How to Buy New Skydiving Gear
(With The Minimum Hit To Your Credit Rating)
You want it. Bad.
And you want it your way.
In your colors.
And nothing’s gonna stop you.
If you’ve already done your time at the rental counter (and put some more mileage on a set of used gear, as you must), you’re well within your rights to be ogling the hot new nylon. Custom fit, hotshot technology and all the look-at-me embroidery a jumper could want? Just take my money.
You’re no doubt aware that this purchase is going to rival car-buying in the cash outlay -- there’s really no way around it. That said, there are some steps you can take to get the best possible deal on your new skyrig.
1. Use the best brains you know (including yours).
Start by asking your mentor’s opinion. Then ask your rigger’s opinion. Then ask your hero’s opinion. Ask the very smartest people you know to make their recommendations before you start the conversation with dealers and factory reps (who are, naturally, highly persuasive folk). There’s a labyrinth of pricey options to consider. Expert advice will help you navigate it without losing your shirt on poshity-posh back pads and tie-dye.
You’ll have to be very honest with yourself about your skill level, your height and weight, the discipline you’ll spend the most time practicing, your annual jump numbers and your (realistic) total budget.
Spoiler: this is not the fun part.
2. Be a brand snob.
Y’know those skydiving gear brands that buy front-fold real estate in all the parachuting association magazines? The ones that always seem to have a pop-up and a smiling face at the major boogies? The ones that place their logos like the tap of a knighting sword on the fine shoulders of the world-champion teams?
Those are the brands you want.
This might feel a little like selling out to snazzy marketing. It’s not. If you play your cards right, you’ll have plenty of time in your career to experiment with fringe gear; for now, you need what a top-of-the-food-chain manufacturer brings to the table, namely:
1. Well-tested components, created in a well-established factory, and the attendant safety track record.
2. Equipment that’s familiar to any given rigger, thus easier to fix -- with parts that aren’t hard to replace
Later on, you’ll have the requisite knowledge and experience to branch into buying specialty equipment, experimenting with less-tested technology and trying out the offerings of lesser-known manufacturers. At this point, however, you don’t know what you don’t know – and that can be dangerous. It can also be very, very expensive.
3. Try before you cry.
Another benefit of buying from a major manufacturer: the ubiquitous demo. The cardinal rule in airsports gear-buying is a simple one: never buy it until you’ve tried it. Another note: you’ll certainly see demos on-hand at any major skydiving boogie, but do yourself a favor and evaluate gear outside the frantic context of crowded airspace. (When you’re not constantly chasing a hangover. Yes. You. I know this.)
4. Blend it.
*Everything* doesn’t have to be new, you know. In fact, it’s a really good idea to save money by blending new components with old, if you do it intelligently.
If -- after weighing the value benefits -- you decide to go all-in, try to buy everything together for a package discount. Shop the large gear shops to compare their (often attractive) package offerings. Since they’re all assembling their deals from the same major-manufacturer components, you can feel perfectly confident purchasing the one with the lowest price.
5. Repeat after me: dolla dolla bill, y’awl.
Cash, if you can scrounge it together, is going to net you the best price. It’ll give you the best position to negotiate around taxes and shipping fees, and might just let you wiggle out from under the credit card charge that most dealers fold into to their baseline pricing.
6. Slow your roll.
Take your time as a buyer on the market -- it pays off. After a couple of seasons, you’ll start to pick up the rhythm of yearly and seasonal sales. Go to as many boogies as you can, browsing the gear and sniffing out event discounts. (Don’t forget to stay for the raffle! Major gear giveaways land in lucky laps.) Get to know your local dealers, who might cotton to you and let you know when there’s a price shift on the horizon.
Soon enough, all that waiting will pay off -- and you’ll be swaggering to the plane in a shiny new kit that just screams “I will cry like a tiny child if I don’t stand up this landing.”
7. Buy a stiff-bristled Brush of Shame.
Just do it.
Interesting article! I agree and disagree with point #2 - seems to me that there are some very good up and coming gear manufacturers that have been in a niche market and are now breaking out. Peregrine Manufacturing, Basik Air Concepts, Innovative Parachute Technology are a few examples of newer guys in the market that are providing great components for the value. I guess I would rather have someone with an offbrand container + AAD than name brand container + no AAD.
I appreciate your perspective, but as a consumer of 21 years and a gear dealer for almost 20 years, I'm finding a lot of inaccuracies in this article.
#1 Besides your instructors who watched you learn to skydive, most reputable dealers are a great source of unbiased knowledge. They are the ones who deal with various different pieces of equipment and match them to skydivers on a daily bases. They will be able to explain all the available options to you and help you navigate what is appropriate for you. (If we were in it for the money, we would not be in this industry, believe me)
#2 is a bit shallow all the way around. Many new brands are developed by engineers that have been designing and manufacturing rigs since you were in diapers and have put in solid R & D. At the same time, many renowned manufacturers may have production or QC issues at any given time. Talk to someone who has been in the industry for a fair amount of time and deals regularly with multiple brands. They are the ones who can give you the inside info.
#3 Try before you buy is not always an option for people who don't travel or jump at a mecca drop zone. But many of us offer extensive gear consultations and money back guarantees.
#4 "Shop the large gear shops to compare their (often attractive) package offerings. Since theyâ€™re all assembling their deals from the same major-manufacturer components, you can feel perfectly confident purchasing the one with the lowest price."
This is the some of the worst advise right here. SHOP LOCAL. Again, dealer margins are so low that competing with price is a pipe dream. Most reputable dealers will compete with service. Personal service. A full gear sale shouldn't be a click, point, purchase event. It should start with a full gear consultation with a qualified consultant. You should get the right gear at a fair price. If you find something online cheaper, bring that up to your local dealer. 9 out of 10 they will price match and you still get the hands on personal service.
#5 "credit card charge that most dealers fold into to their baseline pricing" I don't know any dealers that do this. Some of us offer another 3% off our already low margins because that is what the credit card company charges us to run a credit card. Of course we would rather give our skydiving peers that 3% off rather than shell it out to the banks.
#6 "Seasonal discounts" are not the norm in our industry either. They happen from time to time, but most of the major brands you advocate in #2 have consistent prices throughout the year.
Just my 2 cents... worth what you paid for it ;)
Great article! My only concern is the fact that most individuals facing this wonderful purchasing decision. And yes this is a great time for many, I can remember spending hours of time thinking about this or that >>>> is the fact that most don't have the experience to make the informed decision. This isn't to put any damper on anyoneâ€™s enthusiasm or desires just that it takes a certain number of jumps to really to be able to discriminate the nuances of the various types of gear available! To me this makes a great argument for purchasing new gear and making a conservative purchase. New gear because of the resale value if and when you decide to make changes. And conservative for safety reasons. Just my 2 cents for some commonly overlooked suggestions. (BTW my messaging service here is still broken, so unless they decide to fix it, you can't contact me here.)
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