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 that 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 unneccesary bulk or weight.
What is a paracord bracelet?
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. The 550 seven-strand cord is rated for 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. 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. 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 in a bracelet. If you ride your dirt bike out West where there's a lot of hot and 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. Almost all the paracord bracelets have some kind of fire starter. 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. 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 incuded, add that into 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. For example, the Friendly Swede multipurpose paracord bracelet (Amazon) is very popular and has great ratings, but you'd have to read through the fairly long description to find out that it uses 350 paracord, not 550 paracord. 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. In addition to the bracelet style there's also a grenade style which is shorter and wider and comes with a carabiner. The Holtzman 550 Kit is an example of the grenade style. A less expensive alternative to the bling of the full-bore paracord bracelet is a basic emergency bracelet like the Bear Grylls Survival Bracelet which only has a whistle and fire starter. Finally, check the warranty. Several of the established manufacturers (like the Friendly Swede) offer a lifetime warranty.
Make your own paracord bracelet:
On the off-chance you can't find a bracelet that has exactly what you want, you can always make your own. It's not all that difficult once you've made two or three, and there are several good books that detail the process, not to mention numerous YouTube videos that show how to make a paracord bracelet. Paracord bracelets make great gifts and they're something a guy can give to another guy (think hunting, fishing, or ATV clubs) as a gift. You never know - if you get good at it, maybe it'll open up a lot of new opportunities
You Tube paracord videos:
The following videos show the paracord bracelet being used in (sort of) real life situation. 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 he 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.