So, you just got your license, or maybe you’re a seasoned jumper, but how much do you really know about your gear? What can you do yourself and what is best to leave to your rigger to take care of? It seems that most jumpers rely on their packers and riggers to maintain their gear, but there are a few things that everyone could (and should) do.
DISCLAIMER: If you are unsure of anything I mention below, please speak with your local rigger, or send me a message directly. I would hate to see someone attempt something, only to cause more risk by not reconnecting something correctly.
How about giving your risers some exercise? No, I don’t mean go out and put another jump on them, I mean disconnect them and give them a twist. You can easily pull the cutaway cable (NOT your reserve handle!) all the way out and pull the risers away from the main 3 ring. Once they’re loose, you’ll probably see that they retain a “J” shape if you look at them from the side. This is the problem you’ll be correcting. That “J” shape can actually cause your risers to hang up during an emergency cutaway, and we all know that seconds count when you need them most. So, to prevent any delay of your 3 ring system, bend the “J” shape backwards and forwards several times to take out the “memory”. You can also give the risers a twist several times in each direction and you should be good to go! See? That was just a couple of minutes’ worth of effort and is recommended to do once a month.
While your 3 rings are still disconnected and your cutaway cable is removed, this is a great time to give your cutaway cables a wipe down. The inside of your cutaway housings are a place where dirt gets into and is very difficult to get out. That dirt gets onto the cutaway cable and can make the force required to cutaway very high. Take any cloth, a towel, or even your shirt and wrap it around each yellow cable. Pull the cable through the cloth to wipe any grease or dirt off. Now that you’ve completed these basic steps, put your 3 ring system back together. Remember to ask questions if you’re not sure how to reassemble!
The two things above are a couple of the simplest things that you can do to maintain your gear. There are many other general things you can do without really taking any time out of your day.
Below are some of the more common things to keep on your mind:
- * Don’t leave your gear in a hot car during the summer. This can do all sorts of scary stuff to it, and if you have an AAD in your rig, batteries really don’t get along well with intense heat. Same goes for storing your gear in the car during winter.
- * Avoid getting any liquids on your gear. This may sound obvious, but the grease on your spare tire or the battery acid from that battery you carried for a friend can cause severe damage to your rig, and possibly even compromising its integrity (YIKES!). If you accidentally spill something on it, wipe as much off as you can and air it out. If you spilled something other than a harmless chemical such as water (i.e.: pop, juice), it’s best to give your rigger a shout and let them know what happened. They will give you advice on what you should do, and that may mean bringing it to them for a gear cleaning and repack.
- * If you get your gear wet in the swoop pond, or take a slide across the sandy/muddy part of the LZ, make sure you give your gear an inspection immediately after and prior to jumping again. Remember why we cleaned the 3 rings? Well, that dirt gets in there from all your non-optimal landings. Any damage should be investigated and repaired as required. In regards to wet gear, water may seem harmless, but when suspension lines get wet, they become sticky and very prone to tension knots. Something you don’t want when you need your reserve. There was a fatality just a few years ago as a result of exactly this.
- * Take care to avoid damaging your gear. Again, this one seems a bit obvious, but it’s absolutely astonishing to see how some people treat their life saving device. Something as simple as throwing your gear in the car, and then accidentally closing the door on the harness. Seems harmless right? Wrong! Imagine how you’d feel when you needed to pull your reserve and your cutaway cable was pinched by the cutaway housing. It’s happened…don’t let it happen to you.
Proper gear maintenance is something that everyone should keep on their mind. There is really no training in CSPA’s program to address items such as gear maintenance, but if you hang out at the DZ on a rainy day, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about your gear. I also recommend asking your rigger if they would mind if you hung out while they packed a reserve (does not have to be your own gear). Some riggers allow this, others prefer not to for various valid reasons. I am thrilled to have someone watch their gear get packed by me because even if they only gain the slightest bit of information about their gear, it may be the information that will prevent an incident one day.
Here’s some food for thought…literally. I was once told that skydiving relates very closely to Swiss cheese. Yes, Swiss cheese. Think of it this way. During an incident, there is always a series of events leading up to it. You’ve all heard of the person who forgot to turn on their AAD, realized that they forgot their altimeter half way to altitude, and just installed a new, smaller canopy. Going back to Swiss cheese, none of those individual items would necessarily cause an incident, but when the holes in the Swiss cheese line up and make a path all the way through, that’s when an incident can happen. Keeping in mind the basic gear maintenance tips mentioned above, you are helping to prevent those holes from lining up, or at least increasing the odds that everything will work as designed when you need it most. Learn as much about your gear as you can!
If you have any questions, please talk to your local rigger, or contact me (Chris) through my website www.repackmyreserve.com. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
About the Author: Chris Saindon is a certified CSPA Rigger A and the owner/operator of RepackMyReserve.com.