Here's my review of the Ultimate Survival Technologies Paracord. I'll be comparing it to the paracord that I normally use. I buy my paracord in 1000 foot spools from US manufacturers that make the "mil spec" cordage, but I don't pay the premium for it being specifically labeled "mil spec." I'll include a picture of some mil spec stuff at the end of my review and explain why I don't pay twice as much for the "good stuff."
Also, for anyone that doesn't like reading. Here's the bottom line up front:
The Ultimate Survival Technologies paracord is fine. I don't like it as much as the stuff I usually use, but it's alright. It's rated to 550 pounds just like my regular stuff and should be fine for any application you'd normally use any brand of paracord for. Oh, and mil spec paracord isn't worth the price in my opinion.
I'll start out by comparing prices:
1000 foot spool: $47 or about $0.05 per foot
UST 30 foot bundle: $4.95 or about $0.17 per foot
The winner here is the spool. To be fair, the UST bundle comes with a carabiner for attaching it to your gear. But it isn't a very good carabiner and I don't think it justifies the price difference.
1000' Spool next to 30 foot bundle
Closeup on the bundle with carabiner
Here are two closeup shots of the seven inner strands from both brands. The UST cordage is on the top in the first picture and on the left in the second. Both brands have the standard 7 strands and both are rated to 550 pounds. I noticed when I cut these sections that the sheath on the UST cord frayed quite a bit more when cut than the sheath on my other paracord did. Hopefully you can see that in the pictures here. It's not a huge deal, but considering that the UST cord feels "squishy" it starts to make me question the durability of the sheath.
Next I tied bowlines into both cords. The dark green paracord that I normally use feels better to tie knots with. It's more supple than the UST cord and doesn't have the stiffness that I noted with the UST cordage. Also, you can see in this picture some pretty significant flattening of the UST cord around the knot. The flattening resulted from the loose/squishy sheath and there are two problems that I see with this. The first problem is that knots will be more difficult to untie after tightening due to the flattening and deforming of the cord as it passes through the knot. The second, and probably more significant, problem is that the UST paracord will probably be weaker than other paracord at the knot as a result of the flattening. All cordage is weakened by knots and the sharper the angle or the more deformation caused by a knot the more the cord is weakened.
Next I did a durability check by using the paracord to cut through zip ties. I used 175 pound breaking strength zip ties, the strongest you typically find at home improvement stores. Sawing through the zip ties with cordage is a common technique for breaking out of this form of illegal restraint. Kevlar cord works a lot better for this, but paracord works fine too, as you'll see.
Ultimate Survival Technologies paracord set up to cut the zip tie
My usual stuff set up to cut the zip tie
Here is the aftermath of cutting through the zip ties. You can see the sheath damage very clearly. From top to bottom this picture shows:
1. Undamaged paracord from my 1000' spool
2. The damaged section from my usual stuff
3. The damaged UST sheath
4. The undamaged UST paracord.
My methods were definitely unscientific, but I tried to keep the pressure the same throughout the test. I noticed more heat and a bit more melting plastic smell when I used the UST cord. It took me 6 sawing motions with the UST cord and 5 sawing movements with my paracord. That's not a significant difference and they both got the job done. You'll notice in the picture that you can still see the weave pretty well on the green paracord, but the UST cord is very flattened and the sheath shows a bit more damage.
Overall I'd say the UST paracord is fine and would work well for most uses. That said, I like my paracord a lot better for the following reasons:
1. It costs less.
2. It's easier to tie knots in.
3. I think that it will retain it's strength better at the knot.
And now, my thoughts on mil spec paracord.
In my opinion mil spec paracord is too expensive for any benefit it provides. It costs nearly twice as much as the commercial paracord. The primary difference between mil spec and commercial paracord is the identifier on one of the inner strands (the light green marker in the 5th strand from the top in the picture below). They also may or may not use a different dye in the sheath and there are some tests required on the mil spec stuff. Due to the increased cost associated with the mil spec requirements the commercial cord that doesn't have the identifier on the inner strand costs less. Both commercial and mil spec cord are rated to 550 pounds and should perform equally well for what most people use paracord for.
Mil spec paracord with the colored identifier visible on the 5th strand from the top.
I hope everyone got something out of that long and rambling paracord discussion. I'll finish up with an incomplete list of the things I use paracord for.
Tent guy lines
Loosening stuck bolts (yep!)
Securing stuff in the bed of my truck
Hanging food in bear country
Bow drill for starting fire
Use it to make a "buzz saw" with a glow stick for signaling
Making ranger pace count beads
Making sweet bracelets to show how prepared I am
Repairing gear (using the inner strands)
Burning my fingers by accident
Escaping illegal restraint (practice only, so far...)
Hanging game meat in the field
Dummy cording my gear
Other random things
Posting long-ass replies to the ITS Tactical forum...