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What gear should I get?

Posted Tuesday, December 15, 1998

By Chuting Gallery

Putting a skydiving rig together is a six step process in this order.

  • Determine the size reserve.
  • Decide what brand reserve.
  • Decide on F111 or ZP fabric for the main.
  • Determine the size main.
  • Find a container to hold the canopies.
Or go with the complete, ready to jump approach.

First lets talk about the reserve.

What size reserve?

F111 7 cell reserves fly and land differently than today's ZP 9 cells and many of today's jumpers don't have experience jumping 7 cells of any type. On top of that you have to factor in "Murphy's law". When you have a reserve ride you will have a bad spot and will have to land in a less than an optimum area. We do not recommend that you exceed 1.1 lb./sq. ft on any reserve due to performance reasons. The canopy can handle the load, it's how it flies with that load that's the problem. With a heavily loaded canopy it can make things rather interesting. At 180 lb. and no gear a 170 class reserve is loaded to 1.06 lb./sq. ft and a 190 class reserve is loaded to 0.95 lb./sq. ft. Generally, putting 180 pounds under a 170 class reserve is not a problem as long as you are in reasonable physical condition and do not have any other reason that may warrant going to a 190. Agood argument for the larger reserve may be previous injuries, container compatibility, use of weight vests, and although we hate to admit it, age. If you use a weight vest, you must add the weight of the vest to your body weight. I weigh 165 lb. and wear four to eight pounds of weights. That brings my weight up to 169 to 173 lb. Using the chart below I find that my reserve should be a 170 size class.

As a general rule the table below is the weight range for reserves.

Size Class   Suggested Reserve Canopy Loading
120   below 132 lb.
130   117 to 143 lb.
135   121 to 148 lb.
150   135 to 165 lb.
170   153 to 187 lb.
190   171 to 209 lb.
200   180 to 220 lb.
220   198 to 242 lb.
250   225 lb. and above
What brand of reserve?

If you do head down or free style I don't recommend the Tempo. Although the Tempo meets all TSO requirements and is a good reserve, it wasn't designed for the high terminal speeds of head down or free style and there are reports of damage to the canopy when deployed at such speeds. If you do just RW or CRW, the Tempo is fine. Other than the above caveat, the canopies from PD, Flight Concepts, Precision, or P.I.S.A. are all excellent.

And now the main canopy.

F111 or Zero P?

There was a time when first canopies for entry level jumpers were F111 and only the 'skygods' jumped ZP. That doesn't exist today. There are ZP and ZP / F111 mix (hybrid) canopies that are excellent for the first main.

F111 has two major discrepancies. First, F111 begins to wear out at 100 jumps and is pretty much worn out at 500 to 700 jumps. Second, F111 canopies are nearly impossible to sell on the used market.

Therefore look for a ZP or hybrid canopy.

What size main?

On reserves we highly recommend that loadings do not exceed 1.1 lb./sq. ft. Similarly we recommend that entry level skydivers do not exceed 1.1 lb./sq. ft for their first mains. As you gain experience, you may downsize your main. Nearly all of us do. Why such a "big" main? Experience. The entry level skydiver doesn't have much of it. Heavier loaded canopies are less forgiving of the minor mistakes that we all make as 'newbies'. A lighter loaded canopy will help you walk away from the botched landing. That's why canopies are huge for students. You have some experience now and you are now able to handle a higher loaded canopy. But be aware that going too small may cut your safety margins to next to nothing. A small error that simply made you fall down on a student canopy may give you serious injuries on ahighly loaded canopy. If you absolutely must have a F111 canopy then you need to go one size larger than you would if you had a ZP or hybrid canopy. For example if, according to the chart above, you would jump a 170 class canopy, then you should go to a 190 class F111 canopy. The reason for this is that the totalperformance of F111 is less than ZP. Actually, a ZP is actually easier to land than an equal sized 170 F111.

What model main?

This, along with the loading is the combination that can get entry level jumpers in trouble. A PD Stiletto 170 is a much higher performance canopy than a PD Sabre 170 at the same loadings. PD has several canopies that are appropriate. They are the PD Spectre and the PD Silhouette. Flight Concepts offers the Pro Series that is also excellent.

Something to put them in. The harness / container.

Size and model.

Now that you have decided on the reserve and main canopies now you have to put them in something. Discussions about container X versus container Y quickly degenerate into a personal preferences argument.

FACT: All of the harness / containers from the major manufacturers work. Pull the handles, the parachutes come out. Function is a given. However there are differences in how the containers fit. If possible, demo jump several containers. Be aware that a major factor in fit is the harness. A harness that is either too large or too small will not be comfortable and may actually be dangerous. People have fallen out of harnesses that are too large and have had problems finding handles on harnesses that are too small.

Take a look around your local DZ. What are the top two or three rigs being jumped. Narrow your decision to these. Why? Resale. You will have a much better chance selling your used container if it is common to your DZ than one that is a strange orphan. However with this in mind, I'd lean toward the top tier container manufacturers and models such as the Sun Path Javelin, Rigging Innovations Talon or Genera, and the Mirage Systems Mirage. This is due to detail quality. A container from the top tier companies tend to have better quality control, better attention to details, and better product support than containers from "Brand X" companies.

Finally when you have decided on the model of container, find out if the canopies you have chosen will fit in it. All of the major manufacturers have sizes that will accommodate common main / reserve combinations.

The complete, ready to jump approach.

Rigging Innovations offers the Genera. RI has revolutionized the market by offering a complete, ready to jump new rig for the cost of a good used rig. With the Genera you decide what size main / reserve combination is appropriate for your weight, then your harness size appropriate for your height and weight. Rigging Innovations does the rest. In four weeks your rig arrives ready to jump direct from the factory. Rigging Innovations has taken the guesswork out of buying your first rig. For more information on this option, go to The Chuting Gallery.

Copyright © 1998 - 2001 The Uninsured Chuting Gallery, Inc.
Reprinted with permission





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