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Best Survival Zip Ties for Emergencies and Prepping

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Zip ties are an amazing fastener for survival situations, so we set out to research and review buckets of them. A few brands made the cut, but the well-known industrial brands ended up rising above the rest due to their consistent manufacturing, passing the paper specs on every tie tested. If you go with bargain bin zip ties, we found that you might end up with bargain bin results.

Everyone has seen and used a zip tie before. They are a simple modern marvel. Easy to use, cheap, and can fix things fast. Zip ties have probably helped you out before, but which ones do you need when your life could possibly depend on them? There are several types and brands to pick from, so you have plenty of options when you are adding ties to your survival kit.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best zip ties, tested them in the elements, and the results are in: the overall best performer, our budget pick, and a handcuff option. If you need zip ties that won’t let you down in an emergency, one of our suggestions will keep everything in line.

The Best Zip Ties

Gardner Bender HD Zip Ties

Length, Strength, and Durability

Long and strong enough for tons of uses: from shelters to handcuffs, these zip ties get it done right.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Gardner Bender has been specializing in electrical tools and parts for over 60 years but has about perfected the zip tie with consistent manufacturing, a patented double lock, and a wide range of lengths and tensile strengths. Consistency of manufacturing is key, as many of the unknown/Chinese brands we tested ended up with a wide range of quality in the pack. Spotty quality is not a great thing to rely on during an emergency or survival situation, so Gardner Bender’s products really shined just by living up to their paper specs consistently during testing.

Our top pick, the Gardner Bender heavy-duty 175lb 24″ zip ties were carefully examined and tested as the best option for survival. The length and the strength (and the consistent quality) let these heavy-duty zip ties tackle any task. They are as strong as the smaller stainless steel zip ties but keep the versatility of cheaper nylon ties. You can use them as handcuffs, holding up tarp shelters- whatever you can imagine and whatever your survival situation throws your way. You’re going to want some heavy-duty zip ties in your kit.

Budget Zip Ties

Gardner Bender Zip Ties

Cheap, Lightweight, and Effective

These zip ties are cheap but consistently manufactured with their patented double lock.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Our budget pick, the Gardner Bender zip ties, are as cheap as you can get while still relying on them to hold up in an emergency. Of course, you can go cheaper and get that tube of multi-colored zip ties from the bargain bin- but our testing shows they don’t hold up to their listed specs. If you are expecting something to hold just 15 pounds of tensile strength – and it snaps – that might not go too well when survival is on the line.

That’s why these 8-inch 75-pound zip ties are great: you get exactly what you expect under pressure and nothing less. The patented double lock probably helped, and the UV resistance makes sure they can hold up in adverse conditions for years. The military relies on these as MILSPEC MS3367.

Zip Tie Handcuffs

Heavy Duty Double Cuffs

Strong, Fast, and Secure

The best solution for fast detainment and strong enough to keep anything secure.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Zip tie handcuffs are simply two zip ties joined together and pre-positioned so they are ready to close. Slip hands through the loops and pull the ends for one of the fastest detainment options out there. There is limited versatility on these though, which is the drawback for survival. In exchange for this speed, you can’t use these for everything you could use a typical single zip tie for. Still, they are strong with their 250-pound tensile strength, and at 35″ long you can fit a lot inside the loops.

Heavy Duty Double Cuff Zip Ties are slightly more expensive than your regular zip ties, but their specific application shouldn’t be overlooked for survival. As a non-violent detainment option, many preppers opt to keep at least a few of these in their bug out bags- especially if they live in urban areas.

Everything We Recommend

The Zip Ties We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several ties and brands that we tested: Grip Lock, Gardner Bender, Utilitech, Storehouse, TR Industrial, Maxxima, and more. This helped us eliminate some of the zip ties that just are not a good value.

There are a lot of brands that make zip ties, but you probably haven’t heard of most of them. There are also some specialty tie companies, that make cable ties out of different materials (like stainless steel) or make ties with a different way of attaching (like Gear Ties). For survival purposes, we stuck to looking at general-use nylon zip ties, which narrowed everything down.

We also steered clear of any decorative or craft-style zip ties, because they are just not optimized for emergencies or survival. Of course, if you happen to have those during an emergency, they are better than nothing. You may also find some uses for some high-visibility zip ties in an emergency for signaling or marking.

What to Look For

The best zip ties have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Length
  3. Material Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find unmatched ties that will help you tackle almost any obstacle during an emergency or disaster. Below, we break down what each of these features means for great zip ties.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you can spend on zip ties can’t go that high- nobody is charging silly amounts for nylon cable ties. Sure, the performance of the ties in our tests was directly correlated with cost- but that was typically quality control related. Cheap ties are not as consistently strong as any of our category picks, but you could always double-up zip ties to increase strength if there is room.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like zip ties. Luckily, most zip ties are cheap. Using your money to get the most functionality and versatility out of your survival kit is the smart way to go. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best functionality with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Length

The length of the zip ties you select can be important because it impacts their versatility. You can chain together zip ties if they are too short, but you can also cut zip ties if they are too long. The difference is that chained zip ties are weaker and more likely to break/fail than solid zip ties.

Because of this, our top pick is two feet long. This lets us use them for handcuffs and many other survival applications where both strength and length are required.

Material Strength

Most zip ties are made out of 6.6 nylon (like string trimmer line), but our top selections are ABS plastic. Nylon is actually a stronger material than ABS, so these zip ties are thicker to account for that. The ABS properties of weather, abrasion, and impact resistance make it a superior material for heavy-duty cable tie use. They are also less ‘stretchy’, so they are more secure in applications where you don’t want something to move.

The ABS ties from our top pick were just as strong as the stainless steel ties in our tests, so you aren’t sacrificing anything by going with plastic zip ties. Most stainless ties are made for secure shipping and are meant to be clipped when the container or truck arrives, so they aren’t meant to be versatile or permanent.

Flexibility

You want your cable ties to be flexible, in that they will bend- but not elastic, in that they will stretch. Nylon is very flexible but also has a little bit of stretch to it. ABS has less stretch and is a little less flexible, and stainless steel is not stretchy at all but is still able to flex when it is thin enough.

A good blend of strength and flexibility is what you are aiming for in a great survival cable tie.

Versatility

Any zip tie is going to be ridiculously versatile. Your standard ‘general purpose’ zip ties are great because you can use them virtually anywhere. There are a few things that make zip ties even more versatile, and we’ve touched on a few of them above.

Our reusable pick is the most versatile since you can reuse the zip ties over and over. This gets over the one big downside of zip ties for survival, in that they are ‘consumable’ fasteners. Once you use a regular zip tie, it’s usually not worth the time and trouble to try to reuse it.

Uses for Zip Ties in an Emergency

When SHTF, zip ties are one of the first things out and getting to work. You can fix stuff, make cordage, mark bug-out routes, use for first aid- the list is virtually endless. Of course, you can use zip ties to organize your stuff but my favorite survival uses are:

  1. Handcuffs. LEOs have been using zip ties as riot control handcuffs for a while now.
  2. Make cordage. Chain zip ties together to make some rope. Braid the chains for more strength.
  3. Last-resort tourniquet. Although they can cause permanent damage, you can use zip ties to stop blood flow in an extreme emergency.
  4. Make a belt. Chain some ties together to hold your pants up or give you a place to hang some tools.
  5. Mark trails. Leave some bands on trees to mark trails. Don’t accidentally leave them though- they can seriously damage those trees.
  6. Blouse pants. Keep ticks out of your pants and shoes by tucking the bottom of your pants under a zip tie.
  7. First aid sling. Make a sling for your arm by chaining zip ties together.
  8. Repair stuff. When buckles and straps let you down, use a zip tie.
  9. Bike traction. Add zip ties around a bike tire to create traction in snow.
  10. Hold up a shelter. A tarp and a few zip ties can pop up shelter up anywhere.

I’m not the only one in the world that pushes the importance of cable ties for emergency use. The fellas over at Sensible Prepper (Sootch) do a pretty good job of laying out their ideas:

Who Needs Zip Ties?

Zip ties have so many uses that they are found in most survival kits. Everyone has used one at some point: they are cheap, easy to use, and effective for plenty of situations, emergencies, and disasters.

Zip ties are an important part of these kits:

Zip ties are suggested for these kits:

No matter what threats come your way, zip ties are nice to have around so you can handle a survival situation.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best zip ties are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Klaus-Peter, P., Poetsch, M. & Lignitz, E. (2007). Cable ties used as a tool in homicide: relevance of the DNA analysis. Archiv fur Kriminologie. Vol. 219 Issue 1. (Source).

Nienaber, L., Cresswell, S., Carter, F. & Peter, T. (2018). A comparison of plastic cable ties based on physical, chemical, and stable isotopic measurements. Science & Justice. Vol. 68 Issue 1, p67-75. (Source).

Rammo, N. & Mahdi, H. (2017). Thermal Degradation Kinetics of Polyamide 6,6 Cable Ties by Thermogravimetric Analysis. Ibn Al Haitham Journal for Pure and Applied Sciences. Vol. 26 Issue 3, p199-210. (Source).

The Final Word

Zip ties may seem like a small, basic, and insignificant tool, but they are easy to use and extremely useful in a lot of situations. The uses of cable ties for survival are endless, and they are just one of those tools that are always nice to have around- even for non-emergencies.

Here are some other reviews and guides our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that Gardner Bender Heavy Duty zip ties are the best option given the value, length, material strength, and versatility. Zip ties are easy and simple to use, but it doesn’t hurt to get them out every once in a while if you plan on relying on them in an emergency. Don’t let your tools sit in your bag or kit indefinitely- get them out and get familiar with them by using them.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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