Just as every real man (and most real women) keep duct tape handy, every soldier worthy of the name has a good supply of 550 cord handy.
What IS 550 cord?
Well, it’s a nylon “kernmantle” line, generally 4mm in diameter. It takes its name from its specified tensile strength, 550 pounds. You’ll also commonly hear it referred to as paracord. It was originally used as the suspension line for parachutes. There are actually several different grades of paracord, but almost universally throughout the army, 550 cord is found.
There’s almost limit to creative uses for 550 cord. First, there’s any number of uses for a strong, lightweight cord in the field. Use it to pitch a tent or shelter with your poncho, tie equipment to vehicles, or “dummy cord” equipment such as compasses or flashlights that you don’t want to lose. In Hawaii, we actually “dummy corded” our old M60 machine guns to keep parts from going astray.
One the old ALICE style Load Carrying Equipment, I liked to cut off the metal hooks that connected the suspenders to the belt. They tended to dig into my kidneys. I’d replace them with 550 cord.
“Kernmantle” means there’s two layers to the line. There’s the “kern” or the main weightbearing cords inside, and the outside woven mantle.
Many times, I (and countless other soldiers) would cut a length of cord, then pull the inner kern (or “guts”) out and just use the mantle for whatever chore we needed.
Decorative devices made from woven 55o cord are common as well, such as keychains and wristwatch bands.
What strange uses did you have for your 550 cord?