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Buying skydiving equipment for the new skydiver

When Should Beginners Buy Their Own Gear

Wing Loading

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Buying skydiving equipment for the new skydiver.

Questions to ask when investing ?

The investment  you are going to  make in your skydiving equipment literarily ranges between $4 for a Mary Poplins style umbrella to $12000 for a state of the art tandem parachute. The  bad news is there is no such thing of cheap safe quality equipment. You can expect to pay between $2599 and $9000 for state of the art gear. Obviously you must consider your personal financial circumstances, but how much is your life worth to you.

Should I by new or used?

This is always a tough question, sometimes you get lucky and get equipment that is safe for you and reasonably reliable other times, because of your excitement and wanting to be part of the community, You will get F*.  Buyer beware. There is no returning bum gear.  If you wish to purchase second hand gear purchase from a reputable dealer (Any in skydiving?).

Get the equipment appraised by an independent rigger. (not any old skydiver, whose buddies all know he trying to dump his old junk on the unsuspecting. You!).

 It is highly recommended that you jump the equipment first. One indication that the equipment is junk is when the DZO won't let you on the airplane.


The age old question, an old adage (round is sound square is there) does not quite apply anymore. Unless you are a smoke Jumper. Paratroop/ or aerobatic pilot don't buy a round parachute.  All reserves in the USA must be have a T.S.O. Fancy talk for F.A.A. specifications.

Modern square reserves  are generally constructed of 7 cells.  Modern mains generally come in 7 or 9 cells .The main questions to ask in finding  suitable parachutes are based on wing loading and construction materials.

Standard wing loading for a seven cell should be about 1dqft  for every pound of weight.+ 30 sq ft. i.e. if you way 200 lbs jump a 230 sqft.

Loading for mains are normally 1lb per sqft. You weigh 200 lbs get a 200 s.. If you wish to maximize performance then a good rule of thumb is take your weight subtract 30 and you will get close to best forward speed i.e.. 200lbs jump a 170.

Remember the more you load the wing the faster forward you will go but you downward velocity will also increase. Your inherent parachute stability will also decrease, It will become more susceptible to   turbulence and will not return to straight flight as fast. The parachute will also be less forgiving in pilot error. Consider the size of DZ and spotting capabilities.

Many people in selecting there reserves feel that because there are used so irregularly. That smaller is better, forgetting that when you have that reserve ride, you will be low and off the dz surrounded by nasty looking trees and power lines waiting just for you.

Canopy Material.

F111 is great when its new but sun and use rapidly degrade there ability to slow the air flow.F111 parachutes are great till about 200 jumps and then its the luck of the draw. I had one that lasted me almost 1500 jumps, I also had one that was trash after 50.

Spend the money buy zero P. The canopies have better resale value and maintain there lack of porosity a lot longer. The parachute will probably go through a few line sets but so what.

Lines. Now here is a controversial subject.

. I like Dacron , there is more elasticity in the lines and I believe they assist in making the parachute open slower because of that stretch. They also create more friction on the slider grommets, retarding the slider. They appear more susceptible to breaking in dry dusty   climates. On my strong tandem mains they had t be replaced about every 150 jumps. On my sport gear over 500 jumps.

Spectra. The lines are thinner supposedly they cut down on drag and give the parachute better speed. However there is no stretch on the line and through use the lines through slider frictional heat actually shrink. This makes the canopy open harder, Placing more wear and tear on your body. All the opening shock is transmitted immediately into your harness, Replacing the lines about every 300 jumps is highly recommended.

Vectran Is a relatively new comer to skydiving so far I have liked it on my tandem mains. The lines are slightly bulkier but still easy to pack. I have not had the opportunity to test it on a sport canopy but it seems a better deal than spectra.

Kevlar.  Don't spend your money.

There are many other types of line they come in different widths, elasticity, weaves, breaking strains and names used for different purposes. Check with your rigger or manufacturer for more information.

Harness Container system.

Harness container systems are like Japanese cars, they are essentially the same. There is so much cross breeding and when a new container comes around, its because someone is pissed at someone else.

Choice of containers when looking at reliability, maintenance, spares availability, manufacturer responsiveness, and resale value is a Mirage, Javelin Odyssey, Vector, and Wings has been around so damn long that it makes Chinese civilization look like it was born yesterday.

How many ways can you fit webbing to the human form? When purchasing a system you need to make sure it fits correctly. The reserve and main should fit there containers snugly when packed. There is a tendency in skydiving culture to cram as much material in as smallest size as possible. This makes the container very stiff on the back. It also makes containers extremely difficult to close leading to forcing rigs closed , damaging grommets and bending pins.

When considering parachute vs. container volume, consider the environment you will generally be skydiving in. A dry hot climate will make parachutes harder to compress. (Of course your sweating all over it will help with the humidity question.).

Sizing the harness to your body is extremely important. Having the correct length for your torso will make a difference to your comfort under parachute as well as being able to find  cut away and reserve handles.

Automatic activation devices.

This is a must. 

If I were going to jump an automatic opener, I'd buy new rather than used, as used AADs (Automatic Opening Device) usually aren't that cheap. The two top AAD's are the Vigil II & Airtec Cypres, because both have earned an excellent reputation for reliability and hassle-free ownership.

The Vigil II, (@$1395.00), has no life limit, does not require every  4 year maintenance (which takes 3 weeks for the Cypres), and the battery lasts @ 10 years.

The Cypres II, (@$1450.00),  has a life limit of 12 years, and requires every 4 years to send it back to the factory (which takes 3 weeks) for testing, and the 4 Year test costs $225.00.


Gee we really don't need a long discussion, wear one.


Wear one the odds of staying alive skydiving are greater than dying, the odds of being killed are greater than being paralyzed, The odds of getting your head bashed in on a bad landing are really good. Reduce your risk factor. Wear a snug fitting comfortable  helmet that will protect your head from minor impacts.


Check out your skydiving discipline and get the jumpsuit that works best. (Kind of obvious huh?) Every DZ has its preferences , in my opinion go with the flow. Jumpsuits don't substitute for skydiving skills but they so assist in regulating fall rate and looking cool. Physical exercise and diet also assist in these endeavors. I personally have never managed to purchase a custom built  jumpsuit that has fitted correctly. I buy off the rack, try it on ,it works for me , Great.

I hope this demystifies the buying process for you, perhaps it just shows you how hard or simple it can be. Either way I will be happy to assist in helping purchase equipment for you. Just remember I don't work for free.  I accept cash, cashiers  check or visa.




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