Essential uses for Paracord (aka 550 cord)

Parachute cord maybe be referred to as paracord, cord, cordage and 550 cord. “550” refers to the military standard for type III cord, which is required to have a break strength of 550 lbs.  Hence the name 550.  It is not, nor would we encourage its use as life safety rope.

Whether engaging in typical outdoors activities, camping, hunting or even in a survival situation, cord has many uses.  You can find lists of hundreds of uses if you go to a search engine and type it in.  We are not going for an exhaustive list here, just trying to give you some ideas and get your mind thinking along the right lines.

550 Cord should is usually made of nylon.  It is composed of a sheath around 7 internal strands which are braided together.  These 7 strands can be further made up of even smaller strands woven together to create them.  So 1 foot of cord can actually be broken down to a separate sheath and the inner seven one-foot thin strands.  If these strands are made up of 3 additional strands tied together, all of a sudden you have 21 feet of really thin cord from 1 foot of paracord.  For some uses you want the inner strands, for others you want the whole cord and its break strength.

You will often see people wearing bracelets woven of cord.  It is a handy way to carry some with you.  Some knives and tools come with it wrapped around the handle, both for a good grip and emergency cord that can be used in a survival situation.  It might not be a bad idea to wrap a bunch around some of your commonly uses tools or axes.

There are any number of possible uses in the field.  Anywhere you would use string, line, cord, or thread.  Paracord was used not to long ago by NASA astronauts while repairing the hubble space telescope if that tells you anything.

If you are going into the woods, you should probably bring some cord with you.  It is considered by many to be one of the survival essentials.  Some people go into the woods with only a tarp, a hatchet and some cord.

Bow Drill or Fire Drill
Cord can help you get that fire started.  Much quicker than rotating the bow drill by hand.

Food / Defense
Food and defense are combined for our purposes today as most of these are dual use items.  While you can’t eat cord itself, it may help you acquire or protect your food.

Bow and Arrow
While it may not be the best material for it, you could make a makeshift bow with a stick and some cord.  You could get hurt or hurt someone else if you are not careful, but in a survival situation you might not have another choice.

Bear Bag
If you are out in bear country, you need to keep your food away from the ground and away from you.  550 cord is a great way to hang your bear bag.

Snare / Tripwire / Traps
Cord could be rigged up to be a snare or used in some other kind of trap or mechanism to catch an animal as well.  The inner strands are small enough to perhaps go unseen if used as a snare.  Let us imagine a situation where someone was coming after you in the woods.  Cord at the right level could cause a person to trip or trigger a Raiders of the Lost Ark style trap (think large boulders rolling down and doors closing while arrows are shot at you).

Make a spear by tying your knife to the end of a stick.

Weapon Sling
You can make an improvised weapon sling to help stabilize your shot.

Rock Sling
Think David and Goliath.  There are some YouTube videos showing the effective use of a sling to throw rocks.

The inner strands could be used as line for many kinds of fish.  If you were doing some serious ocean fishing, the entire cord could be used.  A net could also be woven / rigged up.  Paracord can be used as a bank line or trot line as well.

Deer Hunting
Hang the deer after you field dress it.  Make a drag with two large sticks to get it out of the woods.


Bowl or liquid container
With a mylar blanket, you could use cord to tie up the blanket into a bowl that would hold water.

Wicking is a property of a material that pulls water from one place and takes it to another.  Your cord could be used to wick water from one container to another, or from a stream into a different container.  While we haven’t actually tried this one yet, you could possibly use it as a sort of “first pass” filter to get visible particles out of water while transferring it from one container to another.  You would still want to boil it to kill germs and bacteria, but filtering it through wicking is better than nothing.  While most people in the know carry a Sawyer water filter or some other kind, we were thinking what if you were in the woods with only paracord and a survival blanket.  Using some cord and a mylar survival blanket you could come up with a way to get water from a source into your bowl or other container.  Then boil it / treat it as directed by the experts.

We also think you could use it to slowly wick water from a container to water plants.  We need to do some experiments and get back to you.


Tarp Shelter
You use cord with your tarp to set up a makeshift shelter between two trees.  You do have a tarp with you when going into the woods, right?  That is how a lot of ultralight campers do it.  Instant shelter / sun shade.

Teepee / Stick Building
You could use cord to tie sticks together to keep them nice and tight and to help your bushcraft structure survive the weather.  Cord is often used to bind sticks together for many reasons.

Guy Lines
Secure your tent to stakes or whatever else you find nearby.


While a tourniquet should only be used when other methods of bleeding control have failed, you can make an emergency one using some cord and a stick.  How, when and why to apply one is beyond the scope of this article and you should consult your physician or medical control for more information on when to use a tourniquet.

Dental Floss
Oral hygiene is very important.  If you have mouth issues it can make your experience in the remote wilderness very unpleasant.  The inner strands of your cord could be used as dental floss.  How else are you going to floss in the middle of the woods if you have not brought traditional dental floss?

While we recommend seeking proper medical attention, the inner strands could and have been be used for stitches.  Sometimes a wilderness setting requires the use of non-traditional treatments depending on the length of time one will be away from definitive care.

Splint / Sling
Cord can assist you in making a splint or sling.  The sling is obvious, the splint can be accomplished by tying the appendage to a stick to hold it straight.  I am sure someone has cord  for a traction splint at some point as well.

Improvise a stretcher or drag.  Find two large sticks and a few small ones to use as cross braces and tie it up.  If you need to get a person out of the deep woods it certainly can beat carrying them, depending on terrain of course.

Hauling / Fixing Your Gear / Comfort

Perhaps you need an emergency belt, or to fasten items to your belt.  Cord comes in handy.  You could weave some together to form a belt or use it to tie some items like your hatchet or whatever else to your belt.

You can repair clothing, backpacks, tents and all sorts of things.  The inner strand makes a good thread.  The outer sheath can also be melted and used to plug a hole of some kind.  Patch a hole…..

Ax/Tool Handle Cover
You can make a handle for an axe, knife or other tool to make to more comfortable to hold for long periods.  While you are at it you could make a sling to throw it over your shoulder as well.  Using it on a handle is also a good way to make sure that you have cord with you when you need it.

Clothes line
Stuff gets wet, hang a line to dry it out.  Whether inside or outside your shelter, there are many reasons to hang items to get them out of your way or to air dry them.

Shoe Laces
Cord will work well for replacing your shoe laces.

Dog Leash / Collar
In case you lose it, it breaks or you forgot to bring one.

Weave multiple lengths of cord together to create a strong rope.

Compass, Keys, Camera, Whatever.  Hold an item around your neck or securely in your hands in the wind.


If you have some serious time on your hands, and some serious skills you could come up with a hammock setup.

Use it to tie logs together to build a raft.  We saw it on TV.

Snow Shoes
Use a couple sticks and some cord.  Lash them together and use them to walk over deep snow.

There are some awesome YouTube videos and companies that sell whips made from paracord.  With tape, ball bearings and cord they can make some amazing things.

Think we are missing an important use?  Let us know and we will consider adding it.

About the author

Bob Lindquist is an expert consultant with extensive experience building web sites, databases and performing internet marketing work for his clients.  He has over 20 years of experience working with clients from a wide variety of industries along with a degree in Computer Science.  Bob is a professional member of the Association for Computing Machinery.

In his free time, Bob is a volunteer Firefighter / EMT and has served on the boards of several not-for-profit groups.

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