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ParaVival.com - What is 550 Cord

550 Cord ParaVival.com

As you’ll probably read on many places, the term paracord comes from the cord originally used on the Soldiers’ parachutes in WWII. The term 550 simply means that it has a minimum breaking strength of 550 pounds, giving it the name of 550 paracord, or 550 cord. When Soldiers landed in the battle fields, they would cut the paracord off their parachutes and pack it up for later use. This particular cord would come in handy for the Soldiers during battle, whether it was used to strap gear to harnesses, build shelters, or sewing string, the cord could be used in endless ways.

Once paracord started becoming popular amongst civilians, many types of “commercial” paracord started making their way to to the market. Although this particular type of paracord is often mis-labeled as “mil-spec” paracord or mil-spec 550 cord by amateur sellers, it is not the genuine 550 cord that is used by the military. Manufacturers of paracord that is explicitly commercial grade are not required to produce that paracord to all of the same standards needed by the military; if they did, it wouldn’t be commercial grade, it would be MIL-C-5040H paracord. Some of the standards are met, though, and this can be one of the reasons for confusion with most casual users of paracord that try to distinguish the difference. There are manufacturers that make both types of paracord, but they label them correctly. There are also US Government contractors that also sell commercial grade paracord to government agencies, and yes, commercial paracord can even be found on military installations to be purchased for recreational use. However, at the end of the day it’s still not true mil-spec paracord. BUT…that’s okay too, because this is also why commercial paracord is more often used by crafters and/or for non-military uses because commercial paracord is a lot less expensive and comes in a seemingly unlimited amount of colors.

Now if you ARE seeking the best of the best, genuine, military-grade 550 cord, then you want Mil-C-5040h Type III paracord. This particular 550 paracord is for life-dependent uses, and there are only a handful of companies that make it for the government. One well known company, is E.L. Woods Braiding Company. They make a number of cords and ropes for the military used for a number of things throughout the military. ParaVival.com currently gets our Mil-C-5040h Type III Cord from E.L. Woods Braiding Company.

But you must be careful. There are still websites out there that will tell you their cord is Mil-C-5040h Type III when in fact it is not. So how do you know, you ask?

How to tell Mil-Spec Paracord from Commercial Paracord

TERMINOLOGY

  • “550” – refers to the minimum weight of the cord’s rated breaking strength, measured in pounds (lbs.)
  • TYPE III – originally one of the six types of paracord to the mil-spec standard. Designates a 7-strand inner core for commercial paracord and a 7 to 9 strand inner core for mil-spec paracord
  • MIL-C-5040H – the complete specification for military-use paracord
  • Sheath – the outer jacket of the paracord; can be nylon or polyester
  • Inner Core (or kern) – collectively refers to the individual twisted yarn strands within the center of the sheath

OUTER

  • At a glance, the difference between the genuine mil-spec cord and the commercial cord is marginal. The minimum breaking strength of both types of paracord is rated at 550 lbs.
  • Genuine mil-spec paracord only comes in select natural colors while the color options are endless with commercial paracord. Genuine paracord comes in black, coyote brown, white, tan, foliage (or camo) green, OD green, and orange
  • Genuine mil-spec paracord is 100% nylon, both the sheath and the inner core, because nylon is rot and mildew resistant which makes it a great all-weather material. Commercial grade paracord can also come in 100% nylon, or with a polyester sheath and nylon core. The polyester sheath doesn’t have as smooth a texture as a nylon sheath nor does it stretch as much as nylon. It does however have good rot/mildew resistance, is very close to nylon in strength when a steady force is applied, and is generally less expensive.

INNER

  • An easy way to tell the two types of 550 cord apart is by cutting into it and looking at the inner core, also known as the kern. In commercial Type III paracord, there are generally 7 individual strands and each strand may have a 2-ply or 3-ply braid, or twist. In mil-spec paracord, you will always find a 3-ply twist on the individual strands, of which there may be 7 to 9 of the strands, depending on the manufacturer.

    ParaVival.com MIL-C-5040H Type III 550 Paracord

  • In mil-spec paracord, you’ll find that one of the strands is color-coded whereas the others are all white. This is done by the manufacturers to meet the MIL-C-5040H standard by identifying the manufacturer, so the colors you see here will vary by manufacturer
  • Genuine mil-spec paracord will often be slightly thicker than commercial paracord because of its 3-ply twists on the inner strands, compared to commerical paracord’s 2-ply twists, as well as the fact that the mil-spec paracord can have up to 9 inner strands. The mil-spec cord measures closure to 4 mm (5/32 inch) while commercial cord is often closer to 3mm.

Hopefully the above information can help you spot false advertisers and make informed choices. Some people like to make the analogy of comparing brand name cereal to the store brand cereal…do you want Honey Nut Cheerios or Toasted O’s of Honey? At the end of the day, only you know what you want in terms of color variety, price, the intended use of the paracord, and whether it’s important to you or your organization that it meets the mil-spec standard.

Either way, ParaVival.com has you covered, from the government agency or military organization looking for genuine MIL-C-5040H TYPE III Paracord down to the crafter or outdoor enthusiast needing some quality Commercial Paracord!

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ParaVival.com - 10 Great Uses for Paracord

Without a doubt, one of the unsung heroes of the DIY handyman’s arsenal is paracord. 550 paracord, to be exact. This versatile material has so many uses it’s tough to count them all. Here are just ten quick ways to use it effectively.

1. Securing Anything

The best thing about paracord is its ability to tie town a multitude of cargoes. Use 550 paracord as needed to keep tarps in place over the beds of pickups and log piles in the clutch.

2. A Great Pulley System

550 paracord is a great way to lift anything. If you need to do some serious work without the benefit of helping hand, paracord is the way to go. Paracord has the right tensile strength to achieve any goal with pulley systems.

3. Tow Rope in a Pinch

Generally speaking, paracord can’t yank an F-150 out of the mud. However, it can be used to pull a smaller conveyance from a bad situation. Just link it up and pull with a 4×4.

4. A DIY Drying System

Popping up some 550 cord between a few trees is the best way to create a DIY drying system for laundry. It’s incredibly quick, simple and effective when all is said and done.

5. Strapping Down Windows

Storm windows are great but they don’t solve every problem. A better way to keep debris from harming glass is to strap down shutters with a little paracord and wrap up exterior fixtures as well.

6. The Best Dry Line Ever

Whether you’re camping or fake roughing it at home, paracord is a great way to dry things out. From fish to anything you’ve accidentally gotten wet, paracord is the way to go.

7. A Good Substitute for “Real” Tethers

Between keeping boats from drifting away to dogs straying, it’s always tough to tether things in the real world. 550 paracord makes the job about as easy can be with little hassle.

8. Fishing Line in a Pinch

Out in the wild, paracord comes in real handy. You can undo the individual strands and craft your own high-quality fishing line in a hurry. It’s the ultimate survival tip in backwoods environments.

9. A Good Grip When Necessary

The best thing about paracord is that it provides a great tactile feel. You can quickly and easily replace things like handles on knifes or axes by wrapping it around the shaft.

10. A Great Way to Tote Goods

Last but not least, 550 paracord can be used to bundle up everything from soccer balls to household furniture. It’s one of the ultimate moving toolsutside of duct tape when used properly.

…More Where That Came From

Some would argue that paracord or 550 cord is pretty much the most versatile substance known to man outside of WD-40 and duct tape. As such, having plenty around is hardly a bad idea for both the outdoorsman and the home handyman alike.

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ParaVival.com - Paracord for the Outdoors

One Practical, All-Purpose Rope

550 paracord is one tool that is always good to keep handy – part of the reason it is a must-have item for hikers and campers. From home projects to the great outdoors, this type of line, whose origin is military-based, is a parachute cord that can be applied in a variety of applications. Commercially, paracord comes in a number of colors, and lengths range from 50 feet all the way to a whopping 1,000 feet. The 100% nylon paracord resists rotting or mildew and when used for hauling and lifting purposes can hold a minimum of 550 pounds before it breaks. If space in your pack is limited, carrying around 50 feet of rope should be sufficient, but just be sure to replace any rope you’ve previously used before heading out on your next camping trip.

The threading from the seven strands of the inner core is often even used for sewing tears in clothing or for fishing line. As a whole, paracord has also been proven to be a great accessory for providing shelter, building a raft, or making a fire bow. Additional uses include securing camping gear, making a tow rope, stringing up a clothes line, rigging a pulley, or making a ladder rope.

Five Types of Situations Where Paracord is Used

We can break outdoors use down to 5 specific areas – for repair and hygiene, for roughing it while hiking, for fishing applications, for use while hunting, and for first aid applications.

1 – Repair and Hygiene

  • Keep Clothes Mended and In Repair

When used in emergency situations, you can use the internal strands to sew torn clothing. Just make sure you keep a needle in your first-aid kit. You can also repair broken equipment by securing the strings of paracord around the damaged area. The string can also be used to secure items or tie them down on top of a car.

  • Use the Cord for a Clothesline

Use the line as a clothes line when at camp. Wet clothes, when trying to survive out in the wild, can be dangerous when the temperature drops and hypotherma is prone to set in, especially in colder climates.

  • Repair a Zipper or Floss Your Teeth

You can also use the string to replace a zipper pull that is broken. Maintain good hygiene in the deep woods as well by using internal strands of paracord for flossing.

2 – Roughing it in the Wild

Paracord can also be used for a number of practical applications if you are trekking through the backcountry or roughing it. Some of the applications include:

  • Using the inner strands of paracord for tying up each corner of a tarp for shelter.
  • Rigging a hammock.
  • Taking the cord’s internal strands and producing a snare.
  • Lashing logs for raft building
  • Using the string as a bow drill to start a fire.
  • Making a sling.

3 – Fishing

  • Use internal strands as fishing line.
  • Making a small lure with the sheath and inner strands.
  • Use the internal strands to secure your raft or boat too.

4 – Hunting

  • You can use the strings of the paracord to also create a bola – used to capture big game birds in the wild.
  • Making snare traps with core strands.

5 – First Aid

With respect to first aid, use the paracord to:

  • Tie a sling.
  • Sew a wound – making use of the internal strands. Untwist each internal strand for a thinner sewing string.
  • Make a splint by tying straight sticks around the site of the fracture.
  • Create a stretcher.
  • Make a tourniquet with the strand.

As you can see, paracord is used in variety of applications in the wild and can open up countless usage opportunities for campers and adventure seekers.

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