Cordage Types and Usages

Almost every time I see a list of recommended items for a survival kit, cordage is included. As well it should be.

Most people assume that means rope. That is accurate, and while I completely agree cordage should be included in your bug-out bag, I want to make sure everyone understands exactly what it means and the various uses you can get out of it.

First of all, in terms of survival items, cordage is an umbrella term that includes everything from nylon string to metal wire to various thicknesses of rope to super strong parachute cord.

I’m even going to throw duct tape into this conversation because even though it is not technically cordage, it can sometimes serve the same purpose in a pinch. In fact, duct tape can save your life in a variety of ways, but that’s a subject for another day.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these items and why they should be in your bug-out bag. Even if you are not an expert in the use of these items, somebody else who you encounter in the wild just might be, and the fact that you have these items could help you form a much-needed partnership.

Nylon String or Thread    

You should have at least one and maybe two spools of nylon string in your bug-out bag. It’s inexpensive and there’s a lot you can do with it, such as binding shelter rafters together, making snares and fishing lines, and even bundling firewood or brush to make carrying it easier.

If you ever had to, you could actually make a length of “rope” by braiding several lengths of nylon together. And in an emergency, you could use string, duct tape and a portion of a brightly-colored poncho to make a kite that could be seen for miles by rescuers.

Of course, you could also use thread for its more common purpose of sewing tears in pants, shirts, jackets, etc., but don’t forget to pack a couple of sewing needles.

Metal Wire

There may be times when you need thin cordage that is stronger than nylon string, so carry a 20-foot coil of metal wire. Choose fine raw steel wire rather than copper or electrical plastic insulated wiring.

It will wrap your food better and keep it from falling off the spit and into the campfire ashes when you’re cooking it. In fact, anything that you expose to fire will be better wrapped in metal wire than in thread.


The single most important usage for rope in the wilderness is dragging heavy items back to your campsite, including any game you may have killed. You could easily fit a 50-foot piece of nylon rope at the bottom of your bag and/or lash an even longer piece to the outside of your pack.

Rope will really come in handy if you have to cross a body of water that is over your head. Place all your gear in doubled or tripled trash bags, tie the rope to it, swim across while holding the rope and then pull your gear across.

Parachute Cord

Also called paracord or p-cord, this lightweight but very strong cord will pull heavier objects than rope will. A 50-foot spool with a 550-pound test strength is only about 10 inches long and three inches in diameter. It will only run you a few dollars.

Paracord can also be used for binding logs, reeds or bamboo, as well as for constructing load-bearing items including snowshoes. When braided together, p-cord has been known to be used to pull a car out of a snow bank.


Cordage could be key to your survival someday, so make sure to pack a variety of it in your bug-out bag. You won’t regret it, even if you don’t ever end up using every cordage item.


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