by Brad

January 5, 2021

Paracord for rappelling

I usually get questions if it is okay to use paracord for rappelling or climbing. A majority of people expect a clear response. However, it is not often so easy to give a straight affirmative or negative answer.

It is so because paracord was not created for this purpose. Nevertheless, people comparatively succeeded in using it during these years. Still, I will attempt to respond to this question quickly. After that, I will explain the reasons for my answer.

The clear answer is no. It will be best if you don't use paracord for rappelling. Never try climbing with a paracord. The reason for this is that it was primarily designed for only 550 pounds of static weight. You might argue that it is a fair enough strength.

The problem is that this threshold may be crossed easily, even in a casual slip. It would help if you used the ropes recommended by me in the rope guide. You can also learn to tie a Swiss Seat to take care of any emergencies.

You got the exact answer. Now let us learn more about paracords and the reasons for their increasing popularity in the last many years. On a side note, one question I've received recently from a rappelling enthusiast is how to measure the ape index. I explain in a blog post what is ape index.

More About a Paracord and Its Uses

The Parachute cord (paracord) was used for the first time in World War II. During the war, parachutes were used to deploy the soldiers to the battlefields. 

Soldiers soon realized that the parachute cords could be used for several purposes.

Paracord for rappelling and climbing

They would use them to tie things to vehicles, measure distances, or tie coverup nets to trees. Earlier it was known as a parachute cord. Now, people found several uses beyond the military domain over the years.

Presently, paracord is used in three industries: crafting, survival, and fashion.

1.  Crafting World

The paracord can be used in different crafting applications. For instance, you can use them to make belts, bracelets, key-chains, or rifle slings.

2.  Survival Situations

Several beginners keep a paracord for camping or hiking trips. The paracords can be used for camping, replacing shoelaces, or tying gears.

You can also make traps, fishing lines, slings, etc., by taking apart the paracord strands.

3.  Fashion Industry

Although the paracord may not sound like a glamorous fabric, it is often used in the fashion world. It is so because it comes in vibrant colors and striking textures.

The best example of its apparent use is in creating bracelets. Even today, they are amongst one of the trendiest accessories.

Which Is the Best Paracord I Can Buy

TOUGH-GRID 750lb Paracord/Parachute Cord

In general, paracord is cheaper to purchase and maintain. Several kinds of paracord are available out there, and most of them are not suitable for severe outdoor conditions.

I suggest you choose the Genuine Military Specification Paracord by Tough Grid with 750lb strength. So far, this is the best quality of paracord I have ever seen.

Paracord comes in different colors, and its length may range from 50-1000 feet. It is an ideal product for beginners. You can put it to several uses. Also, it works excellently well in all situations.

Although it is not very expensive, the prices may change a little as per the cord length. The best part is that this paracord is entirely made in the United States. It is one of the most robust cords that you can ever find. That is why you should go for this product.

General Information Regarding the 550 Paracord

You should consider two things regarding the 550 paracord: its tensile strength and its build type. As the name implies, the cord comes with a tensile strength of 550lb.

If we talk about the construction type, it is a Kernmantle kind of rope. Here the internal core is wrapped inside a woven sheath outsid.

There are seven inner strands in this cord. It is covered by a nylon sheath made of 32 woven strands. Moreover, this paracord can endure rot and decay with its usual diameters of 4mm or 5/32.

What are the Other Kinds of Paracords

The most popular cord is the 550 type, but it is not the most dependable one. Three other kinds of paracords are also available: Type I, II, and IV.

Type I

It is also known as 95 Paracord because it has a tensile rating of 95lb. It is a single inner strand.

Type II

This parachute cord has four to seven inner strands. It has a high tensile rating of 425lb and is also called 425 Paracord.

Type IV

This cord can hold 750lb of static weight and hence the sturdiest paracord in the pack. It has 11 internal strands to provide the best strength.

Here the Military Grade Paracord should also be mentioned. This paracord comes with Military specification number Mil-C-5040. Although it is called military grade, it does not imply that each Military specification means a 550 cord.

Every specification is required to pass at least 14 stringent tests to get this certification. The certification also features a unique identification strand as proof of military-grade.

Does the Paracord Have Sufficient Thickness to Handle a Rappel

Paracord for rappelling

We know that paracord has a comparatively weaker strength. Besides, we should not use paracord to rappel as it does not have sufficient thickness. The paracord strand is too thin for the ATC belay device or a GriGri. The device will not even touch that at all.

Still, if you try rappelling with a Parachute cord, you will quickly realize that the paracord slides from your brake hand quicker than usual. Of course, you will try to hold it firmly to adjust accordingly. It can lead to a severe rope burn.

If you compare a paracord with a standard 10mm rappelling rope, it has a mere 40% of a typical 10mm rope's surface area. You are in severe danger of burning your hands even if you use the best rappel gloves.

What if We Use a Backup with a 550 Cord

It is not going to serve the purpose. If you try using Prusik cord with a parachute cord, you will have to depend on a 3mm accessory cord for the hitch rope.

It is so because this hitch rope is always thinner than the primary rappel rope for tying a Prusik backup. Here 3mm accessory cord implies a tensile of only 375, which is not sufficient at all.

Hence instead of using an accessory cord as a backup, you may think about using only a paracord to solve the problem. But the problem here is that if the vital device fails, you may stress the backup too much.

It implies that we are back to square one. The paracord strength is not enough to handle the resultant stress.

Can You Use a Parachute Cord in Place of a Climbing Rope

By now, I have already mentioned enough about a paracord. You might have guessed by now that it is not suitable for climbing also. That's right. I will let you know why.

At the repetition cost, the 550 cord does not have sufficient strength to sustain your body weight. It is true even if the bodyweight of the climber is much less than 550lb.

Can You Use a Parachute Cord In Place of a Climbing Rope

It is so because if you ever fall, you will weigh more due to sudden force. The paracord will be stressed beyond its potential. As a thumb rule, climbing rope strength should be 10-15 times more than the climber's weight.

Such cords can be cut off quickly with a tiny knife. One paracord strand can quickly cut another strand if they rub each other. It can happen due to high potential friction due to climbing.

If we talk about rope stretch, a climbing rope should not have elongation more than 12%. A paracord has an elongation percentage of more than 30. It may be useful in other situations but certainly not in a climbing scenario.

A higher elongation percentage implies that the cord allows falling further until it halts the fall. Never use a 550 Parachute cord as a safety rope for climbing. It cannot handle that much stress. It is not designed for the purpose, and it may likely fail you every time.

How about Emergencies

Paracord for Rappelling and Climbing

In case you have no other option left, make sure you choose 750 Paracord Military specification in place of 550 Paracord. It will likely help you arrive at the bottom or top with comparatively higher safety as it is more robust.

I would also stress that you should learn tying a swiss seat using a standard rappel rope. You can also use 550 Paracord to secure a swiss seat but ensure to understand it correctly.

Conclusion

Paracords are certainly not the best-suited gear for a climbing or a rappelling job. However, it has several other uses. It is not a bad thing to carry a paracord with you for hiking or camping purposes.

However, if you want to do some serious work, replace paracord with a general rappel rope.

I hope that you got a better idea of paracords and their uses. Share your thoughts in the comments to speak your mind if you intend to add something from your experience.

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About the author 

Brad

Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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