quick split root cordage

The need for cordage is often underestimated in a wilderness environment: it not only secures things (lashings for shelters, beds, cooking rigs) but is used for fishing, trapping/snaring and for bow-drill firelighting. However it can be a painstaking and labourious task. But for certain requirements it need not be.

Spruce roots (like the roots of many trees, like other conifer, alder or birch) make for strong, flexible and durable cordage that is easy to ‘source’ and quick to produce in significant lengths.


Spruce roots tend to be found very near the surface and all it takes is a digging stick to reveal long lengths of them. I prefer to unearth as much as possible instead of trying to pull them up which is hard on the back and can snap your precious length of root. If you like, when you have got your length of root, you can use a small notch (v) in the end of your digging stick to strip the outer bark of the root to give a more flexible and durable cable. However it is not always necessary to do this – and in the video below I have not done this – focussing on convenience and minimum effort to get 20 foot of cordage (in about 7 minutes). If you take care then there is no reason you can’t unearth 10-15 foot single pieces of root.

For thick roots you may wish to split the root lengthways. This has a couple of advantages. Firstly it doubles the length of your cable, it also gives you a more flexible one. A flat side (the split side) is also useful in helping grip the surface it is being lashed to as it increased the surface area in contact with the lashing. The one in the video I split into 4.

When splitting a root there is a tendency for the split to ‘wander’. To avoid this, take your time and if the split wanders, lets say to the left, then pull down (ie increase the bend angle) of the thicker, right piece and the split will start to ‘self-centre’ again.

Watch the video below


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