12

There are a number of "survival" products on the market that integrate "extra" strands into the standard paracord (US MIL spec, ~4mm accessory cord, usually 7 strand nylon or cotton)

Most of them feature a tinder strand, at first glance this is a useful gimmick, if one is using the cord for something else (wrapping, lanyard, bracelet) you can have it around in case you need it, on the other hand it seems that any accidental heat exposure could lead to a major accident or injury.

Are these products the death traps I imagine them to be? How likely is the fire starter to ignite and how prone is it to extinguishing itself?

  • Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I didn't realize people were doing this, and it is an interesting idea. Would +1 just for that. – Loduwijk Aug 29 at 18:18
8

Even the “regular” paracord would be set ablaze if you put it close to a fire / heat source :) It’s a nylon / polyester after all… In my opinion, such gimmick paracords are not more dangerous than a normal one.
Unless that tinder is a strand of black powder fuse :)

UPDATE I reckon that extra strand is some kind of waxed cotton or something. If that is the case, then it would be harder to lit it up then pure paracord :)

UPDATE 2 Loduwijk’s answer is much better than mine and should be accepted :)

  • 2
    Paracord melts if you try to light it and hardly blazes – Reinstate Monica Aug 29 at 18:56
  • I guess it depends. I have managed to set some ablaze and even tried this now — mine started burning :) Although it is indeed easy to extinguish this fire - just a blow of air stops the blaze. – Alexander Aug 31 at 6:43
8

TL;DR: Death trap? No. Should you be cautious? At least as cautious as you would be with normal tinder.

Think of it this way:

Pile of loose jute twine, seem dangerous? No. People who use it for arts & crafts probably don't even realize its fire potential.

Pile of loose paracord. Dangerous? No.

Tinder can sit out without worry. Paracord can sit out without worry. What about a pile of loose jute twine and paracord mixed together? Still, nobody's worrying.

Now combine them. A strand of twine does not seem any more likely to catch a spark inside the paracord than it would sitting out on its own.

Caveat: There is now the interesting dynamic that the two play together. If they did catch fire, they are likely to be able to flare up easier together than they would individually. Putting a lighter to the end of your special paracord when it's in a haphazard heap inside your home might be more dangerous than putting a lighter to either twine or paracord on its own since the tinder could catch easily and help ignite the paracord (paracord burns too).

Caveat 2: I have used paracord as a friction saw before to cut things. I once sawed through some rolls of carpet that way. The paracord gets very hot, and it melts and snaps; I had to go through 2 or 3 pieces of paracord per carpet roll that I cut up. I've never seen paracord flame up when used this way, and I'm not sure if this kind of friction could ignite twine. I assume not, but I'll try it out and see and let you know.

Conclusion

Just treat it the same as any other tinder. A pile of charcloth or jute twine is not a death trap unless you store or handle it negligently.

If you're wearing it as a bracelet, however, and the twine is poking out of the end, then be careful around anything hot enough to start a fire. If the twine is loose or very frayed or dry, then a stray spark could light it, or passing your wrist through a flame while fire-tending could light it.

  • Fair enough, My biggest concern is if it is used in a rope-on-rope or other friction application where I worry it would spontaneously ignite, perhaps I should test that use case. – crasic Aug 29 at 22:23
  • @crasic Oooh! Interesting. If only it would do that. That's an interesting fire starting idea I'll have to try out. Thanks for the idea. Even if it could though, I would not call that a "dangerous death trap." Within reason of course... if you make a zip-line handle out of it, maybe that could ignite. Hmm... I suppose if you have it in bracelet form and you're tending a fire with some of the twine hanging out, that could catch. I might add a disclaimer to the answer after I ponder that more. So: In general no, but under specific situations... not a "death trap" but possibly a hazard. – Loduwijk Aug 29 at 23:00
  • Heh, interesting that from another POV this is a useful feature, to put my concern concretely I worry that someone will use it as an autoblock for rappel or a prusik for ascending or lashing something for raising and light their entire belay on fire. – crasic Aug 30 at 2:16
  • @crasic I just updated. See "Caveat 2" and the new paragraph in the conclusion. If you are implying that the friction could ignite it, that would surprise me, but it's not entirely infeasible. I'm going to actually try to get it to ignite by friction and see if it seems possible - I'll let you know later how that goes. What concerns me more is the use of paracord for climbing equipment; I am not experienced at climbing, but I thought paracord was not used. Also, I wonder if the inner twine wears out the paracord faster to make it weaker over time. – Loduwijk Aug 30 at 18:09
  • You don't explain why twine and paracord are "worse together than they would individually". – Martin F Sep 1 at 17:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.