Are you a set-it-and-forget-it skydiver? I’ve got news for you: your packer’s job is to get your parachute into your magical backpack, not to maintain your skydiving gear. You’ll need to take a more proactive role if you want your shiny, expensive lifesaving kit to last as long as you expect it to.
Maintain your skydiving gear
But I have some good news for you. It’s easier than you think to maintain your skydiving gear. Follow these top 5 tips and your rig will love you for it.
Lazy Packing = Bad
When skydiving canopies deteriorate, there’s usually a clear culprit: lazy packing. Whether you pack lackadaisically for yourself or throw your rig at an overburdened “canopy compression engineer” who’s already drowning in nylon, beware: you might be cruising for a bruising opening (and a high price tag).
Take line burn, for example. Line burn usually happens because the parachute deploys out of sequence, and staving it off is a key part of maintaining your skydiving gear.
To dodge the burn, be organized (or make sure your packer is): be thoroughly symmetrical, use the correct amount of tension when stowing lines, create equal-length line bights and make sure none of the lines sneak in between fabric flaps at any point during the packjob.
Bodily Secretions = Bad
Desert drop zone? Summertime boogie? Training with your team in July in the armpit of Arizona (or Spain)? You might be surprised to know that one of the most serious (and ickiest) contributors to canopy deterioration is sweat.
When you smear your gooey body all over the center top three skins to get the air out, your salty juices are actively degrading the fabric – and making it more susceptible to sun damage.
The cure? Maintain your skydiving gear by packing dry (or handing your kit off to an unsweaty packer).
Sunburn = Bad
One thing is for sure: your canopy is going to see the sun. If you want to maintain your skydiving gear for more than one sunny season, however, you’re going to have to control the amount of UV it’s exposed to.
Those sizzlin’ UV rays are a powerful degrading force, quickly reducing the strength of the fabric, fading its pretty, pretty colors and seriously abbreviating its lifespan.
Your job here is to treat your skydiving rig like the pastiest ginger you know. Race it in from sunny landing areas, cover it with a tarp or a towel when it’s in any danger of being exposed and never-never-never let it sit out in the open glare of the sun.
Off-Roading = Bad
Your canopy is a fussy little princess. Act accordingly and don’t get her dirty. It may not seem like it, but how you behave in the landing area has as enormous bearing on your skydiving gear maintenance.
If you let your canopy smack nose-down into the dirt instead of coaxing it gently out of the air; if you drag your canopy through the filth on your way to a flailing high-five; if you heave it across rough surfaces; if you land it in the trees (or the cacti)…it’s going to show that abuse. Rapidly.
Treat your princess badly and she’s going to treat you poorly right back.
Fuzzy Lines = Bad
Sure, it’s an inconvenient truth: no matter how well you maintain them, your canopy’s lines will need replacing several times throughout the wing’s life. Wear-and-tear is normal; however, the care you take of your lines can determine whether you get 150 jumps out of a line set or 500.
Consider that poorly maintained canopy lines have broken on deployment, in flight and on landing – putting the jumper in the hospital or six feet under – and the argument for line maintenance becomes even more compelling.
How to best approach your line maintenance? Be watchful. Keep an eye for fuzziness. If you see any, get thee to a rigger. Check each of your slider grommets every time you pack for any damage, the sharp edges of which will take a huge, fast toll on your lines. And never, ever jump with sketchy lines.
Respect = Good
At the end of the day, proper skydiving gear maintenance comes down to respect. If you treat your life-saving gear with the utmost care, it’ll take excellent care of you in return.