What Is Paracord and What You Can Use It For
Paracord has a long history, dating back to World War II. It has since evolved from strictly military uses to commercial and personal use as well. You've no doubt heard of paracord or seen a paracord bracelet on someone. Curious? Read on to learn what paracord is and what you can make with it.
To trace the lineage of paracord, we have to journey to the battlefields in World War II. The United States Military introduced a new form of cord—parachute cord, as it was called back then—to be used as the suspension lines for their parachutes.
Once paratroopers were in the field, they began to develop new uses for their parachute cords. The strong, slender rope fulfilled many functions including attaching equipment to harnesses, tying rucksacks to vehicle racks, securing camouflage nets to trees and vehicles, and being used as pace counters to estimate distance marched.
(photo via WWII in color)
Outside of the initial uses discovered by the military, parachute cord’s versatility continued to be recognized domestically.
In 1997, during one of the early shuttle missions (STS-82), NASA astronauts used parachute cord to repair damaged insulation on the Hubble Space Telescope. It could be said that over the seventy years since its inception, parachute cord has subtly shaped American history.
Since then, parachute cord has come to be known as simply paracord. When people talk about paracord today, they mostly mean the type of cord that was used as parachute suspension lines so many years ago: "type III" paracord. This was among the strongest of the different types produced and is also often known as 550 cord, because it can hold up to 550 lb. of static weight. Here's the rest of the specs.
- Kernmantle rope (inner core protected by a woven outer sheath)
- 550lb tensile strength
- 7 inner strands (each of which are 2-ply)
- Nylon sheath composed of 32 woven strands
- 4mm (5/32") diameter
- Most common type of paracord used
- Mold, mildew, and rot resistant
What can paracord be used for?
Since it's declassification by the military, parachute cord has become useful in a number of hobbies and pursuits.
- Crafting: paracord is often used to make bracelets, lanyards, rifle slings, jewelry, belts, water bottle carriers, and keychains. Some enthusiasts even use it to make much larger creations such as hammocks, steering wheel covers, chairs, sculptures, and other large-scale works of art.
- Survival: Paracord has earned a reputation for being a valuable tool for camping and hiking. Like the American GI's of WWII, hikers often use paracord to tie gear to their pack, replace broken shoelaces, and construct shelters. The inner strands can also be removed to create impromptu survival tools like fishing line, fishing lures, traps, slings, and sutures.
- Fashion: To the chagrin of many hardcore preppers, paracord has, at times, been very in vougue. The colors and strength of paracord have made it popular as a fashion accessory—mostly in the form of bracelets.
There are 3 other types of parachute cord besides 550 paracord.
- 1 inner strand
- example: 95 Paracord
- 95lb tensile strength
- 4-7 inner strands
- example: 425 Paracord
- 425lb tensile strength
- 11 inner strands
- example: 750 paracord
- 750lb tensile strength
You may have also heard of Military Grade Paracord (Mil-Spec Paracord, Mil-C-5040). There are some important things to note about 550 Mil Spec parachute cord.
1) not all 550 cord is Mil-Spec
2) To be certified Mil-Spec it has to pass 14 rigorous scientific tests
3) Has an identifier strand to prove it's certified (pictured right)
If you're starting a project, make sure you know what paracord is right for you.
If you have any questions on 550 Paracord or any other sizes, please feel free to contact us via our website or any of our social media platforms!
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Happy Cording, Lauri