Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
People have been using paracord for survival since its invention, but that wasn’t the original intention. During WWII, the United States Military was facing a dilemma. Before the war, parachutes and their suspension lines were made from silk, a Japanese export. This posed some obvious issues after the two countries found themselves at war. Luckily, thanks to the invention of nylon in 1935, the US Military was able to develop a strong but lightweight cord for the suspension lines in their parachutes. Parachute cord (also known as paracord or 550 cord) was more durable, more elastic, cheaper to manufacture, and much more versatile than the traditional silk cord.
Once they were on the ground, paratroopers came up with all kinds of creative ways to use paracord in a survival situation. In the field, it was the ultimate multipurpose cordage. Paratroopers used paracord for everything from an extra set of boot laces to starting a fire, building a shelter, or hunting wild game. News about this new rope’s versatility and durability spread quickly. Eventually, the military declassified it, and soon people started using it for everything from crafting to fashion. In 1997, it was even used to fix the Hubble Space Telescope!
Today, paracord is an essential part of every survivalist’s toolkit – and with good reason! In addition to holding your boots on, 550 cord laces can be used to hunt food, start a fire, build a shelter, or even perform first aid. Here’s how:
The Best Paracord Knots for Survival
If you want to maximize the use of your paracord boot laces, you’ll need to learn to tie a few essential knots. Check out this great video from Jason Eke for a quick lesson on each of them:
Essential Paracord Survival Knots
- A square knot is the best knot for quickly binding objects together with short lengths of rope.
- A bowline knot can be used to create a fixed loop at the end of a line.
- A taut-line hitch creates an adjustable loop at the end of a line, which allows you to adjust for tension.
- An alpine butterfly knot is used to create a loop in the middle of a line.
- The prusik knot can be used to attach a loop around a line.
- A clove hitch can be used to anchor a line for an emergency shelter.
- A sheet bend knot is the best way to tie multiple lengths of paracord together.
How To Use Paracord Laces In A Survival Situation
1. Start a fire.
Even though 550 cord was designed to reduce friction, a paracord bow drill can still be used to start a fire and keep you warm. Simply twist two bootlaces together to increase friction and wrap your bow around the spindle two or three times for even more traction.
2. Carry firewood.
Once your fire is burning, you’ll need a steady supply of firewood to keep it going. Hauling wood back and forth can be time-consuming and exhausting, but with a paracord firewood carrier, you’ll be able to carry much more at a time. Simply find two strong stick “handles” about 1 foot long. Tie one end of each bootlace to one stick, about 2” from either end. Then, connect the open ends to your second handle to create a rudimentary basket.
For visual learners, Intense Angler demonstrates:
3. Build a shelter.
You can build a quick emergency shelter by separating the inner strands from your paracord and using them to lash tree branches together. You can also use the whole paracord strand as a guyline to secure a tarp or tent to the ground.
4. Go fishing.
Short lengths of paracord make great fishing lures, and longer strands can be used for fishing line. To make a paracord fishing lure, cut a 1” strip of paracord. Remove half of the outer sheath and pull it back so the inner strands are exposed. Push the shank end of a fish hook through the cord until it emerges on the other side, then use a lighter to melt the cord around the hook eye to set it in place.
5. Go hunting.
If you have access to deadfall and tree saplings, you can create a survival bow set with a paracord bowstring. A real bowstring will always perform better, but paracord makes for an excellent replacement in an emergency.
David from Ultimate Outdoor Media filmed a great guide for how to build a survival bow from start to finish – check it out!
6. Set up a trap line.
Conserving energy is essential in a survival situation, so a trap line might be your best option for food. The inner strands of a 550 cord boot lace can be used to create snares that trap rabbits, squirrels, and other small game.
To create a snare, tie a small fixed loop at one end of your strand using a bowline knot. Then, feed the long end through the loop and attach it to a nearby tree or post to create the snare’s noose. Then, prop up the noose with two small y-shaped twigs to create a path through. When an animal walks through the trap, the loop will tighten and catch them.
7. Create a tool belt.
Sometimes, you’ll need to carry more than one tool at a time. You can create a quick and easy tool belt by cutting short lengths of paracord and tying the strands around or through your belt and creating a loop. The loops can be used to hang additional items off your belt and will “lock” in place when your tools put tension in the line.
8. Secure a splint.
If you fall and injure yourself, a 550 paracord splint could mean the difference between finding your way to safety or not. Splinting an injury can help you control pain and stabilize a limb until you can get medical assistance.
First, lay some soft material (like a pair of socks or t-shirt) under the limb for cushioning. Then, add a stick or other hard object to keep the limb stable. Finally, wrap the paracord around the limb, cushioning material, and stick. Tie the knots tight enough to hold everything stable but not so tight that it cuts off blood flow. If it’s a joint injury, tie the knots above and below the affected joint. For a bone injury, tie the knots on the joints above and below.
Check out this video from GearJunkie to watch how a splint is made – and get some other wilderness first aid tips.
9. Make a sling.
You can also use 550 cord laces to stabilize an injured arm or shoulder in a sling. To make a paracord sling, start with some cushioning material and a straight stick to stabilize the arm. Tie a slipknot around your wrist, the cushioning material, and the stick. Then, pull the lace over your opposite shoulder, and around to the elbow on the injured arm. Tie it off to support your elbow. Add some extra cloth under the paracord near your neck to prevent rubbing and irritation, and you’re done!
10. Repair clothing.
The threads inside a pair of paracord boot laces can be used to sew torn clothing or even as emergency sutures. Simply remove one of the inner strands and unravel it to access individual threads.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is 550 paracord and what is it used for?
Paracord is a lightweight kernmantle rope (consisting of an inner core and outer sheath) made of nylon. It was originally used as a suspension line in parachutes during WWII. Today, it is widely used as a general-purpose utility rope with applications in survival, crafting, fashion, and more.
How strong is 550 paracord?
550 paracord is strong enough to hold up to 550lbs of static tensile force. However, it is NOT strong enough to support your body weight in motion.
How thick is 550 paracord?
550 paracord has a diameter of 0.16”(4mm) when relaxed.
How do you cut paracord?
The best way to cut paracord is with a hot knife. 550 cord is made of nylon, which tends to fray at the ends when cut. By adding heat, you can cut the paracord and seal it at the same time!
If you don’t have a knife, you can also burn through the paracord using friction. Lay the paracord on the ground and step on it, so the point you want to cut is between your boots. Then, feed the slack underneath and pull both sides until it is taut. From here, you can use a sawing motion to weaken and eventually burn through the cord.
Check out the video below to see a demonstration by The Urban Prepper, who tried it out on both 550 and 750 cord.
Is paracord waterproof?
Yes and no. Paracord is not waterproof and may shrink slightly the first time it gets wet. However, it dries quickly and will maintain its strength and durability!
Is paracord stretchy?
Yes! The military designed paracord to stretch up to 30%. However, it can lose elasticity over time if you keep it under tension.
Where can I get paracord boot laces?
You’re in the right place! Ironlace paracord 550 bootlaces are made of genuine mil-spec 550 paracord and manufactured right here in the USA. They are available in 45″, 54″, 63″, and 72″ lengths, giving you up to 12 feet of 550 cord in a pair of laces to work with in case of emergency.