Note: This article was originally published back in January 2016. But It has been extensively re-written based on a fair amount of use since I purchased my first spool of bank line in April 2015.
While trolling for videos on knots, I ran into bushcraft sites that often showed how to make the appropriate knots.
Many of these sites often used good old fashioned paracord. While more outdoor oriented sites showed outdoor recreation accessory cord. And there is also popular cordage that is sold almost strictly for tent guy lines.
Neither cordage is really that expensive overall.
However, a few of the videos for bushcraft extolled the virtues of something called bank line.
Two things came out of this search:
- Always nice to find an inexpensive and functional alternative to mainstream choices.
- Other outdoor hobbies can always teach us something. I never heard of bank line in my outdoor circles before.
Bank line was originally used for commercial fishing, repairs in particular from what I understand, but works well for other purposes.
There are many pluses with bank line. Some of them include:
- Bank line is tarred, so it resists abrasion.
- The tarred material makes it easier to tie and hold knots.
- Lighter and less bulky than other options.
- Strong for its weight.
- Bank line does have a faint odor due to the tar initially.
- The knots can be somewhat more difficult to undo vs other types of cord.
- Bank line can be harder to find at night due to the dark color. Less of a problem if you solo backpack or camp.
- Performing a bear bag hang? The #36 bank line is more prone to tangling versus thicker cordage. Though thicker line is available.
These cons are minor in my opinion. For a general camp and a backcountry kit (or even around the home), this cord is a less expensive alternative that works well.
Paracord is only a smidge more expensive per foot for a similar length of bank line. However, paracord is also bulkier and heavier than bank line (while, of course, being stronger) and has the issue of cut ends fraying more easily .
Accessory or guy line cord is a bit too expensive to cut up on the fly. A bit of money just to string up a quick tarp to cover up the gear, a temporary sunshade in camp or even perhaps to make a quick field repair while backpacking. And definitely on the expensive side just for some general cordage at home, in the vehicle, or in the camp box.
Here’s a chart the really breaks down the different types of cordage:
|CORD||SIZE IN MM (Approx)||TENSILE STRENGTH IN POUNDS||PRICE PER FOOT FOR LINKED ITEM||NOTES|
|Paracord – 550||4.00||550||.07||All-purpose cord that is used for many things from bear bagging to lashing, to tying down items. Bulkier and heavier than other choices. Strongest general use cord of popular choice. Durable.|
|Accessory cord||2.75||270||.28||Less bulky than paracord. Less prone to tangling vs bank line. You can purchase in more varieties of length vs. guy line cord. More expensive than paracord. A better choice for all-purpose cord vs. paracord regarding bulk and weight if with a price penalty.|
|Tent guy line cord||2.50||150||.31||Smaller than the accessory cord in diameter. Less likely to tangle than a bank line. Least strong of all the options. Many standard options for this type of cord glow in the dark. Usually only sold in standard lengths such as 50′.|
|Bank Line #36||2.20||320||.07||More likely to tangle versus other options for bear bagging. Strong for the size. Least expensive cord option along with paracord. Durable. Sold in various lengths. Note other options avail for a thicker or thinner cord.|
The thinner bank line does tangle does when bear bagging. But I think there are better methods for avoiding bear issues than bear bagging.
There are other diameters of bank line if you prefer something stronger and thicker. Or prefer something thinner as well.
The #60 is similar to standard 550 cord; the #21 is about the same as your thinner tent cord such as the Z-lite options.
Bank line #36 has proven to be my all-purpose cord. I’ve added it to tarps, shelters, use it at home, is in my car kit, and is in the camp box. And I can easily buy long lengths in a spool without spending a lot of money at once.
There are some even thinner and lighter various cords available that are popular in the lightweight backpacking world. However for the price to a performance gain of about .34/ft for the Kelty TripTease line, not sure if it is worth it to get some different cordage. At least personally. And the Z-lite cord looks to be too thin for my tastes and would seem even more prone to tangling. Field reports state that the rope is slippery and hard to tie a knot with as well. Plus it is more expensive. And, again, if you want a lighter option, thinner diameter bank line is also available for the more extreme gram counters.
So bank line it is for me going forward. It has been that good for my use. And if I change my mind about getting thicker or thinner cord, I know different types of bank line are available for a very good price.
Keep some bank line in the camp, tool, or backcountry kit. Strong enough, less expensive, and often less bulky than other alternatives. And combine the bank line with a gutter spike nail, and your dirt bagger cred is insured!
 Burn the end of the rope with a Bic lighter. Twist the end. Pinch it with your fingertips to create a seal. Easy-peasy-mac-n-cheesy.
Braided mason’s line is available at big box lumber yards and hardware stores. Be sure not to get twisted line…..it unwinds quick. You can get the mason’s line in pink and bright green!
Despite its cost, I have on several occasions found reflective guylines to be invaluable when trying to find my tent in the dark!
I gotta try those pull-tab guyline tensioners!
The pull tab tensioners are a good “quick and dirty” hack for some light-to-moderate use. Nice tip to keep in the kit!
read and/or watch mors korchanski’s praise for ‘mule tape’ which is also flat and has 1500-2000lb tensil strength ;-)) apparently can get from workers sometimes for FREE…
Thanks. I’ll have to check it out.
Thanks for the tip on bank line. As a duck hunter also, I ran into this type of cord being used as decoy line, although it was called simply tarred line. Great stuff, and hadn’t considered it for use in my backpacking kit. Appreciate all you do!
A very useful, all-purpose cord I find. And thx for the kind words
And I just used it to replace shoelace in my Salomon shoes!
There ya go, and do I get any credit for bringing it up…? 😉
Ha! Always in my “junk drawer” just for occasions just like this one. 🙂