Paracord is a type of narrow rope that was first developed and deployed on parachutes during World War II. Today it is widely appreciated for its strength and versatility and used by campers, hunters, homeowners and more for a variety of purposes.
There are six recognized types of paracord, but by far the most popular is Type III, or ‘550 paracord’. It is called 550 paracord because it is rated to handle a static load of 550 pounds. 750 pound paracord is also in fairly common use. But because it is thicker than 550, it is not quite as versatile.
There are hundreds of companies that manufacture paracord these days. Some of it is the genuine article and some is not. We sifted through dozens of different products to find the best paracord of 2020.
1. Paracord Planet Type III 550 Paracord
Paracord Planet Type III 550 Paracord is made of the highest quality nylon and spun together into a dizzying array of patterns and colors. It has the industry standard 7 strand core and will not succumb to mold or mildew. It’s tough, versatile, slender and makes an ideal addition to your backpack or bug out bag.
Paracord Planet is not a front for a foreign sweatshop. It has the corporate bona-fides of being a certified US government contractor and produces all its products in the US. When you add it all up and toss in the very reasonable price you get our #1 choice for best paracord.
2. Bengku Outdoor Mil-Spec 550 Paracord
There are a lot of paracord manufacturers who promote their 550 paracord as being ‘mil-spec’ when it isn’t. Mil-spec means it is not only woven from 7 strands, but that each of those strands contains 3 yarns, not 2. Bengku Outdoor Mil-Spec 550 Paracord is the genuine article, however, and for that it nails down our number 2 spot, in spite of offering only 6 colors.
The difference between 2 yarn and 3 yarn paracord is not huge. But if you are going to employ paracord in a way that tests its limits, you are better off with this type of true 550 mil-spec cord.
3. Titan Paracord 620 LB SurvivorCord
Paracord is already extremely versatile. But some manufacturers have found a way to go the extra mile and squeeze even more utility from it. Such is the case with this 620 lb Survivor Cord from Titan Paracord. It includes a proprietary jute fiber strand that can be turned into a highly effective firestarter material.
Just a few sparks from your ferro rod and you’ll be on your way to a roaring campfire. But Titan doesn’t stop there. There is also a fishing line worked into the weave that can be removed in survival situations. And a multipurpose wire that strengthens the cord and can be removed for whatever purpose you have in mind. True survival cord.
4. Paracord Planet 750 lb Mil-Spec Paracord
Sometimes you want something a bit more robust than standard 550 pound paracord. Paracord Planet provides it with their outstanding 750 lb Mil-Spec Paracord. This tough, durable cord features 11 strands of 3 yarns each and has a minimum failure rating of 750 pounds.
It is far stronger than any standard Type III paracord and is ideal for things like tying down heavy loads, anchoring your fishing boat and using as a hoist for heavy items. But before you get any ideas, just remember that even 750 paracord is not strong enough to use as a climbing rope.
5. X-Cords Paracord 850 Lb
X-Cords 850 lb Paracord pushes the envelope of what paracord can be and in the process provides you with a way to do your heavy duty projects safely and affordably. While the company’s claim that their 8 strand cord will somehow hold up to 850 pounds has generated more than a little debate, there is no doubt it is the equal of any 750 Type III paracord out there.
That means it’s great for tying down heavy loads, securing tents against howling winds and conveying supplies up and over difficult terrain.
6. Golberg 550 lb Paracord
Golberg 550 lb Paracord is ideal for camping, hiking and hunting. It is tough, mold and mildew resistant and doesn’t flinch under UV light. This is genuine mil-spec 550 paracord with 7 strands of 3 yarns each and is produced in the US by certified government contractors.
It also comes with what the company calls the ‘Golberg Strap’, which is a Velcro strap that wraps around your spool and secures it tightly. Golberg 550 is ideal for tents, paracord bracelets, tying down loads, and a hundred other tasks around the yard or the campsite.
7. Lifesaver Tools 850 lb Black Paracord
Lifesaver Tools 850 lb Black Paracord is tough as nails and features 8 triple-wound strands that together produce an impressive breaking weight of 858 pounds. At the same time the cord is no bulkier than any 750 lb paracord on the market and just as abrasion resistant, water resistant and flexible.
Lifesaver Tools goes further than most manufacturers by offering a lifetime exchange should their cord ever fade or lose its integrity due to mold or mildew.
8. Tough-Grid 750 lb Paracord
Tough-Grid 750 lb Paracord comes in 50, 100 or 150 foot coils, or spools up to 1,000 feet. It is comprised of 11, 3 yarn strands that won’t let you down when you really need it.
If you are looking for the perfect paracord to secure that trophy buck or refrigerator in the back of the pickup, here it is. The company is proud of the fact that their paracord is never spliced and is produced right here in the US.
9. Sgt Knots 7 Strand 550 Paracord
Sgt Knots 7 Strand 550 Paracord is a great all-purpose light rope to use around the campsite, house or business. It has the genuine 7 strand composition that separates real 550 paracord from cheap imitations, it is available in a variety of colors and patterns to serve any purpose.
Sgt Knots paracord is made of 100 percent nylon and available in lengths of 100, 200 or 1,000 feet. Sgt Knots is a veteran owned and operated business and all their paracord products are made in the US.
10. Atwood Rope 550 Paracord
It is not easy for one manufacturer of quality paracord to separate themselves from the others. But Atwood Rope has managed to do it by creating some very unique and satisfying color/pattern combinations for their 550 pound paracord.
While the paracord is not technically ‘mil-spec’ (it would need to have 3 yarns per strand, instead it has 2), it nonetheless adheres to currently accepted industry standards for 550-rated cord. Atwood also uses specially treated UV-resistant nylon in their paracord, and all their products are made in Ohio, USA.
What is Paracord?
The first parachute jumps were made more than two centuries ago (1) but it was not until the Second World War that parachuting really came of age. Because standard rope was cumbersome the military developed a new type of lightweight, flexible, parachute cord. Once on the ground soldiers found this same paracord could be put to myriad other uses, including building shelter, securing equipment to vehicles and even to trip up enemy combatants.
After the war recreational parachuting took off and so did recreational use of paracord. Today, paracord is used for everything from securing loads in the back of trucks to hanging food out of the reach of bears in campgrounds to making bracelets. It is one of the most versatile items a camper, hunter, homeowner, or business owner can have available. Right up there with duct tape.
How is Paracord Different From Climbing Rope?
Those new to paracord might think it looks climbing rope, only thinner. And to an extent they are right. It does look like climbing rope. But inside, it is not like climbing rope. And when you put it to use, you discover it does not act like climbing rope either.
Paracord is made from nylon, just like climbing rope. Nylon is stretchy and durable and will not attract mold or mildew. What separates paracord from climbing rope is the way the rope is constructed (2). Climbing rope has a tightly woven core that provides its strength. Over that core is a sheath that keeps out the moisture and protects the rope from cuts and abrasions.
Paracord on the other hand, is made by weaving together a number of smaller strands and then wrapping them in a sheath, much like climbing rope. Typically there are 7 – 11 of these strands, and each strand is comprised of 2 or 3 smaller strands called ‘yarns’. So you will have anywhere from 14 to 33 yarns inside a typical length of 550 paracord.
Because paracord does not have the tightly woven core that climbing rope does the nylon retains more of its stretchability. As such, paracord is typically twice as stretchy as climbing rope. Which is one of many reasons it should never be used as climbing rope.
What Can You Do With Paracord?
Paracord is essential gear for campers and hunters – Experienced hikers and hunters have come to appreciate the versatility of paracord. They use it for everything from securing their tent against the wind to securing their trophy buck to their vehicle. Paracord is also ideal for hanging bear bags from trees, constructing makeshift shelters and securing gear to the outside of a pack. In tight spots it can be used as shoelaces, a fishing line, a splint, a sling or a tourniquet.
Paracord can be used to create bracelets – You can’t always tote around a spool of paracord with you everywhere you go. Or can you? Practical-minded individuals have discovered that a bracelet woven out of paracord can be unwound in an emergency situation and used for all of the reasons just stated above.
Paracord can help you get a grip – Not every item in your everyday carry (EDC) comes with an ideal grip. Paracord can be wrapped around the handle of a fixed blade knife to improve your grip in any weather conditions. In the event of an emergency, the paracord can be unwound and used for any of the reasons outlined above.
Paracord can be used to create a fishing line – You might think that 550 paracord is too thick to use as a fishing line. And you would be right, if you were to try and use it ‘as is’. But, because of the way paracord is constructed you can open it up and remove one of the thin inner yarns and use that to fish with. If you are particularly industrious you can use these yarns to weave a fishing net.
Paracord can be used to make a fashion statement – Those paracord bracelets we mentioned earlier are not just handy in an emergency situation, they are also very much in demand by fashion-conscious urbanites and suburbanites. It’s not a prospect that is going to interest most preppers, but paracord is available in so many colors that it was inevitable that it would find a place on the fashion runway.
Paracord is perfect for creating lanyards – Many EDC items today have lanyard holes. That includes knives, multitools, RFID wallets (3), tactical wallets, tactical flashlights and more. Paracord makes for an ideal lanyard (4). It’s light and tough and can be woven into a pattern – not unlike a paracord bracelet – that can be unwound in case of emergency. All your important everyday carry items can be made more easily available by using paracord lanyards.
Paracord makes your campsite safer – Paracord is available in a multitude of colors. You can even get it in ‘neon’ colors that are highly visible, and a few manufacturers make fluorescent paracord that glows in the dark. These types of paracord make for a safer campsite by ensuring people can see tent stakes and guy lines when they are walking around at night.
Paracord can be used in a medical emergency – Paracord is more than the sum of its parts. You can break it down and use the individual yarns to create sutures in an emergency situation. If a person is incapacitated and they need to be carried the skilled outdoorsman can craft a paracord stretcher to transport the injured. It can also be used to craft splints and slings.
Paracord can be used to create a rescue line – Flash floods happen all the time all over the country (5). Oftentimes hikers and campers are overwhelmed by quickly rising streams. At the same time, scores of people fall through lake or river ice in northern states every year (6), which presents its own kind of challenge. In both cases, paracord can be used to create an effective rescue line.
Paracord can be used in whole or in part – Paracord is comprised of a number of thinner strands that are woven together. Unlike regular rope you can break paracord down in an emergency and use these strands for a variety of purposes, as we laid out above. So when considering whether to purchase paracord, try to think beyond the obvious uses to the not so obvious (but sometimes even more important) uses like rescue lines, sutures, slings, splints and more.
Can Paracord Be Used as a Climbing Rope?
No. Paracord should not be used as a climbing rope. This answer might confuse some who see paracord rated to 550 or even 750 pounds and think “I don’t weigh anything close to 750 pounds.” It’s true. You don’t weigh 750 pounds; when you are standing still. But you do not use rope to protect you when you are standing still. You rope in on a mountain to provide protection in case you fall. And here is why you cannot use paracord instead of climbing rope.
If you weigh 150 pounds and you free fall even 20 feet (not at all unheard of) before the paracord catches you, your 150 pounds will generate about 1,000 pounds of pressure (7) on the paracord and it will snap like a twig. Also, paracord stretches further than climbing rope when weight is applied. So the paracord could still be stretching when you hit the ground.
All that said, it is theoretically possible that there could come a time when you need to lower yourself off a dangerous pitch and, for some reason, you have lost your rope. In such a case you may have no choice but to pull out the paracord and use it to rappel. But this should only be considered in life or death situations and you would need to proceed very slowly and carefully.
How Far Will Paracord Stretch?
High-quality 550 paracord stretches much more than most people think. If it is made properly it should stretch 30 percent without breaking. The military actually requires exactly that of any paracord it uses. So if you see a paracord that claims to be ‘mil-spec’ but it does not stretch at least 30 percent without breaking, it is not really mil-spec.
Any and all nylon rope will stretch to some degree. How far it will stretch will depend on the way the rope is constructed. Paracord does not make good climbing rope because it stretches too far and simply cannot withstand the forces created by a falling person. Climbing rope is nylon, but it has a tough, tightly wound inner core that limits stretching to 15 percent. Static nylon ropes used for conveying loads up or down a mountain have the least amount of stretch.
How Many Types of Paracord Are There?
The US military recognizes six types of paracord (8). But for practical purposes there are only two types that will be of interest to the average hiker, hunter, outdoor enthusiast, or prepper. Those are Type III and Type IV. Type III is rated to 550 pounds, which is how it got its nickname ‘550 paracord’. Type IV paracord can withstand up to 750 pounds before breaking. Though keep in mind that is for a static load. 550 paracord contains either 7 or 9 strands, each made up of 3 yarns. If you purchase something advertised as 550 paracord and it has fewer than 7 strands it is not real 550 paracord.
Is Paracord Durable?
Paracord is incredibly durable. It is made of nylon so it will not attract mold and mildew and humidity has very little effect on it. About the only thing you need to be careful of is leaving out in the sun for prolonged periods of time. But even then, the risk to the cord is minimal. That said, if you use your paracord to tie something down then you should examine it closely for fraying or other types of damage before you coil it back up again, just to be safe.
Can I Make a Bug Out Frag and Take It on an Airplane?
No. A Bug Out Frag has a shell of 550 paracord wound in a way that resembles a hand grenade (9). Inside are some survival essentials including a knife, waterproof matches or lighter, a wire saw, whistle and more. Because the Bug Out Frag resembles a hand grenade, TSA will not allow it anywhere near the cabin of an airplane. And that would be true even if it did not contain a knife, incendiaries and more.
The Bottom Line
Paracord is like a multitool made of nylon. It has myriad uses around the campsite, the workshop, the home and business, with new uses seemingly popping up every week. Just a little bit of paracord could, under some circumstances, make the difference between life and death. Although most people will use it for things like staking down their tent, hanging food from a tree where bears can’t get at it, and creating lanyards for their EDC gear.
Paracord is light, tough, versatile and affordable and if you don’t have some in your backpack or under the counter at home then you cannot consider yourself truly prepared for whatever might lie ahead. All of the paracords listed above have withstood the scrutiny of your product reviewers. Any one will serve you well, whether employed for practical or emergency reasons.