What is Paracord?.

Paracord In The Beginning

Despite the historic association of paracord with airborne units and divisions, many military units have access to the cord. It is used in almost any situation where light cordage is needed. Typical uses include attaching equipment to harnesses, as dummy cords to avoid losing small or important items, tying rucksacks to vehicle racks, securing camouflage nets to trees or vehicles, and so forth. When threaded with beads, paracord may be used as a pace counter to estimate ground covered by foot.

The yarns of the core (commonly referred to as "the guts") can also be removed when finer string is needed, for instance as sewing thread to repair gear, or to be used as fishing line in a survival situation. The nylon sheath is often used alone, the yarn in the core removed, when a thinner or less elastic cord is needed such as when used as a boot lace. Ends of the cord are almost always melted and crimped to prevent fraying.

In addition to purely utility functions, paracord can be used to fashion knotted or braided bracelets, lanyards, belts, and other decorative items. These are sometimes tied in a fashion that can easily be unraveled for use in a survival situation. Some companies, like Wazoo Survival Gear, use paracord in conjunction with other survival components to create everyday wearable survival kits.

The same properties which soldiers appreciate in paracord are also useful in civilian applications. After World War II parachute cord became available to civilians, first as military surplus and then as a common retail product from various surplus stores and websites. A given product labelled as paracord may not correspond to a specific military type and can be of differing construction, quality, color, or strength. Particularly poor quality examples may have significantly fewer strands in the sheath or core, cores constructed of bulk fiber rather than individual yarns, or include materials other than nylon.

Paracord has also been used for whipmaking. The durability and versatility of this material has proved beneficial for performing whip crackers and enthusiasts. Since nylon does not rot or mildew, it has become known as an all-weather material for whipmaking.

Hikers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts sometimes use "survival bracelets" made of several feet of paracord which is woven into a compact and wearable form. Such bracelets are meant to be unraveled when one needs rope for whatever purpose — securing cargo, lashing together poles, fixing broken straps or belts, or assisting with water rescues. However, paracord makes a poor choice for an emergency tourniquet as its small diameter will crush tissue without applying the needed pressure to stop bleeding. Additional uses for parachute cord are in the manufacture of items such as lanyards, belts, dog leashes, rosaries, and key chains. This is becoming more popular as crafters are discovering this material.

Types of Paracord

US Military issue paracord was purchased with reference to a technical standard MIL-C-5040H, which was inactivated in 1997. This standard described six types: I, IA, II, IIA, III, IV. Types IA and IIA have no core. Type III, a type commonly found in use, is nominally rated with a minimum breaking strength of 550 pounds, thus the nickname "550 cord".

The US military specification for paracord gives strength and construction parameters to which the final product must conform, as well as requirements for packaging and marking. Although the standard contains specific denier figures for the sheath strands and inner yarns, there are no overall diameter requirements for the cord itself. Below is a table of selected elements from the specification The core (also known as the kern) consists of several yarns, the number is determined by the cord type, and each yarn is made up of two or three (commercial) or three (MIL-Spec) smaller nylon fibers twisted together..

Core Yarns


   95 lbs


 100 lbs
 400 lbs
       4 to 7
 225 lbs
 550 lbs

       7 to 9


 750 lbs


Nylon vs. Polyester Paracord

Paracord was initially only made from nylon but in recent years, polyester has been seen across the marketplace. The primary reason for this a lot of manufactures simply can't keep up with the demand for nylon paracord due to the price of the material. Polyester is more affordable and has similar properties.  In fact most stores won't tell you that you are purchasing polyester paracord because most people don't know the difference. Polyester is slightly firmer than Nylon but it is still very flexible. 

Which one is better? You be the judge.