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Video: How to make a rope from plastic bags

150 150 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Being able to improvise is a really important survival skill. So how would you improvise a rope if all you had to work with was trash plastic?

by Leon Pantenburg

I was driving home one windy afternoon, and started to notice large amounts of plastic caught in the fences along the highway.

This rope was braided out of plastic bread sacks. Improvisation is a key to urban and/or wilderness survival. (Pantenburg photo)

This rope was braided out of plastic bread sacks. Improvisation is a key to urban and/or wilderness survival. (Pantenburg photo)

The plastic trash varied from heavy duty construction visqueen to sacks from the grocery store, and ranged dramatically in strength and durability. It got me thinking – could you use scrap plastic to improvise a rope or cordage if you had to? What if the only source of survival materials were from a landfill, dumpster or trash can at a campsite?

I had a bag full of plastic sacks from the grocery store and a bunch more of lighter sacks that come placed around our newspaper. I used a standard three-strand braiding pattern, and by the time the plastic bags ran out, had about six feet of reasonably strong cordage. In a pinch, I could have used the makeshift plastic rope to secure a tarp, leash my dog or tie down a tent fly.

This rope/cord can be used for less-critical tasks, saving whatever paracord or good rope is available for the important jobs.

Here are some thoughts:

Check the plastic: Many kinds break down after exposure to sunlight and UV rays. If the material is starting to deteriorate, don’t use it.

Industrial plastic, such as the thick trash bags or pieces of visqueen are the most durable, while the thin bags typically used to cover newspapers are the most fragile. If you have a choice, cut long strips out of strong material to make the rope.

Test any material before using it, and don’t trust your plastic bag rope for loadbearing or other critical tasks. The idea is to improvise a rope for emergency use, and hopefully, this braided rope can safely fullfill a need until it can be replaced with paracord or commercial rope.

This skill emphasizes a critical survival mindset: Improvise to make the best of what you have to work with.

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