Of all the sizes of paracord, 550 often steals the show. It's wide enough to be strong, yet narrow enough to be flexible. But there are other sizes of paracord out there. Without downplaying the usefulness of 550 paracord, I'm going to try to convince you in this post that 95 cord, or "type 1" military paracord, might just be the most useful paracord of them all.
Type 1 Can Do Most of The Things We Use 550 for
Most of the time, I don't find myself needing a cord that can hold 550 lbs. Paracord is useful to me primarily as a utility cord for medium-duty fixes.
Let's take a look at some of the most common practical, utility, and survival uses of 550 cord.
- Backpacking gear tie
- Zipper pulls
- Zip ties
- Handle wraps
- Tarp/shelter tie up
- Survival snares/fishing line
Most of these jobs can be handled by a thinner cord than 550 paracord. They aren't going to need more than a few pounds of strength.
However, there are definitely things that 550 cord can do that 95 cord is not qualified for. (Like the Tie-downs in the above list) I've even torn 550 cord on occasion when trying to improvise a tool. Only you know what duty of cord you need to carry with you.
Safety Note: I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Never trust your weight to paracord when your life is on the line—unless you have no other option. Climbing rope is far stronger. Get the proper gear for the job.
Type 1 Can Do Things 550 Can't
Sometimes, a tiny cord can be even more useful than a larger, stronger one. It's small size can actually be a benefit.
For instance, survivalists often carry paracord or other string that would allow them to set traps for small animals or attach a knife blade to a branch to use as a spear. In these cases, 95 cord would be the ideal size rather than 550. It better conforms to the shape of a knife handle, offering a more secure hold; and it can provide a stronger snare loop then a single inner strand of 550 paracord can.
Also, 550 cord doesn't fit through some holes or eyelets in gear. Because of this, 95 cord works well as a temporary shoelace, gear tie, or repair thread.
Then there's the weight issue.
Ultralight backpacking is a game of ounces. Even if you are not a toothbrush cutter, shaving a few pounds off your total weight can make the difference between an enjoyable trip, and one that's less so. Each piece of gear needs to be the lightest it can be. Far less packing space is used by 50 ft. of 95 cord than by 50 ft. of 550 cord, making it the ideal rope for small packs and bugout bags.
Alternatively, you can also pack a lot more 95 cord into the same space and weight than you can with 550. If running out of some kind of light utility cord is a worry, then 95 cord wins out here too. Carry over double the amount for the same weight.
Type 1 Is Cheaper
Because 95 requires less nylon to make than 550, it's also cheaper for you to purchase. Buying cheaper paracord frees up money for other important items of gear.
Is 95 cord really more useful than 550? I guess it depends on the setting. It's important to have the right tool for the job. If weight and bulk is an issue while backpacking, consider using 95 cord to tie down your tent rainfly instead of 550 cord. If you like knowing that you can untie your bracelet and use it as a tourniquet in a desperate situation, stick with 550 cord (and also invest in a real tourniquet and some training).
While these two great cords have slightly different capabilities, I think a tiny string that can hold 95 lbs. is fully as useful as a slightly larger rope that can hold 550 lbs.