A modern soldier’s gear contains a lot of high-tech items, all of which make today’s warfighter more effective than ever before. From laser sights to GPS and secure video communications, technology has revolutionized the battlefield. That doesn’t mean there’s no place left for some seriously low-tech classics though, and one thing that almost every soldier still has stashed in their gear is a length of 550 parachute cord.
As the name suggests, 550 cord was developed for use as parachute shroud lines. Made up of bunched nylon fibers inside a tough woven sleeve, it’s strong, resilient and versatile. In fact it’s so versatile that before long, troops were scrounging it every chance they got and putting it to a multitude of uses. It’s a natural candidate if you’re looking for a tougher replacement for field jacket draw cords, bootlaces or dog tag chains. A few short lengths will secure a shelter half between trees – it’s a quieter and safer solution than bungee cords, just as long as you can tie a decent knot. If you need to secure valuable items to your pocket or belt – flashlight, compass, folding knife or anything like that – a length of 550 will do it perfectly, plus giving you an extra reserve of this amazing super string.
Anyone who’s done SERE training will tell you how much they wished for more 550. Once you’re thrown back on your own resources, it’s amazing how often you need a way to hold those resources together, and paracord is an outstanding solution. It’s non-slip, so it’s ideal for lashing branches together to make shelters, litters or A-frames. It can even be doubled up and used for short climbs or descents in a tight spot. You can also cut a length and pull out the nylon core, then separate the strands and put them to all sorts of uses. Need to sew up a rent in your pants, but you’ve run out of cotton? No problem. Want to knot strands into an improvised fishing line? That works too. In an emergency the core can even be used for sutures.
Traditionally 550 cord came in two colors – white and green. There wasn’t any special reason for that, it’s just the colors they used for parachute shrouds. Now, with 550 a top-selling item in its own right, there’s a much wider selection available. You can get it in black, coyote, desert camo or a whole variety of bright colors – Atwood Rope even has a zombie-themed range now. Mostly it comes in 100 foot lengths, which is a good amount to carry in your gear. Larger spools are available though, and are ideal for making your own items – if you’re any good at net weaving, 550 is fantastic for making hammocks.
Because 550 is cheap – and more importantly light and compact – don’t skimp on it when you’re packing your kit. A 100 foot coil should be an essential item, but having a few more odd lengths around won’t hurt at all. One popular option is to braid a bracelet out of it. These have a touch of FOB chic, but also give you another few yards of valuable cord in an unobtrusive place. If you have the bad luck to be captured or taken hostage, there’s a chance the initial search will miss or overlook it. Turk’s head knots also use up a few feet of cord and can be added as “decorative” touches to zipper tabs. Again these are often overlooked in a search.
Just because 550 cord is simple and low-tech doesn’t mean it isn’t useful any more. It’s as valuable to a soldier as it’s ever been. Make sure you have a good supply of it with you whenever you go on duty; one day it could save your life.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.