How to Make a Survival Bracelet
Survival bracelets are made by repeating a simple pattern of knots using a particular kind of rope called paracord, which is short for parachute cord. These bracelets look cool, and they also have the potential to be useful in certain emergency situations. It is actually two kinds of rope in one! Within the outer layer of rope are strong, thin strings; between the thicker rope and thinner string, paracord can be used to solve a variety of problems.
Paracord is extremely strong and versatile. Because the bracelets are made of knotted lengths of this rope, the bracelets contain a bit more than one foot of paracord for every inch of wrist circumference. So if your wrist is six inches in circumference, the bracelet will be made of approximately seven feet of rope!
Survival bracelets are easy to make at home. There are even kits available that come complete with lengths of rope and plastic side-release buckles!
This article details how to make a survival bracelet. There's also an excellent video so you can see the steps in live action. Scroll down the article to see the video.
Making a Survival Bracelets - The FIrst Steps
First gather your supplies. You'll need paracord, a contoured plastic side-release buckle, ruler, scissors, lighter, and tweezers.
Next, measure your wrist circumference by wrapping the rope snuggly around your wrist. Pinch and hold the rope where it comes around to meet the end of the rope. Then, using the ruler, measure from the end of the rope to the spot you're pinching. Do this a couple of times to make sure you have the right measurement.
Using the ruler, measure out a length of paracord to equal one foot for every inch of wrist circumference, plus one foot. As an example, my wrist is 6.5 inches in circumference. For my length of rope, I would measure 6.5 feet + 1 foot = 7.5 feet of paracord. This is enough to make sure that the finished bracelet won't be too tight.
The ends of the rope must now be sealed to make it easier to work with the paracord. First, use the tweezers to pull out about 1/4-1/2 inch of the inner, thin white strings, then cut those bits of inner strings with the scissors. Doing this will help the outer colored part of the rope seal together better.
With appropriate caution, light the lighter and pass the flame briefly over the end of the paracord. The rope does not have to be burned, just quickly heated. It only takes a fraction of a second in the flame to cause the rope to become slightly melty. Either pinch the ends of the rope together with your fingers or -- more safely -- lay the end of the rope on the ruler and tap the rope with the bottom of the lighter. You may need to repeat this several times in order to get the paracord ends to fully seal.
With the ends sealed, they won't fray and fight you as you thread them through the buckle holes and proceed to tie the paracord into knots.
Connecting the Paracord to the Buckle
Separate the two pieces of the side-release buckle. Put the male end (the one that looks a bit like a fork) aside for later.
Take the paracord and double it up, placing the two ends together and finding the midpoint along the length of the rope.
Slide the loop at the mid-point of the rope through the slot in the female end of the buckle. Holding the buckle so that the inner curve surface is facing you, pass the loop through so that an inch or two of the loop is on the outer curve surface side of the buckle. Make sure that the two halves of the rope are still of equal length.
Slide the ends of the rope underneath the buckle and through the loop. Pull the ends so that a snug knot forms against the buckle.
Take the two ends and pass them through the slot of the male end of the buckle. They should pass from the inner curve side to the outer curve side.
Pull the rope further through the male end of the buckle to decrease the length of rope between the two buckles. There are now two ropes in between the buckles and two ropes heading out of the male end of the buckle.
Using the ruler, adjust the length of the bracelet. The distance you're measuring is between the edge of the female end of the buckle and the "base of the fork" of the male end. This distance should equal the circumference of your wrist plus one inch. My wrist is 6.5 inches, so I would want my bracelet to measure 7.5 inches from the end of the female buckle to the base of the fork of the male buckle.
Without tugging the rope and accidentally changing the length, see if the bracelet will fit comfortably when wrapped around your wrist. You'll check the length of the bracelet again shortly, just to make sure. (Once I neglected to take this step, thinking everything was just right, then wound up with a bracelet that was too small!)
Tying the Knots
Don't worry if this part seems confusing at first! These kinds of projects often feel overwhelming but then suddenly become clear and easy.
Sit with the male end further away from you and the female end next to you, with the inner curve sides facing down. (You're looking at the outside surface of the bracelet.) Take the free end of rope on the left side and pass it underneath the two segments of rope in the middle that connect the two pieces of the buckle.
After going behind the two ropes in the middle, it then goes over the rope on the right side.
Now take the rope that was already on the right side and pass the end of it over the two center segments and through the loop on the left side. (The loop on the left was created when the rope on the left curved around to go under the two ropes in the middle.)
Pull the knot tight. When this first knot tightens against the buckle, it doesn't look like much of anything. Don't worry - after a few more knots, you'll see the standard survival bracelet pattern appear!
The second knot is exactly like the first, but in the opposite direction. Take the rope that is on the right side and pass it under the two center lines, then over the rope on the left side. Then take the rope on the left side and pass it over the center lines and down through the loop created on the right side. Tighten the knot.
When you tighten the knots, pull the paracord firmly, making sure the segments of rope don't get twisted around. The knots should be good and tight.
It's a good idea to check the length of the bracelet again. Wrap the bracelet around your wrist and verify that it is a good fit when the buckles are snapped together. If necessary, undo the first two knots and adjust the length of the bracelet.
Continue making knots in this alternating pattern of passing the rope under the center strands and over the opposite side rope, then passing the other rope over the center strands and through the hole.
You'll notice that there is a vertical "bump" of rope on the side when the knot is tightened. If that vertical bump is on the right side, it means that the last knot made started with the right rope going under the two center ropes. So that indicates your next knot will start with the left rope going under the two center ropes. A good thing to keep in mind if you lose track of where you are!
Continue making knots until you work your way to the other buckle and no more knots will fit.
Finishing It Off
Once you have knotted your way down the length of the bracelet, pass two rope ends through the slot in the female buckle so that the ends are now on the inner surface of the bracelet. Depending on the thickness of the ropes and the width of the slot, this may be fairly easy, or it may require the use of tweezers, or it may be completely impossible!
If you absolutely cannot get the paracord through the slots, then continue to the next step, having the rope go around the sides of the bracelet rather than through the buckle. This is not ideal, but it will work.
You should still have a decent amount of rope left. Trim the rope ends back to about 1 or 1.5 inches long. As you did at the beginning, seal the ends of the rope. First pull out some of the inner fibers with the tweezers and cut them back. Then seal the ends using a lighter to quickly heat the paracord and carefully squeezing the ends of the rope together.
With the tweezers, work the ends of the paracord in under the knots on the inner side of the bracelet. Continue wriggling, pulling, and tucking until the ends of the ropes are fully hidden. If they stick out a bit, you might find it annoying against your skin as you wear the bracelet.
You now have your own homemade survival bracelet!
These are fashionable bracelets that can really come in handy if you need either a proper rope or the strong, thin inner fibers to repair or create gear.
By the way, if you want to carry a greater length of emergency paracord, you could make a survival belt!
Excellent Video Showing How to Make a Survival Bracelet
This video clearly shows the technique for making a survival bracelet. You'll notice that the buckles are the kind with two slots.