Last Updated on October 22, 2020
NEVER! If there is one “miracle” survival product it is paracord. It can handle so many jobs, it can be packed efficiently, it can be used, reused, re-purposed, reconfigured, and depended upon in almost any situation, it is the friend-zone of materials – always there, always ready, expects (and gets) nothing in return.
No matter how many ways one lists to use paracord they will be as far short of all its uses as a politician is of getting something, anything done.
If you see a bug-out bag without paracord in it walk away, disown or unfriend the bags owner, and put some distance between you and them. At some point, they will be the comic-relief in the horror movie who surly gets eaten and you do not want to be in their “collateral damage” zone. You could try and correct their ways but this might take hundreds of years and cost millions of dollars, though, seeing that light bulb light up in their brain, realizing you may have, perhaps for the first time, made two of their contiguous brain cells work together, could be rewarding. Your call.
Cinching together lean-to or shelter materials, securing a Mylar blanket to a shelter to reflect back campfire heat and light and not depending on dumb luck and no wind to not bring things crashing down. And don’t get me started on “making stuff” – a belt, a bullwhip, a lanyard, a rifle sling, a monkey fist (ouch!), snowshoes, hammock, trap ring/snare (varmints roasting on an open fire), bow sling, bottle harness, knife handle, dog collar, survival donut (we LOVE efficiency), grab handles (for a vehicle, for bags, for water jugs, for panicking people), the list is endless.
Learn how to cut and cap it off properly with a lighter. As a sailor I like to also duct tape (aka combat tape, safety tape, field-medical tape, keep-grandma-in camp tape, and all its other names) the end but it really isn’t necessary for paracord, while it is for larger nylon ropes. If you do “duct tape” go for dull as opposed to shiny, though with the variety of colors available in both paracord and duct tape, one could get creative.
Is color important? Bright orange can easily be seen. A plus when taking down a camp, a negative if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Black, or any of its variant, great for camouflage, not so great for taking down tree branches and such lashed together and used for a shelter, in the rain, in the dark, at midnight.
For the purist, I always recommend the Mil-Spec (C-5040H) for the tough jobs as you usually don’t need a lot, the price difference isn’t that big, and you know what you are getting, if you read the spec. Also, the 4 simple visual tests to verify Mil-Spec are easy to perform. Cut off an end, and push back the sheath and count 7, 8, or 9 inner strands. Good. Less than 7, not Mil-Spec. On the inner strands unravel one, if it is NOT 3 strands wound together it is not Mil-Spec. If the inner strand is NOT even twisted strands then again, not Mil-Spec. Finally, if one of the inner strands is not colored, it is not Mil-Spec. These colored ID strands, called “Manufacturer’s ID Strand” are required and a registered marker of compliance.
Just one more point, I said I was a purist, but I am also rational to a fault, so, to be clear, 550 Type III Commercial Nylon Paracord, not Mil-Spec, is an excellent product. It is excellent for building all the things mentioned above, and readily available from multiple sources and it will meet all your needs. This is rated with a tensile strength of 550 pounds, so unless you are trying to air-lift Michael Moore out of Krispy Kreme, you are good!