Building the Ultimate Survival Kit, Part 5 (Cordage)

best survival cordage
| November 27, 2014
Categories: Op-Eds

Building the Ultimate Survival Kit, Part 5

Continued from Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.


So far in this series we have discussed selection of a proper container, stocking it with blades/edged tools and what to consider when it comes to fire making. In this installment, we are going to look at another critical survival kit component: cordage.

Brought to you by Raven Concealment Systems.


Cordage is one of mankind’s oldest products and perhaps one of the most important. Without rope and string, we could never have braided a bow line to hunt or rigging to sail a boat. Early Man, (and some tribes to this day) made good with what they had at their disposal. This would be plant fibers and animal hides. In a survival situation, you do not want to waste time trying to fashion your own cordage (although knowing how to do so is a great skill). Give yourself a huge leg up by having it part of your survival kit. There are many different kinds of cordage people choose to put in their kits, but here we will discuss out favorite and most common options. Your first option would be military parachute cord, commonly called “paracord” by civilians, and “550 cord” by servicemen. The “550” refers to Mil-spec paracords’s strength, a full 550 lbs. when stretched. 550 cord has an outer, tubular shell and a series of thin, strong lines contained with in. Its strong, cheap, easy to find and very versatile. We make a habit of replacing all boot laces with it, so we always have some in case things go south. 

survival kit series cordage

Military “550” paracord comes in all sorts of colors, just be sure you by the real deal and not the cheap knock off stuff common to big box stores.

Raven Concealment Systems 2

You can lash a shelter, repair a broken pack strap, weave a fish net, or dummy cord critical items to prevent loss. The options of how to use it whole are limitless, and so are the uses of the inner fibers. These thin lines are strong and useful to get the most out of the cord. It can be used to suture, sew ripped gear, fashion a fishing line or lash a improvised knife handle. Once again, your imagination is the limit. Be forewarned, that not all paracord is created equal. Be sure to only buy mil-spec parachute cord, as most of the knock off stuff you find at camping stores / “big box” retailers are not actually load rated to 550 lbs. You are better served with the more expensive, authentic cord in your kit and saving the cheap stuff for routine tasks. 

survival kit series cordage 2

Various types of cordage. With thinner line, try braiding it to keep it tangle free, or by wrapping it around your survival kit.

Your next option is dental floss. As silly as it sounds, its cheap, light and strong. A small roll busted out of its bulky carrier, will fit even the smallest of survival kits. Once again, its great for lashing, sewing and use as a fishing line. Test different brands, and see if you can find one of your preferred strength/diameter. On a similar note, fishing line can actually be used for more then just catching dinner from the nearby stream. Think outside the box and you will quickly see the merits of monofilament line for different applications. 

One form of cordage we like is kevlar thread, such as what is used for archery and fly fishing. Amazingly strong for its weight and size, it costs a little more than other cordage. We have used kevlar cord to saw through zip ties, lash poles and erect shelters. There are plenty of choices in color, strength and thickness. Choose whats right for your needs. Having sewing thread and the needles go with it is almost a must and should be included with your kit. 

Survival kit series 1

Two survival kits that we carry. The kit on the left has paracord wrapped around it, which also retains a space blanket. The kit on the left is thinner braided nylon line, and retains a firestarter.

Alternatives to these above mentioned staples are numerous, and are really only limited to your imagination and perceived needs. We have found that Mason line and duck hunter’s decoy line  can both be a useful, economic solution to carrying cordage. With the thin, strong nylon braided fibers of this sort of cordage, you can afford to carry significantly more feet over the bulkier paracord. This, of course is a trade off, as you sacrifice the strength and utility of 550 cord for more of the thinner line. Regardless of what  type you choose, remember that you can use your container to wrap the cord around, saving space inside. This also has the added benefit of deterring you from stealing its contents during routine carry!

Next we are going to look at wire, since its pretty much the same as cordage. We like thin “floral” wire, since its painted green and makes great snare wire. We’ve used it to catch small game, and “wire tie” broken gear. Relatively light weight to carry, be sure to include some thin gauge wire in your kit even if it’s only a few feet for snares. An alternative to floral wire is picture hanging wire, but most of it brightly colored and might not be the best for snares. Military tripwire is another viable option, and can be found online cheaply.

survival kit series cordage 3 wire

Top row, Left to right: Fishing line, 3 spools of military trip wire, picture hanging wire. Bottom row: Small section of floral wire, bright picture wire, spool of floral wire, and mini zip ties.

Survival kit series 3

Tape can be used to water-proof your kit by wrapping around the lid’s edge. If pried off carefully, it can be reused. Worst case? Use it as a fire starter. Duct tape likes to burn!

Kill them all al shabaab

Lastly, we will look at Tape (yes, we capitalized Tape, to get your attention). There are many types of tape out there and some have more uses than others. Electrical tape is often carried by soldiers because it is light, comes on a small roll, and is black in color. The downside? its not very strong, and has a shine to it if you are trying to be low key. Duct tape is a much better option, and can be found in your favorite color. Some people prefer to load their kit with blade orange tape, as it can be used as a trail marker. An added benefit is that you can also tag small items with it to prevent loss. Gorilla tape is very popular and strong, and can be found in smaller 1” rolls similar to duct tape. An easy way to carry a yard or so of your favorite tape is to wrap it around an old plastic card. making several of these “tape cards” to scatter though out your gear is a good idea, and will also help you resist stealing your reserve out of your survival kit. Duct tape has a million uses, from fixing a broken tent pole to using as a fire starter. We have had it save our ass plenty of times! 

survival kit series cordage 4 tape

Tape is a must for your kit. Find what works for you, but try to avoid electrical tape. Wrap some around old cards for easy carry.

Be sure to check back soon for our next installment of this series, where we will discuss signal options and other ideas for building your own ultimate survival kit!

Continued from Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

Mad Duo Over




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