Paracord, shorthand for parachute cord, is a type of rope used for many different purposes. Military personnel, survivalists, and everyday people alike take advantage of the variety of paracord uses and the material’s versatility.
On the surface, paracord might look like any other rope, but this is far from true. Whereas other ropes may be made from polyester or polypropylene, paracord is made from nylon and known for its incredible strength-to-weight ratio—so strong, in fact, that it was used by astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
The braided sheath includes a large number of interwoven strands to account for its size and the nylon construction is fairly elastic, lending itself to a number of uses. Because its material is very lightweight, survival paracord is commonly included in bug out bags and survival gear kits due to its many life-saving capabilities. In fact, paracord is so versatile that we included it in our SEVENTY2 backpack.
The U.S. military defines six different types of paracord: I, IA, II, IIA, III, and IV. Type III is the most common in usage, containing seven to nine core yarns and boasting a breaking strength of 550 pounds—thus the nickname “550 cord”.
It can hold 550 pounds at its maximum capacity, but the yarns of the core (or its “guts”) can also be removed for when finer string is needed. After World War II, it became widely available and commonly purchased, since civilians appreciated the same paracord uses that the military and NASA did.
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