Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You Can't Do Without It!

550 cord, paraline, paracord,  parachute line, call it what you will, 150 feet of mil-spec parachute line should be a part of your gear.

As I think back over nearly 46 years of teaching survival skills and about the same amount of time beating about the bush, I don't think I have ever been without some parachute cord.  I have used to to build shelters, catch fish, weave nets, make stronger rope, for emergency dental floss, as sewing thread, to retrieve water when I was cliff-bound and yes, parachute line has lowered me to the ground when I jumped out of an airplane while I was in the Air Force. Simply put it can truly be a life saver!

What is parachute line?  Parachute line is made up of a tubular case containing seven pieces of thinner, nylon threads each of which can be further separated into three even finer threads.

The tensile strength of a piece of line is 550 lbs.  The tensile strength of one piece of the inner thread is about 35 lbs.

  I don't know what the tensile strength of the very smallest fibers is - probably around 8 or 9 lbs.  At this point the material is useful as a dental floss substitute, sewing thread, fishing line and even suture material.

You can buy parachute line in just about any color from many internet vendors or sporting goods stores.  Or you can go to your local military surplus store where the predominant colors are white or OD green.  I recommend buying white cord and then dying it bright red or orange so that you can find it if you drop the line on the ground or worse still, on snow.  RIT fabric dye works well.  Make a concentrated solution and then drop your parachute line into it and leave it there until you are happy with the color.  Before you remove it from the dye pour in a cup of vinegar to set the dye and let it sit some more - a couple of days.  If you don't do this, since nylon doesn't take up dye very well,  the dye will come off in your hands.

Stronger rope can be made from parachute line by either twisting two ropes together or by braiding three or more pieces together.

As I said in the beginning, 150 feet in 25 foot lengths, should be included in your gear.  There's no way to improvise a line from natural resources that comes close to the strength, utility and usefulness of parachute line.  Check out


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Battery Problems

I had the occasion recently to need a flashlight.  The one that was most available was the Maglite that I keep under my bed where I can easily reach it if it's needed in a hurry.  Retrieving the flashlight I pushed the on/off switch and nothing happened!  Removing the end cap I peered into the battery chamber and was disgusted to see a large accumulation of corrosion.  It was so bad that I couldn't even get the batteries out!  The Maglite was ruined.  Well, this got me started on a search for all of my other lights to check them out before I ruined any more.  By the time I was done I found two others that were in bad shape.

And then I got thinking about all of the other electronic equipment that I own that is powered by one sort of battery or another - cameras, GPS receivers, compasses and headlamps for example.  What kind of condition were they in?  What started as a need for a light turned into an all-day campaigned to checkout all of my gear.  Like a lot of people I suspect, I had fallen out of the habit of removing the batteries from my electronic equipment when I wasn't going to be using it for a while.  In the end I ended up damaging three flashlights, one point-and-shoot camera that I hadn't used in a couple of years and a calculator!

Looking into the "leaky battery" syndrome a bit further I found out that it's not a good idea to mix brands of batteries.  It doesn't appear that one brand is any less likely to leak than another.  Leave them in a flashlight long enough and eventually they all leak.  Following that thread a bit further the manufactures recommend not mixing batteries with unknown charges remaining in them.  Despite spending several hours rummaging around on the internet I could not find any practical way to clean the battery compartment well enough to completely eliminate the corrosion problem.  This is especially true of most flashlights - it is impossible to clean the bulb end of the battery tube.