While 550 paracord is an essential part of every kit, and one of the most versatile survival tools you can buy, it is important to know that you can not rely on just any 550 paracord. As with most products, commercial marketing has pulled the consumer’s mind out and put it in their pocket. Most people will Google “550 paracord,” end up on Amazon, choosing their favorite camo pattern, and feeling pretty good about getting an important survival tool. I’m here to tell you that 90% of the time, you’re going to get ripped off buying paracord.
Unless the website specifies that they are selling MIL-C-5040H Type III paracord, you’re most likely getting shat on. Even if they mention the military, look past that for MIL-C-5040H Type III.
The key thing to look for, besides “MIL-C-5040H Type III,” is the colored cord inside the paracord. One of the 7 strands will have some colored markings on it, which designate the manufacturer of the paracord for the military. This will signify authenticity as well. You should then have the confidence that your paracord has been tested for 550 lbs before being shipped out.
In use, the main difference will be strength. The consumer cord will snap at ~250-300 lbs. Mil-spec cord will snap at the advertised 550 lbs. Most people will never notice this because most paracord doesn’t typically take on that kind of weight. But someday you might be in a pinch and need to rely on the actual performance limits (and advertised specs) of your paracord. Are you going to put that bet on the cheap stuff?
Beyond performance, I have principles. If a company is going to lie to me, they won’t get my business. If the seller says “Hey you know what, this cord isn’t mil-spec, but it will hold 250 lbs,” then I might buy some of the cheap stuff for guy lines, or suspending bear bags. But I have yet to find a paracord seller that is that honest.
You can find the scams everywhere, and I’m not going to promote them here. But if you want to look into some authentic mil-spec 550 paracord, I recommend that you head on over to BestGlide.
At the end of the day, it’s ~$3 more per 100ft for the real thing, and I don’t know about you but I don’t use paracord to play jump rope.