Paracord for Survival

Useful in Many Situations

By David J. Fred - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.(Original text: Self-created, en:Nikon D70, uploaded by creator of image), CC BY-SA 2.5,
Paracord or “550 cord” by Army paratroopers has multiple uses in the outdoors, including survival situations.


Parachute cord, paracord, or “550 cord” as it is called by Army paratroopers is a multiple filament cord with 550 lb. test strength that is highly useful for many situations.

As an Army paratrooper, we used it to tie down equipment including our canteens to secure them to our light-bearing equipment (web gear).

As you crossed a stream, you would remove each canteen, unravel the 550 cord, open the tops and drop them into the water. By the time you crossed to the other bank, canteens were full (of course you had to add iodine tablets to kill the bacteria).

I’ve also used parachute cord in Europe to catch wild rainbow trout out of cold streams deep in the forest. We were training in a German private forest when my Soldiers told me they saw fish in a stream. We contemplated on “how” to make a fishing pole when one of them suggested 550 cord.

As a team eager to test our survival skills, we used a long tree branch for the rod, cut and pulled the strands from the 550 cord, took a medical safety-pin and straightened it, cut a piece of notched wood for a bobber or floater and we had our fishing pole.

The next question became what to use as fishing bait. The only meat was in our MRE (Meals-Read-to-Eat), so we used the meatballs in BBQ sauce and headed to the stream where we located a small ledge just slightly above the waters.

On my first cast, which was really like a pendulum swing, the meatball fell off. A second later a nightly splash was seen and it was gone. The trout lying below the running water was not so fortunately on the second cast and I brought in a 12 inch rainbow. We could another and then returned to camp triumphantly where we build a fire pit, dropped in the fish, covered them with dirt, and let them cook. Delicious.

Parachute cord can also be used to set snares for wild game, tie down a pack, or even make  stirrup footings for a Prusik climb up a rope that was taught to us in Ranger School. These days you’ll see people wearing paracord bracelets but you can buy it in bulk and keep it ready for any daily chore or emergency.

Kevin Lee McIver

Groovy Outdoors

Kevin Lee McIver

Soldier, Army Ranger, Writer, & Adventurer