What Is a Parachute Cord? Explaining the Different Types

The 550 Parachute cord, or more commonly known as ‘paracord’, is widely used in a range of everyday carry situations. The “550” comes from the fact that it’s rated to hold 550 lbs. It is a slim nylon rope featuring 7-9 inner strands of nylon. This versatile tool was originally used for suspension lines on parachutes. Due to its versatility, it’s been issued to several military branches in a variety of situations. Up until World War II, it was strictly used in the military, but after that, it became available to civilians as well. Today it can be found in various shapes, colors, and sizes and it is used in a wide range of situations.

parachute cord

What Makes It So Special?

Even if you only have a 30cm paracord rope, you can take it apart and tie each strand together to extend its length to 2.4 meters. It is precisely this multitiered way of construction that makes the paracord cable so versatile. Of course, by thinning out the cord to gain more length you will reduce the strength of the rope but even after doing that, the paracord will be still strong enough as each strand is made of 2 or 3 strands of yarn. This is one of the reasons why outdoor enthusiasts love the paracord – should they ever happen to find themselves in a sticky situation, having only a survival paracord can help them out.

parachute cord for fishing

What Is It Used For?

Whether you’d like to use all 30 meters of it and go wall climbing or you want to split your parachute cord and use it for different simpler tasks, you can easily do it. You can use the thin strands of the rope to create a fishing line, set up traps if you want to catch some small game, or if you don’t have a tent – the thinnest strands from can hold branches together to help you make a shelter.

Different colourd of parachute cord

Different Types of Cords

Parachute cords are divided into 4 categories. Paracords that belong to the first category are the weakest and they are rated to hold 43 kgs and they have just one core strand. Cords that belong to the second category have a drastically better strength rating of 181 kgs and 4-7 core strands. The third category cords are rated for 250 kgs, these have 7-9 core strands and offer the best of both worlds – price and performance. The fourth and final category of paracord rope is the best one as it has a strength rating of 340 kg and a total of 11 core strands. Category 4 cords are definitely the strongest and offer the most versatility when it comes to using their inner strands and overall pull power. However, great performance ropes come at a greater price as well when compared to the rest of the categories and that’s one of the biggest reasons why most people go for cords from the third category as they are the ideal balance of solid performance and affordability.

550 parachute cord

How to Test the Quality of the Paracord

The easiest way to determine the quality of a military paracord, when compared to the commercial 550 models, is by looking at what makes the true military paracord so special. For starters, it’s 100% nylon both in the outer shell as well as in each inner strand. In other words, it consists of 3 100% nylon yarns. The cheaper commercial versions are usually made of polyester instead of nylon and their strands often have just 2 yarns instead of 3. But that’s also okay – these models can still do their job just fine. It’s just that they are not particularly “mil-spec.” Furthermore, if you want to determine whether the inner strands in your paracord are made of nylon or polyester, you can try to join the inner yarns with nylon by burning the tips and fusing them together. This is an easy test as nylon typically bonds with nylon, while polyester does not. If the inner strands are made of polyester but the outer layer is made of nylon, that can be very problematic in case you need to create one mega line from all your strands.

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