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If necessity is the mother of invention, then survival is the father of ingenuity, and a paracord bracelet is a good piece of equipment to have on hand in case a day out on the trails takes a turn for the worse. A paracord bracelet is one of those survival items you hope you'll never need, but if things do go wrong you'll be happy you have one on hand. Paracord bracelets don't take up much space and are very lightweight, allowing you to carry basic survival gear without any unnecessary bulk or weight.
What is paracord?
Paracord is used for the suspension lines of parachutes (hence the name paracord) and during World War II, the stranded soldiers quickly realized the paracord was good for a multitude of uses in their survival situation. They used it for shelter, trapping, fishing, securing salvaged equipment to their backpacks, tying food nets to trees to avoid animals, etc. Somewhere along the line, someone got the idea to weave the paracord into a type of bracelet and the paracord bracelet idea was born.
Types of paracord:
Paracord was originally available only to the military but is now available to the civilian masses and while that's good for survivalists, it also causes some confusion. There's the military specification paracord (which should look something like Mil-C-5040), and there's the commercial paracord which will just say something like 550 Cord. The 550 seven-strand cord is rated at a 550 pound breaking strength but it's only 1/8" thick so it takes up very little space, and paracord is made of nylon which dries quickly and doesn't succumb to mildew. There are six types of paracord, with Type III being the most common for paracord bracelets. There's also craft-quality cord which is only good for decorative purposes. Make sure the paracord bracelet you're buying is the real deal and not something designed for decoration.
Buying a paracord bracelet:
There are hundreds of paracord bracelets on the market, so the first step is deciding what you really need for survival. If you ride your dirt bike out West where there's a lot of hot, dry wide-open desert, do you really need fish hooks? Wouldn't a compass be a better choice? If you ride tree-lined singletrack trails of the Northeast, the fishing gear may come in handy, along with a compass and a saw to cut some firewood. A lot of the manufacturers add fishing line to their bracelets, but the cord itself is meant to be the fishing line so a couple of hooks and some split shot should be all you need. Almost all the paracord bracelets have some kind of fire starter, but one thing that's often missing on a lot of bracelets is a whistle, which is a very important piece of survival gear.
Once you've decided what you want in the bracelet, start searching. Use survival bracelet, emergency bracelet, and paracord bracelet as search terms to get the best search results. If you want a saw or compass included, add that to the search term. If you have any specific needs (such as 550 weight cord) look over the specs and reviews of the bracelet before you buy. Unless you're worried about hauling your dirt bike up from a ravine after a crash, the 350 weight paracord should be more than enough. The Friendly Swede Trilobyte paracord bracelet (Amazon) is very popular, and an alternative to the bling of the full-bore paracord bracelet is a basic emergency survival bracelet like the Bear Grylls Survival Bracelet which only has a whistle and fire starter. If you have the space, a small survival kit may also be a good choice.
YouTube paracord videos:
The following videos show the paracord bracelet being used in (sort of) real life situations. The first video is titled 'Cutting down trees with a paracord bracelet', but he's actually cutting branches for firewood, not cutting down a standing tree. It's still a very informative video, and shows how to make a bow saw using a branch and a strand of paracord. In the second video, the guy goes fishing in a pond and actually catches a little sunfish. The last video shows how to make a paracord bracelet from scratch.