My first impression of the olive green Smokey Fire Starter Paracord Bracelet was that it looked both trendy/fashionable and functional (and more interesting than a neon neoprene fundraising bracelet). Survival is seriously in fashion with me, so I strapped on this warp and woof of olive green cobra knots, and headed into the woods.
At eight inches long and 1 3/8 inches wide, the SmokeyFire Starter Paracord Bracelet is relatively bulky. It measures three inches in internal diameter, weighs about five ounces, and contains16 feet of 550-lb parachute cord, a ferrocerium spark rod, and a steel washer the make up the elements of a simple fire-starting survival tool.
Experimenting with the paracord was fun. A paracord isn’t a substitute for a climbing rope, however, it’s much easier to build useful tools with paracord than with a much thicker and heavier rope designed to stretch and absorb energy in a climbing fall. My 10-year-old son and I spent a spring afternoon tying up knots with the paracord and experimenting while talking about how to be safe while running, biking, hiking, and skiing in the woods.
The paracord can be used in a variety of every-day and survival-mode ways. It can be turned into boot laces, a tomato trellis, a snare, a tourniquet, a belt, or a bow string. It took me about 10 minutes of steady effort to unweave the wristband’s cobra knots. Lucky for me, there are lots of YouTube videos that even the clumsiest (that would be me) weavers can follow to learn how to but the bracelet back together.
Reweaving, while a little time consuming, can personalize the bracelet. For some survivalists and military units, paracord bracelets are the height of fashion, and there are a lot of useful knots to make personalized wristbands—some of which can unravel and deploy in emergencies much more quickly than the cobra knots.
Not being a hardcore survivalist or a member of a paramilitary group, the width and weight of the Smokey was a bit overkill for my day to day use. I noticed the Smokey’s weight a bit while running since the wristband moved back and forth with my arm swing. Someone with a wrist narrower than seven inches in diameter would probably need to clip the wristband onto a belt or pack strap or reweave the wristband into a shorter length.
I was able to comfortably adjust the wrist diameter of the Smokey Fire Starter Paracord Bracelet by pulling on the striker bar’s loop, pushing the striker bar back towards the knotted bracelet and using the fixed loop through the steel washer to slide over the striker bar.
The best part of testing the Smokey Fire Starter Paracord Bracelet was practicing building fires! Once I scraped off the coating on the striker bar, shooting sparks down the bar into an empty metal wastebasket helped hone my technique.
Important in generating a spark: scrape off the coating on the spark rod, use the whole length of the spark rod, and use lots of thumb pressure on the steel washer. Scraping off the dark coating until the spark rod showed a shiny clear strip took a few minutes. I gained more pressure and heat to generate the spark when I supported the bottom of the bar with my left index finger and actively pushed up with my left hand while firmly holding the steel washer in my right hand at a 45 degree angle and pushing down hard in a quick, snapping stroke with the washer along the whole length of the striking bar. After some practice I could generate a consistent spark and 3 sparks in a row quickly lit the tinder nests my 10-year-old son had woven together. Fire!
Keep in mind, tinder isn’t tiny twigs. Cotton lint, dry moss, dry grass, or even dried seed pods pulled into thin fibers and woven into a nest to enclose the spark works well. Avoid using toxic plants like poison oak or poison sumac–winter conditions can make this a little tricky in some regions so if you’re not sure don’t use the mystery plant! Since I’m a monster stumble thumb when it comes to weaving, my favorite starter in wet conditions is a cotton ball soaked in petroleum jelly–I keep a few stuffed in a waterproof prescription bottle in my bug-out bag. Dry cotton balls flash up quickly–the petroleum jelly gives them some staying power if the surrounding tinder weave isn’t super fine or a little damp.
Available in green, orange, camo, and black.
Bottom Line: For outdoor adventurers or search and rescue team members, having a waterproof spark maker is essential. The Smokey Paracord Bracelet carries easily, throws an efficient spark, and there’s at least 100 uses for the parachute cord. If there’s a chance you’ll be outside and out of cell phone range, the Smokey Paracord Bracelet is a cool tool.
Manufacturer’s Site: Chums
$16.99, click to shop at Amazon.
View “how to ” videos here: Firesteel Technique