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Pace beads are junk.

The concept is great, and like all the land nav stuff I do, I encourage them strongly. But the actual beads that are available today are totally hobby grade, so are brittle and break, especially in the cold. Yes, even the snazzy "ranger" beads with the cone shape are no longer rubber, but the same chintzy acetate bead material that can break way too easily. 

I have seen this. I have had it happen—a bead shattered and fell off—and only because we had more than one distance measuring function going on did I not get lost because I had 8 instead of 9 beads on my 100m counter. 

Cheap pace beads are dangerous.

So for a few years now I have slowly messed with other ideas. I've made a few, given away a few, and they work but there have been issues of cost,complexity, availability, labor, etc. But now I have one that you may all be interested in. 

Left to right: emulation of storebought beads a tween kid made me years ago, custom silicone beads, two sets of Neoprene beads on nylon, Neoprene beads on Kevlar.


First, the beads. You can make the beads just like normal, but use these:

Lasco is just the easy to find brand sold everywhere, but any will do. Any 00 size cone shaped Neoprene will do. Amazon only carries 100 packs, but Home Depot and Lowe's have things like this 10 pack for $1.99:

They are, as you see above, the right size for normal assembly on two strands of cored paracord. I suspect that if you like them super stiff you can make on complete paracord, but haven't tried because I like them like this. 



Because I find some other dumbness about pace bead assembly, I have gone way, way over the top and done two other things, both of which (at the risk of being told to stop promoting myself, I will make you and sell through our little company website:

They are also: 

  • Crimped instead of knotted, so they hang straight down instead of twisting, etc.
  • Slightly weighted, especially at the bottom, to hang straighter yet
  • Longer, so it's easier to tell the beads moved, and avoid small accidental movements causing miscounts 
  • With larger spaces between two bead stacks, which are also thin and smooth so (unlike knots) they cannot be mistaken for a bead even with gloves on 


And since I said indestructible, I also make them on Kevlar paracord. Because why not go entirely over the top? 

If anyone really wants to know, ask and I'll share some more about how they are built. It's a 23 step manufacturing process, so I bet you don't actually want to know and would rather just tie in a knot. 


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Original Post

Yup, selling ones I make, tediously but now reliably and consistently, first item here:


And the only all-Kevlar, plain-vanilla-paracord (woven tube, strands inside) I can find is this:

Yeah, on Amazon no less! I did a lot of heavy industrial looking and it ended up  being cheap (ish) and easy to buy on Amazon, dammit. 

They have RED and BLUE but sadly nothing gray, brown, much less OD green. The yellow isn't awful though, and it seems like it can be gotten dirty even if not literally dyed, so will dull up soon enough, or you could try to do it yourself on purpose. 

I am supergluing to replace melting ends, and it works surprisingly well. 

Related: If anyone wants a bunch of 54cm long Kevlar core strands, tell me and I'll keep on keeping them for you. It seems wasteful to toss kevlar but not sure what I am keeping them /for/. 

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ADK posted:

Nice! Great idea. I have seen them fail also. Had to ditch them once and resort to rocks halfway through a patrol lol. 

Because knowing is half the battle. Had people who knew of land nav but claimed they totally couldn't do pace as they didn't have beads. Dude: pick up pebbles. Put in pocket, or whatever... Hence: training:

  • Principles always more important than tactics
  • Tactics more important than tools


But I'll always take a cool tool if I can  


firemission4mortars posted:

Looks good. I never "got" the concept of Pace beads. If I was to preoccupied on patrol to remember the pace count, I certainly wouldn't remember to shift the beads. Whatever works though.

I regularly just count in my head when walking around town, etc.

beads are much more about forgetting once something else happens between marching segments. You make contact, at a halt there's much discussion of frequencies so you loose track of the pace number to resume with, you get to a PB and 20 minutes later the PL asks for pace to check the position, etc.  

I am the poster child for no fucking memory, so will absolutely forget a simple thing like pace, immediately upon shifting tasks. But, I know there are those who do not and: it should be a skills badge. I keep them nearby, use them instead of referring to my notebook for simply everything  

"Crimped instead of knotted, so they hang straight down instead of twisting, etc."


If you want to try a knot that will hang straight and will give weight to the bottom section, while looking decorative,  try  a snake knot.     Quick and simple to tie, can make any length and leave any sections untied for the bead sections and then start back up for a dividing section, just like your crimped version.

Pictured is a section with eight knots to give an idea,  a section could be skipped, beads added and then a dividing section started back.


Image result for snake knot knife lanyard


Tutorial  for knot:


I will make a note to try that, but... it may not go well. I do not tie good knots except by accident. 

Back when a Boy Scout, I studied, and studied, and studied for the knot tying badge. Studying and practicing till the moment they called for the exam. It's not hard. Most get 100% of the tests completed properly. 

But there's a bottom threshold. Whatever the threshold is, I passed. By zero points. As low a score as you can get and still get the badge. 

Maybe I can make someone else do this part

First of all, I was VERY skeptical about pace count. I'd say I have pretty good "internal compass" and I rarely got lost. Worked for me quite long time, just map, sometimes compass (suunto M9 rocks) and GPS... And it sounded stupid to me to keep some count while I should be scaning/ embracing the suck and scanning tips of my boots on ruck march.

...until I got properly trained on it, and had a chance to run few land nav evaluations with nothing but compass, protractor, pace-counter and map. While searching for exact grids I was amazed how precise this technique can be, even over long distances or at night. Since then I always have my pace-counter on my greenside kit... Never know when my GPS my get damaged/ shut down.

Construction-wise we usually use cord locks instead of beads. Bigger ones with round button. Makes it more secure and tactile (but not as cool as the skulls and spartan helmets though )

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Truckie posted:

Also, what length Kevlar thread? I'd be interested.

You mean the scrap cores? 54 cm IIRC (not at home). I am gathering them up for... someone, but if it goes well I can spread it around. 


 Truckie posted:

I'll be ordering a set or two. Never used them but I plan to learn.

I'm gonna theoretically /try/ to make a pace count video by myself using shitty selfie mode etc while in Iceland. It is, as discussed with pebbles-in-the-pockets, more about principles than practices. Once learned, it's easy. 

But you should just come to the KC area sometime and we'll have another nav class!


Brought one with me to Iceland to have generally, and other reasons that won't happen, and... it isn't really working. When they got cold and wet out in the Icelandic rain, the beads got loose, which is the opposite of what I'm used to, or tested out before. 

Best guess is that the new paracord (the 1,000 ft roll, that one!) is slightly smaller, or otherwise behaves differently. Will test more when I get home, but anyone else who bought one is free to torture yours and report back any results. 

Ugh, now got to email everyone and offer to make right, cancel or hold orders placed, etc. Awesome. 

Okay then, here (bottom one) is what I made tonight: 

Partial gutted (yeah, you can do that) to get it running tighter, and now all knots instead of cores or crimps. My knots suck so it it a bit twisted but that shouldn't impact anything and I'll get better. Will probably stop shrink tubing the mid knots, but will continue covering the bottom, as it's sealed off with melting the cord ends together so could be abrasive or very slightly loud in the wrong circumstances, so it's covered.

And... out of beads! So will mail this to someone, all other orders need to wait a few days. 

Also looked up bead material. Neoprene so appears that it doesn't really sustain fire, etc very well either. Tried lighting a spare on fire and it got an orange flame, smoked a bit, but didn't sustain once the ignition was removed, got soft but didn't drip liquid rubber, etc. So while I am not going to FR certification, the kevlar one seems pretty damned safe if that's a concern. 


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I still like your rubber grommet concept; even if you have to eat the 1,000 yd roll and find thicker cord, that still sounds like the best bead material I've seen.  That's interesting about temp instability though; I wouldn't have thought it would be that big a deal.  Keeping in mind what the average temp range might be, versus what you might see in northern latitudes.  

Oh, those are the same beads as before, no change there.

I am now not at all sure the cold and wet did it after all, may just be I wasn't paying attention until then because now that I'm home and they are warm and dry (okay, hot and humid: fucking kansas city again) the set I brought with me sucks just as much as in iceland. Not ALL the sets with that same cordage are dangerously loose. So that's weird also. 

Aside: I stuck some grass sticks between the two cords so I could use them. I do like estimating distances to go, and pace counting to see. It helped get me up the mountain. Now I type this I realize I am a smuggler! I got selected for secondary screening specifically for agricultural products, and yup, the grass blades are still in there. 


I had tested the beads (and some other types) before, gonna check not just beads but the whole assembly for things like tension as well: just tossed both kevlar and nylon examples into the deep freeze and will check in a day or so once totally cold soaked. Thermal says it's -9° F in there so that should be pretty good.

And then what for the top end? Laying in the sun in 90° wx doesn't seem as much a stress test as laying in the sun in 120°, but I am not going to Death Valley or MENA anytime soon (ever).

Hey, those knots look good,  Don't see a thing wrong with them and gutted cord takes a little more care.


When you say partially gutted, do you mean that some of the strands have been removed throughout the length of the cord?   Didn't know that could be done, I have a feeling I'm going to make a mess.

On the end of the knotted part on some knife lanyards and my one set of  pace beads , I started cutting the trailing ends flush with the knot , burning the  remaining fuzz  and then putting some superglue on the end of the knot.   

Haven't had one unravel yet, or at least so far.  I tried to take one apart for something else and had to cut it with a knife.

I'll have to try to figure out this posting pic thing and get a pic on here.

stray round posted:

Hey, those knots look good,  Don't see a thing wrong with them and gutted cord takes a little more care.

Not awful, just a little twisted as I said. Need to figure out how to rotate the cord as I make the knot so it lays flat as well. 

stray round posted:


When you say partially gutted, do you mean that some of the strands have been removed throughout the length of the cord?   Didn't know that could be done, I have a feeling I'm going to make a mess.


Yes. I pulled 4 strands, left 3 behind. It's... a process. I can do it fast but you have to be careful in about 6 different ways. 

For this (Nylon) cord and these beads I am next gonna just try it as full paracord. Harder to assemble, but seems necessary here. 

stray round posted:


On the end of the knotted part on some knife lanyards and my one set of  pace beads , I started cutting the trailing ends flush with the knot , burning the  remaining fuzz  and then putting some superglue on the end of the knot.   

Haven't had one unravel yet, or at least so far.  I tried to take one apart for something else and had to cut it with a knife.

The ends I have been melting with a soldering iron, and actually pushing the two tails together to melt them into one. So, it's heat sealed and should not be physically able to fall apart without fire, cutting or other serious damage. 

I use superglue mostly on the kevlar, but have sometimes done it on nylon. It will shatter and fail on flexible bits, but if there's a stiff enough knot, etc. then it seems to work well. When used I like to put the shrink tube on top just to assure that you don't get glue on you, and that the pressure of the shrink forces glue inside instead of any staying on the surface. 

Nice stuff Shoobe.

On one night land nav course at Ft Lewis, I discovered that I had lost two of my 100m beads when I ran smack dab into one of my points early. 

After fucking with the map / protractor and lane sheet long enough to get mad, I dropped my harness and took a breath. That's when I noticed I had a couple beads that went AWOL. I pulled a chunk of 550 out half hitched it through my button hole on my BDU collar and proceeded to tie an over hand for every 100M and a figure8 for every 1K. It was a pain in the ass, but it got me through the course.

Let's really drift this thread.  I don't know if this belongs under land nav or leadership traits, but don't guess it matters.  I wuz out at Pendelton for my annual active duty, attached to another company, night assault exercise.  We are like wondering all over the place.  Everybody knew we were lost.  So I try to go up to the Co cmdr and tell him where he's at.  He doesn't want to listen, tells me to get back in line.  My NCO's are all like what the fuck, and I'm like hey I tried.  We all know exactly where we're at (we're looking right at Sugar Loaf Hill for cryin' out loud), but you can't tell the Co staff shit.  So we wonder around half the night until Bn orders him to just stop for the night and attack the next day.  

Where to begin.  You have a company staff that is incompetent.  There are also too arrogant to listen to advice.  Bad combination.  You have a whole company of Marines that knows their higher ups are not only incompetent, but too fucking proud to take advice.  I don't think even shoobe01's pace beads coulda helped these guys.  

Number one. Land Nav is important.  You need to know how to do it.  And without GPS.  Map, compass, and ranger beads (with an orienteering compass you don't need a protractor).

Number two.  If you don't know what the fuck you're doing, ask for advice.  Your people will think more of you for that than trying to fake it and hoping you get lucky.  

Number three.  Apologies to every Soldier and Marine that had to serve under incompetent leadership.  How you guys do it I just don't know.   

Diz posted:


...Number two.  If you don't know what the fuck you're doing, ask for advice.  Your people will think more of you for that than trying to fake it and hoping you get lucky...

For the US military at least: I have long thought that the whole concept of spreading out tasks to the team is to get insights from everyone without the leader having to admit he needs help. Whether to have the patrol with primary/secondary compass, primary/secondary pace, or during planning having people take on each section of the orders, it fosters input organically so new ideas, disagreements, and getting-lost have a chance to get worked out before it's an ego problem. 


What does cause problems? I have to admit I am not as much of a student of mil leadership so you can all kick me in the shins over this: I feel that we had a reprieve and did a lot of being an awesome military by being data-driven and relatively egalitarian from the late 30s through the 90s or so, but now the old classist modes of operating have... not come back, they have been replaced with modern business mentality: gut instinct, and ego above data-driven decisionmaking, task completion over doing the right thing. All-greens in PowerPoint is more important than anything else. 

From a business/project management POV I write about this a bit, so can rant on and on, but won't now. 

I'm back. Made and mailed one set as noted above, got the new beads in yesterday and need to get the other backlog sets made. Hopefully today. Now in the driveway taking photos of my various gear to purge to organize it so even if you all don't buy it today, I can at least organize to fewer boxes and have room in the shop to do stuff like bead making (then, sewing up some mods to my SplitMinus...) 

Yeah,... pictures will be a bit. Put up like... one I think in the spring travel thread. Sometime I'll have time to finish all my trip photos. I even have odd matte green vehicles and HASs to share if I ever get them up. 

Finished the others I had to mail out, so anyone waiting should have them in a couple days.

But it's taking FOREVER now. So, I did what I should have a year ago, had a friend come by who is 1) a robotics programmer and generally manufacturing process engineer type, 2) a machinist and general problem solver 3) such a sailboat nerd he purged almost all his matte green and camouflaged stuff to invest in that harder. 

He got me to order some expensive tools (including these very nice Kevlar shears, so anyone working with Kevlar: buy some today) and we (okay: he) made this proof of concept using Dyneema and splicing instead of knotting, etc. 

If it happens this is weeks or months out, but it's pretty neat so far. Dyneema is less expensive than the Kevlar, is damned strong and fire-proof vs Nylon, can be single strand, and the splicing is pretty slick. It also has odd friction properties: It's very hard to get moving, but then the beads move very easily. Stop, and they have to overcome that static friction again; almost perfect for moving the beads on it, actually. 

Several things to work out, like the mid-point restriction which didn't work as expected so far. But, it may be the coolest thing ever. For, you know, people who think this is cool. 


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Yeah man that's a pretty fuckin cool app for "finger-trapping" dyneema line.  I've done this technique on dacron and spectra lines on 'chutes, but never any tactical app.  Good shit.  

I assume you have found finger trap needles for this stuff at Para Gear or wherever.  If not, they used to sell inexpensive Delrin needles, with a hollow ass-end, which is threaded, so the line will cork screw in there for pulling through the woven line.  In parachute work you would enter and exit at set points, trim and pop tail back inside, and then lock down with a bartack.  I would think a three pass "Z" stitch would suffice in this app.

Some will say this is a "Chinese finger trap", which self-tightens and needs no back up.  I would disagree.  Anything that can fuck up, will fuck up, so I would stitch it in place.  Last thing you'd want is to be several klicks into a patrol and your pace beads come loose and fall off.   YMMV.       

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