Having a way to tie things off in the wild is very important. Cordage can be used for thousands of things – from building shelter and crafting camp items to safely storing your gear.
As far as camping cordage goes, nothing beats paracord. It has a great weight to strength ratio and can survive all the tasks you might have for it around the camp.
However, some people do not like to use paracord. There are many reasons for this, but it mostly boils down to two main ones: it costs a lot of money to get a good quality paracord that you could rely on and for ultralight backpackers and hikers, the paracord weighs a bit much.
This leads many outdoor enthusiasts to look for alternatives when deciding on the right cordage for their trip. So, what can a camper use instead of paracord?
You can use butcher’s rope, fishing line, or climbing rope instead of paracord. But, if you don’t have any of those, or you don’t want to carry them with you, there are many creative ways of making cordage in the wild.
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Things You Can Use Instead of Paracord
In order to find the right substitution for paracord, you’ll have to know what you’ll need from your rope line. As far as cordage is concerned, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind when choosing the perfect paracord alternative for yourself:
Weight of the Cordage
Hikers and campers tend to obsess about the weight of their packs, and for good reason. Unless you’re planning to reach your campsite by vehicle and stay there until the end of your camping trip, you’ll want your pack as light as possible.
Take it from someone who’s been lugging their pack all over the country: after the first couple of miles, you’ll start feeling every extra pound, especially if your pack doesn’t have any way to redistribute the weight across your hips.
This is one of the reasons paracord is popular, it’s very light for its strength.
However, if weight isn’t a problem for you, and you’re traveling by car or boat you don’t have to opt for a lightweight alternative to paracord.
Cordage Tensile Strength
This is the amount of stress your line can take before snapping. Stronger lines are more commonly used for setting up hammocks or making tools in the wild. If you’re not into hammock camping or making your own shelter and tools in the wild, you might not need extremely tough cordage.
Do you need a line that will hold tight or to be a bit bouncy?
The elasticity of the line will add a little more strength to it, but it isn’t the determining factor. In some cases, it can even prove to be detrimental to your needs. For example, using elastic cordage for tying off your tarp can result in your shelter changing its shape in the wind or after it gets soaked. Additionally, elastic ropes can shrink when you’re camping in very cold weather.
Use Climbing Rope Instead of Paracord
This type of rope is the most popular alternative choice for those outdoorsmen who need reliable high-strength cordage to secure their equipment or shelter.
Climbing rope is a bit of an overkill in our opinion, as it weighs far too much to be used for anything but car camping.
However, if you’re an avid climber and always have some climbing rope when you’re going into the wild, you can use it as a substitution for paracord. Just keep in mind that it is not a perfect alternative.
Not only is climbing rope significantly heavier than paracord, but it is also more difficult to manipulate. Because it is much wider, it is harder to use it for your average daily camp tasks like pegging off your silnylon tent or tying off your gear.
In addition to this, if your main issue with paracord is that it’s expensive, climbing rope isn’t for you – the price is way higher than your average 550 paracord.
That being said, climbing rope is way more heavy-duty than even the toughest of paracord. You won’t have any issues securing items or tying up heavy loads. Since the purpose of climbing rope is to carry your weight (and much more than that) you won’t need to worry that any purpose you use it for in a campsite will be too much for it.
Another popular alternative for paracord is the butcher’s twine. Many outdoor enthusiasts use this type of rope when they need cordage they won’t reuse later.
Unlike paracord, which usually costs enough that you don’t want to waste it in traps or leave it tied around the tree somewhere, butcher’s rope is easily replaceable. You don’t have to worry about leaving it in the wild because this twine is made entirely out of natural materials which makes it completely biodegradable.
In addition to this, butcher’s rope is very light and easy to acquire and use. It weighs less than paracord and pretty close to it in usability. The butcher’s rope is thin and can fit in your tarp’s tie off holes, and it’s perfect for making traps.
Unfortunately, this is not an ideal alternative to paracord, as the snapping point of the butcher’s twine is much lower than that of the paracord. For those tasks that require that extra tensile strength (like securing your tent for a night of high-speed winds), you may need to double down on the amount of rope you use.
Believe it or not, you can use plastic bottles to make cordage in a pinch.
You can get the plastic bottle line by cutting a regular plastic bottle in a spiral, down its entire length. This way, you’ll get a coil of a thin plastic strap you can use as cordage.
This alternative for paracord is extremely lightweight and very durable.
Of course, this isn’t a proper substitution for paracord, as the tensile strength isn’t as good as paracord’s, and the general utility is reduced because of the awkward shape of the line you’ll get.
Even though this type of cordage isn’t as strong as paracord, it can still withstand a lot of abuse. The most important upside of the plastic bottle line is that it can stretch to absorb abuse in the wild. Apart from this, the lightweight will allow you to employ more than just one line when tying off your shelter or securing heavy loads.
Finally, probably the biggest (and the most unfortunate) upside is that plastic bottles are readily available, even in the wild. Because of human pollution, you’re likely to find this source of cordage even if you hadn’t brought it with you.
Using Vegetation for Cordage Instead of Paracord
If you’re not a fan of paracord and you’re fortunate enough that you don’t run into any plastic waste while out in the wild, you will have to get creative with your cordage, but this time, in another direction.
Camping is all about using the environment to your benefit and nothing spell resourcefulness such as using vegetation to make cordage.
There are many ways you can employ the plants around you to make cordage, but the most common one has to do with vines.
To make rope out of vines you need to:
- Get enough vines – make sure they are green and spry and that they are the proper length for your needs
- Beat/press the vines – if the vines are too tough to be tightened or swapped in the way you need them to be, you can beat them with a rock or press them between two tough surfaces to thin them out.
- Braid the vines – to increase the tensile strength of your cordage, you can braid or twist the individual strands. If you’re planning on braiding your cordage, make sure you get vines longer than the final length you’ll need. Braiding rope shortens its length by a lot.
If there are no vines readily available in the area you’re camping, you can use other forms of plant-based cordage.
One of the most common ones is ivy, just make sure you’re not using the poison kind, or you’re in for a nasty rash. Remember – “leaves of three, let them be”.
Apart from ivy, you can employ roots to make ropes. Get the thinnest roots from trees or shrubs and use them as cordage. If they are too thick for you to manipulate to make the right shape, you can use your knife to cut them in half lengthwise.
Unfortunately, this method will require you to do a bit of digging in order to get the right roots, which will waste precious calories. This is why using roots instead of paracord should be done only if there’s no other alternative. Or if you’re experimenting and trying to hone your bushcraft skills.
Substitute Paracord With Fishing Line
Most outdoors enthusiasts expect durability and lightweight from their cordage. Nylon fishing cord is a great way to get the best of both worlds. Even though it isn’t as strong as paracord, it is much lighter and you can carry much more of it for the same weight.
Apart from this, if you’re a fisherman, you’re already likely to carry some fishing line with you. So, this one item has a double purpose – to help you with fishing and provide a source of cordage for your camping trip.
General purpose nylon fishing line is 2mm thick, and it is strong enough to withstand everyday camp tasks such as securing your tarp or tying off the kettle above the fire.
If the regular nylon line doesn’t provide enough strength for what you need, you can get the 4mm one. Obviously, this line will be heavier, but if your camping requires heavy-duty cordage, this is the best alternative to paracord.