UPDATE: Please read about my new and improved paracord survival belt!
I know what you’re thinking, and it goes a little something like this:
“How can I combine my survival skills, fashion sense, and need to hold up my pants into one beautiful, functional work of art?”
The answer, my friend, is the survivalist belt. It’s braided out of 550 mil-spec paracord. That’s parachute cord, to the layman. It’s worth explaining the value of paracord itself before we continue.
Government-approved parachute cord is one of the cheapest, strongest, and most genius ropes out there. Weighing about half a pound per 100 feet and measuring just a quarter inch thick, this heavy duty nylon cord is strong, resists mold, and is easy to carry anywhere. You can buy 100 feet for $7-10.
The key to 550 parachute cord’s strength is its construction. The core is made of 14 strands of nylon, paired off and twisted to form 7 strands which each have a strength rating of over 35 pounds. They are covered in a nylon sheath that makes the cord smooth, and adds to the overall strength.
The survival uses for paracord are many. You can use the rope to build strong shelter, traps, suspend supplies above ground, and make repairs. You can even separate the paracord into its individual strands for sewing, stiches, or fishing line. Next to a quality knife, this is one of the best survival tools.
A survivalist belt braided from 550 paracord is a great way to carry about 60 feet of this wonder cord with you everywhere. I made one last night in a couple hours while I caught up on some television. This was my first attempt, so I’m sure I’ll get faster. And after trying it on, nobody would know it wasn’t made in a factory somewhere in China. It also happens to be the most comfortable belt I’ve ever worn. Parachute cord is soft, with just a little bit of stretchiness.
I started with a 100-foot hank of paracord, an old belt buckle, a knife, a lighter, and electrical tape. I used the knife to cut five strands of paracord, each 14 feet in length. The number of strands you can fit is limited by the size of your buckle, so only cut what you need. That left me with about 30 feet of paracord to spare. I used the lighter to singe and melt the freshly cut tips, so that they don’t fray. A few seconds to melt the tips is all it takes.
Next, I folded each strand in half, and looped it through the buckle as shown in the picture to the left. That gave me 10 strands to braid. To start, twist the middle two strands, right over left. Then you twist the two strands to the left, interweaving with the first two like a basket. Do the same with the two strands to the right of the middle, interweaving with the already-twisted strands. Repeat these steps for any remaining strands, working your way from the inside out.
There are much better instructions for doing this, including over a dozen pictures of the process. I just didn’t want to duplicate effort by retyping and taking new pictures. Once you’ve gotten all strands into the mix, you continue by simply braiding one side’s outermost strand all the way to the middle, then doing the same with the outer strand on the other side. Keep squishing the belt together and pulling the paracord strands tight with every braid, especially the inner two strands.
Using five 14-foot strands folded in half to make a 10-strand flat braid, I was able to end up with a belt just over five feet long. I only trimmed about 4-6 inches from the end of each strand, so I have about 65 feet of survival paracord should I ever need it. I’m a big guy, and I had belt to spare. Thinner people may find themselves with too much belt, but paracord is cheap and you can always trim down, so start out big.
When I got to the end, I used electrical tape around the braid to keep it in place while I trimmed the tips and singed the ends with the lighter. Not having anything else handy to use for the tip, I folded more tape over the exposed tips, then wrapped another layer around them for good measure. I plan to hide that part of the belt when I wear it. I’m sure it’ll be easy to find a better solution later.
The total cost of this project was $7 for the paracord at Cabela’s. I had the other materials, including the buckle from an old belt. It took a couple hours, but it’s easy to do during “lazy” time. Try one for yourself, it’s fun!