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How to Make Cordage (Rope) in the Wilderness

Learn how to make cordage, or rope, from NYC Outward Bound instructor Marko Yurachek in this wilderness survival skills video from Howcast.


A lot of the time people ask me about making their own cordage when they're out in the wilderness. I can tell you about some traditional cordages which is probably not the first thing I would recommend, but work really well if you didn't have anything else to go with.

Sinew, which is tendon, you can see a bit of sinew right here in this leg bone, is a great piece of cordage. There's also sinew that runs along the backbone or spine of animals. So if you find even a small animal, you can get sinew from that animal.

What makes sinew really nice is that it also glues itself together. So if you wrap something with sinew, if you want to use it to secure a split in a wood to put a point or knife blade in, you don't have to tie it. You just wrap it on itself and as it dries, it'll glue itself and bind. So that's a really nice type of cordage.

Hide from an animal is also cordage. You can use hide from any animal, but one thing that people don't think about is they're covered in cordage. So if I wanted to get cordage and I didn't want to find a dead animal or if I didn't want to find a root or grasses or Dogbane and twist it into cordage, I could just look at what I'm wearing.

Oftentimes people have a hoodie on. There's a string that goes through the hood of your hoodie and if you pull that out, you have cordage. If you don't have a hoodie on but you're wearing pants, I would tell folks to start with the hem of their pants and take your knife blade, stick it in, and cut around once, twice, three times. So my pants the length of them is about eight inches so you get about 14 inches per time around. You cut around four times you've got five feet of cordage. Four times around is this much so if I cut this much off of my pants, I would have five feet of cordage. If I cut this much off the other side, I'd have ten feet of cordage.

Now just by trimming this much off of my pants, I'm getting a good five feet of cordage. If you look, there's not that much difference between one side and the other. I still have as much coverage but I have ten feet of cordage if I trimmed off of both sides.

Other people will tell you you should use your shoelaces as cordage. These will work as cordage except they're really nice to have to hold your shoes on. So even though a lot of people don't use shoestrings in their shoes, if you're in the backcountry and you're moving through rough terrain, it's nice to have shoelaces. If you do have to use your shoelaces, you can cut them in half rather than using the whole thing and keep the top half tied and the bottom half loose.

And if you have to make a bow drill, you can use cordage from your pants, you can use shoelaces, you can use the string from your hoodie. And so cordage is one of the things that you need to get fire if you're going to make a bow or if you're going to lash anything together.

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