Monday, April 13, 2015

Cordage: What Makes The Cut & Why

Cordage weather it be made from a primitive source or carried in a pack is one of the most important pieces of your kit you can have. While I love making primitive cordage using a braid or twist method (Learn those skills HERE- LINK) it is time consuming and requires finding the proper materials (i.e. inner barks, grasses etc.) and lacks strength. Young pine roots, vines and some bushes will work well as more durable cordage but lack the flexibility that comes with traditional cordage with the same or better breaking strength. So why handicap yourself with sub-par cordage out of the gate; it's one thing to practice survival skills and its another to enter a situation at a handicap (unless that is what you are going out to practice).
With that said what cordage makes it into my pack? The answer is it depends on the situation. I will always have the following: 1) paracord survival bracelet; 2) key chain survival pod (See it HERE- LINK); 3) bungee cord; and 4) four prussick loops for my diamond tarp shelter setup (See more HERE- LINK). In addition to those four items I will usually have the following: A) 5' tarred bank line; B) 15' #36 tarred bank line; C) 25' #36 tarred bank line; D) 50' #36 tarred bank line; E) Some length of Jute twine varies from 5'-25' as pictured here; F) 50' paracord if I decide not to carry the bank line; G) 200-500' 1/2" Bluewater static life safety rope (only if I expect to be climbing or rappelling); and H) 75'-200' 8mm cord (also for climbing with single person load and easier to pack).

So Why Bank Line And Not All Paracord:
As you may have noticed I seem to like #36 bank line and for very good reasons. It shares the key abilities of paracord (1-breaks down into smaller strand and 2- capable of supporting your body weight with a slight safety factor- 360lbs). So where does bank line excel over paracord in my opinion? 
          1) Ability to hold up to heat: The tar on bank line increases the cordage's ability to hold up to heat and flame compared to paracord which will melt and jute twine which will quickly combust. So why is this a key feature for survival/woodcraft/etc.? Nearly everything you make will be subject to heat aside from your shelter/traps. This cordage is perfect for tripods, signal fire sets, cooking setups, pulling a bottle out of  the fire and tying twig bundles. 
          2) Ability to hold up to weather: The tarring on bank line also helps prevent rotting which makes it ideal for building long term shelters and water based trapping (trot lines, turtle trapping, bank based trapping, etc.). I have found it will last season to season for shelters where as paracord bases shelters will usually not make it to the next spring. 
          3) Better for Trapping: I generally have much better luck using bank line for all types of trapping as opposed to paracord and I believe this is because the color blends much better than the inner strands of bright white paracord and also because the knots tend to cinch down getter for snares.
          4) More Secure Knots: This is both a major plus and a quasi downfall. Once you tie a knot in bank line and cinch it down expect it to be there...... forever. Knots are very difficult to remove from bank line so its a good thing its cheap and is sold by the pound. If you prefer to reuse your cordage over and over this stuff isn't for you. Learn hitches, tension less tie-offs and other means of securing the load. 
          5) Much lighter/less bulk- You are able to carry nearly double the amount of bank line as opposed to paracord while only sacrificing 200 lbs of strength. So if you are not planning on securing 350+ lbs loads then you will be very happy with bank line. 

Where Does Paracord Fit Into The Mix:
As you can see above I like to keep paracord on my person over bank line mostly because of the smell of bank line and availability of colors. If you haven't found Wazoo Survival Gear (LINK) I'm planning on testing one of their bracelets out soon and you can get one of your own above in the far left Amazon link. So why these items? A survival bracelet is perfect as it can pack a ton of materials into a very small package that you can put on and forget about until you need it. The survival key pod is a great idea as you nearly always have your keys and this give you a decent little kit to work with no matter where you may be.  I also use paracord for prussicks for my tarp setup as its easier to manipulate as opposed to bank line and seems to work much easier for adjusting the tarp.

A Place For Jute Twine:
The white jute twine you will often see me using for demonstrating knots or other rope skills. The tan jute twine mostly finds its place in my fire kit for charring, making a flash tinder bundle or just using it as junk cordage when building something that I don't want to sacrifice paracord or bank line.

Other Cordage:
While these items are not a regular part of my gear I do have them as part of my technical rescue equipment and recreational climbing equipment. The 1/2" rope is sufficient for a two person load if needed with a sufficient safety factor. Tubular webbing is great for so many things but it excels at making anchors and harnesses on the fly. 8mm rope can be used as a prussick for climbing 1/2" rope or as a stand alone single person rope when you want a lighter weight option (I use this in canyons and caves a good bit). Fishing line and picture hanging wire are also staples of my kit for securing food sources and are contained in both my micro 10 c's kit and regular kit.
Varying your cordage based on the task at hand is key and understanding the properties of each type of cordage available is what will separate you from someone who merely follows trends. Start of cheap, get a pound of #36 bank line, a paracord bracelet, paracord key chain kit and a 50'-100' section of paracord to make prussicks with and practice with to determine if you have a love for paracord or bank line and make your future purchases based off your testing. So a call to action, get out your gear and practice with your cordage in various situations to determine what works best for the tasks you plan to complete.

Have something outdoor/bushcraft/trapping/preparedness/hiking/camping/fishing/hunting related you want me to make a post about? Leave me a comment and I will see what I can do! As always feel free to leave your questions and comment below! Also if you enjoy the blog please vote for us on the following websites to help us reach a wider audience:
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