We are surrounded by a world of things bound together. Joining two items is a basic skill people use every day. Binding things together hasn’t always been so easy, although it was just as important. In the past, people didn’t have access to most of the simple hardware we take for granted these days. In order to fasten things together, they called upon the resources surrounding them for natural cordage. True to form, the land provided them with everything they needed. Some things never change, and today you and I have access to those same natural binding materials.

Learning and utilizing natural bindings is not only a great way to better understand the past, but also strengthens your self-reliance skills. Whether you’re on the homestead or in the woods, you can benefit from knowing these three backcountry bindings used by our ancestors.

Natural Cordage

Natural cordage can be made from countless species of vegetation. Each region has certain plants that grow abundantly and provide serviceable material. That being said, here are a few species growing around the country that provide sufficient material for cordage.

Basswood Bark:

This bark can be removed straight from branches of the tree and makes good cordage.

Dead Grass:

Dead grass is everywhere and can be an adequate cordage material. Gather what you need and make sure to give it a good soak before starting your cordage.


Dogbane is another great material for making cordage. Take the woody stems of the plant and crush it flat. Next, split the stem from top to bottom so you have one flat piece of material. Remove the woody interior by snapping the stalk, being careful not to damage the outer bark. The woody interior can easily be peeled away from the pliable outer bark. You’ll be left with a great material for natural cordage.

Interior Cedar Bark:

If you have cedar trees growing in your area, you can always make adequate cordage from the interior bark. Remove the exterior bark to access the light cambium on the interior.

Spruce Root:

This is another material that needs no braiding to make cordage. If you find a spruce tree, locate one of its thin roots trailing along the ground. Dig them up and obtain as much as you’ll need. You can use the root as is or remove the outer bark and split the root in halves, or quarters, for your cordage.

Stinging Nettles:

As the name implies, this plant will sting you if you are not careful. However, people have been using this plant as cordage for eons. Once the nettles mature, the stalk will become woody. Break down the stalks and remove the pliable outer layer. This makes some of the best cordage out there.

Willow Bark:

Easy to gather and use, simply take a knife and remove the pliable outer bark. This bark can then be used as simple lashing and binding material for all sorts of light- to medium-weight projects.

Yucca Leaves:

Yucca is a great material for making cordage. The leaves can be used right off the plant for quick lashing. You can also pound and scrape off the outer layer of the leaves to reveal the tough inner fibers for braiding. The pointy end of the leaves can be used as needles, as they’re tough enough to penetrate even denim.

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