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!
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.
ParaFlite has a set of instructions on how to pack by this method, which has
been around for quite a while.
This is the method of packing that is started by flaking the canopy standing up.
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.
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).