One thing that I really like to have in my camping/ hiking/ survival equipment is versatility. A quick definition describes versatility as: 1. Capable of doing many things competently. 2. Having varied uses or serving many functions. Paracord, parachute cord or 550 cord, however you want to call it, is one of the most versatile things you will ever buy. It is right up there with duct tape. For those of you who are unfamiliar with paracord, it is a nylon kernmantle rope originally designed to act as shroud lines for US WWII parachutes. It gets the name 550 cord because mil spec type III cord is rated at 550 pound test. It has a woven outer sheath and in its mil-spec designation, has an inner core of 7 strands, each made up of three strands. It comes in many colors, the most common being some type of "army green" usually a little darker than the common olive drab green. (I also like the "coyote brown" color, it blends just about everywhere.) To prevent fraying, the cut ends of the cord are almost always melted and/or crimped.
Its uses are as infinite as your imagination. The conventional things are pretty easy to think of, you can (of course) use it as shroud lines for a parachute or you can use it for just about any tie down task that you might use rope, string, twine, or even bungee cords. Some of the more typical uses might include attaching equipment to harnesses, securing tarps or camo netting as shelter, tying backpacks down to trailers or vehicle racks. Pace counters are made by threading with beads (or knotted pieces of the sheath) to estimate ground covered by foot. The inner lines or guts can be taken out and used for sewing thread to repair gear, or as fishing line. But that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Word is that 550 cord was used by the astronauts of STS 82 to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
My buddy has become quite the artist with paracord and has been nice enough to make a lot of little items for me. Below are some pics of his work.
Knife grip wraps of paracord are pretty common and it makes for a pretty solid grip, impervious to rot and decay that can also be taken off and used for other tasks if needed. Since this knife (my very first...sniff sniff) did not have a handle, it made it useful again.
Lanyards and pull tabs are another common use, here we have a neat little square lanyard for my everyday pocket light (a Coast LED Lenser) and below a more complicated and stronger weave attached to a d-ring and a waterproof box. This set up is perfect for keeping camera handy, dry and protected on a canoe trip.
(or cigarettes, if you like those nasty bastards)
I wanted a new grip for the tomohawk that I keep in the trunk.
(What do you mean? You don't keep a tomohawk in the trunk?)
My friend really outdid himself with this one, a great looking design, it affords a good grip, keeps the tomohawk head firmly in place and keeps a large amount of cord at hand. Getting it off would be another thing, though. It might take more than an minute.
Here is where my imagination came in. I was thinking about some ways to amuse myself and decided that I could get my friend to make a blackjack for me. A $0.75 package of little lead fishing weights and bam:
this thing would certainly do the job, you could use the braided grip to swing it or hold it by the lanyard loop and get some more velocity. two things are certain: this thing would knock the hell out of someone and that amount of materials invested in it would not buy you a hamburger.
One final note: things that you should not do with paracord: wear it around your neck (it could strangle you) or use it to climb or try to bear all your weight on it. FYI