Survival Bracelets By COBRABRAID

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.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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18 Responses to Survival Bracelets By COBRABRAID

  1. Margaret van den Bergh says:

    HOW ABOUT MAKING A BRACELET OUT OF THE DYNEEMA CORD? LOWER PROFILE, MUCH LESS WEIGHT, VERY STRONG.
    MARGARET VAN DEN BERGH

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    • Stick says:

      Margaret,

      I have thought about that, but haven’t gotten around to weaving any of my own bracelets. If I ever do though, I will definitely give it a try!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  2. Josh Rubin says:

    I agree with Keith, the bracelet is always on you and ready to be used.The common knot that people use for these is know as the Solomon Bar http://www.itstactical.com/skillcom/knots/never-leave-the-house-again-without-paracord/ but as several have pointed out it is a pain to undo in a hurry. There is a variant knot that looks almost as good and can be puled apart much more easliy http://www.itstactical.com/skillcom/knots/decorative/quick-release-paracord-bracelet-for-emergency-paracord-deployment/. Personally, I wear one all the time that is tied using a simpler knot (triple layer daisy chain).

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    • Stick says:

      Josh,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I will have to check out those knots. After wearing this one for a few days now, my biggest complaint is how stiff and unforgiving the bracelet is. I think that the buckle is what really makes it awkward feeling since it will not bend at all. I still think that this one is just a hair too big too. I dunno, maybe I am just not used to wearing one….

      Anyway, how is the fit and conformity of the bracelets when using these other knots? Are they also super stiff?

      Thanks,

      ~Stick~

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    • Josh Rubin says:

      When I made my bracelet I did not use a buckle, just made it a bit bigger… but yeah I agree the standard design can be a little stiff with all of those layers of cord. The daisy chain style moves like its a bike chain, so very flexible

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  3. Pale Spruce says:

    This is one of those items that can be debated forever. I wear a quick release bracelet with a carabiner clip, but I also realize that having 50′ of dyneema cord is probably a better option. The velcro closure on the pink one looks very interesting and it gives you some flexibility on how tight the bracelet is on your wrist.

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    • Stick says:

      Pale Spruce,

      I agree, this is probably one of those items that can be debated forever…well said.

      And Don from COBRABRAID said that the one with the Velcro closure is the best seller. While I can see how the Velcro closure would be handy for actually wearing around my wrist, I think that the buckles would have more value in the field if needed.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

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  4. It’s easy enough to unravel you just find the end that is melted, cut it off and start yanking. Yea it’s probably going to be kinked but if your down to just a paracord bracelet then your already in trouble so beggars can’t be choosers.

    As for funk it’s paracord buy a hank and make your own for pennies on the dollar and toss the funky one out. I learned how to weave a few different knots in the Army (Desert Storm days) and over the years I’ve had to use them a few times.

    I carry a 100 foot paracord donut in my backpack a 200 foot role of #18 Bank Line in my shoulder bag along with a 20 foot hank of para-cord then my bracelet on my wrist.

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    • Stick says:

      Brad,

      Thanks for chiming in as far as actually having to unwind one of these and using it. I have yet to unwind one of these bracelets, but this is what Don from COBRABRAID told me about unwinding these bracelets:

      The only flaw we see so far in the bracelets is they are a bit of a pain to unwind, you wold need a sharp object like a knife.

      And as tightly braided as these seem, I would imagine a knife or something similar would be very helpful. Although, I imagine that with enough time and energy, it could be done without a sharp object too, which may be the case in a true emergency. And I agree, in this case, beggars cannot be choosers.

      And wow, that is a lot of rope/cord! Do you carry all of that cord with you on ordinary backpacking trips?

      Thanks for stopping and commenting!

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Yep I always carry that much if it can go wrong for me it will 😉

      In reality it’s not that much space a braided paracord donute {exampe: http://teotwawkiblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/diy-paracord-donut.html) doesn’t take up that much space and a roll of bank line is small compared to a full role of duc tape. I’m not even close to the UL crowd and I usually have the wife and kid in tow so I prepare for the worst.

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  5. Al Bishop says:

    Stick,
    My one real concern about the bracelets is that over a period of time is the inevitable “hiker Funk”. I have found this true with leather and synthetic leather watch bands over time and hiking being what it is I see it happening with these. IMHO
    4 Bears

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    • Stick says:

      Al,

      I agree, after enough time on the trail, things are going to have the funk! These can be washed with soap and water so it should remove at least some of the funk though… However, if it actually comes in handy for a real need, the funk will probably be worth it… The funk is just part of it, so I can live with it if need be… 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  6. Gizmo Joe says:

    Nice post, I have been wearing a King Cober bracelet for a few years now (on and off) and like the fact that I always have some cord if needed…….the thing I really like about the King Cobra style is that you have about 2 times as much cord (about 15 or more feet)……..I made/make them myself, it only takes about 15 Min. when you get the pattern down.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Joe for the info. I thought I remembered you wearing one, but couldn’t remember for sure. Glad to hear that after so long though, you still wear it.

      Like

  7. beechcreekproject says:

    I’ve worn and made many different types of survival bracelets over the last few years. Ones with buckles, no buckles, multi-colored and solid. In my opinion they are more of a novelty item than something truly useful especially considering what you carry with you already in your pack. If the bracelets you have are woven as tight as you say (which is a sign of a good bracelet) then if you were to try to disassemble one you’d find it’s not the easiest thing to unravel a cobra knot. I find they even get harder over time and once it is disassemble the cord is so twisted and kinked that it’s not the most easy to use cord anymore. I knot I’ve recently used for a bracelet is called a “millipede” and it allows the bracelet to be unraveled with just a pull of the main “buckle” and the whole bracelet unravels. No untying. I have a post on my blog about that particular bracelet. I would also point out that the multi-color bracelets are two different colored cords melted together so you really don’t have a full functioning length of cord and why some like to used solid color bracelets. Love your blog and keep up the good work.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      beechcreekproject,

      Wow, thanks for the informative response. I appreciate it!

      The buckle on this one is sure enough a good buckle, but I have wondered if a slightly smaller buckle would have made this bracelet more comfortable to wear (although, I also wondered if it was just that lightweight junkie side of me thinking this too…)

      As far as disassembling the bracelet, they admitted to me that this was the one downfall of this bracelet. They said that I would need something sharp to help with the process. I also thought about how kinked the cord must be after being braided so tight for a good amount of time, but I have never personally dealt with actual paracord, or these bracelets so I was not sure what it would turn out like.

      That is good to know that they melt the cords together too. I assumed that the multicolor bracelets were more than one long strand, but I wasn’t sure if maybe part of it was died one color and the rest another color maybe. Thanks for the heads up. (I didn’t want to unravel one just to see…at least not just yet.)

      Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  8. Keith says:

    Good for the Cobrabraid folks to make something themselves and in America. It so happens I saw a $10 550 braclet in Dick’s this afternoon. It was somewhat tempting. Thanks for breaking it down, though. It sounds like your Dyneema supplies are a better idea – more and stronger. Because your cord is not all bound up in coils and knots means it’s multifunctional. That’s an important tenet of lightweight backpacking. The only advantage might be that the bracelet, like a pocket emergency kit, is always with you even when you’re away from your pack.

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    • Stick says:

      Keith,

      That is a very good point about always having the cord on your person rather than in your pack. I keep a small lanyard in my cargo pocket that has a compass, whistle, fire steel rod, knife and compass on it. So, in that light, this is much more of a “survival” tool. Thanks for pointing it out… (I can’t believe that I didn’t think about that at the moment…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Like

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