I used to just throw a large bundle of parachute cord into my pack before heading out. I would then cut sections off from the main bundle for whatever task I encountered. Then, when it came time to pack up camp, I would end up throwing all the random sections of cord into my pack to “deal with it later”. The result was a tangled, stressful mess. Below is a system to prevent these problems.
Choose Your Lengths and Stick to Them
After having so many random lengths of cordage floating around in my backpack, I noticed that most of them were either short or medium pieces. With that in mind, I converted all of my cordage into five foot and ten foot lengths while separating them into different colors to make them easily distinguishable. Five feet of cordage is enough to handle any small task, and ten feet is enough to handle 99% of everything else. If a need should arise for longer cordage, I can simply tie separate pieces together.
Convert your strands to loops
The most difficult knots to untie are the ones where the ends of the cordage somehow get tangled into the main bundle. Once this happens you know you are in for a time commitment, especially if multiple lengths of cordage are tangled together. To prevent this, just find the two ends of any given piece of cordage and join them together with an overhand knot. This way neither end can work itself into the main bundle… and even the worst knot that could occur will still be easy and fast to undo.
Make bundles with overhand knots
Now that your ends are joined and you have formed a big loop, start folding that loop into halves while keeping the ends nice and even. If you are using a five foot length, you will fold the loop two times. If you are using a ten foot length, fold it three times. Once the folds are complete, secure the entire bundle by making an overhand knot with all of the strands. This process makes a bundle that is tangle-proof, self contained, and easy to take apart.
Use a keeper cord
Now that we have our individual bundles, the final step is to create a cordage bundle management system so that we don’t lose track of them while packing, unpacking, or using them around camp. The easiest way to do this is to take two separate lengths of two foot long parachute cord, and then join them together in the center with an overhand knot. If done properly, you should be able to lay the rig out into an “X” shape.
The finished system
Now grab any one of the four strands and start feeding it through the loops of all the individual five foot bundles. Once you have done that, take a second strand from the “X” and join it to the first with an overhand knot. Now you have all of those bundles contained and organized in one place. Do the same for your ten foot lengths and your system is complete!
When you need cordage
You can easily find the size that you need because the parachute cord bundles are color coded. To access a bundle, just untie the overhand knot, slip it off the main rig, and then retie the knot to keep your unused bundles organized and safe from the potential of loss. If you are setting up camp, you can hang the entire system on a branch or gear line. Once you are familiar with this technique, you will be able to access the cordage in total darkness because the entire thing can be done just as well by “feel”.