There are many different ropes, cordage, quick links, and carabiners that you should consider keeping on hand. Over the years Matt and I have found that having the right type of rope or chain can make all the difference on a variety of projects. From clearing our property to building our house, farm, and more, various types of cordage and fasteners have helped us along the way.
Beyond Paracord: Ropes, Chains, Quicklinks, Carabiners, and Ratcheting Straps
What you need to know about cordage.
When you buy rope, chain, carabiners, or quick links, they are rated to specific breaking strength. This is what they are rated for at the time of purchase. That does not mean they will always be that strong. Over time and through use, some varieties will lose strength or even break if stressed too much. How soon this happens depends on a variety of factors including:
How well you take care of it.
Leaving rope out in the weather is going to weaken it or even totally rot it overtime if it is made of natural materials. UV damage is a big problem for synthetic ropes even if they are rated as UV resistant.
Chains and cables can rust. While a little rust os not the end of the world, storing chain and cable so that it is exposed to the weather all the time will lead to a lot more corrosion and in extreme cases less strength and eventual breakage.
Rope that is stretched tightly or used to pull a lot can be dangerous if it snaps and whips out at people or animals. This is why chains are used more often for situations where a lot of pulling is involved. If you try to tow a car with a rope you are asking for a big-ticket.
A chain may look more intimidating and like it would really hurt but if it breaks it might move a bit and fall to the ground but it is not going to snap at you like a whip.
If you need to put two chains together then a quick link is just what you need. Be very careful to use a strong enough link. If your chain is rated to 1,000 lb breaking strength and you use a quick link that is rated to 750 lbs or less then take a wild guess what part is going to fail first under extreme stress?
Not all quick links will fit all chains either which is one argument for having a good variety on hand.
Carabiners have a lever mechanism rather than screwing down to form a chain link like a quick link in most cases. The exception is the carabiners that are made for serious rock climbing.
For light jobs regular carabiner-style links are fine. You can get some very heavy duty ones but the lever part is going to wear out much faster than a quick link will. Quicklinks form a solid connection by screwing down and that is going to be stronger every time when comparing one of each type that is rated to the same weight.
Carabiners have the advantage of being faster and they are ideal for attaching water bottles and other small gear to a point. Many people use them to attach things to a tactical belt.
I cannot tell you how many times Matt and I have been working and had to stop and find a quick link. Writing this post has made me consider that we need an organizer that is just for this type of thing and that way we can tell what we actually have. It is really easy to not have the right size because you don’t replace them as they break or wear out over time.
If you have a place that they go when not in use, it is a lot easier to take a look and see what is lacking so you can rebuy sizes the next time you are at a hardware or farm supply store.
Sometimes you want a binding that will biodegrade
Sisal or jute twine will rot over the course of a few years and will be weak to point of breaking easily or very frayed within a year. It can be burned as well. These are a few of the reasons that these twines are so popular with gardeners and farmers. Hay baling twine can be made of these fibers as well. Matt and I prefer to buy hay that is baled with natural twine if possible. While we try to be careful and toss the twine, at least if some is dropped or blows away, it will break down over time.
When we used to raise cattle we would buy round rolls of hay. A few times we got round rolls that had plastic baling twine. We were finding pieces of that stuff years later even though we tried to pick it up as soon as we cut into a roll. If that stuff gets wrapped around something, particularly an animal it can cause a lot of trouble. It is also really annoying to have to cut off of a weedeater head or lawnmower blades. Tillers can be immobilized by the stuff.
Natural fiber twine can be used to tie pole beans, tomatoes, or train grapevines and other plants to a trellis. Matt and I have a few rolls of the baling twine made of sisal or jute. You can buy it in 16000 ft bundles. It is cheaper than buying a lot of little ones if you need a lot of twine for gardening and fruit crops. For most folks, a few 300 ft rolls put back will do just fine. We used to buy 1100 foot rolls at our local farm supply. They are a more reasonable size than the huge rolls we bought last year because they were out of the 1100 ft rolls.
Thick chains and long chains are heavier by the foot than rope.
When using cables and cable ties always make sure that the ties are tightened down well. When we were younger a cable tie was not tightened all the way and we had a big hog we were butchering fall with the single tree attached. We are lucky that someone didn’t get seriously injured. Never take short cuts because you are in a hurry when it comes to a big and dangerous job.
Keep lighters near at hand when working with synthetic fiber ropes and paracord. This will allow you to cut to length and then seal the ends to prevent fraying.
This is a strong somewhat short chain that includes the quick links. For those that just want something to put back fast, this is an option. 5,000 lbs is a good capacity. As you can tell from the description this chain is made for towing.
Thi is a 25′ Length, 255 lbs working load limit roll of chain. It is an affordable chain for light-duty projects. For example if you have some interior gates around your property, you can use a chain like this to secure it or make a closure by using a small carabiner. It is not strong enough for serious security at entry points on your property but I have to say that it would deter at least some people.
If you plan on using rope a lot then you should practice some basic knots.
An improperly tied rope is common and often results in the hastily tied knot coming undone at a very inconvenient time. Knotwork is a fun activity to practice in the wintertime or anytime you art stuck inside. If you are stuck in your tent or shelter when camping, then why not practice tying knots with some paracord or similar? A lot of people will already have it in their backpack. A sheet of printed out knot instructions or a small guide is lightweight and can offer some guidance on common yet useful knots.
Rockclimbing rope is nice to have for times where you do have to climb up something even if it is not a rockface. It also makes a good rope for hanging bear bags.
What if you needed to repel down something or get over an obstacle? Climbing rope would be what you would want for the job.
This rope is really strong. You can get it in 20 ft, 50 ft, and 100 ft sections. It has a 3/8 inch diameter. It wouldn’t hurt to have a 20 ft or 50 ft section of this for those times when you need the strongest rope.
The solution to the weak carabiner sold at hardware stores is to buy carabiners that lock and are made for rock climbing.
These are not cheap but they are some of the strongest carabiners you will find. These are rated to 5500 lb breaking strength on the main part of the carabiner and 1750 lb breaking strength at the weakest point. As many carabiners as we have broken over the years, I have to say that it is worth it to just buy some really good ones for the tough jobs.
This is just your basic quick link. Each link has a breaking strength of 1,760 lbs. These are a good thing to have around for attaching all kinds of things. Supposedly these are heavy-duty enough to use on small trailers but I would be tempted to go a little larger depending on the size of the chain being used and overall trailer weight. We mostly use things like this for attaching chains to pull logs around.
This is just basic polypropylene rope but I can tell you from experience that it is nice to have around. You can use this to tie down anything outdoors. We have used it for tieing down tarps over hay, firewood, etc. It is very affordable and takes care of a lot of different jobs. It has a working load strength of 440 lbs and a rope tensile strength of 2,200 lbs. This rope is UV resistant and designed for heavy outdoor use. It makes a decent clothesline if needed!
Every prepper needs a selection of ratcheting straps. They come in many lengths and sizes. I recommend keeping a selection of them because they are just so darn convenient. If you have a truck and don’t already have a few stashed in cargo compartments then you should correct that oversight.
Hauling loads securely is achieved with a ratcheting strap. Around our farm, we use our Kawasaki Mule a lot to get lumber, feed, and more distributed around the place. Ratcheting straps allow us to have boards hanging out the back even going up fairly steep hills and twisty roads.
This strap is up to 27 ft long, has a 3333 LBS working load and a 10000 LBS break strength. This is a bit larger and stronger than what is needed for most tasks but it is nice to have one or two of these for when strength really matters. They are typically used for hauling machinery, construction supplies, or lots of hay. You can use them to pull some things in a pinch.
This 4 pack is an affordable solution to having some heavy-duty but basic straps in your truck or stashed at your house. They have a breaking strength of 4500 lbs which is plenty for most tie-down jobs. The length of 15 ft is within a reasonable range for standard and mid-sized trucks. This is the typical size of strap we keep in our Toyota Tacoma.
Ratcheting straps are made tough but they will rust if left out.
I have yet to see a ratcheting strap that will not eventually rust if left out in the weather. The strap itself is made of a material that will not rot but if left out it will start to lose strength and get damaged by UV rays. It takes a lot but you should still make an effort to dry out straps and store them in a dry place when not in use. Buy a few new ones when some of yours start to look rough. When in doubt don’t use a strap that looks like it might be weak when you are carrying a heavy load on a wagon, truck, etc.
We don’t use bungee cords because they are dangerous.
We have been given a few bungee cords over the years but we do not use them. Bungee cords are notorious for coming off and snapping back. They can cause serious injuries and even break things. Some people may like them but I could never in good conscious recommend them for a long emergency or SHTF due to the potential for needless injury. There are a lot more ways to hold something down that are superior and safer.
While the focus of this article is not paracord, I will at least mention it briefly for those new to this type of thing. Paracord is sometimes known as parachute cord. It is very strong and useful for making a lot of different things such as belts and survival bracelets. There are several strengths of paracord available. The most common is 550 paracord. The other strength available is 750. The majority of people get the 550 because it is easier to find. Remember that you can braid paracord or do knotwork to create stronger lengths.
For more info on paracord, I recommend taking a look at the Backdoor Survival article “44 Fantastic Uses For Paracord” which has actually been updated to include 60 uses for this affordable cordage.
I really don’t have any personal experience making my own cordage but there are some dedicated bushcrafters that do just that. Some of the natural materials that can be made into cordage include:
- Inner bark of trees
- Dried inner skin of the stalks of fibrous plants
- Leather strips from dried animal hides. You can wet the hide a little or oil it to make it pliable.
The actual strength of your cordage is going to vary based on the materials and methods you use. Be careful and do not stress your cordage too much.
There are many Youtube videos out there that will help you get hands-on experience making your own cordage. Here is one by Survival Lily.
What ropes, chains, and fasteners do you keep around? Do you have any stories about when any of these things got you out of a situation?