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Parachute Packing for Beginners

An unpleasant but necessary and important skydiving skill

white parachute against blue sky with male attached
The Skydive School | Parachute Packing

Parachute packing is largely considered a necessary evil in the world of skydiving. That is why there are professional parachute packers. In commercial skydiving, such as tandem skydiving, it makes sense to have a professional packer to do the dirty, laborious work. But there are plenty of solo skydivers who are willing to pay someone to pack a parachute after their jump.

Sometimes, it's so the skydiver can jump on back-to-back loads, if they are lucky enough to own more than one rig. Sometimes, it's due to busyness, such as instructors and coaches who may need to spend time de-briefing their students. Another times, it may be fatigue, lack of skill, or lack of confidence in parachute packing.

No matter the reason, all solo skydivers need to know how to pack a parachute in order to progress in the sport in Australia. But, you do not need to be a certified skydiver to be a professional parachute packer! That's why this post is for anyone interested in this unique and formidable skill.

Keep reading to learn the basic steps. This is a guide only and not a lesson. Always consult with a qualified skydiving instructor or qualified parachute packer to learn the art of parachute packing. And like most things, practice makes perfect!

Disclaimer: Canopies vary. The following is general information to be used as an overview for parachute packing.

A Guide to Parachute Packing for Beginners

Step 1: Stow the brakes

Parachute packing begins in the landing area. Stowing your brakes (toggles) should always been done as soon as you land. Do not wait until you are in the hangar. Walk back to the hangar or packing area with your lines neatly coiled or daisy-chained and your canopy slung high over your shoulder.

orange parachute laying on ground beside a blue container
The Skydive School | The Art of Packing a Parachute

Step 2: Lay it down

Lay the container neatly on the ground in a belly-to-earth position with the lines stretched out long and the canopy far away from the container. Tidy the harness so the arm and leg straps are folded neatly under the container and not splayed out.

Optional: Add a packing weight to help keep the container in place.

Step 3: Continuity check

This step is all about making sure your lines are straight and untangled from the bottom of the risers to the top of the canopy. Take the brake lines between thumb & index, the rear risers (the C + D lines are attached to these) between index and middle fingers, and the front risers (the A+B lines are attached to these) between middle and ring fingers. Run your fingers through the lines as you walk towards the canopy, keeping your fingers in place until lines are stretched neatly and there are no twists or tangles.

Step 4: Shake shake shake

Keep your fingers in place and give the canopy a good shake back and forth to clear any canopy congestion.

Skydivers learning to pack a parachute in hangar
The Skydive School | Place the lines on shoulders

Step 5: Lines on shoulders

Without disrupting your work, carefully place the lines over your shoulder or shoulders. This technique will vary from skydiver to skydiver. Some may begin this step in parachute packing with lines on both shoulders, others will place both sets of lines on one shoulder. This is a personal choice.

Step 6: Cell count

Locate the front of the canopy, aka the nose, and count each cell as you tuck the fabric along your hip. Most parachutes have seven or nine cells.

Tip: The nose is edged with a ribbon (usually white).

Step 7: Grab the nose

Once you have your 7 or 9 cells located and counted, grab the lot of them in one hand and neatly place them between your knees. Keep your knees together so the fabric remains in place.

Step 8: Move slider

With the nose tucked between your legs, push the slider upward toward a shoulder to keep it out of the way. Although all steps in parachute packing require attention, it's the next steps require care, accuracy, and stamina.

colourful ribbon candy
The Skydive School | Parachute Packing is like Ribbon Candy

Step 9: Locate lines & flake

This step may vary amongst skydivers and parachute packers as you can choose whether to begin at the front or back of the canopy. Once you are proficient in parachute packing, you can decide which works best for you. Until then, follow the steps your instructor shows you. The end result remains the same: find your brake lines, then your D, C, B, and A lines with a fabric count of four in between each. Therefore, you will find four lines, then four pieces of fabric, four lines, four pieces of fabric...This is called flaking.

Once complete, you should have a wave or ribbon pattern (like the candy) and be confident that your canopy is free from any bunching. This step needs to be repeated on the other side of the canopy.

Step 11: Quarter slider

Now that all your lines are straight and your canopy is flaked and smooth, place the slider back between the lines, in the centre. Quarter the slider by placing one quarter of the fabric to the front, one quarter to the back and the other two quarters to each side.

Step 12: Cocoon

Cocooning the parachute means wrapping the excess fabric gently around all the good work you've done thus far. You'll use your knees to help with this step. And get ready for a full body experience, because parachute packing gets damn physical.

Parachute packing in hangar
The Skydive School | How to Pack a Parachute

Step 13: Cocoon down

Gingerly, yet purposefully, place the cocooned parachute on the ground, preferably with the pilot chute out of the way. Make sure you keep the outstretched lines taut and straight.

Step 14: Cock pilot chute

Ok, the canopy is resting on the ground, so now you can cock the pilot chute, which means stretching the bridle to remove any slack in the kill line. Place a foot on the D-bag, a hand on the hackie, and stretch the bridle. Test the pilot chute by by tossing it upwards to confirm that it catches air.

Step 15: Give it a cuddle

Time to work on getting that canopy packed away into the deployment bag (D-bag). This is where things are gonna get physical. Like, Olivia Newton-John physical so grab a sweat band if you've got one. Place your knees gently near the parachute warning label and carefully tuck the canopy around and under so you create a width no bigger than the D-bag. Then, lay your body down onto the parachute, kind of like you're doing "the worm". This is a good time to chill and take a rest as you hug and caress your canopy. Give it a kiss; really appreciate it for all its important work.

Tip: When tucking, push fabric away from you, never down towards you.

Step 16: Tuck and wrap

After the air is out, you should now have a long, flat parachute in a sausage-like shape with some excess fabric at the top. Keep tucking and wrapping any excess fabric neatly underneath - just be careful not to disrupt your lines. The top of the canopy should now be wrapped around the cocoon to make a tightly wrapped package.

Step 17: S fold

The is another step that may differ slightly from packer to packer. And it's one that is much better demonstrated than explained with words. But, let's give it a go. With one hand gripping the cocoon from underneath, use the other to make a chop half way down the cocoon. From there, fold the top half towards you, then fold the top half over again. This creates an S-shape in the top half of your canopy.

Step 18: Bag it

Use one hand to maintain your neat package as you rotate the S upward towards you. Use your other hand to guide the D-bag towards you and slide the grommets under the canopy. Then you can just roll the canopy into the D-bag and carefully bring the bag over the canopy. This results in half of the canopy in the bag.

Rule: Do not push the canopy into the D-bag. Always bring the D-bag over the canopy.

lines of a parachute system
The Skydive School | Stowing the lines

Step 19: Stow the lines

It's time to stow the lines in a back and forth pattern across the D-bag. The elastic bands keep the lines in place. Pass the band through the grommet and double loop the band around a bunch of lines (see our photo above for a visual explanation). Always keep new bands nearby as they tend to snap mid-loop. Ouch!

Tips: Start at the middle and work your way to the sides. Always move towards the container, never pull the container to you!

Step 20: Place D-bag in container

Lines are stowed (you will have some excess and that is okay) so you can now pick up your packed D-bag and place it up and over the container, at the awaiting main tray.

Step 20: Stow the risers

With your D-bag waiting to be closed into the container, stow your risers. Remember to start this process from the bottom of the three rings. Be sure there are no twists and both front and rear risers are flat together. Lay the toggles (usually yellow) inward towards the container, then carefully fold the flap over to protect them.

Parachute packing closing the container
The Skydive School | Closing the container

Step 21: Fit and close container

Place the D-bag in the main tray at a 45-degree angle with any line excess neatly placed on the bottom of the tray. Thread a pull-up cord through the grommets in the correct sequence: Bottom, Top, Right, Left (or left, right - whichever grommet is offset to the centre).

Note: Pull the cord up and over and always keep the pressure on, use your knees if you must.

Tip: Once the pin is safely through the closing loop, do not rip the pull-up out in a straight line. Wrap it around so it sits under the pin (you will hear a popping sound,). Then, you can remove the pull-up cord.

Step 22: Fold & stow the pilot chute

Time to fold the pilot chute. Lay it in a flat circle, then fold it in half, then in thirds, then half again toward the hackie. Next, fold the bridle into the middle of the PC and back and forth until you run out of bridle. Fold the PC over the folded bridle to create a soft taco shape. Now you're ready to slide it into the BOC (bottom of container).

You're finished parachute packing, now what?

Your rig is packed and ready for a gear check so you can jump it and pack it all over again!

Disclaimer: Canopies vary. This post is general information. It is to be used as an overview for parachute packing only. Always learn to pack from a professional parachute packer or qualified skydiver.

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