How Strong Is Paracord Really?

Paracord is considered essential survival gear and has dozens of uses. But, while paracord could help save your life in an emergency, its strength is often hyped up.

Here’s what you need to know about how strong paracord really is.

Quick answer:

550 paracord is rated to hold 550 lbs of static weight and has a safe working load of around 110 lbs. This is strong enough to tie down tents, tie ridgeline for a shelter, fix shoelaces, and do many other tasks.

Paracord is NOT strong enough for climbing, rappelling, lifting heavy objects overhead, or even hanging a bug out hammock.

Military Paracord Strength Ratings

There are a lot of rope products that go under the name paracord. When talking about “real” paracord, though, we usually refer to military-issued paracord. These are labeled with the code MIL-C-5040H.

There are six military paracord types, each with specific physical properties. Type III paracord, also called 550 paracord, is the most popular with survivalists.

TypeMinimum strengthMinimum elongationMinimum length per pound of cordCore yarnsSheath structure
I95 pounds30%950 feet116/1
IA100 pounds30%1,050 feetno core16/1
II400 pounds30%265 feet4 to 732/1 or 36/1
IIA225 pounds30%495 feetno core32/1 or 36/1
III550 pounds30%225 feet7 to 932/1 or 36/1
IV750 pounds30%165 feet1132/1, 36/1, or 44/1

How Is Paracord Strength Measured?

There are many types of tests to measure paracord strength. One of the simplest tests involves clamping one end of the paracord between two grips. Weight is then added to the other end until the paracord breaks.

Other strength tests measure a cord’s ability to withstand breaking when objects are dropped, yet other tests measure how much the cordage deforms.

What Does Minimum Strength Mean with Paracord?

The minimum strength rating is the minimum static force the cord can hold without breaking. For safety, cord manufacturers add a margin of error (usually around 20%) when calculating minimum strength. This means that type III paracord could hold more than 550 lbs of static weight and not break.

*Some rope brands use “tensile strength” or “minimum breaking strength” instead of minimum strength.

**Paracord strength is often given in pounds (lbs) or kilograms. However, it’s more accurate to list strength in kilonewtons (kN).

Static Force vs. Dynamic Force

When figuring out how strong paracord is, you must realize paracord strength ratings are based on static force. Static force is a load that does not change size, position, or direction.    By contrast, dynamic force is a load that does move and will pull on the paracord.

For example, let’s say that you use paracord to hang a hammock. The paracord is under static force if you lie still in the hammock. The paracord is under dynamic force if you start swinging around in the hammock (or shift your weight, get in/out of the hammock…).

Aside from things like knife handle wrappings, most uses for paracord involve dynamic force. Even something like tying a tarp shelter with paracord applies dynamic force: the wind blowing on the tarp will exert dynamic force on the paracord.

How Much Dynamic Force Does an Object Exert?

An object in movement can exert a tremendous amount of force. A 160lb person, for example, will exert this much force during a fall:

  • 10-foot fall = 1,683 lbs of force
  • 50-foot fall = 8,410 lbs of force

Unless you are great at physics, it is very difficult to calculate how much force an object will exert (here’s the basic math behind it). Because of this, some brands list their rope’s “working load” to indicate its strength.

Working Load of Paracord

Working load is the maximum weight that should ever be applied to paracord. The working load is always much lower than the strength. With paracord, the maximum working load is usually around 20% of the strength. For 550 paracord, this means a maximum working load of 110 lbs.

Most manufacturers don’t list the working load of their paracord. When it is listed, it can cause a lot of confusion.

*Note that the working load still doesn’t account for dynamic force: 550 paracord will hold a 100lb cast iron cauldron. But the cord might break the moment that cauldron starts swinging around!

The Navy has a detailed course chapter about calculating material strength, which you can get here.

Other Things That Affect Paracord Strength

Knots and Splices

Each knot you add to paracord will reduce strength. Some types of knots can reduce strength by 60%! In general, splices are stronger than knots.

KnotRope strength
No knot 100%
Figure 875-80%
Double fisherman’s65-75%
Water knot60-70%
Clove hitch60-65%

*Whenever possible, use a tensionless knot around a cylindrical object at least 4 inches in diameter. Knots around objects smaller than 4 inches put more stress on the cord fibers, making them weaker.


Any place where the paracord bends or is angled will be weaker. For example, if you run paracord under a board to make a swing, it will be much weaker where it bends around the edge of the board.


Nylon absorbs water. When wet, the fibers stretch out, become more susceptible to abrasion, and lose strength. According to various studies and reports, rope can lose anywhere from 15% to 70% when wet. Keep this in mind when working with wet paracord.


When dealing with dynamic force (an object in motion), longer paracord is stronger than shorter paracord. This is because long paracord has more room to absorb shock, meaning the force isn’t as great.


Keep your paracord away from chemicals. Even drawing on your paracord with magic marker can reduce its strength significantly.


Paracord gets weaker as it ages. There aren’t any guidelines about when paracord “goes bad,” though. You’ll have to inspect your paracord for signs of aging, like brittle fibers, tears in the sheath, or discoloration.

Can I use paracord to hang a hammock?

While plenty of people have gotten away with using paracord to hang a hammock, it is simply not meant for that. The maximum working load of 550 paracord is only about 110 lbs, which is lower than the weight of most adults.

Even though the weight is distributed between two pieces of paracord, both pieces are weakened because of their knots and because the hammock is at an angle.

So long as you are very lightweight, lie in the hammock carefully, and don’t swing around; the paracord should hold up. But it would only take one wrong moment for the paracord to snap!

Can I use 550 paracord for climbing?

Paracord should never be used for climbing, rappelling, or rescue. Type III (550) paracord only has a breaking strength of 2.4kN. Even type IV (750) paracord is too weak for climbing. It will easily snap when dynamic force is applied to it. Ropes used for climbing will have a breaking strength of at least 9kN, and ropes for rescue are even stronger than this.

There are various standards for rescue ropes and safety lines.   These include:

  • National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)
  • OSHA
  • European Standard 1891

For example, NFPA has a minimum breaking strength of 4,500 lbs and a maximum working load of 300 lbs for a one-person rope. OSHA requires at least 5,000 lbs of strength for most safety lines. If you want a rescue rope, look for one certified by one of these groups.

The bottom line? Paracord has many uses – but climbing or pulling people to safety isn’t among them. If you need a rope for rescue, then get rope that meets the minimum safety standards.

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  1. Well said! If a person is truly interested in the finer aspects of life safety around rope they should begin by reading the OSHA and NFPA requirements, and finish by taking one or more classes in rescue…


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