How to Use Survival Paracord [True Survivalists Tips]
October 16, 2018
How to Use Survival Paracord [True Survivalists Tips]


What Makes Paracord Different From Other Cords?Emergency Paracord Uses: How to Use Paracord to SurviveHow to Use Paracord for Self-DefenseKnots You Can Tie with ParacordSurvival Paracord Recommendations

Paracord, shorthand for parachute cord, is a type of rope used for many different purposes. Military personnel, survivalists, and everyday people alike take advantage of the variety of paracord uses and the material’s versatility.

Whether you’re looking to learn more about emergency readiness or would like to find out how to use paracord for daily tasks, keep reading to learn the ins and outs of this resourceful tool.

What Makes Paracord Different From Other Cords?

On the surface, paracord might look like any other rope, but this is far from true. Whereas other ropes may be made from polyester or polypropylene, paracord is made from nylon and known for its incredible strength-to-weight ratio—so strong, in fact, that it was used by astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

The braided sheath includes a large number of interwoven strands to account for its size and the nylon construction is fairly elastic, lending itself to a number of uses. Because its material is very lightweight, survival paracord is commonly included in bug out bags and survival gear kits due to its many life-saving capabilities. In fact, paracord is so versatile that we included it in our SEVENTY2 backpack.

The U.S. military defines six different types of paracord: I, IA, II, IIA, III, and IV. Type III is the most common in usage, containing seven to nine core yarns and boasting a breaking strength of 550 pounds—thus the nickname “550 cord”.

It can hold 550 pounds at its maximum capacity, but the yarns of the core (or its “guts”) can also be removed for when finer string is needed. After World War II, it became widely available and commonly purchased, since civilians appreciated the same paracord uses that the military and NASA did. What exactly are the uses of a 550 cord? Let’s take a look.

Emergency Paracord Uses: How to Use Paracord to Survive

Paracord was originally used as the suspension line in parachutes, but it’s now used in virtually any situation where cordage is needed. Survival paracord is so important that it’s even taught in Boy Scouts at a young age. Some of the common paracord uses to survive include:

Paracord Uses for Survival/Shelter

  • Rescue Line – In nature, there a number of reasons survival paracord might be needed in an emergency rescue scenario. Whether someone is stuck in quicksand, drowning in water, or fallen down a ravine, paracord will keep you far enough from the danger while providing the necessary leverage needed to pull a victim to safety. Tie a figure eight knot in your paracord, steady your stance, and toss the rescue line to the person in need.
  • Shelter – In some survival situations, you might be forced to spend the night out in nature. If you have access to tree branches, you can create an emergency shelter using paracord in just a few minutes. Gather about 10 adequately sized, sturdy branches, remove the seven inner core strands, and use the guts to tie knots securing them together. If you have a lightweight tarp on hand, you can thread the paracord through the eyelet of the tarp and tie the ends to two trees in order to make a simple hammock.
  • Fire starter – Those who know how execute the “bow” fire-starting method can use paracord as a bow by tying it to both ends of a bendable branch and use a stone as a socket. Less advanced survivalists can use it as tinder, as well.
  • Hauling – One of the best uses of the 550 cord is its ability to haul incredible weight. Whether you need to haul your prey or carry firewood more efficiently, paracord can be tied around nearly anything for more efficient transportation.
  • Rope Ladder – If you need to scale terrain that’s too steep to ascend, climb a tree for a better vantage, or find yourself at the bottom of a ravine, you can use two parallel cords to create a rope ladder and find your way back to safety.

Paracord Uses for Food

  • Fishing – If you’re stuck in the wild and need to eat, there are several paracord uses that can help. Turn it into a trotline to catch fish while attending to other tasks, or create a lure and cast a line. You can also remove the yarns to create a net, if that’s your preferred method.
  • Bear bag – A bear bag is intended to hoist your food to deter animals from attempting to steal it. Using the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) method, toss your paracord over a high, sturdy branch and then clip it to your bear bag using a small carabiner.
  • Snare – With some practice, you can learn how to use paracord as a snare trap to increase your probability of catching food in survival situations. Scout out a good spot, build your snare, and use paracord as a triggering method for the trap.

Paracord Uses for First Aid

  • Tourniquet – If you’re severely bleeding and can’t make it to a hospital immediately, paracord can be used as a tourniquet. Tie it above the wound to apply pressure and slow down the loss of blood.
  • Splint – For broken bones in emergency situations, use survival paracord to create a splint. Lay a stick on top of or next to the broken limb and fasten it with the cord to mobilize the bone and prevent further damage.
  • Sling – You can also use paracord as a sling, not only for injuries but also to securely carry a rifle or various survival gear. To make a sling using paracord for survival:
  1. Lay out soft material such as jackets, shirts, or socks for cushioning beneath the limb you want to split.
  2. Find a hard object such as a branch or walking stick to stabilize the injured limb.
  3. Take your survival paracord and wrap it around the limb, cushioning, and hard object. Tie a knot that is strong enough for a secure hold, but not too tight to where it limits blood flow.
  4. Tie knots above and below the broken bone, or in the cases of joint injuries, above and below the affected joint.
  5. For added strength, braid your paracord for survival, or double up on the wrapped cord.

Paracord can always be braided or doubled up for extra strength or deconstructed for finer thread, making it incredibly versatile. Its ends can melted or crimped to prevent fraying, and its nylon construction can withstand nature’s elements, making it the go-to survival tool in emergency preparation kits.

How to Use Paracord for Self-Defense

In addition to standard survival uses of 550 cord, the rope can also be used tactically as self-defense in extreme situations. Whether you’re stranded, vulnerable in nature or need to defend yourself at home, keep these strategies in mind:

how to use a paracord for self defense

  • Tripwire – Use the inner threads of your survival paracord to tie together tin cans or anything that makes sounds and fasten it tightly between trees on the perimeter of your camp. It will give you a sense of security knowing you’ll be alerted to any intruder, and may disorient them long enough for you to get to safety.
  • As a Restraint – If you get the upper hand on your assailant, you can use paracord to restrain them in a form of handcuffs. Flip one part of the paracord rope over the other to create two small bites, pull them through each other, slip them over the wrists of your assailant, and pull tight to fasten as a restraint.
  • Throwing Sling – To create a ranged self-defense weapon, hand knit a paracord rock sling. All you need is to make a few simple knots around a pouch; ammunition will be everywhere.
  • Monkey Fist – A monkey fist is a type of knot which gets its name for resembling a small, bunched paw. Inside the knot is a metal ball tied together by paracord. The added weight makes it a deadly self-defense weapon that can either be swung or thrown.

Knots You Can Tie with Paracord

types of knots

Paracord can be used to create a variety of knots, all intended for different purposes. A small sampling of the knots you can create—using paracord or another type of rope on-hand (illustrated above).

Instruction for "The Square Knot," "The Bowline Knot," "The Tautline Knot," "The Alpine Butterfly Knot," "The Prusik Knot," "The Clove Hitch" and "The Sheet Bend" are also found in the below tutorial video:

Survival Paracord Recommendations

The Parachute Industry Association publishes the technical standards for the manufacturing of paracord, so make sure yours is up to par.

You can find it available in a variety of forms; wear it as a bracelet with a fire starter buckle to have rope on hand whenever it might necessary; use it as a handle for your drinkware; you can even find it wrapped around knives.

When shopping for paracord, it’s best to just get your own bundle and repurpose it to all of your various needs.

Rothco offers high-quality type III 550 paracord 100 feet in length in several different colors. Take the rope and make your own survival paracord bracelet to take advantage of the many uses of 550 cord at any time, no matter where you are. It’s easy to do; just follow these steps:

create your own survival paracord bracelet

If you’re wondering why you might want to don a survival paracord bracelet when you’re not on the trail or asking, “What is paracord used for outside of survival?”, you may be surprised to learn that the inner yarn can be purposed for sewing to repair any damaged fabric—whether your backpack strap fails on the trail or you nicked a hole in your favorite shirt at home.

It can also be used as a dog leash, waist belt, or key chain. You’ll find this versatile material in plenty of different forms with a number of intended paracord uses.

The list of paracord uses is endless. Learning how to use paracord is survival 101, so start mastering these techniques before you find yourself empty-handed in an emergency. Keep it stashed in your bug out bag and have a bundle stored in the garage—you’ll be surprised by just how often it comes in handy!