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#6601 - 05/31/02 04:20 AM Why paracord? Why not spectra?

It seems that nearly everyone's kit contains some length of paracord.<br><br>Given that paracord has, I believe, a strength of only 550 lbs, why not use spectra cord or some other high tech cord of the same diameter that is much, much stronger. <br><br>Even if a cord will mainly be used in emergency situations to hold up a tarp, wouldn't it be better to have a cord that you could use IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HAD TO as a life line? <br><br>For example spectron 12 has an approximate strength of 3,800 lbs for 3/16 cord (which is about the same size as paracord) and even 1,800 lbs for 1/8. The cord has the advantage of floating and not absorbing water - unlike paracord.<br><br>Yes, it costs a pretty penny, but it seems worth it to me.<br><br> I know that some people mention being able to use a strand from the parcord for fishing. First, you are going to make a mess of the cord unsheathing it and trying to remove one strand. Second, there are a number of super high strength braided fishing lines that are so compact that there is no excuse not to include them in your kit.<br><br>(And yes, I know that questioning paracord is a bit like badmouthing apple pie to some people . . .)

#6602 - 05/31/02 05:31 AM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?

Cool! I didn't know about spectron cord. Can you point me to a link that discusses it's characteristics and possibly sells it? - Yes I do carry separate fishing line.

#6603 - 05/31/02 09:32 AM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?
Bagheera Offline

Registered: 11/30/01
Posts: 62
Loc: The Netherlands (Europe)
Myoptiks,<br><br>Paracord can be used for many different things and I don't mean the whole cord, but seperate parts of the cord.<br>I don't know if your spectra cord has individual strands that can be pulled out of the cord and be used as fishing line, for sewing etc.<br>The many uses, the seperate parts that make up the paracord have, make it an favorite among outdoor people. <br>It's not the 550 pound total strength alone because as you said there are equally thick cords around that are many times stronger but in my view many times less versatile as paracord.<br><br>Best Scouting wishes from Holland,<br><br>Bagheera

#6604 - 05/31/02 12:32 PM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?

Handling characteristics, shock absorbtion, and "knotability" are important factors as well. The spectra cordage I have used, and it definitely has its uses, does not compare well at all in these characteristics with materials used for protection in a climbing situation, most of which are one or another form of nylon. If there is the potential for the use of a climbing rope, it is best to add one to the kit. If you need any rope at all, you will most likely need a lot of it - at least 50-60 feet.

#6605 - 05/31/02 12:57 PM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?

Tradition, potential benefits, cost, availability.<br><br>Paracord is widely used by the US military. Outdoorsman frequently look to the military for ideas. Lots of the military ideas filter into non-military applications.<br><br>Paracord is relatively strong for its size compared to similar size rope you might buy at the hardware store. Compared to climbing ropes, it is low strength. It depends on your knowledge base. <br><br>Spectra is not very commonly sold in hardware stores or outdoor stores. You have to know what it is you are looking for and then go and get it. My investigation into spectra is very dated but if I remember correctly that it is low stretch, high strength. <br><br>Years ago I used to carry braided nylon rope, 1/8"x50'. I usually carried two hanks and tried never to cut it. You can still buy it at hardware stores for $2 a hank. 244lbs breaking strength and typically only available in white. For tying up tarps, lashing gear to your pack, makeshift tent lines, hoisting a bear bag, general use it works fine. It is nylon so will not rot, mildew, and can be put away wet. Its so low cost, I could cut it or lose a hank and never worry about it.<br><br>Paracord is a step up. Twice the strength for at least twice the cost but same size. It also comes in "tactical" colors like black and olive drab. It is supposedly more better because you can dismantle it in different ways. It is milspec which adds prestige. <br><br>Spectra would be another step up in cost and strengh for similar sized rope. For most of my applications, the additional strength of paracord is unnessary and spectra probably even less so given the cost.<br><br>Somewhere in there is climbing accessory cord. High strength, low stretch, low maintenance, higher cost, fun fashion colors. A drawback is the ends need to be burned to keep it from unraveling. You have to make a special trip to the climbing store and then decide which color you would prefer. You have to find the high school kid clerk, wait for the cutting knife to warm up, and measure out your desired length, and the watch while the cashier does the math of 50 feet of rope at $0.13 a foot is ....?...?...?

#6606 - 05/31/02 01:13 PM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?
AndyO Offline

Registered: 05/25/02
Posts: 167
Loc: Jawja
I think that the new wonder fibers definitely have a place in a survival kit where strength vs. weight and bulk are critical. Some of the new generation stuff is amazing and you are starting to see, for the first to time, advanced fibers specifically designed to be used as handled lifelines in swiftwater rescue and emergency egress systems. Most of these new aramid based materials; kevlar, spectra, etc certainly have their drawbacks and limitations, but these are being overcome.<br>That being said...<br>Parecord is one of the most multi-purpose indespensible items you could have. In fact, if I could only have one bulk material when the chips are down, I would choose genuine mil-spec paracord every time. I would choose it over duct tape, trash bags, space blankets not to mention spyderwire, gemini cord, trip tease or other aramid cordage.<br><br>Most of the paracord that can be sourced locally is vastly inferior to mil-spec. The cheap stuff is noted to have diffuse inner fibers, fibers of different colors of type, and loose sheaths prone to snagging. This stuff is a liability and very aggrivating to work with.<br>Get the good stuff, there are many places that sell it, including<br>www.actiongear.com.<br>I usually carry a bootlace worth (72 inches) in my pocket or somewhere on my person.<br>
Two is one, one is none. That is why I carry three.

#6607 - 05/31/02 02:05 PM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?
AyersTG Offline

Registered: 12/10/01
Posts: 1272
Loc: Upper Mississippi River Valley...
Myoptiks - Good question. See Hikerdon's reply. I have some spectra in my climbing gear. Even there, it has limited use. Accessory cord and webbing is much more versitile. The lack of versatility is the key to answering your question, I think. Using things for what one needs versus what they are "intended for" can be an important element in many situations - including routine non-life-threatening situations.<br><br>Spectra has a number of characteristics that are drawbacks. It's not so expensive as to preclude experimenting with, though. If you have the opportunity to trial it, please do so and report back here. I suggest that you consider a smaller diameter than paracord - something in the 2mm - 3mm range should be quite adequate. I would not consider using cord as a life line - think whole-body-garote - the fact that it is virtually inelastic can be either a good thing or a bad thing, but note that it is NOT commonly used as rope in climbing applications - that should clue us to something (equipment cost is no barrier to many climbers these days, and spectra can be purchased in up to 5" diameter, I believe)<br><br>No sense kicking this more - maybe it could have a place in ones gear. I have spectra cord and things made from spectra and am familiar enough with it to not care to experiment with it for general outdoors use. I routinely use a variety of cordage for general outdoors applications, paracord being only one. Perhaps you can trial some spectra and let us know how it works?

#6608 - 05/31/02 04:24 PM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
Our posts are done with the advantage of liesurely debate and investigation. Altoid tins, paracord and sebenzas are nice. They are benchmarks of the common, the best or the tried and true. In the real world just beyond our monitor's warm glow it is different. The ranch I work at is held together with bright strands of plastic baling wire ( aka texas rawhide.) Anyone just starting out ( and those of us that have been pursuing this exercise) should get something that is serviceable ASAP and then upgrade with time, knowledge and money. Nobody will experience peer disapproval for whipping out clothesline instead of NASA spacewalk tether during a storm ;O)

#6609 - 06/03/02 03:13 PM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?
paramedicpete Offline

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 1920
Loc: Frederick, Maryland
There has been some discussion over the use of Spectra vs. paracord vs. climbing rope/access. cordage. There are two types of rope used in climbing/rappelling; their internal structure and uses are very different. Both generally made of nylon, the structure in called kern-mantle. There is an outer sheath, whose major function is to protect the inner fiber structure, where the true load bearing function takes place. The inner core for both lead climbing and rappelling is comprised of thousands of nylon fibers that are continuous and run the entire length of the rope. The difference between the construction of lead climbing rope and rappelling/rescue rope lays in the way the nylon fibers are oriented. In lead climbing rope, a climber who maybe climbing above an anchor point may fall, he/she wants the rope to act as a shock absorber, absorbing the energy of the falling climber. The inner core of climbing rope has multiple bundles of spirally twisted nylon fibers, which when place under load will stretch and absorb the weight of the climber. This rope is often referred to as dynamic and can stretch as much as 40%. Rappelling or rescue rope has the internal nylon fibers virtually straight, with no coiling, this rope is sometimes referred to as “static” or more appropriately as low stretch, since it will stretch around 5-8% (depending on manufacturer and other factors). If a 150 lb. climber were to use this rope and fell 10 feet above their last anchor point (total fall of 20 ft.) they would like either break the rope or suffer major injuries. While it is true, Spectra cordage is stronger for the amount of weight when compared to nylon rope; there have been reports that the inner core has a tendency to breakdown and powder with use. I would never use 550 paracord as lifeline. Keep in mind that climbing and /or rappelling rope has a breaking strength in the thousands of pounds. I sorry if this post is long, but there are dozens rescues SAR teams have to make each year, because someone thought rope they were using could hold several hundred pounds and they only weighed 150 lbs. Pete

#6610 - 06/03/02 09:43 PM Re: Why paracord? Why not spectra?

Here are a couple of links that might be useful. Here are some places where you can buy advanced cords: http://www.usrigging.thomasregister.com/olc/usrigging/pelifix.htm<br>http://www.samsonrope.com/products/recmarine_rigging.cfm<br><br>Here is a site that did some interesting tests on break strength (and, more important how different knots affect break strength): http://www.amga.com/info/Comparative%20Tes%C9rength%20Cord.pdf<br><br>I am certainly not suggesting that folks use thin diameter spectra or tecnora (or the like) as their first choice for climbing or life lines. In the same vein, I don't suggest that anyone get dropped off in the middle of the woods with only a knife and an altoids tin full of supplies. <br><br>That said, I think it is reasonable to inquire about whether low diameter high strength cords should be used as replacements for paracord that is so often found in kit and exactly what advantages and disadvantages each has.<br><br>


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