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How to Make a Survival Bracelet

Updated on July 13, 2016
All photos by Valerie Bloom
All photos by Valerie Bloom

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.

Supplies needed to make a survival bracelet
Supplies needed to make a survival bracelet
Wrap the paracord around the wrist snuggly
Wrap the paracord around the wrist snuggly
Measure the length of rope needed to fit snuggly around the wrist
Measure the length of rope needed to fit snuggly around the wrist
Cut a length of paracord equal to 1 foot for every inch of wrist circumference plus 1 foot
Cut a length of paracord equal to 1 foot for every inch of wrist circumference plus 1 foot
Using a lighter, singe the ends of the rope together to prevent fraying
Using a lighter, singe the ends of the rope together to prevent fraying

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

Tighten the loop of rope in the buckle
Tighten the loop of rope in the buckle
Thread the two ends of rope through the other buckle
Thread the two ends of rope through the other buckle
Pull the rope ends to shorten the distance between the two buckles
Pull the rope ends to shorten the distance between the two buckles
Measure the length of the bracelet so it will fit your wrist comfortably
Measure the length of the bracelet so it will fit your wrist comfortably

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

Arranging the 1st knot
Arranging the 1st knot
Tightening the 1st knot
Tightening the 1st knot
Arranging the 2nd knot
Arranging the 2nd knot
Tightening the 2nd knot
Tightening the 2nd knot
Arranging the 3rd knot
Arranging the 3rd knot
Arranging the 4th knot
Arranging the 4th knot

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.

Pass the ends through the buckle slot
Pass the ends through the buckle slot
Trim the ends to approximately 1.5 inches, then seal the ends
Trim the ends to approximately 1.5 inches, then seal the ends
Tuck the ends under the knots on the inner surface of the bracelet
Tuck the ends under the knots on the inner surface of the bracelet
Continue to tuck in the ends until you can't see them
Continue to tuck in the ends until you can't see them
Congratulations! You've made an awesome survival bracelet!
Congratulations! You've made an awesome survival bracelet!

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.

Your Comments Are Welcome Here!

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    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 2 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      There's nothing better than clear directions. Now even I can make a survival bracelet, thanks Valerie!

    • Valerie Bloom profile image
      Author

      Valerie Bloom 2 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      @mary615 -- Crafts like these have always been a great way to engage kids (and adults) in handiwork and creativity. You bring up an excellent point that these opportunities are especially important in the digital age, since it can be challenging to encourage these sorts of off-line activities. Thanks!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      My children were all into making things like this when they were young. Now, I have grandchildren I would really like to see learning to make bracelets like this. Would keep them busy and off the internet!

      You included some really great photos on how you made these.

      Voted UP, etc. and will Pin to my crafts board.

    • Valerie Bloom profile image
      Author

      Valerie Bloom 2 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Hi Susan! Thanks so much, and I certainly appreciate the pin!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great tutorial. Pinning for future use.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 2 years ago from United States

      Great instructions--My girls enjoy making these.

    • Valerie Bloom profile image
      Author

      Valerie Bloom 2 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      @Glimmer -- I'm glad you liked this article, and thank you so very much for the shout-out on Twitter!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      Love this hub! Nice pictures too. I have a hunch my daughter will be making me one of these soon!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      Simple and clear--love this!!

    • Valerie Bloom profile image
      Author

      Valerie Bloom 2 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Thanks, DzyMsLizzy! You're right on all counts!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Very interesting. What you are doing is essentially basic square knot macrame. It's a very simple project, and kids could indeed manage this.

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Also shared and pinned.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Valerie,

      You are welcome. I meant every word. You are very talented, detailed and organized.

      All good qualities of a good writer. Well, I am not as good as you, but you should see the little work area in my home . . .I got books, magazines, keepsakes all around and above me. It is my safe haven away from reality.

      I do appreciate you following me too.

      Please keep in touch with me and have yourself a great day.

    • Valerie Bloom profile image
      Author

      Valerie Bloom 2 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Kenneth, I am sincerely touched by your compliments! Thank you so very much.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Valerie,

      Fantastic work.

      I will tell you the truth. I really love this hub.

      This is an excellent piece of writing. Amazing work. I loved the way you presented your topiic. Wonderful graphics.

      This piece was helpful, informative and very interesting.I was glad to vote Up and all of the choices.

      You are certainly a gifted writer. Please keep up the fine work.

      Sincerely,

      Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      Neat hub with clear directions. Love this project for useful jewelry! Lots of people feel that macrame was a life saver for them because they needed a hobby, but this takes it to a new level!

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