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550 Paracord and why you need it.

550 paracord

There are many different tools/gear that you can have with you heading out for a  hike. Some are vital such as your compass, a lighter, water and in Saskatchewan summer - bug spray! However, there is one piece of handy gear that I always keep clipped to my bag and that is cobra-braided 550 Paracord. 
550 Paracord is a very simple and handy survival tool and can be used for a variety of applications, and best of all it might be the cheapest thing in your entire bag!
So before we get too far; what is 550 Paracord? (also known as parachute cord) Well, essentially it is a nylon kernmantle rope that has a very high tensile strength while remaining lightweight. Seems pretty straightforward, right?
550 Paracord is made up of two parts. The inner "cordage" or "core" where it derives most of its strength and an exterior sheath that holds it all together while still provding strength and elasticity. It is this perfect blend of braids and material that makes this a very handy piece of gear.
The sheath melts when held to the flame which allows you to connect pieces of 550 Parcord to itself. The inner cord is 7 smaller strands that can be removed for sewing or stitching fabric together. 550 Paracord is very strong and has a few different ratings based on thickness and internal braids. For example, Type 3 550 Paracord can hold up to 550 pounds!
According to the Wikipedia page they even used it to fix the Hubble Telescope!
Like I mentioned earlier, it is considered a survival tool, however your average person won't be using it to save their life (but you never know) Instead, I keep 550 Paracord with me when I head out on a Saskatchewan hike because I have used it to fix many things in a pinch.
For example, I have used my 550 Paracord to fix bootlaces when one decided to blow out 6km from my Jeep. I use it as a handy clip by adding a couple caribiners to the ends of it. I even have used my 550 Paracord when my handle broke on my backpack and I needed to latch it together until I was able to fix it. 
Most people make survival bracelets with the stuff, which are essentially wrist bands made up of a cobra-braid which allows you to carry a few feet of 550 Paracord in a compact package. I myself don't wear a surival bracelet as I do not like things on my wrist when hiking (I am usually looking for things to climb and don't like the snare hazard) but instead clip a length of it to my bag with two caribiner clips. 
It is cheap to buy, you can get 50ft for less than $10 dollars and once you learn how to make a simple cobra-braid you can make all sorts of home made Paracord tools. 
Here is a helpful video that I found that shows you how to master the cobra-braid. 




















Once you ge this simple knot pattern down your imagination is essentially the only limit to what you can make. People will make zipper pulls, gear holders or even make watches out of them. So let your creativity fly!


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