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Pace counting with Ranger Beads

With the advent of GPS systems, navigating with a map have almost become a lost skill. If you were to use a map, or if you had to travel overland, how would you measure the distance you’ve covered? In this post we’ll teach you pace counting with Ranger Beads.

Pace counting with Ranger Beads

Being able to navigate yourself to safety has become an ofter overlooked skill.

Fortunately many hikers, outdoors men and women, and preppers still use compasses and maps to find their way, but they still need a method to measure the distance traveled from the last way point, so they know how far until the next. This is where Ranger Beads come in handy.

What are Ranger Beads?

Ranger beads, which are really just pace count beads. Army Rangers are condsidered experts at land navigation, which is why these pace counting beads are often referred to as Ranger Beads.

Where can you get Ranger Beads?

You can purchase pre-made Ranger Beads, in many cool styles. They come in all colors and with various interesting beads (even skull beads….spooky).  I made my own Ranger Beads with a piece of paracord and …. you guessed it, some beads.

Supplies Needed:

  • 30-ish inches of paracord
  • 6x9mm beads (I borrowed 14 Pony Beads from my daughters. Luckily they had some brown ones in their stash).
  • Paperclip

ranger beads supplies

Remove the inner strands from the paracord, because you only want to use the outer sheath. Keep those inner strands for something else (Honestly I don’t know what you’ll do with them, as my strands are still hanging off the door knob on my office’s closet door).

Fold the paracord in half.

Bend the paperclip into a narrow hook on one end, you can leave the remainder of the paperclip as-is, so that the beads don’t escape from you, while you are feeding them onto the paracord. Needle nose pliers might come in handy to hold the paperclip behind the bead you are currently forcing onto the doubled-up paracord.

feed the beads

Eventually you will manage to feed all your beads onto the paracord (unless you forgot to remove the inner strands from the paracord).

beads on the cord

Separate 9 beads to the bottom portion of the paracord and 5 beads to the top.

3 well placed Overhand Loop knots (and a small carabiner) later, and you have a working set of Ranger Beads that will measure 5 km. You want to leave enough room between the knots and beads that they can have some room, so you can slide them up and down, I like about 2 inches of paracord separating my beads and knots.

ranger beads completed
9 beads on the bottom, 5 beads on top

How do you use Ranger Beads?

Using the beads to determine how much ground you have covered is easy, but only if you can count to 10.

To “calibrate” your beads, you need to a flat surface about 100 meters long (Soccer fields are 100 – 110 meters, find one that is 100m). If you can’t find a 100m Soccer field, then measure out and mark a 100m distance.

Walk 100m while counting how many steps/strides it takes you to get from one end to the other.

For example, if it took you 50 steps to cover 100m, then every 50 steps you take, you are going to pull one of the lower 9 beads down to represent 100 meters.

100 meters
100 meters

You take another 50 steps (100m) and you slide down the 2nd bead to show that you have traveled 200m and so on. This continues until you have slid all 9 of the lower beads down (900m).

You travel another 100m, slide all 9 lower beads back to the upper knot, then slide one of your upper 5 beads down. You have now traveled 1km.

Continue to do this throughout your hike and you will know how far you have walked away from your starting point, remember that this setup only has 5 beads on top, so you can only measure 5.9km (5km, 900m)

2.4km (or 2km, 400m)



2.9km (or 2km, 900m), another 100m and you’ve gone km!



Keep your Ranger Beads attached to your pack at all times, to see how far you’ve traveled by pace counting with Ranger Beads



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