A summary of different parachute types: Styles of canopy for skydiving

Jun 08, 2021 BY Paul McWilliams

In this summary of different parachute types we look at the various styles of canopy used. All types of parachute help skydivers and parachutists float safely to the ground, but they also have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

A summary of parachute types Wikimedia image by Shane T. McCoy

Types of parachute

Various canopy styles

Doing a tandem jump? Jumping out of a plane for the first time? It probably doesn’t matter to you what kind of parachute you’ve got, as long as it opens and gets you back to earth safely!

While that may be the case for one time thrill seekers on skydiving experiences it is more complicated for those in the industry. There are many different parachute types which as you get more into skydiving you will become exposed to and need to make decisions about.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a quick guide to the different styles of parachute, focusing mainly on canopies. Although some of the other equipment may also vary, depending on the parachute.

Different parachute types

Some of the following canopies are rarely, if ever, used these days. However, it always pays to know your stuff.

Parachutes are divided into two types – ascending and descending. In this article we’re going to look at the descending varieties used by those of us that like to fall. Ascending refers mostly to paragliding, which is a topic for another day.

skydiving and airshow over city of Chicago styles of parachutes and canopies Pixabay royalty free image

Round-type parachutes

Used in the military – think any WWII film – and as emergency parachutes. These simply rely on drag to slow a descent, rather than having any lift. Made from dome-shaped canopies, they are often referred to as ‘jellyfish chutes’ and are seldom if ever used by modern jumpers.

Cruciform parachutes

Designed to provide a more steady descent by reducing oscillation. Cruciform are square-shaped chutes have been modified in recent times by the US Army – called the ATPS system.

They can reduce descent speed by as much as 30%. This reduces the chance of landing injury. However, again, these chutes are rarely used outside military manoeuvres.

A summary of parachute types Wikimedia image by California

Rogallo-wing parachutes

Used to increase forward speed and decrease landing speed. There has been plenty of experimentation with this kind of chute in the world of sport parachuting. However, the build difficulty and subsequent introduction of the ram-air parachute means these are seldom used in the sporting community these days.

Annular parachutes

A ring – or series of concentric rings – shaped parachute that pulls the apex close to the load. They have a lower drag factor than conventional round parachutes. The rear position of the vents can give the jumper considerable forward speed in descent.

Ram-air parachutes

Most modern parachute types are ram-air, specifically in competitive skydiving. The self-inflating air-foils, known as parafoils, give the jumper greater control of speed and direction.

They also spread the stress of deployment (a major problem on some older chutes). Two layers of fabric allow air to penetrate from vents in the front and form cells.

A summary of parachute types Wikimedia image by Comedy_nose

The use of sail sliders allows the jumper to adjust the canopy in descent and maintain greater control of airspeed, descent speed and direction. Vents and brake lines can also allow a greater degree of control.

Other Ram-Air styles of parachute

There are many types of ram-air parachute manufactured by a number of different companies worldwide. Different use of fabrics, such as air permeation-resistant ‘F-111’ can affect the parachute, and other design factors like stabilisers can vary according to individual design.

Using the right parachute and checking to ensure everything is correct before jumping is an essential part of skydiving. For many people packing their own chute is all part of the process. It’s important to know how the size, shape and design of your canopy will affect your descent. 

We hope you found this summary of different styles of parachute useful. Be sure to check out our skydiving discounts as it’s an expensive sport and you could save a fortune.


Aerofoil (Airfoil), Annular, Canopy, Cruciform, Ram Air, Rogallo Wing

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