Have you ever noticed how two containers with the same number of jumps on them can look vastly different? This is a result of many factors, which you should take into account every time you use your rig. Some of these factors—sun or dust exposure where you jump, landing in a pond or routinely sliding in landings—obviously have effects on your gear; others, such as your pack job, are not so readily apparent. However, a single pack job is surprisingly significant and can affect the lifespan of a container and change its aesthetics forever. At the risk of sounding like a skincare ad: Once you get wrinkles, you’ll always be susceptible to wrinkles.
Reserve Pack Job
One reserve pack job—especially the first one—can forever change the appearance of your container. Just as your clothing will have creases in it when you put it on weeks after folding it, your rig will maintain a memory of how it was packed, especially if it stays this way for an entire 180-day repack cycle. The materials used to build containers tend to hold their shape, so if they get creased, they will remain that way.
If you get your container back after a reserve repack and notice new wrinkles in the reserve flaps or if the spring of the reserve pilot chute is causing dents in the flap material (on non-exposed-reserve-pilot-chute systems), then have a discussion with your rigger and assess how to fix it. Unfortunately, this could mean repacking it or, at the very least, reclosing it. Once you accept a wrinkly pack job, you will likely forever have a wrinkly pack job. It is extremely difficult to reverse the memory of the fabric, so it is important to prevent it from forming in the first place. Different containers have different reserve-packing intricacies, so riggers should contact the manufacturer for tips on how to make pack jobs look their best.
Main Pack Job
Your main pack job can also cause issues with fabric memory. If you want to keep your container wrinkle-free and operating properly, it is important to pack diligently. Take care to ensure proper bulk distribution and check that your side flaps don’t wrinkle. Although technique may vary by container system, check that your canopy completely fills the corners of your main bag (and therefore your main tray), your side flaps are pulled all the way down around the corners of your container, the length of your closing loop doesn’t force the side panels to overlap (if you jump a system where they are not intended to), your riser covers are tucked in properly and your risers properly align. Check with your manufacturer for tips and tricks specific to your container. Just as you should push back on your rigger if you receive a wrinkled container after a reserve repack, do the same if you pay a packer. Most packers do a great job at making your container look great, but some don’t. It is your responsibility to manage this if you want to maintain the appearance of your container.
In addition to preventing wrinkles, properly packing your container has both obvious and not-so-obvious effects on the container’s longevity and performance. For example, on some containers, such as the United Parachute Technologies Vector, you should fan your risers out side by side when you tuck them under your secondary riser covers to ensure that both the primary and secondary riser covers close properly. If you don’t take the care to close your riser covers correctly with the tabs aligned as intended, you may begin to see issues. This comes back to memory. Prevent poor memory from forming by learning how to properly care for and pack your container from the beginning.
Jump canopies that are appropriately sized for your container! Putting a canopy in a too-small container is a crime many jumpers are guilty of, and it is not only unsafe, it is also a detriment to the lifespan and appearance of the gear. Due to the high costs of containers and the time it takes to build them, jumpers often order them much smaller than what will accommodate their current canopies under the assumption that they will downsize by the time their containers arrive or can simply overstuff the container until they are ready to downsize.
Do not buy a container and overstuff it, and do not make an irresponsible canopy progression by downsizing for the sake of getting a smaller container. When you shove an oversized canopy into a container, you stretch out the fabric and cause unnecessary wear. So, the benefit of using your rig for a longer time by switching out canopies as you progress is offset by the damage you cause by not packing it properly.
The same can be said for under-stuffing your container. If the canopy you jump is too small for your container, the side panels will be more likely to pucker and thus wrinkle. It is important to simply stick to the practice of jumping the recommended sizes for your container. Consider the fact that when you take excellent care of the container you have, you will be able to sell it for a much higher price when you are actually ready for a downsize.
Prior to Purchase
If you are hard on your gear, then consider preventative measures to help it last. Some materials tend to be a bit more durable than others, so ask your manufacturer what options are available. (Bear in mind that this may limit your color choices.) For example, Cordura is more durable than Parapak, and some Corduras are more durable than others (e.g., 1,000 denier is stronger than 500). Some manufacturers even offer ballistic Cordura to help containers stand up to hard use.
If you jump in desert areas or other places where your rig will get a lot of sun exposure, consider choosing non-neon colors to avoid obvious fading. If you jump near the ocean, avoid corrosive hardware such as cadmium. If you frequently slide in your landings, choose less stain-prone colors for the panels that come into contact with the ground (leg pads, bottom main-canopy container flap or even reserve pin covers for those of you “tuck and roll” types). Further, if you slide in a lot of landings, purchase leg-pad covers before you start jumping your new rig. These are made from durable materials and simply slide over your leg pads. When they wear through, you can easily replace them with another set.
If you (or your packer) are someone who likes to drag your container as you pack, consider purchasing a packing mat. Repeatedly dragging gear across the ground while packing considerably increases wear.
Maintaining your skydiving gear is not something you need to do every repack, once a month or even once a week. It is something you should do on every single jump. The more care you take with your pack jobs and protecting your gear from damaging elements, the longer it will last, and the more you will be able to sell it for when you are ready for new gear. Find out from your manufacturer what things to pay attention to when packing, as no two rigs pack exactly the same. Further, make sure to do those things on every skydive.
About the Author
Riley Marshall, C-45726, is the new master of all things marketing for United Para-chute Technologies. She specializes in zoo dives and bad puns. When she is not sky-diving or working, she can be found climbing mountains, climbing rocks, skiing, kiteboarding, mountain biking or napping.