Parachute cord, also known as paracord or 550 cord, refers to type-III paracord, a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope originally used in the suspension lines of parachutes.
A kernmantle rope is constructed with its interior core protected by a woven exterior sheath designed to optimize strength, durability, and flexibility. Its relatively smooth texture comes from the braided sheath, which has a high number of interwoven strands for its size, making it reasonably elastic.
The US military MIL-C-5040H standard required the material to be nylon. Still, there are products on the market today labeled as paracord that do not correspond to a specific military type and can differ in construction, quality, color, or strength.
The type III 550 cord is commonly found in use. It is nominally rated with a minimum breaking strength of 550 pounds, thus the nickname “550 cord,” and has a minimum elongation of 30%.
Military-specification type III cord may be slightly thicker than commercial grade due to it often requiring three nylon fibers per inner core as opposed to two fibers per core in the retail version.
The military cord will be closer to 4 millimeters (5⁄32 in) thickness, whereas commercial versions are closer to 3 millimeters (1⁄8 in) thickness.
Most people today are familiar with the cord due to the popularity of prepping and its use in survival bracelets that are meant to be unraveled when one needs to use it for a specific purpose.
Crafters also weave it into lanyards, belts, dog leashes, rosaries, key chains, and more.
Paracord can be used in survival situations to make bowstrings for hunting or fire drills. It can also be used to make traps and fishing line. The list of uses for this cord is endless and should be a part of your EDC (Everyday Carry) kit.