Published: February 8, 2016
Packing. Love it or hate it, it is a necessary part of Sports or Tandem skydiving. After our last packing course at SA Skydiving I decided to put some of my thoughts on paper, detailing basic tips and tricks to be aware of when packing sports or tandem parachutes. Whether you have just finished Learning to Skydive solo and struggling with the concept, or just interested about what goes into making that tremendous parachute fit into a tiny backpack, this article is for you! This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please use these tips in conjunction with the tutelage of your instructor at your local DZ, but all the same I hope it imparts even just one new piece of information that can help you on your future skydives. If you are unfamilar with any of the terms in this post, check out our article on skydiving terminology explained.
So here it is. Beau's 8 Essentials for a Good Deployment and Parachute Opening
Fun Fact #1: PRO packing doesnt actually stand for professional packing (I know right?) but actually stands for Proper Ram air Organization. Who would have thunked it?!
1. Stowing the brakes correctly (allows the canopy to open in a braked capacity, that is the canopy is flying slower and not in full drive)
Whenever I first land from a skydive, this is one of the first tasks that I do, as well as opening the slider (if you have pulled through the drawstrings) and cocking the pilot chute.
Watch out for sloppy or loose keepers (what you slide the top of the brake toggle into, to set the toggle). A loose keeper can result in a toggle off and can be the cause of a malfunction.
This is also a good opportunity to check for twists in the brake line, these can induce more wear on the lines and also result in off-heading openings/line twists as one brake line is more taunt the other.
2. Line Check and Flaking out the cells
Remember to complete a four-line check, ensuring the risers are sitting flat from the 3-rings to the soft links. This is an important check; as it ensures that your canopy does not have any step throughs or other such entanglements, don't rush it!
Count each nose cell (this will be different whether you fly a 9 cell or 7 cell) and
place them between your thighs. The nose of the parachute can be found by looking for the opening of the cells.
Everything in parachute packing is symmetry and tension. At this point make sure all of the line groups are symmetrical and you have good line tension (look over your shoulder!)
Begin flaking the parachute. Good flaking of the parachute wont necessarily create a better opening, but is important to prevent line burn to the canopy on opening. Ie. Prevent wear and tear and get more jumps out of your baby! Keep in mind flaking the parachute is one of the hardest parts of packing. It takes time to get an eye for it, practice, practice, practice with an experienced packer!
3. Checking the line groups.
Ensure that each line is with its corresponding group and the number is correct eg, 4 for a 9 cell, 3 for a 7 cell. Each set will be lower than the last; therefore A's will be at the top when you look down. Remember, you are aiming for "LINES TO THE CENTRE, CANOPY TO THE OUTSIDE".
As the name Pro packing says, the lines should be in an organised fashion.
4. Starring the slider, wrapping tail and placing on ground.
The first thing we want on opening is for the relative wind to catch the slider. It has been found that the primary factor in reducing hard openings is correct placement of the slider.
"Gently" star the slider into the stabilisers and front to back (note that this may change depending on your canopy openings. Be sure that no material of the slider is bunched up in the middle
Also ensure the slider grommets are down tight onto the line attachments
Find the tail (generally where the warning label is) bring up and encase the rest of the canopy in a cocoon
Wrap the canopy around the front with the 2 edges of tail material with 3-6 wraps at most.
Try to place the canopy forward of yourself and away to maintain to line tension, as opposed to placing the canopy straight down at your feet, which can cause the lines to reduce tension and all your good work; place gently with some finesse
5. Cocking the pilot chute
There should be 3 checks of this step. Cock the pilot chute after dumping your gear on the ground.
Cock the pilot chute once the canopy is on the ground. Check once more before closing the container.
When cocked all lines inside the pilot chute should be taught (the actual 'kill line' should be slack)
This is also a good opportunity to do a quick check of your pilot chute for any wear and tear, holes etc. The pilot chute is a very important (and often under valued) piece of your equipment, keep an eye on it and if you are unsure ask someone.
6. Bagging the parachute
When getting the air out of the canopy find a technique that works for you. Larger canopies may require you to lie gently onto it, but not necessarily, test some methods that work for you, the way you do it is not crucial, either way must be gentle. Don't undo all of your good work!
How you fold and bag the parachute is important to ensure the slider stays in the correct position. However don't get too paranoid at making sure the parachute is 'perfectly' folded, remeber it's coming out at 220 km/h, focus on getting it in their first!
As with flaking the parachute, bagging the parachute is one of the areas most people struggle with packing. Practice, practice, practice!
7. Stowing the lines
The first stows should be tight so that they are the last to release on opening. It doesn't matter what rubber bands you use, big or small, but be sure the lines are tightly secured. Each stow should be tight
General rule of thumb would be no longer than it is to the next grommet on the bag (about 2 inches or 5 -6 cm) for sports canopies. More is better than less, within reason.
Watch others (particularly professional packers), especially how they hold the lines and how they form the stow with the rubber band over there hands, practice makes perfect.
If ever you look at a rubber band and question it, DONT BE LAZY and replace it (ITS A FRICKIN RUBBER BAND!!) and can be the difference between a nice opening or a hard one.
The remainder of line left over the put in the container is about 30 - 40 cm, once again more is better than not much.
7. Placing the deployment bag into the container
Dont be too picky with how the lines sit as long as it is somewhat organised. Generally accepted is that the lines should run from the outside of the container into the centre.
Check your container manual as to how the bag should go in and how to close the container, each container can be different. Remember closing the rig is a very important process! The bridle MUST be clear from the (cocked) pilot chute to the pin.
Be aware there is the potential to induce line twists or step throughs if you are not paying attention as to how your deployment bag is placed into the container. This can also be caused by walking away from your pack job and some clumsy jumper/DZ Kid knocking your D-bag, be aware!
8. Packing the pilot chute
There are a million and one ways to do correctly pack your pilotchute, ask other jumpers and instructors how they pack theirs and (most importantly) why. Some ways are better than others to reduce the chance of a knot forming if the bridle was pulled as opposed to the handle by accident, as opposed to other reasons and potential outcomes.
Important Tips and Tricks!
Ultimately you should learn why you do what you do when packing, instead of being a robot and doing it because someone told you to.
Remember that the majority of bad opening are caused by body position, not just packing! Revisit both concepts to get good openings!
Take 'Gems' from everyone's packing technique; there is not always a wholly right or wrong way of doing things, just different variations of the same technique. Learn why people do a particular technique then make your own decision.
Know your gear and check it regularly. Monthly maintenance is an important part of maintaining gear! Keep an eye out for others gear in the packing room, we should all be looking out for each other. Just because you're a novice doesn't mean you can't question other peoples gear!
If you see something, say something. And don't forget, the only stupid question is the one you don't ask!
SA Skydiving runs Packing nights every couple of months. If you would like to find out when the next packing night is, or organise some private tuition, please feel free to give us a call on (08) 8272 7888 or alternativly send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interseted in Learning to Skydive, get in contact. SA Skydiving has been teaching skydiving in Adelaide for over 30 years and will be an experience you will not regret.