This article appeared in its original form on pussfoot.com, a website for extreme-sports enthusiasts.
Gear damage happens in many ways: from normal wear and tear, sliding in landings, dragging rigs across the packing floor, etc. Surprisingly, one item that can cause significant damage is the keeper, the elastic band with which you stow your chest or leg straps. Just about everyone has elastic keepers on their rigs, and oftentimes the way they are assembled and placed on the rig can cause damage.
There are a variety of keepers, but the most common are comprised of cotton elastic held together by nylon binding tape that is hot-knifed closed. With this type of manufacturing, the tail end of the keeper often has sharp edges where the hot knife has cut it. More often than not, that rough edge of the binding tape faces the leg or chest-strap webbing. Over time, the friction of the binding tape’s edge against the webbing causes wear, which compromises the integrity of the webbing. Depending on the extent of the damage, the owner may have to send the rig back to the manufacturer for repairs.
Jumpers can combat this damage by turning their keepers so that the rough edge is facing away from the webbing. Jumpers can also ask their riggers to sand or heat any rough edges to smooth them out. Even better, they can ask their riggers to sew rather than hot knife the ends in place.
Rubber packing bands—which jumpers sometimes use in lieu of elastic keepers on chest straps—can also cause damage. Although short-term use does not tend to cause problems, in the long term, the chest strap may start to become fuzzy, indicating that webbing threads are broken from the friction of the rubber on the webbing. Since broken threads compromise the tensile strength of the strap, a fuzzy chest strap should be replaced. If you have any questions about whether damage you’ve noticed merits strap replacement, check with your rigger or contact the manufacturer directly.
Shauna Finley | D-34907 and FAA Master Rigger
USPA Eastern Regional Director