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The best paracords are the ones you know how to use effectively in the field. It’s a good idea to practice with the cheap stuff and maybe have a few feet available for basic tasks, but I recommend having something more capable in your camping pack or go-bag. By the time you reach the comments section (where I encourage you to leave a few tips and tricks of your own), you’ll have the know-how to buy the best paracords for your needs and the resources to build your skills with them.
I realize that most paracord will be braided into a keychain or wrap, never to be touched again. Some will be used to suspend a poncho liner as a makeshift shelter in the field because tents, we all know, are for the weak. Any old discount paracord you find online will work for those jobs, but if you ever actually need paracord in a life-or-death situation, you’re going to want mil-spec 550 or 750 cord that can bear a sizable load and be broken down into many usable components.
The best paracords for survival have bonus features like tinder, fishing line, and metal filament woven into the internal strands. This style of survival paracord can turn your bootlaces or knife handle into a miniature survival kit in a matter of seconds. Of course, that’s only if you took the time to learn applicable bushcraft skills before the time comes.
- Best Overall: Titan SurvivorCord XT
- Best Value: Extremus Type III 550 Cord
- Honorable Mention: MSR Ultralight Utility Cord
- Best Bracelet: Friendly Swede Trilobite
Before I even started my search for the best paracords, I took a minute to revisit some of the ways people use the stuff. All of us have probably used 550 cord to build a shelter out of a tarp or tie serialized gear to ourselves (shoutout to my peers who got to participate in the great PEQ-15 search of 2011), but more important tasks include repairing broken gear, building more durable bushcraft shelters, building makeshift tools, and even catching something to eat when the going gets tough. I even took the opportunity to practice some of those skills by upgrading my trusty get-home bag with a paracord-wrapped handle.
After finding a solid value option for my budget-conscious readers, I dug a little deeper to find more advanced paracord options with higher load ratings and better features. One of my guiding lights was MIL-C-5040H, the U.S. military’s standard for paracord construction. The rest of my picks had to meet or exceed that standard. After sifting through what seemed like endless search results of suspect products, I found two that I would trust to get me to the ends of the Earth and back.
Plain, old, military-style 550 cord is one of the best pieces of survival and bushcraft gear available — but Titan made it better. SurvivorCord XT is actually so much better than traditional paracord that the only reason to buy anything else is cost.
The differences that make this the best paracord to buy are hidden inside the nylon sleeve. Instead of the usual seven interior nylon strands, you’ll find 12. In addition to those, there’s a Kevlar thread rated at 110 pounds for use as a friction saw or snare for wild game. This paracord also includes a 25-pound fishing line and a waterproof jut thread that can be used as tinder to start a fire.
All of this adds up to earn a static load rating in excess of 1,000 pounds — that’s almost twice as strong as mil-spec 550 cord. With tensile strength comes great responsibility, so make sure your knot-making skills are up to the challenge.
My only complaint is that this paracord is only offered in black. Supposedly, green and tan variations are in the works. In the meantime, I can live with limited color options when the product is this good.
- Material: Nylon, polyester
- Internal strands: 12
- Load rating: 1,000 pounds
- Length: 100 feet
Carries a static load rating of 1,000 pounds
Features tinder, fishing line, and a Kevlar thread
Resists heat, mildew, and UV damage
Heavy, expensive, and overkill in most situations
Only available in black
If you’ve ever been issued 550 cord by the military, bought some on base, or otherwise acquired it from someone who didn’t secure their gear, this is probably what you ended up with. It’s built to meet the U.S. military’s standard for paracord (because, of course, the U.S. military has a standard for paracord; what a thriller that working group must have been), so you know it can get the job done in the field even if it doesn’t dazzle you with bonus features.
The specs of this paracord read like a military manual: It has a nylon sleeve, seven internal strands, one tracer strand, and a 550-pound load rating. It comes in five colors, but the only ones you probably care about are green and tan. The dye is made to resist fading, so your tactical paracord doesn’t turn into an eyesore after a few days in the sun. You can choose from 25-, 50-, and 100-foot lengths. At this price, you should probably spring for 100 feet and be done with it unless you want multiple colors.
This paracord is shipped in a resealable bag, but I still recommend taking precautions to keep it untangled. Learn how to wrap or braid paracord to keep it organized so it doesn’t turn into a rat’s nest the second you put it away.
- Material: nylon
- Internal strands: 7
- Load rating: 550 pounds
- Length: 25, 50, or 100 feet
Affordable without sacrificing quality
Meets MIL-C-5040H, the U.S. military’s paracord standard
Available in green and tan
Bare-bones military paracord with no bonus features
Not as versatile as survival paracord
Sometimes (or oftentimes), we don’t actually need the full brunt of 550 cord. There are a lot of jobs that would be easier with a lightweight cord that’s still woven and stronger than string. That’s where MSR’s Ultralight Utility Cord comes into play.
This cord is rated at 200 pounds, so it’s definitely no replacement for 550 paracord. What it can do is tie off a tent or rainfly, mount wet gear to the outside of your pack, or fashion bushcraft tools in the field. The red color and reflective material do a great job of avoiding trips around the campsite, but they have no place in a tactical environment. If you want to be a real survival pro, you can lace your hiking boots with this cord and have a handy backup should things take a turn for the worse.
Consider this something to buy in addition to the 550 (or better) paracord you came here for. Life isn’t a one-size-fits-all game, so diversify your gear and develop new skills.
- Material: nylon
- Internal strands: not specified
- Load rating: 200 pounds
- Length: 32 feet
Great for smaller jobs
Reflective thread makes this cord easy to spot
Saves weight when every ounce counts
Not good for tactical use
Tensile strength is only rated at 200 pounds
The Friendly Swede Trilobite earned top honors in testing as our best paracord bracelet for survival. In addition to signaling to everyone that you are a super-cool tactical operator, it’s actually a handy piece of gear.
This bracelet comes in a few different sizes, but the amount of paracord you’ll get is roughly a dozen feet or so. The metal shackle makes it easy to put on and take off and can be completely removed in a pinch to let you access the 550 cord. The buckle is always black, but the cord itself can be had in black, green, or camouflage.
This definitely isn’t the most cost-effective way to buy a paracord, but survival bracelets like this have a place. This is a good way to keep a workable length of paracord on your person at all times without any risk of it getting tangled. Just remember that paracord can be weakened by water and UV light, so be mindful of how much abuse you subject it to.
- Material: polyester
- Internal strands: not specified
- Load rating: 550 pounds
- Length: 11-13 feet (depending on size)
Takes the assembly out of paracord bracelets
Easier to carry than loose paracord
Available in black, green, and camouflage
Paracord can be weakened by exposure to sunlight and water
Only provides a few feet of paracord
Our verdict on paracords
The Titan SurvivorCord XT is the best paracord you can get. Yes, it’s expensive for what most people will use it for, but it’s also a cheap form of life insurance. If you need a solid, reliable paracord for your next trip to the field, save some money and get a length of Extremus Type III 550 Cord.
Tips and tricks
As with any piece of gear, buying a paracord doesn’t make you much better off if you don’t know how to use it. Paracord is one of the best pieces of survival gear you can have, so hook yourself up and spend some time learning how to tie the best paracord knots, build a sturdy shelter, and make the most out of each individual component of your 550 cord.
- Not all paracord is built to the same standard. Make sure you’re getting a well-constructed paracord that meets MIL-C-5040H if that’s what you intend to buy.
- Paracord is tough, but not invincible. The ideal storage place is dry and protected from direct sunlight.
- To prevent fraying, burn the ends of your paracord with a lighter to melt the loose strands together.
- The more knots you master, the better you’ll be prepared to build a shelter, repair broken gear, and become a general bushcraft badass.
- Braiding your paracord with a cobra or snake knot is a great way to keep it untangled and compact for storage.
- If you’re going to use paracord for a handle wrap, use a quick-release method that will let you access the full length of the cord in a hurry.
- Take some time to research unconventional uses for paracord — like making fishing lures — to get the most out of it.
- Even a few feet of paracord can be used to make survival gear like a gill net if you know what you’re doing.
- Paracord rifle slings are growing in popularity. Just remember that if you need to use your paracord, you’ll no longer have a rifle sling.
FAQs about paracords
You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.
Q: How can you tell if a paracord is real?
A: Since “real” paracord is anything that does what you need it to do, your first step is determining why you need it in the first place. Before you get wrapped around the axle about a paracord that can do everything under the sun, decide if you even need to care.
Q: What’s the difference between 550 and 750 paracord?
A: The most common kind of paracord is 550 cord, which typically has seven internal strands, a four-millimeter diameter, and a static load rating of 550 pounds. The larger 750 cord typically has 11 internal strands, a five-millimeter diameter, and a static load rating of 750 pounds.
Q: Can a paracord hold a person?
A: Labels like “550” denote how many pounds of stress a given cord can endure before breaking. Remember that you apply much more force than your bodyweight if you’re moving. Even if the cord itself can handle a certain load, that doesn’t mean the knot and anchor at each end are up to the task.
Q: Does braiding paracord make it stronger?
A: Yes, multiple pieces of paracord that provide mutual support will be stronger than a single strand. Be reasonable, though; even the mighty paracord has its limits and structural engineers study advanced math for a reason.