Gordon Dedman from Bushcraft Survival Australia reveals the dying art of making cordage tying good old fashioned knots  


String or cordage is one of the most important resources we can carry with us into the wilderness. We can use them to make temporary repairs to equipment and clothing, to fish and make traps. When it comes to recreational camping, we can use it to secure tent poles and tarps, hang your hammock, fasten a rope swing into the water, or strap down your canoe and bags to the roof. Heck, everything you wear, live in, carry or travel in has something that is holding it together. So, having some form of bombproof cordage with you when you venture off into the outdoors is an absolute must.


Having the ability to be able to make cordage from the resources you find around you is an important bushcraft skill for anyone who spends time in the outdoors.

There are many ways of making 2 ply cordage. The most common techniques are the reverse twisting method using your fingers and thumbs, and the rolling approach, which involves rolling the fibres along your thigh or leg. Once 2 ply cordage has been made it can either be used as it is or platted with other lengths of 2 ply cordage to make rope.


Good quality natural cordage can be made from a variety of sources: 

  • Plant Fibres such as the outer fibres of stinging nettle (Urtica sp.) and native raspberry (Rubus parvifolius), leaf fibres and husks of many palms (Livistona sp.) or the semi dried leaves of spiny headed mat rush (Lomandra longifolia).
  • The inner bark of many trees such as coastal hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus), Kurrajong (Brachychiton sp.) stringy bark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) and willow (Salix sp.).
  • The shallow long roots of many pines and eucalypts can be split down to make strong lashing material.
  • Making withies involves twisting small pliable saplings so that they are flexible and retain their longitudinal strength, creating a strong bush wire.


Going hand in hand with cordage is the ability to tie various knots, hitches and lashings. Knowledge of a wide variety of knotting techniques will enable you to tie knots for a variety of different purposes. There are literally hundreds of different knots, but having at least a minimal knowledge of the important ones is essential. Some of those include the: reef knot, bow line, sheet bend, timber hitch, clove hitch, figure 8, adjustable knot and slip knot to name but a few.


Two of the best forms of modern cordage to have with you in a wilderness environment are parachute cord and bank line. Both of these forms of cordage are plied cordage, that is, cordage that is not braided and capable of being broken down into smaller fibres.

Parachute Cord: This consists of a nylon outer mantle and 7 x 2 ply inner strands. Combined, this produces a tensile strength of 550 pounds and is used as the suspension lines on military parachutes, hence the name 550 Paracord. Being able to hold an average grown mans’ weight means it can be used to suspend tarps, hammocks and other uses requiring weight bearing cord. 

Bank line: This is a 3-ply black nylon cordage similar to tennis court netting that is exceptionally strong, is UV resistant and comes in a variety of different diameters. Its ability to be broken down to smaller fibres as well as being tarred and waterproof makes it ideal for binding, lashing and a myriad of other bushcraft uses.