also use your paracord to make a stringer and keep your catch fresh. Thread a length of cord through the bottom lip of each fish and submerge them in the water to prevent your dinner from getting away. 

 

7. Handcuffs

Although most people don’t like to think about it, there are many survival situations where you may have to defend yourself and your family. In this scenario, knowing how to fashion some handcuffs or restraints could be what saves your life. Paracord is easy to turn into handcuffs so long as you know a few simple camping knots

First, braid your paracord into an inch or more of thickness. Then, create two loops of the same size and overlap them, threading one into the other. Insert hands or feet into the loops so that the paracord sits around the wrists or ankles, and tighten your knots to secure. While we hope you’ll never need this self-defense measure, knowing how to tie handcuffs is a valuable survival tool.

 

8. Tripwire

In a survival situation, you may find yourself spending the night in a less-than-secure location. Predators both human and otherwise may find their way to your camp, in which case an early warning system is a great idea. The inner strands of your paracord survival bracelet are ideal to make a tripwire, which can disorient an intruder and give you extra time to react. 

Only use the inner strands of paracord to make a tripwire, as the un-unraveled cord is too easy to see. Set up your wires no more than a foot from the ground, in a close perimeter around your campsite. If there are no trees to tie your paracord between, you can use boulders or spikes hammered into the ground. While a tripwire won’t disarm any attacker, it will cause a disturbance and alert you to movement nearby. 

 

9. Monkey First

Another self-defense use for paracord which could save your life is the monkey fist. In an emergency situation, it’s very possible that you’ll need a weapon, but limited supplies are likely. However, you can create an effective weapon using only paracord, if it’s absolutely necessary. All you need is a length of cord, and a sharp edge to cut it with. 

A monkey fist works by wrapping a hard object many times in a length of cord, which can then be attached to another item or swung alone as a weapon. You need a hard, round object such as a rock to go in the middle. To make the monkey fist, wrap the paracord loosely four times around your fingers. Ensure you use your hand to keep a space in the middle of the paracord. Change the angle of your hand and wrap a further four times in a perpendicular direction to create a hollow paracord “X”. 

Insert your rock or round object into the paracord pocket you have created, and then wrap the cord around four more times in the final direction. When you’ve finished, there should be three layers of paracord securing your rock in all directions. Pull the loose ends of the cord steadily until it’s completely tight around the rock, and your monkey fist is complete. 

 

10. Shoelaces

While they might not seem vital to your survival, you’d be surprised about how many problems broken shoelaces can cause. In an emergency situation where you could be stranded miles from civilization, it’s pretty important that you’re able to walk. A pair of hiking boots with broken shoelaces may as well be slippers, but paracord can save the day once again. 

Most boot laces are made from a very similar material to paracord, so it’s the ideal emergency replacement. String out your broken boot lace and cut a length of paracord to match. Then, re-lace your shoes and enjoy renewed comfort and support as you continue with your journey. From self-defense to shoelaces, paracord can do just about anything. 

 

Paracord can be used for making bracelets as well as making handcuffs.

 

Final Verdict: 

Paracord is one of the most useful and versatile survival tools that you can carry in the outdoors. This strong yet lightweight material is perfect for hiking and camping and can save your life in many situations. There are so many intelligent uses for survival paracord; it’s strong enough for climbing rope yet high-quality enough to use as dental floss. If you can tie knots, then there are any number of paracord projects to undertake. Now that you know how useful it is, you can never leave paracord out of your survival kit again! 

 

Bonus tip: Check out this video on how to tie a monkey fist!

 

 

Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.