Parks College Parachute Research Group

Ram-air parachute packing methods

This information was created in response to an increasingly often heard question about packing, and to help skydivers learn about different packing methods:

Q. What is "flat packing" or "side packing"?

A. This seems to be an expression that people started using after "pro" packing became common. It indicates a pack job that is begun with the canopy flaked out and laid "flat" on the ground rather than flaking it while standing up, as in a pro pack. It is not a very accurate name, because there are several ways to pack a parachute that begin by laying it flat on the ground.

Packing Methods:

There are many ways to pack a parachute and they all work, it's just that each has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on what kind of canopy you have, and some other factors.

Unfortunately, many experienced skydivers seem to think that the way they pack is the only way to go, and try to force this preference onto the unsuspecting novice skydiver when teaching them how to pack.

Skydiving instructors often lament the fact that novice skydivers are not learning to pack as soon as they should - well, no wonder. The experienced jumpers are all telling them something different! And some are presenting their method of packing as the "best", period.

Well, we don't think that there is a "best" method, period.

Our advice to experienced jumpers? Present as much information as you can about packing without specifying a "best" method. If you show someone how to pack using a specific method, tell them why you prefer that method, but please, don't call it the "best". How do you know it is? Someone told you? Some "expert"? A rigger? Ha! (Even riggers sometimes present their opinions as "facts".)

Our advice to novice skydivers learning to pack? Don't believe everything you are told. Experienced skydivers like to think they know everything. If someone is teaching you to pack, then by all means, do it the way they are teaching you, but learn other methods, too. (You might be shown many ways to pack whether you want to or not!) Decide for yourself the best method of packing for you and the equipment you are using. And read the manufacturer's manual!

The following describes some of the common packing methods and will assume a normal main canopy with a regular deployment bag. Not included are some of the older methods that did not include a deployment bag, or Canopy Formation Skydiving specific methods, and particularly does not include Tandem canopies.

For complete information on how to pack a parachute by one of these methods you will need a set of packing instructions available from the manufacturer. The photos are included only as a brief overview of the packing method for those of you who may have seen it, but do not know its name.

"Stack" or "Side" packing

This is probably the original method that ParaFlite developed when they started selling a lot of ram-air canopies to skydivers.


"Roll" packing

ParaFlite has a set of instructions on how to pack by this method, which has been around for quite a while.


"Pro" packing

This is the method of packing that is started by flaking the canopy standing up.


"Trash packing"

This method has been around a long time, and seems to consist of a rather quick shake of the canopy while standing up and then doing a minimum of folding to get it into the bag. Sort of like a pro pack without the care of flaking the canopy thoroughly. Probably not too many people do this any more because being less careful seemed to produce more malfunctions, and it doesn't take that much more time to do a regular pro pack.

"Psycho Pack" by George Galloway is available on the Precision Aerodynamics web site. It includes some general packing info at the beginning that everyone should read.

Common Packing Myths:

Over the years we have heard some of the most amazing statements made by skydivers of all types about packing parachutes. Most of these statements are made as though they are a well established fact, but many are simply myths that have been passed from one skydiver to another so many times that they eventually seem to become "facts".

Here are some myths that have seen perpetuated about packing, by both experienced skydivers and novices alike:

You can't "flat pack" a canopy that doesn't have packing tabs

Packing tabs are sewn to seams in the canopy that are straight above the suspension lines, so that when you apply tension to the packing tabs when flaking the canopy for "flat packing", it tightens the lines. Packing tabs are simply a convenience and are not necessary. If you locate those same seams and pull on them, it is just like you were pulling on packing tabs. Ram-air canopies were first made without packing tabs, and one of the first packing methods was the "stack" pack. Somehow people managed (and still manage) to get them packed even without packing tabs. Of course, if you insist, there is an obvious solution...

Spectra, or "microlines" must be stowed with very large bights

Keeping suspension lines firmly in place during deployment is very important, but there are better ways to do this than gigantic bights. Simply using the proper retaining elastics (that's rubber bands) is the best way. They should grip the lines very firmly. Double stowing is one way to get them tight enough, but why not just get the right elastics to begin with? Double stowing makes the bight more susceptable to getting locked up too.

You must "pro pack" a zero-porosity canopy

Pro packing can help keep slippery zero-porosity canopies under control better than a poorly executed "flat pack", but if you are careful to remove the air from a zero porosity canopy before starting the pack job, keeping it under control is much less of a problem.

Myth: You must "pro pack" an elliptical canopy because the line lengths vary so much

The most important thing to do when packing a parachute is to keep tension on the lines throughout the whole packing process. Pro packing allows this to happen by default if the lines are held loosely enough, since the weight of the fabric pulls a certain amount of tension on all of the lines without your doing anything extra. However, when the canopy is placed on the floor, the tension usually must be re-established, (which would seem to be just as much trouble as establishing tension on the floor in the first place when "flat packing").

Notice/Disclaimer: This information is not intended to suggest a parachute packing method that is in conflict with the manufacturer's instructions, but is intended only to provide information which we believe to be helpful, interesting, and informative to the skydiving community. If you have questions regarding a particular canopy and how it is to be packed, always begin by contacting the manufacturer.

For questions or comments about this information contact Gary Peek at

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