Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I don't use paracord; I take 50 feet of a lighter (but more expensive) Spectra line which has a relatively soft finish just in case I have to attempt bear bagging (it won't cut the tree bark). I also use it as a dog tie-out (or extra long leash) (only works if your dog doesn't chew things), clothesline (for airing sleeping bag when the trees are still wet) or any use that might be needed for cord (shoe laces, repair, whatever).
Edited by OregonMouse (03/02/1212:28 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: San Diego CA
First let me say not all "paracord" is equal as Barry noted. On my last trip to the Winds, one of the guys wanted to pick some up for hanging bear bags. He picked up some inexpensive white paracord at Wallmart and that stuff couldn't handle even rubbing against bark. We really had to baby the stuff, then in the trash it went!
Personally I rarely use it, but find it good for hanging bags, fish stringer, general repairs, and for a clothes line for drying out stuff.
I usulally do not carry extra, but my tent lines are very long (so I can tie around huge rocks) so I cut off them when I need emergency cord to repair stuff. Sometimes I take about 20 feet to lower my pack if I anticipate I would need to do that. Once when I did not take extra cord, I just took the tent cord off the tent, tied them together, and used this to lower my pack. It was a bit tedious and time consuming, but it worked.
Loc: California (southern)
I have mentioned one good use- shoelaces. It makes good tent cordage, although I am going to braided mason's line (in bright colors) for that application.
The trouble with paracord is that it is just strong enough that some people will attempt to use for rappelling or some similar life support application, which is a good way to die. Years ago, the AAC, in one of their yearly Accidents In American Mountaineering reports, commented that pcord had no legitimate application in climbing (other than shoelaces and tent cordage, presumably). Despite that, you will see internet discussions about rappelling on pcord.
I use braided mason line as extra guy lines, and only carry paracord for search and rescue (it's on the mandated gear list). I would also use the mason line for a shoe lace or other gear repair that doesn't involve load bearing, if I had to. Mason line is lighter and packs smaller than paracord.
I use Zing it for bear bagging - it does not stretch, is very strong, and since it is an arborist specific line it doesn't shred bark or saw into limbs the way some paracord does. It's also lighter than paracord and in a pinch I could put it to other uses. It's not expensive - a large (for our purposes) spool can be ordered online for 15-20 bucks, or lengths of it can be purchased by the yard by some of the hammock cottage gear makers. I've seen paracord snap when someone tried to get their bear bag down and leave them SOL for hanging the next night. Zing it snags less and hasn't snapped yet. It has a listed load max of 50 lbs. It's hollow core, and can be spliced into itself to make closed loops.
I store rope or cord by doubling it until it's in a bundle about 12" long and then tying a loose clove hitch in it, or by looping in half three or four times and making an electrician's braid. My paracord and tubular webbing for SAR are braided this way. A few minutes of braiding when I am packing saves a lot of time untangling when I'm setting up camp.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
I guess the term paracord has been used for enough things that all it means is - nylon rope up to 550 cord. I'd like to note that those 100 foot rolls of rope at the hardware store for ten bucks are only rated for a few hundred pounds and should not be employed for anything but tying the canoe to the truck.
As far as bear bagging, I found that a cordage with a woven shell and straight inner fibers works best as its strong, light, about 1/8" diameter, and doesn't stick to tree bark. If need be you can wrap it around a branch to pull harder.
I've never lowered a pack backpacking. But I have hauled packs up and skinny cord doesn't cut it, or rather it does cut...
Anyway paracord is just another of those gotta have items that are pretty much worthless, or rather highly specialised and therefore of limited general worth. Sometimes I only take about 6 feet of it - just enough to tie my food bag off the ground in camp. Like Lori, I have long pieces of cord tied to my tent loops to tie it out.
I think about 80 feet of 4mm or 5mm kermantle "climbing access cord" would be nice, along with 4 carabiners and one double length spectra sling. This combination has allowed me to get into some very awkward situations. Jim
ok well you could build a neat bed by stretching paracord between rocks, and you can snare food with it.
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
Loc: Washington State, King County
I'm with whoever said that paracord isn't a good choice for backpacking. Too heavy and bulky for use as cord, not strong enough for use as rope. So IMO "what it can be used for" is car camping or various things around the house. Or parachuting, of course, though I wonder if they still use paracord for the risers? Probably not!
For a lighter, less bulky cord option it certainly is good to have some, and "how much" depends on whether you expect to hang food with it or not, and if so, what you're protecting your food from (bears, or rodents).
As wandering daisy said, sometimes extra cord for tent/tarp/whatever-shelter stuff can be useful. Some limited repairs (to include shoelace replacement, but I find that I replace the shoes before the laces go). Infrequently to hang food. For 3-season backpacking, that's about it for me.