Survival Kit Paracord | What it’s Used For | How Much You Need

Paracord is popular for many uses! I keep a large spool of it in the shop. From there I can peel off various lengths for whatever I need it for. Like keeping some in various kits. But how much paracord do I need?

There are lots of practical uses for paracord and it’s pretty much mandatory to have a length of it in a emergency kit.

The questions are:

“What are the uses for paracord?”
“How much paracord do I need for a survival kit?”

Each time that I put together a kit or go through an existing kit, I ask myself the same question, how much paracord do I need?

So, what’s the answer??
You do have at least ‘some’ cordage in your kit, right?

SPOOLS OF #550 CORD
(view on amzn)
1,000 feet of 550 Paracord

What is Paracord Used For?

Before we can figure out how much or what length of paracord to bundle in your survival kit, we need to consider what we might use it for.

Note: Paracord (cordage) is one of The 5 C’s Of Survivability

What might be the most likely uses, given the purpose of your specific survival kit?

The uses for paracord are countless.

I could sit here and brainstorm 100 uses for paracord.
Here are a few:

Uses for Paracord

Survival bracelet
Stringing up a Tarp
Tarp Tie Down
Tent and Pole support, building shelters
Clothes Line
Tow Line
Braiding for even more combined strength
Wrap handles for walking sticks
Equipment Guy-lines
Pack Strap, Fasten, lash and secure gear to backpack
Garden Lines
Shelter Making
Lean-To’s
Suspend a hammock
Replace broken shoelaces, boot laces
Fire Bow
Lanyard
Hang sunglasses around your neck
Knife Handle Wrap
Hang a water container (with spigot) from a tree branch
Lifeline – it will support the weight of a human
Livestock leads and dog leashes
Bowstring
Sling
Suspend a field communications antenna in a tree
Bundle wood together to haul back to camp
Pet collar, leash
Rope ladder
Suspending, elevating a hammock
Nets
Snare
Traps
Belts
Splint
Tourniquets
Climbing
Crafts
Handle wraps

Inner strands: sewing, fishing line, fly lures, trapping-snares, dental floss, emergency suture
parachute-cord-paracord-7-inner-strands

How Does #550 Paracord Hold 550 Pounds?

Mil-spec #550 paracord has 7 inner strands (nylon) within a woven nylon outer shell.

Evidently the woven nylon outer shell has a 250 pound tensile strength and each of the inner nylon strands has approximately 35 pound tensile strength.

Note that each inner strand can also be unwound into 2 smaller strands.

Rothco Paracord (100′ shank)
(view on amzn)
100 feet of 550 Paracord

Small Diameter, Light Weight, High Tensile Strength

The nice thing about paracord is the small diameter compared with it’s tensile breaking strength (typically 550 pounds).

While the repetitive ‘working load’ is less, paracord makes an efficient use of size & weight versus usability for an emergency survival kit, bug out bag, whatever…

How much Paracord ??

I’ve listed some uses (add your own below).
So how much should we include in our kits?

You can wrap up 20 feet into a fairly small coil.
Even 100 feet of it doesn’t take up too much space in a pack.

I would suggest AT LEAST 20 feet of paracord as a general minimum. That’s probably enough for many typical uses.

With that said, I would sure feel better with 100 feet of it. It’s so ridiculously light weight that stowing a 100 foot shank of paracord in one’s pack is no big deal.

(UPDATE) Having tallied up the comments below from the original post date of this article, a common length of #550 paracord that people tend to keep in their kit is 100′.

(This article was originally posted early in 2018, though I’ve just updated some info.)

 
I typically buy a 1,000 foot roll of cord and feed off that until I need more. That’s the best price per foot compared to getting smaller quantities. In fact I need to order another roll soon!

 
[ Read: Survival Gear for Preparedness – What you Need and Why ]

[ Read: Survival Kit List Of 10 Essential Items ]

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67 Comments

  1. To be honest I don’t know how much I carry. I bought a package at an army surplus for my GHB and added it; I would guess it to be about 100 ft. I have several more of the same at home but don’t really us much para cord. I mostly use rope. I have found para cord a little small in size for tying things down in the back of the truck ect.

    1. Poorman, I agree. I have a few hundred feet and there is probably about 30 feet in my GHB. For the most part I use rope. For smaller jobs I use a tarred sold braid line. I have a couple of thousand feet of it in various strengths. The rolls look a lot like the roll next to coil of para cord in Ken’s picture.

        1. At the farm we used bailing twine for almost everything, I said almost as it can burn. There it was right up there with duck tape and wire. We would go through about 100 small bales a week which resulted in a lot of twine. If one was not enough, double wrap it, if double wrap was not enough, use two pieces. Simple. Stuff is not a long term solution to fixing things but works really good for short term situations like keeping hydraulic hoses off the PTO shaft on the manure spreader.

  2. – I generally keep 100 feet of paracord in my GHB. This is my daily use equipment, as opposed to my kept-back-for-emergencies BOB.

    Two things to note about the stuff; first if you take double the length of cord and twist it together, with a twist every six inches or so, you will need double the length of line for a clothesline, but you are carrying /using more cord rather than the more limited use clothespins you would likely need.

    50 feet of cord will hang virtually everything I am not wearing, if doubled and strung up tightly, and allow the stuff to dry. You may want to look into the use of a short stick as a windlass for tightening.

    The other thing is if you have to deconstruct paracord for the inner lines (fishline, etc.), the casing is still useful as a reduced strength cord and it can also be pulled apart for sewing thread, dental floss and the like. You can twist several threads together if you need to.

    – Papa S.

    1. – Support the weight of a human? Yes, once only. I might use it, doubled, as an emergency rappelling rope with a good carabiner and swiss seat as an emergency way to get out of a building, etc. I wouldn’t want to do it a second time with the same cord.
      – Papa

      1. Rappelling? Maybe for a very short drop. I’d worry about the carabiner heating from friction and melting the lines.

        A buddy I used to jump with did a BASE jump from a 1000 ft radio tower. When the canopy opened he flew into a guide line. The canopy collapsed on the other side and he starting sliding down the line. By the time he got to about 250 feet all of the lines had parted. It was a very sad ending but he was doing what he loved.

        1. – Me –
          Unless you are making an assault rappel, the carabiner should not heat up. A normal speed drop where you touch the wall every ten-12 feet or so, the thing will not heat up like your friend’s paracords did on the support cables. So sorry to hear about your friend., but that is a classic “Not the way to do this”.
          I do have more than a little bit of time on rappel lines.

        2. – FWIW, after this article came out, I reconsidered and threw a second 100′ length in a ziplock bag in my GHB just as an ‘in case’..

    2. – I meant to say twist or braid the threads from the casing. It seems too frequently disregarded in articles of this sort.

      Just for interest, I got a couple of different ‘paracord bracelets’ from different sources, including Wally World, and took them apart just to see what length they were and what kind of quality I could see.

      The WW bracelets were pretty good quality as was TSC. Some others, well, maybe not so much. On average, they were 8 – 10 feet of cord; better than making your own, anyway.

      I do have one of the O.D. bracelets attached to the hanging strap on the top of my GHB, and a bright orange one on the loop inside the main compartment. I don’t include these in that earlier total.

      I would add the O.D. to my E.D.C. in a SHTF situation. In my current job, I wash my hands 2-300 times a day, and paracord just doesn’t go with sterile fields. I would add it though, as having ten feet of paracord could be very useful if I were not able to get to or keep my GHB.
      – Papa

      1. Carry some cord in my GHB. Paracord bracelets, got one once and wore it for a bit. Interesting but not a fan of them now. Besides, like I just said, I carry some cord in the GHB so no need to carry on my person since the bag is always close by when out and about. I already have enough goodies I carry on me on a daily basis.

    3. Papa S.;
      My thinking is I want 10′ more that the distance from the highest building I’m in, to the ground, use it one time and kiss the ground affectionately once the feet are there.
      I believe 550 is rated at 600 pounds if I’m correct, so it should do just fine for a single repel.

  3. I keep a roll or two of very small gauge cord in my bags. Atwood rope makes this stuff in different diameters, I like the small stuff on a roll and carry about 100′. I think it is about 1/8″ diameter and has a 75# breaking strength. for some reason I do not like para-cord, do not like the way the sheath slips on the internal strands. Woven cord for me.

  4. In my get-home bag, I have 50 feet of 550 cord. One 20′ length, 2- 10′ lengths and 2 – 5′ lengths. This does not include the 2′ lengths of perimeter ties for my poncho for shelter building.

    I also keep two sewing bobbins of snare wire to supplement this, but its mainly for repairing equipment, making very strong durable repairs possible.

  5. 100 foot in the GHB, two additional 100 foot bundles stored. Used it once to tie a car back door shut (tied to the other door), was rear ended and the door latch end up misaligned, officer at the scene got a chuckle on that, although he was eyeballing my folding tactical knife, totaled out the car.

  6. I’ve got about 3m of cordage on me at all times – though it is in two 1.5m lengths: I replaced my boot-laces with 4mm cord rated for 300kg.

    Yes, boots are also an essential item, and you rarely need rope more than you need secured boots. But in some situations you may prefer the rope – for example rigging a tarp as an emergency shelter for overnight.

  7. I have a 100 foot hank of 550 Paracord, and a 50 foot section of Survival Warrior Cord, both from Titan a Vet owned company, in all my bags. I also make my own bracelets, necklaces, and knive wraps using paracord. It’s much cheaper to make my own then buy pre made products.

  8. I find myself using webbing more than paracord, i buy these rolls of webbing that are supposed to be for landscaping, tying trees and shrubs to stakes etc, the paracord is handy too but just dont use it much

  9. I just went and bought some. Needed something durable for my well bucket. Threw in some butter and collidel sp silver cream too.

  10. 50 feet in my every day. go to work, laptop pack (Maxpedition GridFlux)
    100 feet is every other packs (GHB, BOB, etc.)
    500 feet in the truck bag
    several random lengths scattered around the place.
    “I have too much paracord” said no-one… ever :)

  11. Each BOB has 2 each 100 ft. hanks of 550 cord and one 100 ft hank of 750.

    Six carabiners on each pack.

    Probably 200 ft 1/8 inch nylon cordage.

    Thirty-seven ft 550 wrapped around two each Klean Kanteens on each BOB.

    Fifty-eight ft 550 cord on SOG Tomahawk handle.

    So, that totals out to 637 ft or cordage in each BOB.
    Might have some room for more.

    1. RoadWarrior, never thought of handle wrapping the SOG Tomahawk, good idea, add to the list of do things. Thanks.

  12. When we lived on the farm our kids used to say, “My dad can fix anything with bailing twine and duct tape.” we still have the duct tape but not so much bailing twine. Instead we now use 550 cord, all colors and lengths.

    1. Good question. After looking around the homestead I found a few ‘problems’ solved about two years ago using 550 cord. Did not remember them still being around, but were functioning just as well as the day they were used. Must say they were not looking to be in the same condition as they were when the solution was applied, but were still holding their own. Impressed me! So, I must say that one year is expected, two is if you forget.

    2. I had used it on a particular project which was out in the weather for more than a year. While it did fade after a long time in the sun, it held up. It wasn’t as pliable after a year in the weather. However it was holding up to the task.

      1. UV (sunlight is a source) degrades nylon. But with 55o the outer sheath is shading the inner strands. I’ve had items lashed for years.

    3. I purchase the paracord as Ken shows on the spool and use it for many things. I placed some on the 6 ft. Fence posts around the garden to extend the fencing. The 4 X 2 welded wire fence is 4 ft. High, then the cord is run twice at 5 ft. And 6 ft. Heights to keep chickens and deer out. It appears to work well and has been up for two years. But I would not use it to support my weight after two years in our weather.

  13. I keep 100′ and 2, 20′ sections in my BOB. My most common uses are for raising and lowering my bow or rifle in elevated deer stands. Have also used it to hoist up deer and hogs while skinning and quartering.

  14. Minimum 100 ft. just in case you have unforeseen uses or needs for it, or you’re with others who may need to use some of it.

    Also minimum 100 ft. of #36 bankline (the real stuff that smells like tar).

  15. I keep a couple of NEW 100 footers in the GHB all the time. Also I make dang sure i have more on my person to repell from the tallest location I’ll be in.
    Couple of hunks in the truck also. The stuff is lite AND cheap.

  16. I always have a 100’ in my pack. I’ve never needed to use all of it on any camping/backpacking/survival trips. And 100’ doesn’t take up much space and doesn’t weigh hardly anything. No reason not to have it.

  17. I have lengths of paracord I carry, they are cut to 25, 50, and 100 foot lengths. I tie a small knot near the end, one knot for each 25 feet of length. When I need some paracord I can estimate how much I need and select a hank based on the number of knots.

    I have melted the cut ends of each hank to prevent fraying. You can see fraying in some of the paracord in the picture.

    I agree that buying by the roll is the way to go price wise. It also makes it easier to cut and provide lengths to family members in a manner that helps them build their BOB.

    I keep some other short lengths of other cordage for uses mentioned above like emergency boot laces.

    I use desert tan just to keep colors dull and unnoticeable.

    1. Actually, every end (except one) in the photo above has been melted with a lighter. It’s typical that the outer sheath will melt back a bit leaving slightly exposed melted inner strands. Although if you keep the flame on it long enough, it will turn to a blob of black goo.

      One short hank was left purposely frayed to show the inner strands for a photo of a previous article. The usability of the inner strands is another great attribute of 550 paracord.

      paracord inner strands

      It’s good to mention though for newbies,

      Always take a lighter to the end of nylon cordage and melt it. Otherwise it will fray (like most other cordage of it’s type).

      1. I usually make a nice blob of the inner and outer together. Then when still hot, use spit wetted fingers to quickly (I mean quickly) pinch down the end so that it doesn’t look like a ball hitch. That way the inner cords don’t slip down inside.

  18. – Per the title of the article, I only addressed the paracord I keep and carry.

    I also carry 1 or 2 Vietnam-era snare wire (the green spools with two small nails), a 30’ roll of 1” duct tape (and would probably grab whatever is in my vehicle of standard duct tape should I have to abandon it, generally at least half a roll), a small spool of 100 feet of 10# nylon monofilament, and about 100 feet of 20# braided Spiderwire®.

    I have to agree with the commenter above who said. “’I have too much (cordage),’ said no one ever.” That is just what I can think of off the top of my head. I also do have paracord bootlaces, which forms part of my EDC, ‘cause I know I can always use it in other ways if I must.

    – Papa S.

    1. Papa S.
      “I have too much cordage”
      Isn’t that like having too much money or too much ammo? I definitely don’t have that problem.

  19. I wrap everything in it. My guns, axes, knives, and other tools all use 550 for grips or just “accents”. I keep several hundred feet in each vehicle, and have a few thousand feet at the house. I use it to make slings for all of our bb guns and kids use it on their NERF guns and bb guns. I keep a vehicle entry tool in my door panel and that is also wrapped in 550 and so are several knives. I’m thinking about wrapping my kid’s bike handles with it. The grips you get at the store just don’t hold up.

  20. I read this someplace before and think it is the best idea, 1 is none and 2 is one, so whether you decide to take a 20 foot length or a 100 foot length double it and take 2, take 2 fire starters, take 2 of everything you can.

    1. What kind of treatment center would be able to help with that addiction? As long as you are not going out at 3am to get more cord or in a closet doing your activities hiding from the family, I think you should be OK. Then again I am not a medical professional. 😋

  21. Okay Ken. Does Amazon tell you what your readers are doing searches for? I was looking at it this AM but was looking for stronger than the 550. I found they also make a 650 and a 750.

    1. @me, No, there’s no way of knowing what readers are searching for on Amzn. And I have no way of knowing who is ordering (I wouldn’t want to know anyway – it’s none of my business…).

      That said, yes there is #750 paracord.
      TOUGH-GRID 750lb Paracord

  22. A friend passed and left me her food storage and a huge box of paracord (which had spider webs with occupants in the box). Now if I just could remember where I put it?!?

  23. Don’t know how much to carry, but, Mors Kropanski (sp) says, ‘if you have any room in your kit, fill it with cordage’.
    I keep a 50 ft roll in my kit, and another in my truck.

  24. I was given most of a 1000 foot spool of 650 para cord. Has anyone used it for boot strings? It seems to be a diameter that would work. Was wondering about durability.

    1. Country, I replaced my Merrill “outside” sneaker laces with paracord, once cut to the right length, melted the end to prevent fraying, it works fine, have not done boots yet. For what it’s worth.

    2. – Have used 550 paracord for laces for years. I would have to say that on average, the laces last as long or longer than the boots, and I have worn out more than a few pair of boots. Only additional care the laces require is washing them whenever I clean the boots.
      – Papa S.

    3. I use it all the time for that, works good,
      If you search Dyneema cord you can find a little stiffer and a little thicker though, and is more abrasion resistant.

      1. Using Dyneema for bootlaces is a good plan. Plus if you need to you can use it to tow a truck out of a ditch. That stuff is stronger than steel!

    4. country,
      Have used 550 for boot laces but needed to tie double knot to prevent slipping .

      1. – Sorry, should have said I use square knots in my boot laces. Doesn’t come untied until I suggest that it should.
        – Papa S.

  25. I use paracord to string up tarps and to wrap bundles in place all the time.

    I, too, cut 100 feet into lengths of 20 feet or 10 feet and keep the multiple bundles of cut cord with melted ends together in a small nylon stuff sack and store it with a tarp that has grommets along the edges. Seems you could never have enough – it is that handy.

    Using the inexpensive tarps from hardware store or Walmart, this combo is used almost universally to cover stacks of firewood up where I live. When sheltering in place in the mountains, I like to sleep on the plastic tarp and foam pad with a higher strength nylon tarp overhead. overhead tarps held in place with – paracord…

    I used 11 or 9 mm Kernmantle rope when climbing in the Sierras. Kernmantle rope is built similar to paracord with inner strands ( the Kern ) surrounded by the outer sheath ( Mantle ).. This stuff is not cheap ( about $200.00 for a length of 150 meters.). It is easier to work with than Goldline and it does not spin you when you are hanging suspended by the rope.

    I treated my ropes with the same respect II treat all my tools: store it dry away from gasoline or petrochemicals that will weaken the rope and store it in the stuff sack when not in use. I would launder my ropes in Dreft laundry detergent if at all if the ropes were used in areas with poison oak ( black residue on rope ) Never step on your rope.

    Most of my work using Kernmantle rope was in body recovery work after the victim has fallen. Unspoken rule is a climbing party must always bring back the dead. 11 mm rope was used on dry rock and dirt. 9 mm rope was used on snow and ice. Both will hold your body weight, the 9 mm line was lighter in weight so it is used as a safety line between climbers crossing ice fields. I have rappelled successfully using both butt rappelling is tough on ropes.

    When to replace climbing rope: Ropes are rated for number of falls they will hold a 150 kilo person free falling 10 feet. The usual rating was 8 or 9. I used to replace my ropes if that number got around 7 or the kern was heavily worn. ( look at the stakes involved.). My old ropes were given to my farmer relatives that used the cut up ropes to tie down pallets of produce to haul to market. 15 years later, some of my original ropes are still being used to tie up pallets of lettuce.

    Now days, I am too old to climb and I leave the rock walls to the young bold people. I was working for the Feds or S.O. when I was doing the body recovery work.

  26. One thing with paracord that ive seen a lot is braiding, have seen some cool stuff made from it, and if done right seems to me would be a good way to carry in your pack or even on your person, i saw an old guy the other day who had a cane that was wrapped with it from about half way up the shank through the entire handle, he said he did it himself and was one continuous piece a little over60′ it looked like a 8 strand braid you would see on a whip handle, way cool, think hes a bit o a prepper as he said proudly that he has a walking stick that he used a little over 150′ of cord to do the same thing,,,
    But all the belts and slings and such are handy and could be real helpful.

  27. I presently do not include any paracord in my survival kit, but I do have some shoelaces.

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