Every since I got into backpacking I have noticed that a fair amount of people in this sport tend to wear “survival bracelets,” both on the trail and not. However, I never really considered wearing one simply because I already wore a watch and I was not interested in having multiple items around my wrist. Granted I do have a second wrist, but I was a-ok not having anything on that wrist either.
After seeing the survival bracelets more and more, I looked into them to see what the big fuss was all about. What I took away from my quick look into them was that a survival bracelet offered 2 items of worth, a section of cord and an extra buckle. Of course these two items can be used for a multitude of things while on the trail, but it still didn’t fit my needs. I already carried a (lightweight) section of high-strength Dyneema IronWire cord for “emergency” uses (not to mention the 50′ of slick dyneema cord I also carried for use with my bear bag system). However, I will admit that I did not carry any extra buckles on me simply because I planned to use simple knots if need be.
Then a while back I received an email from Don Leiser, the web manager of the company COBRABRAID, and asked me if I would be interested in checking out some of the items from COBRABRAID. Normally, I would have said no, however, I have now stopped wearing my watch around my wrist while hiking, which left both of my wrist open! So I felt like this would be a great time to check out those survival bracelets.
Once looking at the COBRABRAID website, there were a couple of things that attracted my attention. First, COBRABRAID is a family owned and run business (out of central New York), which also means that this is a product made and sold in the USA. As well, the bracelets (and the many other items offered on the site) are made with real 550 paracord, which features 7 inner woven strands surrounded by a tightly woven sheath and has a break strength of 550+ pounds. So, I got my information back to Don and then waited for the bracelets to arrive…
About a week later I received 3 of the Survival Bracelets in the mail, each a different size and with different color paracord, as well as with a different type of closure device (which can be seen in the picture above).
The smallest of the three is the pink camo bracelet with the COBRAdjust closure device. The braided cord on this bracelet measures 5.5 inches (13.9 cm) and then the total length of the bracelets is 8 inches (20.3 cm) from end to end (including the closure device). The weight of this bracelet is 0.5 oz (15 gm).
The next to smallest is the red/black bracelet with the Whistle Buckle closure device. The braided cord on this bracelet measures 7 inches (17.7 cm) and then the total length of the bracelets is 8.5 inches (21.5 cm) from end to end (including the closure device). The weight of this bracelet is 0.9 oz (26 gm).
Then of course the largest of the three is the blue camo bracelet with a simple buckle closure. The braided cord on this bracelet measures 8 inches (20.3 cm) and then the total length of the bracelets is 9.25 inches (23.4 cm) from end to end (including the closure device). The weight of this bracelet is also 0.9 oz (26 gm).
When measuring my wrist with a flexible tape measure, my wrist measures 7.25 inches (18.3 cm) so based on the sizing instructions on the site*, I requested the 8.5 inch (21.5 cm) bracelet. Of the three sizes, I plan to wear the blue camo bracelet even though I find that this bracelet is just a little big on my wrist. (When trying on the red/black bracelet I find that it is just a little too tight on my wrist.)
Initially, I was very surprised at how stiff the bracelets are. I can hold them parallel to the floor and the bracelets will stick straight out… no limping at all. I assume that this is due to the tight weave of the actual paracord. I don’t think that this is a bad thing, but I am curious to see if this will loosen up some with use/wear (however, I can only imagine that if it does in fact loosen up some it may also become a tad bit larger).
Due to the stiffness (and despite the larger size), I have found that it can be a little difficult to put the bracelet on by myself with one hand. It is a little difficult to hold the bracelet in place and then to bend the buckles over (due to the stiffness) and then slide the buckles together. Although, I feel like this is just a new process for me and hope that with some use (and if it does in fact loosen up some) that this will get a little easier to accomplish.
Also, again because of its stiffness, it has a strange feeling on my wrist. I am used to my watch conforming to my wrist, particularly when I rest my arm against something. As well, the bulk of the bracelet will take some getting used to. I am much more used to the thinner profile of my watch bands. (However, I am not knocking the bracelet for these things, just pointing them out as these are some of my initial thoughts, and it may take me a while to get used to having this bracelet on my wrist.)
I am unsure of how much paracord is in each of these bracelets. By reading the information on the site, I believe that the blue camo bracelet should have between 8 – 9 feet (2.44 – 2.74 m) of paracord. The red/black bracelet I assume has between 5 – 6 feet (1.52 – 1.83 m) of paracord and I am not sure about the smaller bracelet. Also, I can only assume that on bracelets that feature more than one color (such as the red/black bracelet), that these are actually more than one strand of paracord, which means that the total amount of cord in not necessarily a full running length.
Also, I will need to find some information on exactly how to unbraid the bracelet should I ever have to deploy it for whichever situation may arise. I am sure that it is not too difficult, but it is always nice to be able to know where to start… By looking at the blue camo bracelet, I see two burnt ends that are snugged away in the bracelet, so I assume that I can use a sharp object such as a knife and begin by unbraiding the bracelets at this area.
So, at this point I am up in the air about how I feel about “survival bracelets” in general. My style of backpacking is that of an ultralight to light weight backpacker. By accomplishing these low weights, I am quite conscious of what I carry in my pack and try to eliminate redundancies. So, in order for me to carry this bracelet, I would need to leave out the 24 foot (7.32 m) length of Dyneema Ironwire “emergency” cord that I carry which weighs 0.8 oz (22.7 gm). As far as numbers are concerned, the survival bracelet is obviously the lesser of the two as it is 0.1 oz heavier as well as approximately 1/3 the length of the cord I was already carrying (not to mention that the Ironwire has a breaking strength of 1000 lbs vs the 550+ lbs of the paracord). However, the survival bracelet is considered “carry” weight rather than “packed” weight, so in this light, the survival bracelet will actually save me 0.8 oz (22.7 gm)! 🙂
So, I plan to use/wear the survival bracelet that COBRABRAID has generously sent me for review to see how I like it over time. And until later, I am just curious as to how many others out there actually wear survival bracelets…
Thanks to Don and Doug, as well as all the other folks over at COBRABRAID for supplying these survival bracelets to me and my family!
*According to the COBRABRAID site, to get the appropriate size bracelet I should measure my wrist with a flexible tape measure or a piece of yarn and then add 1 inch (2.5 cm) to the measured size. Once this number is achieved, if it is in between sizes, they suggest to size up. Then, if needed, the bracelet can be shrunk slightly by simply soaking it in water and then allowing it to dry.
Disclaimer: I received these survival bracelets from COBRABRAID for free for this review.