British adventurer Bear Grylls climbed Mount Everest 18 months after breaking his back in a free-fall parachute landing. During televised adventures in the wild, the special forces officer turned TV personality has saved his hide by building a fire in a swamp, wrestling an alligator and consuming rhino beetles, larvae and even his own urine. All while viewers around the globe watch from the comfort of their homes. It's safe to say that Grylls isn't overly concerned about his appearance [source: Collins, Gunther].
Life in the great outdoors is no fashion show, but there is a natty little piece of jewelry out there that not only lets outdoorsmen make like Grylls, but could also save their lives. Crafted from 8 to 20 feet (2.4 to 6 meters) of woven paracord, the same nylon cord that's been used in parachutes since World War II, a survival bracelet is an essential item for any adventurer (or wannabe). It's proven useful in all kinds of situations in the wild, from marking a trail to fishing for dinner. You can even use it to keep those pearly whites nice and clean [source: Rugged Apparel].
Make a Shelter
There's nothing quite like sleeping out under the stars. Nor getting bone-soaking drenched when that great big sky opens up and the rain starts to fall. A survival bracelet comes in quite handy when trying to put together a basic shelter. Unweave the paracord and use the inner strands to lash branches together [source: US Paraband].
A popular option among outdoorsy types, a "lean-to" shelter can be built using branches, logs, tarp or just about any other material. Simply tie a log or heavy branch horizontally to two trees to serve as the "backbone" and lash together branches and logs to be used as a roof, leaned against the backbone at a 45-degree angle. Alternatively, tie a tarp to the backbone at one end and to ground posts at the other [source: Monaghan].
Right next to shelter on the hierarchy of human needs is food. Unweave your survival bracelet and attach a hook and bait to some paracord and you'll be fishing for dinner in no time [source: US Paraband].
If you don't have a hook or you're not keen on casting and re-casting your line, the bracelet's interior strands can also be used to make a gill net, catching fish that swim into it by trapping their gills in twine or other material, like small strands of paracord. Use a heavier rope (or thicker piece of paracord) for the net's top and bottom lines and string the net in between, looping it in holes small enough to trap the fish that swim in [source: Rosman].
When the fish just aren't biting, a snare trap is a great alternative for catching small game on the ground. Similar to a gill net, the trap is designed to entangle passing animals in a makeshift noose, which hunters can construct using paracord from a survival bracelet [source: Stewart].
Tie one end of the paracord to a tree branch and make a noose at the other end, being careful to leave the knot loose enough that the noose will tighten when tripped by a passing animal. Prop the noose up by affixing the branch to a piece of wood hammered or buried in the ground nearby. Experts often carve notches into the branch and base wood that will keep them attached, but give when the trap is sprung [source: Stewart].
Start a Fire
File this one under "advanced survival bracelet uses" as it can be a little tricky and requires some practice. A strand from your bracelet comes in quite handy in executing the "bow" method of starting a fire, which uses -- as you might guess -- a handmade bow to create friction between two pieces of wood (the spindle and fireboard).
Make an arm's length bow -- kind of like the ones used for shooting arrows -- by tying paracord to both ends of a bendable branch. Find a stone to use as a "socket," a skinny piece of wood for the spindle and a fireboard, a flat(ish) piece of wood with a small V-shape notch carved into it. Put some tinder in the notch, loop the bow string around the center of the spindle and place one end of the spindle in the notch. Hold the spindle in place with the socket at the other end and move the bow back and forth quickly in a sawing motion to create friction and then heat [source: McKay].
Make a Tourniquet
Life in the great outdoors is not for the faint of heart. There are nicks, bumps, bruises, gashes, and threatening injuries. Among its many uses, survival bracelet material can be unwound and made into a tourniquet to limit blood loss.
True story: James Little was hit in the leg with shrapnel during military duty in Iraq. Unable to flee to safety, he unwove one of the two survival bracelets he was wearing and tied it around his wounds to stop the bleeding. With material from the other bracelet, Little tied up nearby rubble and used it as cover [source: Ciccone].
Mark a Trail
"Pine Barrens" is an infamous "Sopranos" episode in which Christopher and Paulie -- the mafioso version of Tweedledee and Tweedledum -- get lost in the southern New Jersey forest while chasing after a former Russian special forces officer. Unable to find their car, the pair is forced to spend a frigid night in an abandoned van, subsisting on ketchup and mustard packets.
If only they'd had a survival bracelet handy. To avoid getting lost in the woods, unwind your survival bracelet and use pieces of paracord to mark your path by tying them around branches and other easily visible spots. Or use it to rig the trail with bells so you know if something (or someone) is coming your way [sources: Rogell, Survival Bracelet].
Repair a Backpack
Sure, a survival bracelet can do a lot of things, but it can't do everything. If you're planning on an extended trip into the wild, you're likely bringing some gear with you. A thin thread of paracord serves well as sewing material to patch up rips, tears and holes in you backpack, bags or clothes. Of course, you have to bring your own bodkin or needle [source: Operation Gratitude].
It's a jungle out there so you need a weapon. Some brands of survival bracelets include a small knife tucked neatly inside that can be used to cut the paracord, dig the notches in your fireboard or snare trap as well as kill game and filet it to be cooked [sources: Cabela's, USParaband.com].
A good, sharp knife is also nice to have when you're the prey. Ward off attackers with your cutting piece. Then prepare them for chow time.
Flossing isn't just good hygiene, it could save your life. Noting a link between inflamed gums and heart disease, medical professionals say proper dental care -- brushing and flossing -- can help ward off coronary problems like atherosclerosis. If left unattended, bacteria that builds in the gums can later enter the bloodstream and inflame blood vessels, contributing to heart problems [sources: UPI, Alvarez].
Just because you're out on the trail doesn't mean you should neglect your gums. If you run low on floss, use tiny piece of paracord from your survival bracelet to clean out any meat or game between your teeth and keep them healthy. Whether you should reuse the floss for the rest of the trip is a matter for you and your dentist to discuss [sources: Survival Bracelet].
Kenny Rogers said a good gambler knows when to walk away and knows when to run. A good outdoorsman or woman knows the same thing too.
Bracelet paracord has been used to snare a 14-foot alligator, but it's probably best to beat feet when a ferocious animal is coming at you full bore. Tie up your shoes real tight and be ready to run for dear life when the moment strikes. Paracord is a great replacement for busted shoelaces. Just hack off a piece, burn the ends and send them through [source: Survival Bracelet]. Then, take to your heels!
HowStuffWorks learns more about Dick Proenneke, who lived 30 years alone in Alaska as a survivalist and conservationist.
Author's Note: 10 Ways a Survival Bracelet Can Save Your Life
Long before he was solving whodunits as a member of the "Law & Order: SVU" team, rapper/actor Ice-T starred in a little action flick called "Surviving the Game." In it he played Jack Mason, a homeless man swept up off a Seattle street by a kindly entrepreneur (Rutger Hauer) who asks Mason to serve as his hunting guide during an excursion to a remote area of the Pacific Northwest. Once he gets there, it's not long before Mason realizes that the businessman and his pals -- a group that includes one Gary Busey -- will be hunting Mason for sport over the course of a leisurely long weekend. Relying on a mix of street smarts and Army training, Mason survives the "game," including a strange sequence of events that includes exploding SUVs, mano-a-mano fistfights and a backfiring gun. Ice-T doesn't need no stinking bracelet.
- Alvarez, Manny. "Hanging by a Thread: Flossing Your Teeth Can Save Your Life." Fox News. Feb. 27, 2007. (April 14, 2013) http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,254513,00.html
- Ciccone, Alicia. "Kurt Walchle, Survival Straps: The Bracelet That Can Save Your Life." HuffingtonPost. April 4, 2012. (April 14, 2013) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/04/survival-straps-bracelets_n_1401104.html?ref=topbar
- Collins, Lauren. "Out of the Wild: Bear Grylls." Men's Vogue. August 2007. (April 11, 2013) http://web.archive.org/web/20080316130100/http:/www.mensvogue.com/arts/articles/2007/08/grylls?currentPage=1
- Gunther, Shea. "8 Grossest Things Bear Grylls has Consumed." Mother Nature Network. Oct. 7, 2011. (April 11, 2013) http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/8-grossest-things-bear-grylls-has-consumed
- Monaghan, Glen. "Lean-to Shelter Construction." Midwest Native Skills Institute. (April 13, 2013) http://www.survivalschool.com/articles/Lean_to_Shelter_Construction.htm
- Operation Gratitude. "How to Make a Paracord Survival Bracelet." (April 14, 2013) http://www.operationgratitude.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/HowtoMakeaParacordSurvivalBracelet1.pdf
- Rogell, Eric. "The Fashion Accessory That Can Save Your Life." Discovery News. Nov. 29, 2011. (April 11, 2013) http://news.discovery.com/tech/gear-and-gadgets/the-fashion-accessory-that-can-save-your-life.htm
- Rugged Apparel. "Paracord Explained." (April 11, 2013) http://www.ruggedapparel.com/paracord-explained/
- Rosman, I. "fishing with bottom gillnets." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (April 14, 2013) http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/X6935E/X6935E00.HTM
- Stewart, Creek. "How to Build a Small Game Survival Snare." The Art of Manliness. March 29, 2012. (April 14, 2013) http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/03/29/how-to-build-a-small-game-survival-snare/
- SurvivalBracelet.com. "Emergency uses for Paracord." Feb. 11, 2013. (April 11, 2013) http://www.survivalbracelet.com/emergency-uses-for-paracord/
- UPI. "Dental floss may lower heart disease risk." Dec. 17, 2008. (April 14, 2013) http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2008/12/17/Dental-floss-may-lower-heart-disease-risk/UPI-81571229574870/
- USParacord.com. "7 Ways a Paracord Survival Bracelet Could Save Your Life." (April 13, 2013) http://www.usparaband.com/---7-Ways-a-Paracord-Survival-Bracelet-Could-Save-Your-Life_ep_42-1.html