Posted on: November 17, 2018 Bushcraft





Why do people love 550 paracord anyway?

Almost 30 years ago, when I entered the the U.S. military, it seemed like every “high-speed” soldier was burning their hands melting the ends of 550 cord while making “dummy cords”, harnesses, LCE modifications, daisy cords,and other works of art.  I think I learned a million things to do with duct tape and 550 cord in my first year in the military than I learned anything else. Yes, if you bleed green, you know of this cordage well, and the 7 strong strands inside of it.


It was not until 1993, when I attended the Army Airborne Course, that I actually realized that 550 cords were critical stringers on my chute that allowed the canopy to properly open and me to stear my chute..  I learned just WHY this amazingly strong and thin line had to be made so remarkably well as hanging from a harness with my 200 pound body, M60-machine gun, and 120 pounds of additional equipment, was no light task.


So, fast-forward 25 years, and here I am working to design the most useful, lightweight, active outdoors-man worthy survival kit on the market. So, 550 paracord is a must, right? I mean, everyone knows that or we wouldn’t have millions of people wearing “survival bracelets” mostly made from 550 paracord, a plastic clip, a micro-ferro rod, and some sort of metal striker/blade. Then there is the debate of “how much” do you need, and what would it be used for.


I spent a day working with 5’ to 50’ of the cord. I used it in tact, dissected it into many strands, tied knots, lashed, fished, pulled, climbed, and did about every outdoors task I could with it for a full day. Then I analyzed and asked, “could an average, every day Joe, do all these things with this cord”. And, if they could, how much would they need? Not many people lost in the woods are going to “survive” with just a paracord bracelet, let alone even figure out what to do with 5’-6’ of cord, except maybe hang themselves after days of freezing, dehydrating, and starving.


International availability of 550 cord tells me to put 25-50’ of the cord in my kit and call it a day. Most outdoorsmen or military trained people will figure out all its uses, though I think most will use it in tact, which is overkill for 90% of the survival tasks you will take on. And frankly, 550 cord doesn’t hold knots well without some half-hitch finishes, and is even worse in my opinion for lashing, except for your anchor beam on a lean-to where you may need more strength and holding power.


Frankly, I wish bank-line was more readily available in micro-spools. I’m working on that now, but whether you’re using #12 or #36, or something in between, bank-line is just better in my opinion as a survival and bushcraft cordage. Most line has sufficient holding power and the line coating makes a hold on knots and lashes excellent, and the smaller diameters allow for carrying 10 times the length than 550 cord. If you’re humping a pack, I recommend fitting in a spool with you, no matter the size. There are plenty of options and opinions out there, so you have to bring what is right for you. I have spools of #12, #18, and #36, and prefer to take a 1000’ #18 spool with me when I head into the woods.  For a small survival kit, my goals is to have 25’ of 550 cord, and another 100’ of bank line in my kits, as YES, I value cordage that much for many uses, and above all, making a well constructed shelter and essential repairs.


Lastly, if you haven’t experimented with the gear, cordage, carabiners, bottles, compasses, and anything else you may be carrying down range, you should. I meet too many people who buy some cool gadget, then never bother to practice with it. This is similar to me as a person buying a hand gun for home protection, but then never taking the time to get comfortable with it, yet expect to use it against an intruder. I think you get it.


I hope these thoughts motivate you to consider bank line use as part of your carry equipment and at minimum, to do a little compare between it and 550 cord. The military in me will always love my 550 cord, but the bushcraft apprentice in my says, get on the bank line wagon.  – WG

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