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Paracord is both lightweight and strong. It weighs less and takes up less room than heavy-duty ropes, and can be woven together to create a stronger rope that is rot proof and sturdy. When the inner cords are taken apart, its uses multiply. Paracord has a bearing weight of 550 pounds. It was designed to stretch under a load, and will stretch over time. There are many uses for this “survival rope,” but here are the ten most practical ways to use your paracord in the wilderness.

1. Use it to wrap a handle.

Bind paracord to make an easy grip handle for a knife, machete, axe, or flashlight. Wrapping paracord is an easy way to carry extra paracord in case you ever need it. It increases traction, and looks cool. Use the quick release wrap, cobra weave, looping, twisting, or cobra weave.

2. Twist it around a tree to stretch a rain tarp higher than you can reach.

This is a great hack for a common area in your camp — a covered place you can hang out or cook, and high enough to walk around without stooping over. You can either throw the end of the paracord up over a sturdy branch, or if there is no available branch, use a Y-stick. You’ll want to grab a long, sturdy stick with a Y-fork at the end. Drape one end of paracord through the Y-fork in the stick, and place the stick flush against the tree trunk, as high as you want it and can reach. Wrap the other end of the paracord tightly winding around both the Y-stick and the tree trunk at least three or four times, until the Y-stick doesn’t budge. Called the backpacker hitch, the friction around the tree trunk will hold the paracord and tarp in place and you’ll only have to do a simple tie-off such as a half hitch towards the bottom of the trunk.

For best results, tie off two corners of the tarp higher at about the same height, and the other two corners at a slightly lower height to create a slant in your tarp for rainwater to run off without getting trapped in the tarp.

2. Hang a bear bag.

When you’re in bear or cougar territory, hang your fresh-caught game or extra food in a bag, and use paracord to put it up in a tree. The best way to do this is to suspend a paracord taut between two trees using two Backpacker’s Hitches and to hang the food from the middle of the suspended paracord.

The simplest way, which requires less rope than the first method, is simply throwing the paracord up around a sturdy limb and pulling the food or game up the tree. You will need to be twice as long as the height of the limb. However, bears and cougars and climb trees, so there is still some risk that your food will be accessible.

4. Makeshift Shoelaces.

If you’ve lost or cut a shoelace, or used it for another purpose, it can be a drag. Nothing is less efficient than not having shoelaces in your shoes, especially if they’re hiking boots. Cut a length of paracord long enough to use for a shoelace and burn the ends to melt the paracord and prevent them from unraveling.

5. Make an arm splint.

Hopefully, you won’t have to use paracord for this purpose, but when you have a muscle, bone, or joint injury, paracord can be quickly made into a split to minimize your pain and keep the injured area from moving too much. You’ll need a T-shirt, jacket, or socks as cushioning; a straight stick about the length of the injured bone, and your cord. Roll the fabric into a long bundle and lay the stick against the fabric. The fabric should touch your body, and the stick will be on the outside. Tie the cord securely around the fabric, stick, and injured bone, but not too tight that it will constrict blood flow.

6. Employ it as a Stream Crossing Guide.

When you have a group of people needing to ford a swiftly moving stream, paracord can be a lifesaver. It can stabilize you and keep you from getting your torso wet as you walk across the stream.

The strongest person crosses the stream first, carrying one end of the paracord, fed to him by the remaining people on the first stream bank. When the first person reaches the opposite bank, they can use the Bowline to tie off that end to a tree, and the end remaining on the first stream bank should also be tied to an anchor tree using the Bowline.

As people cross, hold onto the paracord for extra stability from the currents and unstable footing. The last person to cross will undo the paracord and loop it around their shoulder and arm as they cross.

7. Measure distance.

A great way to measure distance with a decent degree of accuracy is to use paracord. Most people’s fingertip-to-fingertip spread arm length is about the same as their height. The most accurate way is to ensure that the paracord is stretch as straight as possible between the two points you want to measure, usually by tying off one end.

8. Use it for a bowdrill string.

Using a bowdrill effectively requires practice, but it can be a handy tool for starting a friction fire, especially if your matches get wet or you just crave the thrill of self-sufficiency. The stick you choose for your bowdrill should be the length from your armpit to your fingertips and be about as thick as your thumb at the base. It should be somewhat green and bend slightly with some pressure. Carefully split both tips of the stick about 2 inches deep with a knife. Use a length of paracord about one and a half times the length of your bow; pull one end of the paracord through the split of the end of the bow drill stick that you’ll hold. Secure it with a square knot, clove hitch, or another knot that won’t slip. Slide the other end of the paracord through the split on the tip of the bow drill stick and pull it taut, and the bow drill bends slightly. Wrap the ends securely around the tip so that the paracord won’t slide deeper into the split section of the stick. You’ll have to play with the tension in the cord so you can load the spindle.

9. Hang it as a clothesline.

The beauty of the paracord clothesline is its extreme usefulness. Use it to dry clothes that you’ve just washed, to dry out wet or moist clothes around a warm fire, to keep clothing from falling into the snow, or to hang tools around your campsite.

10. Use the inner cords for sutures, dental floss, sewing thread, or fishing line.

In a pinch, the inner cords of paracord can be taken apart for the finer threads that can be used for everyday maintenance needs such as dental floss and sewing thread, to emergency use such as for fishing line or even sutures. For fishing line, the inner threads can be tied together using the bend knot to increase their length if necessary.

John Bishop

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