A Guide To Container Features

Modern containers now sport a wide range of features,  and many have different names between manufacturers, multiple variations, and often little known benefits and drawbacks. Here, we hope to go some way to help you understand these features and which ones may be best for your new purchase; however, the information given here does not replace proper advice from a rigger, dealer, or instructor.


This guide is long and contains detail about many features. We have provided the index below to help you skip straight to the features you are interested in reading about.

Articulation (Hip Rings & Chest Rings)

RSL (Reserve Static Line) & MARD (Main Assisted Reserve Deployment) Systems

Padding & Spacer Foam

Laterals (Standard, Cut-In, Floating)

Cutaway and Reserve handles

Main deployment handles

D-Bag, Pilot Chute & Bridle


Dynamic Corners

Other Options



Metallic rings at the hips and chest that allow more flexibility in the harness and may make repairs and changes easier.





No articulation No Articulation ("Standard Harness")

Simpler to build - often cheaper

Less flexibility in the harness (which can also be an advantage!)

Hip rings Hip Rings

Easier change in angle between main lift web and leg straps

Easier to repair or replace leg straps


Full articulation Full Articulation

More flexibility in the harness

Easier repairs to main lift web

More flexibility in the harness (sometimes avoided by freeflyers)

Harness turns under canopy may be less effective


Debates around the use of RSL (Reserve Static Line) and MARD (Main Assisted Reserve Deployment) systems in different scenarios have been going on for many years. Separating Fact From Fiction on Parachutist Online has an excellent history and statistics around their use which is great reading for anyone looking to make an objective decision on the best choice for them.

An RSL will activate the reserve deployment during the release of a main and will usually result in a faster reserve activation and, thus, less altitude loss. The BPA mandates the use of an RSL system for student and A Licence skydivers.

You should seek advice from your instructor or appropriate coach if you are considering any new discipline, specifically:

  • Canopy Formation
  • Wingsuiting
  • Camera Flying
  • Canopy Piloting







Requires manual activation of the reserve after a cutaway

BPA A Licence jumpers and students are required to jump with an RSL 

Standard RSL Standard RSL

Backup device for deploying the reserve in a cutaway

Will usually deploy the reserve quicker than activation with the reserve handle

Required for A licence jumpers and students under the BPA

Can usually be disconnected for jumps when not desired

May reduce separation achieved after a cutaway from a canopy collission

There is an argument that an immediate deployment of the reserve after cutting away a spinning malfunction may increase the possibility of twists on the reserve.

(This argument is usually contered by the argument that the extra altitude would provide additional time to deal with them.)

Collins Lanyard Collins Lanyard

Reduces the chance of an RSL (or MARD) activation when the non-RSL riser is still attached by cutting away that riser if not already released



Faster deployment of the reserve during an RSL activation 


Most systems must release in the event of a direct deployment of the reserve (no main out). The Mirage Trap is the exception, as it's not connected unless activated.

Whereas an RSL will use the departing main to pull the reserve pin and initiate a normal reserve deployment, a MARD (Main Assisted Reserve Deployment) system allows the departing main canopy to pull out the reserve canopy (like a huge pilot chute), generally resulting in a faster reserve deployment.

There are several different systems available on different containers as listed below:


MARD System






Vector, Javelin, Vortex, Icon Pro







Sunrise Manufacturing




Jerry Baumchen

Sife, Fire

Other Terms

Stevens Lanyard: One of the original RSL designs comprised of a lanyard from the riser to the reserve handle. Still in use today on the Teardrop container.

Shackle: A metalic part on the lanyard to connect one end of the RSL system to the riser, with a tab that allows easy connecting and disconnecting.

DRD: Direct Reserve Deployment. Synonymous with MARD and used by SWS Fire to market their system.

Padding / Spacer Foam

Soft padding material on the back pad, shoulders, or leg straps that improves comfort.





No padding No padding


Harder wearing

Dries quicker after washing or water landings

Less comfort

3D Spacer Foam Spacer foam 



May take longer to dry if wet (e.g. water jumps, pond swooping, or washing the container)

May wear more quickly

Sunpath backpad Other padding (e.g. Sunpath backpad)

Comfort (see individual container literature)


Cut-in / Floating Laterals

The webbing at the bottom of the harness that sits around your hips can attach to the container at the sides (standard) or closer to the centre of the backpad (cut-in). Cut-in laterals help to keep the rig sitting against your back, which is important in disciplines such as freeflying.





Standard harness Standard harness (not cut-in)


Likely to fit a wider range of wearers

May allow unwanted movement on containers wider than the wearer's back

Cut- in laterals Cut in laterals

Stays closer to the back / hugs the waist. Particularly useful when the container is wider than the wearer's back.

Reduces the performance of harness turns under canopy

Floating laterals Floating laterals 

Balance between cut in and non cut in.

Fits a reasonable range of wearers.

Stays closer to the back / hugs the waist.


Adjustable Laterals Adjustable laterals 

Buckles allow the laterals to be lengthened or shortened to fit the widest range of wearers


Must be adjusted properly

Cutaway and Reserve Handles 

Various options for your emergency procedure handles provide varying pros and cons, usually revolving around balancing the ease of use against the likelihood of unwanted activation. Always consult an instructor before changing to different handles as they may require alteration or revision of your reserve procedures.





  Soft pad cutaway handle

Standard on most student and sport kit

Velcro to secure

Requires peeling from velcro

Requires grip to pull

 Looped handle Loop handle 

Requires no grip to activate- likely to be useful to a jumper with a weakness in the hand or grip

May be preferred by CF/CRW jumpers as less risk of lines catching than on a pad.

Still some snag risk, although the soft, flexible material makes this less likely

D-Ring reserve handle D-ring reserve handle 

Standard on most student kit

Requires no grip to activate with thumb

Potential hazard to catch and activate unintentionally (on the ground, in the plane, or in freefall)

 Reserve rings Mini D-ring reserve handle

Less of a snag hazad than a large ring

Can still be operated without grip

Potentially more difficult to locate than a larger ring

Still presents a possible snag

Soft pad reserve handle Soft pad reserve handle 

Less likely to be activated accidentally by objects such as cameras

May require a change in reserve procedures (speak to your instructor!)

Possibility of snagging lines in the event of a canopy wrap

Main Handle Options

There are a number of options for the handle on the pilot chute which are generally a matter of personal preference. For throw away pilot chutes the following options are common.





Pipe handle Pipe

The hard material is easier to feel when deploying the canopy


Easy to replace


Potential to release prematurely in certain scenarios such as poor BOC (bottom of container) pocket maintenance, poor packing, high wind speeds e.g. sit fly

Hackey Hackey

Ball may be easier to grab and throw

Hackey moves on the attachment point, which creates more wear

Potential to release prematurely in certain scenarios such as poor BOC (bottom of container) pocket maintenance, poor packing, high wind speeds e.g. sit fly

Freefly pud Freefly handle (pud)

Tab tucks under a main flap or dedicated flap but can be packed without using the tab

More secure- less likely to release prematurely. Often favoured by freeflyers who are subject to higher wind speeds

Requires tab to be released during pull sequence

Potentially harder to get hold of due to the shape sitting flush with container

Freefly hackey Freefly hackey

Easy to grab but with a tab to tuck in


Hackey moves on the attachment point, which creates more wear

Other Deployment Systems

The following systems are alternatives to a throw away pilot chute mounted on the bottom of the container.




Ripcord Ripcord

Often used on student equipment, a spring loaded pilot chute is packed in with the main and is released by pulling a ripcord. This relies on the spring forcing the pilot chute out of the jumpers burble and into clean airflow and leaves the jumper holding a ripcord.

Leg mounted PC Leg mounted / belly mounted

Either a throw away pilot chute or a ripcord can be mounted on the legstrap or belly band, although these options are no longer common on modern kit.

Pull out deployment Pull out

Designed to eliminate the possibility of a horseshoe malfunction, the pilot chute is packed in the main tray and the jumper physically pulls out the main pin (which is straight) from a handle to open the container and release the pilot chute. The BPA requires jumpers to have a C licence to jump a pull out system.

Static line Static line

Commonly still used for early training jumps in the UK through the Category System course; the main is deployed automatically by a static line connected to the aircraft as the jumper leaves.

D-Bag, Pilot Chute and Bridle





Stowless bag (mpod)

Stowless D-Bag

Allows for a cleaner deployment of the lines

No more bungees!

Requires careful packing

Semi stowless bag

Semi-Stowless D-Bag

Allows for a cleaner deployment of the lines but with the same security of bungees on the mouthlocks

Fewer bungees to replace!

Requires careful packing

Long Bridle

Long Bridle

Allows the pilot chute to be further away from the jumper and burble during deployment.

Favoured by wingsuiters or camera jumpers who are likely to have a larger burble.

Takes slightly longer to pack

More bulk when pilot chute is packed

Possibly more difficult to cock (particularly for the shorter jumper!)

Collapsible pilot chute Collapsible Pilot Chute

Reduces drag on the canopy during canopy flight. More important for smaller canopies.


Possible hesitation during deployment or malfunction if not cocked during packing.

Riser Options





Type 17 risers


Type 17 Narrow risers

Narrower risers reduce drag compared to Type 8 (wide) risers

Narrower risers may allow the jumper to pull their slider down if set up correctly and desired

A "swoop" or "low drag" options may also be available where the riser is folded in half and stitched to further reduce drag.

Narrow risers usually come with mini 3 ring systems which are less effective at reducing the force than full size 3 rings.

Riser length Length

Each container will have a standard length riser which will be suitable for most jumpers

Shorter jumpers may require shorter risers to allow them to reach their slider

Longer risers may affect the handling characteristics and control inputs of the canopy for high performance canopy pilots

  Dive Loops

Larger dive loops are easier to grab hold of

Teflon cables or other stiffeners will ensure the loops stay open during flight

Larger dive loops may add bulk to the pack job at the sides of the container

Anti twist housings Anti-Twist

Hard housings for the excess cutaway cable are designed to prevent the cables getting locked in place during excessive twists, which may otherwise prevent a cutaway.

Additional bulk

Note: Most risers with mini rings are interchangeable between container types; a notable exception is Icon risers, which have an elongated middle ring that means they aren't compatible with most other containers. Always check with an instructor or rigger when dealing with equipment you are unfamiliar with.

Dynamic Corners

Fewer or no stitches in the corners of the main tray allow the flaps to open up further, resulting in a cleaner extraction of the main canopy, but generally requiring more care when packing.





Regular corners Regular corners

Easy to pack

Corners of the container may result in the d-bag turning on deployment (more likely on wingsuit jumps)

Dynamic corners

Allows the tray to open up fully on deployment, reducing interference with the bag leaving the container. This is particularly useful with the different deployment angle on wingsuit jumps and prevents rocking of the d-bag.

More careful packing required

May look less aesthetically pleasing

Other Options





Hook Knife

Less likely to lose than on a chest strap

Spare if you also carry one on your chest strap

Can usually be mounted on the legstrap or MLW (Main Lift Web) cover

BPA requires all jumpers A licence or above to carry at least 1 servicable hook knife



Black Hardware



May wear differently to stainless steel hardware

Extended chest strap Long Chest Strap

If you loosen your chest strap under canopy a longer chest strap allows for more freedom of movement in the harness. Speak to an instructor if you are considering doing this.

More cumbersome to stow

Embroidery Embroidery


Allows you to personalise your rig. Often used by self-employed skydivers to advertise their companies.


Affects the resale value of the container





TSO (Technical Standards Order)

The most widely recognised testing standard administered by the US FAA (Federal Aviation Authority). There are several revisions of the standard as it has been updated over time.

Javelin, Vortex, Wings, Vector, Atom, Icon, Mirage, Infinity, Teardrop

National Authority Type Certification

Only US citizens can apply for a TSO so there are a number of containers on the market from Europe that do not have a TSO but are tested using the same system. These are sometimes granted national certifications; however, not all nations operate such a system.

Sife, Fire

No certification

Where national certifications do not exist, a container may not have any certification. It is unusual to find mainstream containers that fall into this category.

No mainstream containers

Final Note

There are constantly new changes and innovations in skydiving equipment and we are forever learning about new advantages and disadvantages to various designs. If you notice anything that is wrong or could be updated, we would love to hear from you (we might even send you a litle something as thanks) and, as always, please refer to your instructors for advice. 

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