Hey there! These (hopefully) will show you how to make your very own Ranger beads, used by the US Army. They cost a pretty penny at stores (The one on the left cost me $12! *sigh*), but you can make them for much, much less obviously.

Also called "Pace Counter beads", they're used to keep track of how far you've gone while doing land navigation. Great for Scouts, back-packers, people who like dangling bits of string with beads on it...
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Step 1: What You Need

You don't need too much to make Ranger beads. Really, only three things...

550 Cord: A staple of any soldier. I've heard it called "Parachute Cord" too. You can find a 50ft roll of it at any military surplus store for two or three dollars. You should be able to find it at a regular box store too.

Beads: Just about any type will do. I have yet to find the "official" shell-type beads anywhere, but it's not important; as long as they fit through the rope (some guys in my squad have cool-looking skull beads on theirs).

Matches: A lighter will work too. Anything that produces a small, fairly controlled flame. :)

Okay, now that you have that, let's get started!

Step 2: Preparation

First, cut off a length of cord. How much depends on how many beads you want on the top part. I used four, and I cut off 22 - 23 inches (55 - 60 centimeters). You can experiment.

Pull out the core. That's the white strings on the inside. This lets you compress the cord, which will be important when you're putting the beads on.

Make a loop in the middle. First, even up the loose ends. Refer to the second picture for how to make a loop knot. Make a small loop if you're going to put this around a shirt button; make a bigger one if you're going to loop it through your LCE/LBE.

Fuse the ends. Using a match or your lighter, wave the cord ends back and forth through the flame until they start turning black. Then quickly mash each end together (not with each other) so it's closed off.
Adrenal1ne made it!6 months ago

Easy to make. Tough ceramic beads that I bought at 15 cents per. I'm going to be using this on a ultralight hiking trip, and I'll be able to pack on 20 miles or so a day, instead of the 5 miles the one shown can count. To do this, I just added a third row of 4 beads on top, counting 5/10/15/20. I made the middle row a different color, just for grins and giggles. :)


Also- for when I was putting the beads on, I used dental floss to "whip" the end of the two cords, then lightly burned that to make a sort of needle on the end that the beads easily slipped onto.

Advar8 months ago
This is cool. Nice job! :)
elizruge11 months ago
i'm going on my first survival training course this month. i doubt i'll need these but i'm making one and taking it anyway. you think they guys will think i'm a nerd if i make it pink? ;-)
Advar elizruge8 months ago
Nah, might be easier to see in less light. But there's glow in the dark, too... :)
RangerJ9 months ago
Good job, and handy, too.
AntiQuest10 months ago
Very useful instruct able. I've been making some wooden and leather sets for Live Action Roleplayers. (They're using them to count off enemy numbers as well as distance counting between objectives for the main group.)
Davis atc10 months ago
i made some with my girl scouts using pink and white para cord, beads were slip knots burnt at the end. Just like I was taught. who needs a pedometer when you have these!
mackamitsu2 years ago
If you take one strand of the discarded middle, and tie it to the center of the paracord, you can thread the beads on quickly and painlessly by threading them onto the white string, then pulling the beads onto the paracord. It is easier then using a match stick.
Just a visual so you can see what I mean
Thank you for this well-put-together, easy-to-follow 'ible. It's valuable and fun information. Great photos, too!

I teach art and usually have this as a fall or spring project. We use a double thickness of bright neon plumb cord. I cut it into 30" or so lengths, slide a tapestry or plastic canvas needle on it so that it's in the middle of the cord, and the plastic pony beads slide right on to it. I let administration and school security know that we will be appropriately (quietly, etc.) measuring pace counts in the hallway, then outdoors, to gain a realistic perspective of how our perception of distance and size changes according to the environment.

I write down everyone's pace count, then we repeat this outdoors on a pre-measured course. I have the kids guess 100' first. They are always surprised by how close or far off their guesses are (grades 5-12).

I incorporate a lot of math into the art assignments. I also wrote a whole curriculum for Tracking Sticks (which you can Google).

Plastic pony beads and plumb cord are very affordable. We also use them for geocache swag. Cache on! Go Ranger beads!

Thanks again - great job!
Well Done! I'm a volunteer hike leader for my local parks and recreation department. I am going to recommend this for one of our crafts.
A suggestion I gave my Scouts.

Get a 1 X1 X 1/4 piece of wood, drill holes in the top and bottom for the rope or cord. It should look like rope-loop - wood - pace counter.

Then have the scout write his pace on the wood as a reminder, both walking and a simple jog over 100 yards. W-102, J-95.
do you have any idea where you get the skull beads from. i ve seen them on other instructables but i dont know where to get them from.
Emerson Knives sells them, but a $5 a pop, they'll get expensive.
nice way of counting how far you have walked. have you ever forgotten what number you were up to while you were walking?
dphillips23 years ago
Thank you so much for your guide!!! 

I would like to share how I get the beads onto the cord quickly, maybe it will help someone doing this in the future.
the picture is wrong, but I think you guys can figure out what I tried to do. essentially I used an inner strand as a pull cable and pulled the bite of the cord through all the beads at one.

take care
Necis5 years ago
The sad thing is that one on the left, a said company that sells our stuff on base that shall remain nameless tries to gouge us 10$ for them... 550 cord (100 ft) 6$ beads of your choice, 1lb 5$. 50 pace counters that are completely original, priceless.... going have to do this as a hands on project for my joe's one day... swear I'm a baby sitter more so than a NCO :p
PjaXs0n Necis3 years ago
Dad? ;) My Dad would say that line at the end just about every time he came home. (He's a retired MSgt. US Army and trained troops in A.P.G, MD and Schofield Bks, HI.)
asteidl3 years ago
Nice instructable. Very informative steps. Thank you for writing this. I'm a civilian, but I'm in the process of quitting smoking, and this might very well help me to keep my mind on math, rather than on the almighty cigarette, while I'm trying to exercise. Truth be told, I wish I had joined the military when I graduated high school, but, the damn Ritalin, etc kept me from it. Damn recruiters, rofl. :P Anyway, maybe even as a civvie, I can learn how to use a abacus-related tool, used by the military, and it might even help me quit a deadly addiction to tobacco.

Cheers, Nikcdc! And thanks.

Adam Steidl, civilian.
shepard13 years ago
I have made a few of these. Thanks! My family and I use them as Geocache treasures. GPS is fine and all but, there is something to be said about good old map and compass Skills.
divyang64785 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
This is the first I've ever seen of this type of counting beads, so I'm very grateful for the 'ible. I've always carried change in my pocket and moved it to another pocket. After four pennies, I return them and move a nickel. This is great!

Not sure why you have to complain about free advice.
Actually, this is simply explaining how to do it for cheap, and as far as I can see, nobody else posted one on this. The point of 'ibles is to teach people how to do things, even if "everybody" can do it. I could hack into the government, but I don't know how. I could make this, but I didn't know how before reading this. Consider that before you do this on another person's work.
TrailH4x3 years ago
As a tip to reduce a bit of frustration, thread on all of the beads before tying the knot for the top loop. I teach my Boys to tie the tail knot (bottom) first, then use one of the inner core strands looped through the paracord to thread the cord through the beads (sort of like using the smaller sting as a fish wire for electrical conduit). I've found the Boys don't get at frustrated and all of them complete their projects in one sitting.
jed.watkins4 years ago
If you're really a hardcore Joe (Sapper or Sapper wanna-be), you take the gasket out of M-60 (now M-80 with the addition of the MDI adapter plug (I think)) fuze ignitors that you pull for blasts that you have calculated and rigged, and use those. By the time you've got enough for a pace counter, you've also got a fair amount of experience with explosives.
keng4 years ago
BTW: my son and I made a couple of these today...awesome project for us.
tinkersdamb4 years ago
In rough bush country such as northern Ontario, you pace will change with the terrain, so a bead counter my not be accurate in comparison to move level ground.  I would suggest using a cps and a bead counter to determen an average for the type of conditions you walk in normally.  A mile on the side of the road, will be much different in bush and hills.
Nikcdc (author)  tinkersdamb4 years ago
When we were being taught land-nav, we had to learn two pace counts; a kilometer on the road, then a kilometer through hilly terrain. My DS said the hilly terrain wasn't perfect, but it could be used as a good estimate. Of course, he also recommended using sight navigation whenever possible.
Kaya Tetsu4 years ago
I've made variants of these as a craft for my friends girl scout troop. Instead of using them for land nav, they also work great as a hydration counter. Everytime you drink your whole water bottle you move a bead. You need to move all the beads by the end of the day or you weren't drinking enough water. I think we used 8 beads, might be wrong, I'd have  to find mine again. But it worked great for keeping the girls hydrated in the Oklahoma heat.
slaitch4 years ago
 This is pretty much a variant of an abacus, isn't it?
maven4 years ago
I am printing this up for my son's boyscout troop.  I think it will make a great project!
GPS s need batteries... PACE counters don't
ENJINE5 years ago
We just use knots. Or a tally counter, those're handy.
Loco_0015 years ago
Great. I'm going to make one to use as a golf score counter.
keng5 years ago
I saw this at my local mil-surp and thought about doing the same thing...this may actually be good as a pedometer to! probably just as accurate 80)
microman1715 years ago
Except you still have to count your steps :-\. Would definitely help me out, I always forget stuff like that...

We have a GPS now =D
you cant use GPS during land navigation.
Nikcdc (author)  microman1715 years ago
Haha. Well, there's always a chance the GPS will break, or get clogged with sand, or you forgot to bring it (or can't afford one). Some people just prefer the low tech way. Pace counters are designed to make keeping track of your steps easier, not replace that altogether. Sorry. :)