How to Make Ranger Pace Counter Beads

by Todd Walker

“How far have we walked?”

“I dunno know… But that tree looks awfully familiar!”

How to Make Ranger Pace Beads


Have you ever wondered while out wandering in the wilderness how far you’ve traveled? Stupid question for today’s moderns. It’s called GPS (Global Positioning System), right!?

But what if technology fails… or Mr. Murphy shows up. You’d be happy to have a little navigational redundancy in your kit.

Additionally, some of us aren’t to keen on beaming our exact location to the eyes in the sky.

Dirt Road Girl and I are stoked about learning a new Doing the Stuff Skill: Navigation using a compass and topographical map. In last month’s local meet up, our group was introduced to the basics of land navigation by one of our members with loads of experience humping packs in the wilderness.

This is not a tutorial for the navigationally-challenged. That tutorial comes after we’ve practiced our new skill for a while. Today, we’re simply making an old-school tool to help determine how far you’ve traveled without technological gadgets.

Let’s get started!

Gather the Stuff

  1. Paracord
  2. Beads (DRG chose to bedazzle her Ranger Beads 🙂 )
  3. Fire
  4. Cutting tool

Guess which beads belong to DRG?

Step 1: Cut a length of paracord

Take into account the width of your beads and the three knots in your Pace Counter. My beads were over twice the width of DRG’s. Therefore, I cut a 40 inch piece of cord. Cut it longer than you think you’ll need. You can always trim the tag portions below your last knot.

Step 2: Thread the beads onto your Pace Counter cord

To save you some frustration and flying beads, try this simple method. Use one of the inner strands of a scrap piece of paracord. This strand needs to be about 18 inches long. Pull the sheath (outer layer) back and “gut” the cord by pulling the inner strands. All 7 inner strands should pull out easily.


Gutted paracord

With your Pace Counter cord halved, thread the single strand through the end of the loop. Load the single strand with beads.



The bead’s hole diameter needs to accept a double thickness of paracord

Now pull the beads onto the Pace Counter. The beads should fit snuggly. Use some force to get the beads past the eye loop. If they won’t fit, either get larger inside diameter beads or gut your paracord and use the outer sheath only. Craft stores sell beads that will work.

Step 3: Add knots

Once you’ve threaded 9 beads, tie an overhand knot above the beads on your Pace Counter. Be prepared to undo the knots to adjust knot placement – so don’t cinch them down too tight.

The first knot is at the tail end. The second knot is above the first 9 beads (or 10 beads depending on your counting method). You want enough room between the sections to move the beads like an abacus.

With the first section complete (9 beads and 2 knots), load the remaining beads onto the Pace Counter. Tie your third knot above the beads. This creates a loop to hang the Pace Counter from your backpack, coat, or any place you can easily reach.

Step 4: Melt the knots

With a lighter or heat source, melt the tag ends to prevent the paracord from unraveling.


Terminating tag ends with a butane cigar lighter – it throws a hot, blue flame. A candle or match works too. 

Paracord knots tend to loosen over time. To make them permanent, heat the knots until the outer sheath welds (slightly melts) together. Keep the knot rotating or you’ll melt through the sheath and inner strands.

CAUTION: Melted synthetic material like paracord is HOT and will stick to and burn human flesh. Don’t touch the melted tag ends until they cool. Just thought you might want to know.


My Pace Counter measured about 12″

Here’s DRG’s Pace Counter…


Bejeweled Ranger beads!

How the Stuff Works

The section with 9 beads represents the 100-meter distance. After counting your average steps in 100 meters, you move one bead to the bottom of the section. Once the 9 beads are moved, count another set of your average steps in 100 meters and move the bottom bead of the 4-bead section down to the next knot. That signals that you’ve traveled 1,000 meters.

As I mentioned earlier, we’re just learning how to use non-techie stuff for land navigation. I’ll post a few updates on our progress. Of course, all these numbers are individualized and dependent on several factors (age, fitness level, height, terrain, and the load you carry).

I’m sure many of our readers have more insight and experience with traditional land navigation. If so, chime in with your comments and suggestions. I’m all ears!

Keep Doing the Stuff,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and our Facebook page. Ready to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: Pinterest, Google +, and Facebook. Use the hashtag #DoingTheStuff when sharing your stuff on Twitter.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, DRG and I would appreciate your vote on the Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding Prepper sites while you’re there…

Thanks for sharing the stuff!

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Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “How to Make Ranger Pace Counter Beads

  1. Pingback: 14 DiY Projects for Wilderness Self-Reliance | Survival Sherpa

  2. Pingback: Bio Prepper | How to Make Ranger Pace Counter Beads

  3. Blue

    When doing your pace count (how many steps it takes you to walk 100 meters), do it in as flat and level as a surface as you can. Do the walk (a normal comfortable pace) 3 times to get your average. If you make your ranger beads out of a light colored cord, you can write you pace count on the “100 steps” part so you always remember… Your pace count does change with time, or more specifically, age…..
    A pace count is to keep you on track – it is not intended to be 100% accurate. Once you get it, and you can use it with your map and compass, you will find that you can get to a very small area to within 100-10 feet. First timers in the Marine Corps tend to average to within 25-10 feet of an 5.56 ammo can on a T-post after a 2 hour class…. This distance changes with new Lieutenants….


  4. Pingback: 49 Outdoor Skills and Projects to Try When Camping | Survival Sherpa

  5. Pingback: 49 Outdoor Skills and Projects to Try When Camping | Ready Nutrition

  6. Alex

    What is a good diameter for the hole in the beads if one uses your construction method (double layer gutted 550 paracord) so the beads are snug and don’t slide by themselves?


  7. Christian

    What is a good way to calculate your pace count if you don’t have any place around you to walk 100 meters?


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