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Gear

    How the Pros Keep Their Canopies In Perfect Form

    Canopy wear-and-tear can sneak up on you--and, if you’re new(ish) to the swooping trade, you might not know exactly what parts of your equipment need extra attention. Since a dedicated canopy pilot plies his trade on the basis of impeccable nylon, only a seasoned pro’s advice on the matter will do. To that end, I caught up with multi-disciplinary virtuoso Pete Allum to ask him for his best tips and tricks for keeping that kit in fighting shape.
    Pete started skydiving in 1979, and it didn’t take long for him to clamber up on his first podium. Since 1985, Pete has stood on national- and world-level podiums almost every year (sometimes, more than once). In the pursuit of all that gold--and in the course of his extensive coaching work--Pete has made more than 32,000 skydives. It’s safe to say, then, that he’s seen a few canopies through their life cycles. Here’s what he has to say on the subject.
    1. Pack your own parachute as much as possible.
    When you’re hopping and popping like a broken record, the last thing you probably want to do is wiggle around on a packing mat. Pete suggests that you should suck it up and make the effort, because your personal attention is the most important factor in your gear’s fitness. After all, your packer’s job is to get it in the container. Your gear’s overall well-being is your job.
    “If I’m jumping 20 times a day,” Pete explains, “I certainly won’t be packing it every time, but I want to make sure I have my own eyes on it regularly. Even if I have a very heavy schedule, I’ll make sure to pack it myself at least a couple of times a week. That gives me the opportunity I need to see the things I wouldn’t if I only jumped it. When it’s in my hands, I can check for problems like closing pin damage, dinged grommets and center cell discoloration from sweat.”
    2. Don’t be shy. Keep your standards high.
    Non-ideal openings accelerate wear-and-tear on your gear (as well as your body), so it falls to you to make sure that some standards are being upheld when a third party is compressing your fabric. Pete advocates a professional, proactive position, especially when it comes to stows.
    “Packing stows vary widely, and not everyone is aware of how important it is to be consistent,” Pete admonishes. “So it’s a good idea to make sure your packer is using the same large stows throughout and double-wrapping every stow on the bag.”
    Finally, make sure the packer is dressing the container’s flaps correctly. If they don’t, Pete notes that creases will form, building memory in the fabric over time. These ever-deepening furrows can cause degradation as the container ages.
    3. Watch the wear points on the lines.
    With high performance comes high mechanical stress. A small, aggressive canopy has a tendency to shake the system like an energetic rottweiler thrashes a favorite chew toy, so you’ll need to keep an even more vigilant eye on your canopy’s wear points: especially the lower control lines and the places at the top and bottom of your lines where your grommets like to grind. If there’s even a hint of fraying on your lines, bringing your gear to a rigger should rise to the top of the to-do list.
    “When I’m in Florida, it’s the easiest thing in the world to bring it over to Performance Designs, so I’ll pop over at the earliest sign of wear,” Pete says. “When I’m farther afield, my standards have to relax a little, but it’s still a top priority to get it done.”
    4. Give your pilot chute an extra look.
    Pete recommends that you check for wear at the bridle attachment point at every opportunity. Beyond that, he notes that you should occasionally tug out the kill line and check it for fraying, twisting and shortening.
    “The system has a couple of inches of margin,” Pete explains, “But if the kill line measures outside that allowance, you need to take it to a rigger.”
    5. Keep an eye on how many jumps you’ve already put on the canopy.
    Especially if you aren’t a logbook-lovin’ kinda jumper, it’s easy to lose track of a canopy’s jump numbers. According to Pete, that will need to change. When it comes to jump numbers, swoopers don’t enjoy the luxury of unintentional ignorance.
    “Especially if you’ve been jumping someplace hot and/or dusty, it pays to know exactly how far along you are,” Pete advises. “As soon as the ticker goes over 200 jumps, I start to pay way more attention, even though the line set is expected to last much longer than that.”


    6. Be an active participant in a high-caliber team.
    When your zoomy descent becomes the focus of your skydiving days, your need for a professional team of advisers increases exponentially. Take time to build relationships with the very best, most enthusiastically recommended riggers, packers and coaches you can find, and don’t hesitate to reach out to them for guidance. It takes a village to raise a safe (and super) swooper, after all.
    To pursue the perfect swoop under the matchless tutelage of Pete Allum, reach out to him through Flight-1.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Know Your Gear: Harness and Container Systems Part 2

    Harnesses: Fitting to your body and effects to consider...

    During part 1 (take a look here) we described the different parts of a skydiving harness and the materials used on it. On the second part we are a bit more practical. Here we will go through most (all?) harness options and designs, independently of the manufacturer. We will see what they are and which purpose they have, so you can decide if they are for you or not. Most manufacturers are open to offer non standard options if the buyer asks about it. However, there is a significant number of options that are specific for a subgroup of manufacturers, and therefore you can't freely mix and match every single option explained here.

    To keep things ordered we will go from top to bottom of the harness. Let's go!
    Risers

    Going from top to bottom, the first thing you find are the main risers. As simple as they seem to be, they have a significant number of options.
    Webbing

    The first thing to decide is which type of webbing you want on your risers. In this time and age there is little debate: If you are not an outlier you'll want type 17 risers. There are multiple reasons. The main technical reason is that it makes it easier to pull down the slider to stow it behind your head. Type 17 is also preferred to type 8 because of its lower bulk and cooler appearance (which is, of course, not a technical reason). It typically comes paired with minirings, which are also less bulky than traditional rings and "cool" looking.

    Regarding webbing, a second option is to have risers sewed in half, reducing its cross section and drag. This option is only available in type 17 risers and has a very specific audience: hardcore swoopers. They need to reduce drag as much as possible, to squeeze out all the performance in their canopies. If you are not a hardcore swooper you can ignore this option. Moreover, some manufacturers advise against these low profile risers if you are going to deploy at terminal speed.

    The last bit regarding webbing on risers is its length. 21" (53 cm) is the standard length of many manufacturers. As usual, check first with them to ensure that is true. You can also order them shorter (if you have short arms) or longer. It is normally recommended to have them as long as possible, but allowing to reach the slider. That's because with longer risers the canopy can "open up" a bit more, and you'll have more range in all your controls, particularly in toggles. That also means that you can stall your canopy easier, so the whole system has to be in balance.
    Diving loops

    Diving loops are nowadays kind of standard, and even rigs targeted at newly licensed skydivers have them. There are, however almost as many kinds as manufacturers.

    The simplest type is a loop of type 17 webbing sewed close to the top of the front risers. These loops are easy to manufacture, cheap, and play no role on hooking your main canopy. On the flip side, they lay flat against the risers, making them more difficult to grab and causing distractions, and are harder on the fingers.

    Another common type of loop uses tubular webbing. The advantage of this type of loop over the simple type 17 is two-fold: It is easier on the fingers, allowing to hold the front risers longer, and the loop tends to stay open, making it easier to grab. Sometimes these loops have extra material inside (stiffeners or bungee cords) to ensure they stay open when you need them. It is also possible that the tubular webbing is sewed in the inside part of a regular type 17 loop.

    In recent years the so called "louie" loops have become more popular. These loops have a double layer of webbing, and stay easily open. But their most distinctive feature is that they wrap the loop used to connect the canopy to the risers. That implies 2 things: First and foremost, they require more attention when connecting a canopy. The soft links (these loops do not accept hard links) have to go through the diving loops and the connecting loops. Routing the soft links just through the diving loops can have serious consequences. The stitching could break and the whole line group could be released. The advantage of these loops is that it allows the canopy pilot to pull from the highest point of the risers, giving more range and a more comfortable pull.


    Diving loop with tubular webbing on the inside for added comfort and to keep it open.


    Louie loop. Note how the soft link has to go through the link loop and the dive loop.  

    The last thing to comment here is that CRW dogs typically have dive blocks instead of dive loops. Dive blocks are easier to grab and release, which makes them more useful than loops in that environment.
    Toggles

    Manufacturing techniques vary wildly between different rigs. So much, that we won't cover them in too much detail here. What is important is that the toggles stay secured until you grab them. To the best of my knowledge, that is true for every modern reputable manufacturer. Nevertheless, we can analyze the different components/options, even though each manufacturer uses its own technique and rarely offers changes to it.

    Brake line retainer: That's the part of the toggle that goes through the cat's eye in the brake lines. Normally it is a "hardened" piece made using multiple layers of webbing. Some manufacturers use a straight pin instead. While this seems like a good idea, it opens the door to misrigging, since the pin fits through the guide ring. That could result in the brake line pulling on the pin and its pocket, which could be easily damaged.

    Toggle retainers: The toggles need to be secured in place. This is achieved with either stiffer parts inserted in pockets in the risers (just like the brake line retainer), straight pins inserted in tighter pockets, or snaps. The number of stiff parts and pins varies between 2 and 3. The orientation also varies. That is why some cases require an upwards motion before pulling the toggles down to release them. Should snaps be used, it is important to remark that the snaps should perforate an extra piece of webbing sewed in the risers, not the webbing of the risers itself.

    Slack retainers: These are loops sewed on the back side of the back risers. They can be a simple piece of tape (which tend to let the slack a bit more loose), or a elastic (which secures the slack better, but makes the slack stowing more tedious).


    Toggle with stiffener on top and pin on bottom, tape slack retainers and closed top pocket. Other options are stiffeners on top on bottom, pin on top, extra stiffener pointing downwards on top, elastic retainers and open (at the top) top pocket.  
    Additional guide rings
     

    Some riser manufactures have the option of placing an extra set of guide rings at the top of the risers. This way, during full flight, the brake lines go through this set of rings, but not through the normal guide rings. To stow the brakes the cat's eye has to go through the normal rings, the toggle has to lock the brake in place, and the excess can be normally stowed. The benefit of this option is to have a smoother transition to rears, and reduce the length that the brake line is traveling, since it doesn't have to go down to the guide ring and up again towards wherever the pilot has his/her hands. If you are into canopy piloting, or if you need to have very short brake lines, this might be an interesting option for you.
    3 rings

    The last set of options in the risers is the 3 rings system. The first thing to decide here is if you are happy with today's standard: Minirings. The vast majority of sport rigs have them today, mostly for aesthetic reasons. They work just fine, and you rarely see rigs with large rings nowadays. But the pulley minirings form is slightly less effective than in large rings. That means that the force needed during cutaway might be higher. Modern risers have extra housings for the cutaway cable -sometimes with teflon inserts-, to avoid them from being pinched in twists, and make cutaways more difficult. The usage of these housings in modern risers offsets the extra force required to cutaway with minirings in most cases. Another thing to consider is that typically minirings come with type 17 risers, and large rings with type 8 risers, even though other combinations are possible. So the type of webbing you want on your risers might tip the balance for you, if you are undecided.

    Aerodyne, to keep the aesthetics of minirings but without compromising on pull forces, designed a modified 3-ring release system. The "miniforce" rings system is essentially the same as other minirings systems, but with an enlarged middle ring. That improves the pulley efficiency and reduces the load in the white loop. If you want to use these risers in a container not manufactured by Aerodyne, check first with your manufacturer about component compatibility. We will talk a bit more about this at the end of the section.


    Aerodyne's "miniforce" 3-rings system.

    Lastly, you can decide the hardware finish. There are 3 main options in the market:

    Cadmium plated steel: This is possibly the oldest type of hardware used in skydiving that is still sold today. It works well will all kinds of webbing, the plating offers corrosion protection and it is generally cheaper, despite the extra costs associated to dealing with cadmium's toxicity. However, the plating can flake off over years, and then corrosion might happen, depending on the environmental conditions and how you treat your gear. Moreover, it is not shiny, which goes against one of the (sadly) first principles of skydiving: You have to look cool.


    Cadmium plated steel 3-rings system after more than 1000 jumps.

    Stainless steel: This kind of hardware is the most commonly used today. It offers better corrosion protection than plated steel, since there is not plating that can flake off. It is and stays shiny. And it slips more. 3-rings release system can lose about 5% efficiency (more force transmitted to the small ring) because of the reduced friction. Arguably, in well manufactured miniring systems, it doesn't play a role.


    Stainless steel 3-rings system after 100 jumps.

    Black hardware: This is the latest addition in hardware finish. It is steel hardware with an oxide layer, that gives it its matte black color. It is relatively recent, so field experience is more limited than stainless steel and cadmium plated steel. Some people claim that after hundreds of jumps it doesn't have significant usage marks. However, at least in some cases, marks are pretty visible (see also the pictures of chest rings).


    Black 3-rings system after 100 jumps.

    The chosen finish will affect the 3-rings system, buckles, chest and hip rings, and RSL shackles. However, whatever you choose, it won't affect the grommets or housings of your rig. Maybe something to consider.

    Some people mix risers with different hardware materials and from different manufacturers. This works fine in most cases. However, you are stacking the odds against you if you are not careful. On one hand dimensions and placement of all the parts should match. RSL ring side, cutaway cable inserts and length of cable, large ring dimensions -that can be different even among minirings systems-, large ring placement -higher or lower in the MLW-. All these are things to consider. There have been already fatalities rooted in a poor mix of components (reverse risers on a Javelin container). On the other hand, NAS-804, the specification required by TSO-C23b, states "The use of dissimilar metals, especially brass, copper, or steel in intimate metal-to-metal contact with aluminum or aluminum alloy, shall be avoided, whenever possible.". So, in principle, unless you know better, you should avoid mixing types for extended periods of time, as you might cause premature degradation of your hardware. Also, "miniforce" risers work fine with Aerodyne rigs. But the enlarged middle ring might not release cleanly in other rigs. Check compatibility with the manufacturer of your rig before using that mix.
    Chest rings

    Exploring down our harness we get to the chest strap junction. Most manufacturers -but not all- add chest rings to articulate their harness, either by default, or as an option. A fully articulated harness (with chest and hip rings) is supposed to be more comfortable, as the webbing doesn't need to bend and fold as much as a non-articulated harness. However, the chest is an area where these deformations are not really pronounced. As much as your body moves and twists in freefall, your upper torso stays pretty rigid. Nevertheless, chest rings help to avoid awkward and uncomfortable webbing twisting when the harness has been made for a larger person than the wearer. In these cases, the tendency is to overtighten the chest strap to compensate and secure better the jumper. That brings both chest junction together more than they should, and without rings the webbing would be unnaturally bent at that point. Of course, in an ideal world, every skydiver would have a harness that fits them properly, so this would never happen.

    Besides the arguable increase in comfort, chest rings are an excellent investment if, for whatever reason, the harness needs to be resized or repaired in the lower MLW. With chest rings the area affected is reduced to the webbing between the chest and hip rings. Without chest rings, the amount of work (and price) for this would be significantly higher, since the MLW is sewed to more components that would need resewing or replacement.

    Like the 3-rings release system, the chest rings can have different finish. More unique to chest rings is their orientation, and its influence on fitting and chest strap width. The chest rings used in every modern harness/container system are always very similar to the large ring in the 3-rings release system. The only possible difference is the bend in the slot where the MLW is threaded, which might or might not be present. In the chest, manufacturers orient the ring in 2 different ways: With the threading slot towards the upper MLW, or towards the chest strap. There are a few subtle implications:

    Rings with a vertical orientation (threading slot towards upper MLW) accept more naturally type 17 chest straps. In roughly half the circumference of the ring, the manufacturer has to accomodate the lower MLW and the chest strap, so commonly type 17 is used for the chest strap. That doesn't mean that type 8 is not possible. It is, but being it more bulky, it is less convenient.

    Rings with a horizontal orientation (threading slot towards chest strap) accept more naturally type 8 chest straps. I have yet to see this configuration with type 17, but it is, in theory, possible. Looks would be compromised for no reason though, so it is unlikely you'll see it either. Another thing to consider with this configuration is the range of motion of the upper MLW. Here, it can slide to the sides easier (the ring stays in place and the upper MLW can slide on it) than in vertical configuration (where the whole ring has to move and overcome the friction with the chest strap and the lower MLW). What that means is that when flying steep head down angles, the harness can slip down (up?) your shoulders easier than in other cases.


    Black chest ring after 1000 jumps. Note the shiny side on the right.

    Chest ring with the threading slot towards the upper MLW and a type 17 chest strap.

    The last option to consider regarding chest rings is the use of padding under the rings. Not many manufacturers offer it, but it is nevertheless possible.


    Chest ring with the threading slot towards the type 8 chest strap. The additional tape keeps the padding secured under the ring. Chest strap

    As we mentioned already, there are two chest strap widths to choose from. Regarding strength, there is no real difference, since the weakest point is the friction adapter, which is rated at 500 lbs independently of the width. Type 17 is less bulky and has less drag, which some swoopers would care about. It is also true that these same swoopers, the ones that can notice the difference, would completely remove their chest strap after opening and stow it away (while using a belly band to secure themselves). So this is also a moot point. At the end, this is one of these options that are completely a matter a personal taste.

    Another option regarding chest straps is their length. Most manufacturers have a standard length, which is typically around 19" (48cm). Normally this can be extended at no cost. Long chest straps allow the jumper to open up their harness and therefore their canopy, for increased efficiency. With a long chest strap it is also possible to lean forward during landing for a more active canopy piloting position. Regardless the length of your chest strap, if you are going to loosen it as much as you can, you should pay attention to its termination. Type 8 chest straps have a folded end that acts as a stopper and prevents the chest strap from being accidentally unthreaded. Type 17 terminations are sometimes not that effective, depending on how it was done.


    Termination of a type 8 chest strap. The tip has 4 layers to make it stiffer and the tab prevents the strap from being accidentally removed.


    Terminations of type 17 chest straps. The top picture has an extra tape, that creates a tab. The bottom picture has a stiffener at the tip. Note how fuzzy they are, specially the one on top. That's the effect of rubber instead of the normal elastic bands. Lastly, some manufacturers offer wide webbing loops in the chest strap to stow it. That replaces the default elastic bands, that tend to stretch over time loosing effectiveness, and can also get lost. This option is more common on type 17 chest straps than on type 8. Whatever you choose (elastic band or webbing loop) avoid rubber bands anywhere in contact with webbing. Rubber bands are fairly abrasive. As a result they will weaken your webbing and make it look fuzzier.
    Handles

    The next decision point coming down the harness affects the cutaway and reserve handles. The most common combination is a pillow for the right side (cutaway), and a metal ring for the reserve ripcord. But there are variations.

    Pillow handles are popular among freeflyers, because they are less snag prone than other options. Many of them use pillows for both the cutaway and reserve handles. The obvious downside, is that they make grabbing and pulling them more complicated. A pillow requires your whole hand to grab it. On top of that, it has a similar texture to your jumpsuit fabric, so if you are not looking and you have a loose suit you can grab part of your jumpsuit by mistake. To make them easier to grab, some manufacturers make sure they have a harder core. Others make them extra fat. And others sew an extra layer of a less slippery material. You can also embroider pillows for extra "flashiness", which is not possible with other types of handles.


    Reserve pillow handle, with embroidery, a pocket between both pieces of webbing on the MLW, and a spectra ripcord.
    Metal rings have been around a longer time than pillow handles. They are easier to grab (you can simply hook your thumb through them) and have a very distinctive feeling, so you can't possibly grab your jumpsuit fabric by mistake. On the other hand they are easier to snag when your buddy is grabbing your harness or with a small camera during exit. To mitigate that, some manufacturers offer low profile D rings, that stick out less than traditional D rings.


    Reserve D ring with a pocket between both pieces of webbing, and a steel cable ripcord.

    The last option is having a webbing loop with a stiffener inside to retain its open shape. These handles are very common in tandem rigs. However, in sport rigs they are rarely used. They are compromise between pillow and D ring handles.

    The reserve ripcord has been made of a steel cable for a long time. It works well in most cases, and most manufacturers stick to it. Others give the option of using a spectra ripcord with a bungee inside. In some cases this is the default for new rigs. The claimed advantages are many. Since spectra is more slippery than steel cables, it reduces the pull force required. In case of a dislodged handle, the bungee will keep it close to the housing and minimize the area in which it will be bouncing around. It is also cheaper to manufacture and inspect in some cases (steel cables have a hidden swage inside the pillow to keep them connected to the handle). However, it is slightly easier to misrig (the reserve pin can be threaded through just some fibers of the ripcord, instead of through the loop) and can be damaged by a sharp edge in the housing easier than a steel cable.

    The next option here is the material of the cutaway cable. Almost every manufacturer offers "lolon" coated cables. These are the standard yellow cables that most people are familiar with. They are reliable if the user/rigger ensures proper length and maintenance. The maintenance requires regular cleaning and lubrication of the cables. This is often neglected, which can result in increased pull forces during a cutaway. An alternative material is teflon coated cables. These are orange or red, and are currently in use just by Parachute Labs and their Racer harness/container. The advantage is that they don't require periodic cleaning and lubrication. However, getting them right is more complicated, as teflon doesn't stick easily to the cable. That resulted in the past in the core of the cable detaching from the coating, leaving the sheath locking the 3-rings release system. Regardless of the material you chose, it would be smart to check regularly your cables for cracks or other issues to avoid similar situations, as in theory it could also happen with "lolon" cables.

    Finally, there are a few ways to construct the pockets for the handles. The most common ways are either sandwiched between the 2 pieces of webbing of the MLW, or with a specifically manufactured pocket made of fabric wrapping the MLW webbing. As long as the velcro is in good condition, both are equally secure. On rigs with chest and hip rings the pocket wrapping the MLW is more common, as there is extra stitching necessary to secure the MLW in place, right where the handles are. Another advantage of the fabric pocket is that velcro is placed further away from webbing, avoiding possible contact and damage. On some older rigs, the cutaway handle might be attached just with a simple velcro strip, without extra pockets or in between the MLW. This is easier to disengage accidentally.


    Reserve pillow handle, with pocket wrapping the MLW and a steel cable ripcord.

    Cutaway pillow handle, with a simple velcro strip on the back side of the MLW.
    Hip rings

    More important than chest rings, are hip rings. However, they are more difficult to evaluate for a variety of reasons. The most important one, is that each manufacturer puts together in that junction a different set of harness components. Let's see this in more detail:

    MLW, laterals and front and back leg straps: Some manufacturers might connect together in a single round ring 4 different components. This has a couple of disadvantages, and that's why it is not a common configuration. First and foremost: it connects the leg straps too far up. The angles then could be a bit more awkward and less comfortable, particularly if you are a tall person and want to sit on your harness during canopy flight. Secondly, with 4 connected components there is little room for a belly band.


    Round hip ring connecting 4 different components (lower MLW, laterals and front and back leg straps).

    MLW, laterals and a single leg strap junction point: This setup is far more common than the previous one. Having the front and back leg strap junction working independently from the ring, and therefore placing this junction further down in the harness, allows to have a more comfortable fit. The angles of the leg strap become more natural. Nevertheless, the consequence of this is that the leg strap becomes slightly more stiff. There is a non-articulated junction between front and back leg straps, and they move as a single component. Most manufacturers design the geometry of this junction in a way where the back leg strap connects to the ring, and the front leg strap connects to the back leg strap. Rigging Innovations does it the opposite way in their Curv. There these roles are reserved and the front leg strap is connected directly to the ring. As a result, when the leg strap moves forward, it pulls in a bit more on the hip ring, and consequentially on the whole container.


    Round hip ring connecting 4 different components (lower MLW, lateral, belly band and leg strap)

    MLW and front and back leg straps: This arrangement is also very common. The ring is placed further down than in the previous case, which allows to connect independently the front and back leg straps, while preserving comfortable angles. Laterals are connected to the MLW above the ring in this setup. That junctions is very stiff, and right above it is the handle pocket. The small area in between absorbs whatever angle change you induce by leaning forward, so it ends up bending sharply. Another effect of this arrangement is that having the rings below that junction makes belly bands sit further low than in harnesses with rings connecting laterals. But the positive side is that both parts of the leg strap can move independently. Some people like them to move "at once", and so opt for a setup that adds an extra piece of fabric that softly links front and back leg straps and slightly covers the ring.


    Hip ring connecting 3 different components (lower MLW and front and back leg straps linked with an extra piece of fabric). Note how further up is the lateral junction.

    Each arrangement is a tradeoff. Depending on your body type and chosen discipline, you might prefer one setup or another. Part 3 will focus on body types and will explain how theses tradeoffs might affect you.

    As with chest rings, repairs are easier on harnesses with hip rings than without them. Another thing in common with chest rings is that hip rings are also affected by your choice of hardware finish.

    An option related to hip rings is the belly band. This component can have 2 different functions. Most people that use them do it in their swoop setup. They undo completely their chest strap, and stow it away. To stay secured in the harness they use belly bands. The second group of people interested in belly bands are people whose harness has laterals that are too long. With a belly band they can pull their hip rings a bit forward, making their container stay closer to their lower back and move less in freefall. That is particularly important while freeflying. Of course moving the hip rings too much forward can distort the harness geometry and affect comfort. If you are in this situation chances are that you should get your harness resized.


    Hip ring connecting 4 different components (lower MLW, front and back leg strap, and belly band). Note how this setup places the belly band lower than in a setup with a ring connecting to the lateral.
     
    Laterals

    As we saw in part 1, the laterals are the part of the harness that connect the back of the harness with the lower MLW. They are critical for comfort during freefall and under canopy. Too long and you will have a huge gap between your back and your container. Too short and they'll make your harness feel too tight and uncomfortable. The default construction, with the laterals coming straight out of the edge of the backpad, works fine if your back is significantly wider than your container. But in many cases that's not true, the container and back are about the same width, and there is a measurable gap between the back side of the laterals and your back.

    Many manufacturers try to find a way to contour to the side curvature of your back (back to front, at the belly level). That makes the container more comfortable and it stays in position without moving around much. There are essentially 2 schools for that. The most common is to find "cut-in" laterals, where they are inserted in the backpad not at the edge, but somewhere more centrally. This style of laterals are in contact with the jumpers back, and typically they are padded for extra comfort. Another type is to have the webbing coming straight from the edge, get to the hip junction, and come back a bit more towards the center of the backpad, wrapped in padding.

    There are alternatives to the two main approaches. Infinity and Sife provide floating laterals as an option, where the lateral webbing goes through the webbing slot of the hip ring, which moves freely. Sife adds padded stabilizers to that configuration. Mirage has the laterals coming straight out of the edge of the container, but has two elastic bands coming from the center of the backpad, acting as a sort of elastic stabilizers. Lastly, as in some student rigs, SunPath added adjustable laterals to their Aurora wingsuit rig.


    Straight laterals coming out of the edge of the container.

    Padded stabilizers. The outermost component is simply an stiffener wrapped in fabric, without major structural purpose.

    Floating laterals. Note how the ring can move freely through the webbing of the lateral.


    Elastic stabilizers.
    Leg straps

    Leg straps are the remaining piece of the harness. And of course, there are multiple options here as well. In part 1, we already saw multiple adapters. Each manufacturer has its default set of adapters. Nevertheless, some of them, can install an alternative style if you ask them. These adapters are also affected by the chosen hardware finish. As it has been mentioned before, stainless steel is more slippery than cadmium plated steel. The teeth of the adapter could also be harder and sharper if they were the same design as plated adapters, which could damage the webbing and make the whole system work differently. That's why both types of hardware have slightly different designs. These effects are also part of the reason to have double layer straps, to make them thicker and slip less. Besides this, adapters are normally thread-thru. But it is also possible, even though not common, to order B-12 snaps. They allow to clip-in the leg straps, instead of having to put your legs through them.

    We have seen lots of options targeted for swoopers in the upper side of the harness. The bottom side also has options for this discipline. It is possible with some manufacturers to order wider leg straps, so sitting in your harness for long periods is a bit more comfortable. The tradeoff is that they are more uncomfortable during freefall and on the ground. Since swoopers tend to slide during their landings, the leg straps suffer a great deal of wear. That's why it is also possible to use leg strap covers, that can be easily replazable once they are worn out. That way, your harness stays intact.

    The last optional bit is the freefly bungee. It's functionality has been already discussed in part 1. There are basically 2 designs: Connecting the inner part with 2 webbing loops and a bungee; or connecting the outer part, with the bungee routed through a channel that hides the knots and distributes the tension.


    Freefly bungee connecting the inner part of the leg straps and knots exposed.


    Freefly bungee connecting the outer part of the leg straps and knots hidden in the channels.
     
    More harness options

    There are even more options than what we have covered so far. But they are difficult to classify going from top of the harness to bottom. For instance, embroideries. Laterals, leg straps, mud flaps (right below the 3-rings) are all areas were you can include any embroidery. Mind you, the embroidery is done in fabric, not in webbing. So for instance, to add an embroidery to your laterals, they have to have a piece of fabric covering the webbing.

    Other example are hook knifes. There are 2 common pockets for hook knifes: In the mud flap, or in the leg strap. Some manufacturers also add a hook knife pocket integrated in the fabric that makes their handles pocket. There are multiple models of hook knifes: Cheap plastic handle with a single blade, harder plastic with single or double blade, metal handle and single or double blade, or full metal knifes. Even though it is unlikely that you'll need it, it is recommended to avoid the very cheap knifes made of brittle plastic.

    Some manufacturers make contoured yokes, that adapt better to your shoulder area. It is also possible that they offer an "inverted yoke", where the container seams are inwards, looking a bit neater and slightly more comfortable on that area, since the sharper binding tape won't be rubbing against you. Every manufacturer also offers padding. Some include full padding (yoke, backpad, stabilizers and leg straps) as a single option. Others separate it in 2 or 3 areas, allowing you to choose with more granularity. Besides the standard padding, made normally out of some spacer foam, some manufacturers also offer "deluxe" padding in their backpad, made of a more comfortable material.

    Rigging innovations has gone an extra mile in the harness design of their Curv container, and offer 3 unique things. The first is what they call the bio yoke. There, they essentially separated the part of the yoke in contact with your shoulders, and the part of the yoke that connects with everything else inside the container (risers, reserve risers and housings). This way the part in contact with your body is more flexible and comfortable. The second is what they call the bio curve. This is a half container half harness feature. It simply contours the container so it follows the curvature of your back, avoiding gaps there. The third thing is a new leg strap geometry, which has been already discussed in the hip rings section.
    End of Part 2

    This concludes part 2. As you can see, there are tens of options, which create hundreds of combinations. Each manufacturer has their defaults and their common options. If you are buying a new container and want an option not listed in their order form, ask them. You might be surprised. If you are buying an used container, hopefully this will help you to decide on which harness designs and options are important for you, to narrow down your search in the wild second hand market.

    Part 3 will be the last part of the series. There the focus will be on how different harness designs might fit different body types, and how the wrong dimensions in parts of the harness will affect your flying, comfort, and potentially even safety. So if you enjoyed part 1 and 2, keep an eye out for part 3!

    By admin, in Gear,

    Know Your Gear: Harness and Container Systems Part 1

    Know your gear series: Harness, fitting to your body and effects to consider.
    by Damian Alvarez
    The harness is a fundamental piece of your skydiving gear. As such, you know it like the back of your hand, right? Maybe the answer is "well, not really". Many experience jumpers will answer that. Most novice jumpers looking for their first rig also often neglect the importance of a harness that fits them. Coming from "one size fits nobody" student gear, they don't even know how a harness should fit them. This might change once they order their first custom harness/container system, if they ever do. If you want to know your gear a bit better, or if you want to inform yourself a bit better about what you should look for when buying a harness/container, either new or second hand, then this article is for you.
    What is a Skydiving Harness?
    The harness is the part of your harness/container system that is designed to keep your body attached to your canopies. In today's sport skydiving gear, the harness and container are 2 different but inseparable pieces. It wasn't always like that. In the 60s and early 70s harnesses and containers were interchangeable. That allowed to quickly swap components as needed. While this might seem like a good idea at first, these systems had their own set of problems. They were heavy due to the additional hardware needed, and error prone, as they had more room for assembling errors. In the 70s manufacturers started to integrate both into a single harness/container system, hiding part of the harness in the backpad of the container. This concept stays with us almost 50 years later.
    Even though the harness and container are today a single unit, it is important to know that the container is built around canopy sizes, and the harness is built around body dimensions. A byproduct of these two pieces of gear being inseparable, is that rookies typically focus on a single thing: the range of canopies they can fit in the container. That is not an issue when they are buying a custom harness/container (as long as the body measurements provided to the manufacturer are accurate), but novice jumpers start their skydiving career typically by buying used gear. Take a look at your DZ next time you are there, and pay close attention to how different harnesses fit their owners. I bet you'll find a few ill-fitting harnesses among new jumpers. Later on we'll see why this is important. But first, we have to know a bit more about the harness itself.
    Basic Harness Components and Construction
    Before getting into the details of harness construction, it makes sense to take a look at the webbing and tape types used for it. Distinguishing webbing and tape is not obvious. Generally it is considered webbing anything wider than 1" and with a tensile strength higher than 1000 lbs, and tape anything less than any of these 2 parameters. The table summarizes the most common webbing and tape types in harness construction. The pictures below show how they look like and how to distinguish them.
    Common webbings and tapes used in harnesses. Kind    Type Tensile strength Width Common use Webbing    Type 7  6000 lbs (2721 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm)  MLW, laterals and risers    Type 8  4000 lbs (1814 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm)  Risers and straps    Type 12  1200 lbs (544 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm)  Reinforcement around rings    Type 13   7000 lbs (3175 kg) 1 23/32" (4.3 cm)  MLW and straps    Type 17  2500 lbs (1134 kg) 1" (2.5 cm)  Chest straps, main risers    3" Type 4  1800 lbs (816 kg) 3" (7.6 cm)    Confluence wraps Tape    Type 4-B  1000 lbs (453 kg) 1" (2.5 cm)   Reinforcement around rings and confluence wraps

    Type 7 webbing. Has yellow lines at the edge. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills

    Type 8 webbing. Has a black centerline. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills

    Type 12 webbing. Has red lines at the edge. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills

    Type 13 webbing. Has black lines at the edge. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills

    Type 17 webbing. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills

    3" Type 4 webbing (Spec. PIA-W-4088). Do not confuse with Type 4 tape. Some authors consider this as tape, not webbing, due to the low tensile strength it has (relative to its width). Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills

    Type 4-B tape (Spec. PIA-T-5038). Do not confuse with 3" Type 4 webbing. Photo: Bally Ribbon Mills
    Now, you can try and take a look at your harness. Can you identify the different types of webbing and tapes used on it? If you do take a look, you'll also notice that in most parts of the harness you have actually two layers of webbing instead of one. There are two reasons for it: to make a stronger harness, and to prevent slippage.

    Harness diagram with its main components.
    Now that we know what are the materials used, we can get into the different parts on a harness. Any sport skydiving harness has the following components:
    Detachable main risers:
    These are the risers that you are most familiar with. They are attached to the rest of the harness via the 3-rings system, and they depart with the canopy when you cut away. They are also some of the parts of the harness that see the most wear. The most common type are the "mini-risers" with "mini-rings". These are made of Type 17 webbing. During the transition period where this style of risers became popular, there were occurrences of riser breakage close to the grommet used for the 3-ring system. This was particularly dangerous with RSL equipped rigs, as if the riser broke below the RSL attachment ring (while the opposite riser stayed attached), your reserve could fire into a trailing main, and you'd be set for a bad day. The Collins lanyard, the double-sided RSL system, or the LOR system try to prevent that from happening, by either releasing the other riser, or by keeping the reserve pilot chute in the container until both risers leave. Regardless of these solutions, to diminish the chances of mini-riser breakage, most manufacturer reinforced their mini-risers with a piece of Type 4 tape sewed between the front and back risers at the grommet area. Parachutes de France opted for an alternative solution, reversed risers, that avoid the grommet piercing the webbing altogether. With these changes, the number of risers breaking was reduced drastically, and is today almost unheard of.
    If you are a student, you are probably more familiar with the "normal" risers, ie: the ones with Type 8 webbing and full size rings. These risers are stronger than mini-risers, and the leverage provided by their bigger rings allow to cutaway with less force. They are however bulkier and have more drag in flight, and have fallen out of fashion among most sport skydivers.
    Non-detachable reserve risers:
    These are the risers that you will get to know one day during a cutaway, if you haven't done so already. They are an integral part of the harness. In many harnesses they are part of the same webbing of your MLW, instead of a separated piece of webbing sewed to it. They are normally Type 7, even though other materials are possible.
    Main lift web (MLW):
    The main lift web, typically shortened to MLW, is the piece of webbing that holds the whole harness together. It takes all the load from opening and during flight, all the way from the risers (either main or reserve) to the leg straps, where you are hanging/seating. Due to that, it is typically the strongest part of the harness, made of Type 7, 8 or 13. Even though this is the strongest part of the harness, it doesn't necessarily mean that other parts are significantly weaker. It can be further divided in upper MLW and lower MLW. Conceptually, you can think about the lower MLW as the part that goes from the chest rings (or chest strap junction) to the hip rings, where your handle pockets are sewed. The upper MLW is the part that goes from the chest rings (or chest strap junction) to the upper part of the junction between MLW, reserve risers, and diagonal back straps. The length of the MLW is normally fixed, except in some student or tandem gear. In these cases the length can be adjusted to accommodate the sizes of different users.
    Chest strap:
    The chest strap is one of the 3 straps you have to fasten to adjust your harness. It secures your torso in place, and keeps it in the space formed by the chest strap, the MLW, and the back straps. It is not designed to take a huge load, since most of it is transferred from the risers to the leg straps by the MLW. The webbing used has typically a lower tensile strength. It is normally either Type 8 or Type 17. The hardware to fasten the chest strap has been also certified with lower loads than leg straps hardware (500 lbs. vs 2500 lbs.).
    There are jumpers today "abusing" their chest straps, by putting a load on them that they weren't designed for. Think of hybrids or Mr. Bills. Harnesses are typically "overbuilt", so they are unlikely to fail due to these practices, particularly with hybrids, due to the limited stress induced in the seams, webbing and hardware (for a 2 belly flier + 1 freeflyer hybrid, just 100—150 lbs. hang from each chest strap). However, on Mr. Bills, the load can be significantly higher. A careful jumper should try to hang on the upper MLW on a Mr. Bill, instead of the chest strap.
    Leg straps:
    The leg straps are the remaining 2 adjusting points of your harness, besides the chest strap. They are attached to the hip rings or sewed directly to the MLW. In some older designs without rings, they could also be part of the same piece of webbing of the MLW. They need to be strong, but sometimes they aren't as sturdy as the MLW. They can be Type 7, 8 or 13.
    Freefly bungee:
    The elastic cord that attaches both leg straps isn't necessarily a part of the harness. However, it has a small but very important function. It prevents the leg straps from slipping up your leg towards your knee. The largest "hole" in your harness is right there, between your laterals and your leg straps, waiting to mess up your day when you have a premature opening while sit flying. Tandem harnesses have a "Y" strap that has essentially the same function. If you don't want to find yourself in a difficult situation like the granny on the video, use this simple addition to your harness. If you still think that this can't happen in a sport harness, well, take a look at the remaining 2 videos and think again.
     
     
    Laterals:
    The laterals are some of the most commonly overlooked parts of the harness. They are relatively small and out of sight, so people tend to forget about them. They are the parts that join the MLW (or the hip rings, depending on the harness design) with the bottom end of the diagonal back straps. This last junction is hidden inside the backpad of the container. They also form an horizontal back strap, which I am considering here as part of the laterals itself, even though strictly speaking, it is not. They are normally made of Type 8 webbing, but Type 7 or 13 are also possible. Their only function is keeping your rig close to your back. It is a simple but important function, and we'll come back to it in part 3 of this series of articles.
    Diagonal back straps:
    If laterals are overlooked, it is safe to say that the diagonal back straps are completely ignored. They sit below your reserve risers and typically wrapped in fabric, and they are completely out of sight from that point on and all of the way to where they meet the horizontal back strap AKA (in this article at least) laterals. Even with the reserve tray completely open, they are out of sight, trapped between the backpad and the bottom fabric of the reserve tray. Like laterals, they can be made of Type 8, 7 or 13. Their function is holding your torso in place and keeping the whole harness together. Without them, the container would support a higher stress, which would wear it and break rather sooner than later. There are multiple configurations possible for them. They can have an "X" arrangement, where the left shoulder straps crosses the back and joins the lateral at the right side, and vice versa. They can also have a "V" arrangement, where the webbing goes down from one shoulder, wraps the horizontal back strap, and goes up again until it reaches the opposite shoulder. Other arrangements are also possible —like "U" for instance, but manufacturers don't discuss these details openly and knowing what is really used would require tearing open the containers.
    Hardware:
    The hardware binds together 2 or more pieces of webbing, either permanently or temporarily. Taking a look at the hardware used in harnesses, you can see 3 different types from the functional point of view:
    Fastening hardware:
    These are the quick fit adapters found in chest straps and leg straps. For the leg strap adapters there are 3 common types: thread-thru, thread-thru with locking bar, and flip-flop, shown in the pictures. All of them are rated for 2500 lbs. The chest strap has a lightweight thread-thru quick fit adapter, rated for 500 lbs, independently of the width of the chest strap.

    Thread-thru leg strap adapter.



    Thread-thru leg strap adapters with locking bars.


    Flip-flop leg strap adapter.
    3-Rings:
    These are the 3 rings we are all familiar with. There are two variants: The original, rated for either 2500 lbs or 5000 lbs, depending on the particular model, and the mini version (RW-8), rated for 2500 lbs. The tandem variants are slightly different in the large ring to allow to connect the student harness, and are always rated for 5000 lbs.
    Hip and chest rings:
    These rings are optional and normally use the same type of ring found in the large ring used in the 3 rings system. In some cases the ring is completely flat, as opposed to the large ring in the 3 rings system, which are bent at the point where they are connected with the MLW. Some rigs have a completely round hip ring, instead of using the large ring from the 3 rings system.
    Junctions:
    Obviously all the different pieces of webbing have to join somehow. These junctions can be of 4 types:
    Rings:
    In a ring junction, the webbing goes around the ring folded on itself —typically with a reinforcement tape in between the ring and the webbing—, and is locked in place with a stitching that follows a given pattern. It is important to note that the pattern is not arbitrary. Its shape, thread and number of stitches per inch determine the strength of the junction.

    Hip ring with Type 8 and Type 4 as reinforcement at the leg straps. Note how the ring is completely flat.
    Stitching points:
    Normal stitched joints are simply that, points were 2 or more pieces of webbing are sewed together with a particular pattern.

    Chest strap junction with Type 8 and Type 7 webbings.

    Hip webbing sandwich with Type 7, Type 8 and Type 12 webbings.


    3 rings junction where you can see most of the webbing types used in modern harnesses. Note how the large ring is bent at the webbing loop, instead of being flat.


     
    Layers in a confluence wrap below the 3 rings system.
    Confluence wraps:
    Confluence wraps are similar to the previous type, but there a piece of reinforcement tape wraps the junction to make it stronger. These reinforcement tapes are particularly important in high stress areas, like where the 3 rings, the reserve risers, and the MLW meet. One thing to consider when two pieces of webbing are sewed together, is that the strength required to break that junction is way lower when "peeling" than when "shearing". A manufacturer can in most cases design its joints to prevent situations where peeling forces are applied. However, depending on the harness design, these situations might occur. Confluence wraps are added to strengthen joints that are at risk. A couple of years ago, some BASE rig manufacturers had to modify the construction of their harnesses because of this. If you want to know more I suggest you take a look at this excellent article.
    The confluence wrap that stitches together the MLW, reserve risers, main risers and diagonal back straps is normally hidden in the mud flap. But some manufacturers —not all— have another confluence wrap that you have seen a thousand times but probably didn't pay attention to it: the wrap that traps the 3 rings locking loop in the main risers.
    Adjustable hardware:
    Here 2 pieces of webbing are locked in place together with a fastener. As we saw before, they are normally located in the chest strap and leg straps, but there are other possible points, like in student harnesses or belly bands.
    End of Part 1
    Hopefully by now you feel a bit more confident about the construction of your harness. This is important knowledge to better understand part 2, where we will take a look at the different articulations and other options possible in modern harnesses. Part 3 will focus on the proper fitting of the harness, and how a bad fitting can affect our performance or safety in the air. Stay tuned for more!

    By admin, in Gear,

    The RSL and Skyhook Debate

    Image by Mike Barta So…you just crushed an 8-way angle jump, stacked tight and flying fast. Damn that feels good. Or maybe it was a Sunday night sunset BFR with all the sky-fam that stuck around till the very end of another awesome weekend at the dropzone. Perfect! Or maybe you’re six jumps into a busy day, flying camera for tandems, and you’ve just finished break-off and are watching that giant tandem wing smack open as you sink away. Whichever it is, if what happens next involves a turbulent mess of canopy flapping and flailing above you, or spinning-you-up violently beneath it, its decision time…and fast.
    But, if you’re anything like me, and find that in that moment your brain is still rapidly processing the various factors in play (as opposed to immediately switching into survival mode and initiating an instinctual, muscle-memory-based set of EPs), it’s possible that one of your first thoughts will be “is my RSL connected”? And, if so, “if I chop this, is my reserve headed directly into this bag of shit as it deploys”?
    I’ve only personally dealt with this scenario twice. The most recent occurred under a rapidly spinning mal while wearing a (small-ish) wingsuit and flying what most would consider an inappropriate canopy for wingsuit skydiving (my bad, I know). And while my canopy choice may have been shameful, I’m not ashamed to say that this experience had my heart rate pounding…but not because of the malfunction. And not even because of the violent spinning and inevitable disorientation. I quickly realized that I hadn’t disconnected my RSL – which I typically do when flying my wingsuit – and was afraid that if I employed my standard emergency procedures my main and my reserve were about to get really friendly with one-another.
    Luckily, that didn’t happen, and I lived to fly another day (under a much safer and more suitable wing I might add). However, since that experience, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing the use of RSLs and Skyhooks with jumpers of all ages and disciplines, wherever I fly. And while there is no debate that both RSL and Skyhook technology save invaluable time and altitude in many malfunction situations – and there is ample data available to prove just that – their use remains a polarizing issue, with certain skydiving disciplines disproportionately biased for, or against, the use of these now-standard safety features.
    If you don’t believe me (or perhaps had never given it much thought) take a look around the next time you’re at a big dz and take note of who’s using RSLs and who isn’t…and what type of flying it seems like they’re doing. You may be surprised at what you observe. Or, if you’re even braver, try bringing it up around the campfire or at the bar after a few post-jump beverages. Warning: be prepared for the shit-storm you may have just lit.
    At any rate, to better present both sides of this debate, I asked a few friends to share their views and their own reasoning as to why they choose to use, or shun, RSLs and Skyhooks. What follows is a series of brief quotes and explanations from these conversations.
    Justin Price – Justin is a PD Factory Team member, a Flight 1 instructor, and a world-class canopy pilot who competes at the pinnacle of the sport.
    JP: “I think the Skyhook and RSL are great backup devices for the everyday skydiver. However, if you are jumping a highly loaded canopy (2.8 range or higher) having a skyhook could lead to some unforeseen malfunctions. I don't believe the manufacturers have done any real testing with canopies loaded this much having spinning malfunctions with the Skyhook. I have seen 1 skyhook reserve deployment from a spinning canopy loaded around 3.0 where an entanglement could be present.”

    Image by Mike McGowen Think about the configuration of a skyhook deployment, you have the malfunctioning canopy at the apex attached to the bridle with a free bag, still with the locking stows, on one side of the bridle and the spring loaded pilot chute on the other side. Now as the spinning main is deploying the system there seems to be the possibility of the main spinning violently enough to have the reserve pilot chute wrap underneath the free bag trapping the locking stow from coming out. So until some real testing has been done proving that this is not possible I’m not going to be the first skydiver to have that malfunction while doing hop n pops or if jumping something loaded that high.”
    Sandy Grillet – Sandy is a very prominent sales rep for UPT, who’s also recognized to be among the best belly organizers in the biz. He has decades in the sport and his skydiving resume speaks for itself.
    Sandy: “OK - in the last 5 years I lost two really good friends because they had the same thoughts as you. One of them had a spinner out of control and before he could get cutaway hit another jumper under canopy. He ended up cutting away still high enough to get a reserve but not high enough to reactivate his AAD. He pulled just high enough to go-in at line stretch. We believe the body-to-body collision under canopy dazed him enough to slow his reflexes on both the cutaway and the reserve pull.

    Image by Henrik Csuri The sad thing is that he and I had an hour long conversation about Skyhooks and RSLs 10 days before. The guy he hit was another friend of ours and he is convinced a Skyhook would have saved him. I've lost a lot of friends over the years but that one was tough to wrap my mind around.
    I truly believe that if more people understood the physics behind what happens during normal cutaways without RSLs - cutaways with normal RSLs and then cutaways with Skyhooks - everyone would use them. As you said, it’s personal preference. I would be happy to have another conversation with you to give my perspective of the physics.”
    Scotty Bob – Scotty likely needs very little introduction. His exploits in wingsuit BASE are accessible and heavily viewed online by skydivers, BASE jumpers, and whuffos alike. And his current involvement with wingsuit skydive coaching (both as a load organizer, private coach, and now most recently with Squirrel’s ‘Next Level’ program) has him bouncing from one dz to the next – along with his crew of usual suspects – to help raise the next generation of little birdies right.

    Image by Dan Dupuis Scotty: “They are a great idea, and have definitely added to the safety net, especially for younger jumpers. That being said, their use should not be mandatory due to the ever changing aspects of our sport. The option to be in direct control of one’s emergency procedures from start to finish should be in the hands of each individual jumper, not a blanket rule.

    I currently do not use an RSL. I want to activate my reserve opening with my reserve handle. Just a personal preference.”
    Anthony TJ Landgren – TJ is an all-around badass. There is very little at which he doesn’t excel in the worlds of canopy sport and body-flight. He’s an OG swooper, a wingsuit ninja, an elite tunnel coach, and now a highly sought-after XRW guru.
    TJ: “Over the years a lot of people asked me would I, or have I ever, jumped with an RSL? My answer is yes I have jumped an RSL, but only for 1000 jumps or so. I had an RSL back when I jumped a Sabre. I was told that RSLs are great when you are new in the sport and as an extra safety precaution.
    Once I started jumping a Stiletto, I was told they can cause more harm than good. Stilettos were the first fully elliptical canopy and they were awesome. The only problem was that if you got line twist it was a bitch to get out of them because the canopy will dive and pick up more speed. I had a really low chop when I had 2000 jumps on a stiletto 135, I was spinning hard once I cut away I needed to get away from the canopy and open my reserve. I was so happy not to have an RSL because two weeks prior to that my friend Cris cut away a stiletto 150 with an RSL and he had 4 line twist on his reserve and barely time to get out of his reserve line twist before hitting the ground. That's when I knew I would never use an RSL ever again.

    Image by Raymond Adams I believe in pulling a bit higher so that I have more time to deal with a malfunctioning parachute. I feel RSLs and Skyhooks give people false security in pulling low, which I try to avoid. I was told that when dealing with a malfunction: check your altitude, deal with the situation, and always have hard deck that you know you can't fix this malfunctioning parachute and it's time to get rid of it.
    I have 16 cutaways in over 26,000 jumps and 1 was an RSL save (not by choice).
    I Believe people that have over 1000 jumps or jump a high performance canopy should really think about whether an RSL is going to help, or if it will only make things worse. I hope this help you to make an educated decision about RSLs and Skyhooks.”
    Will McCarthy – Will is the closest thing here to an “average” skydiver. Although, having grown up on a dz, and grown into the DZO of my favorite dropzone in Canada (Skydive Gananoque), he’s been around the sport long enough to know and have seen a thing or two. Most days, Will is hucking drogues and/or flying camera, but he’s done it all over the years – from AFFI, to belly big-ways, to wingsuit, to CRW and swooping.
    Will: “As a DZO and our S&TA;, my reply is always, it depends. For people learning to skydive, including tandem students, I think they're a great legal out, as in "we use every piece of safety equipment available". And if you're going to use an RSL, spend the extra money and get a MARD/Skyhook. For experienced skydivers, I personally feel that the use of an RSL or MARD/Skyhook system unintentionally promotes complacency.

    Image by Justin Dempsey The number of times I've personally seen an incorrectly routed/assembled RSL leads me to believe that the complacency is getting worse. People are afraid of doing anything to their gear, (assembly or even packing it, in a lot of cases) and a blind faith in the technology increases the risk that when something outside a "normal" malfunction occurs, it won't be handled correctly.
    I don't use one unless I'm jumping a tandem rig. But we also don't allow them to be used on paid camera slots or CRW jumps, either.”
    My final thoughts on this reflect much of what was said above. Both of my rigs have an RSL because I like to have the option of using it for specific types of jumping. While I hate to admit it, there are certain jumps where I know that I’m going to be pulling lower than usual – flying my tracking suit solo on a hop-and-pop is one such example. And in situations like that, where I’m under a Sabre 150 and feel pretty confident that it’s not gonna spin-up-on-me or toss-me-around violently, I like the comfort of knowing that if I do have to chop, my RSL will likely save me some valuable altitude. However, when I slap on the big wingsuit, I feel far less comfortable having the RSL connected. In that instance, I make sure to disconnect it and secure it (safely and correctly) to the cable housing. Also, as TJ similarly pointed out, I’ll be deliberately pulling higher on big wingsuit flights so that I have ample altitude to deal with, and separate myself from, any malfunctions that might arise.
    Hopefully reading this will have given you cause to consider where you’re at in your own jumping – taking into account an honest self-assessment of your level of skills and experience – but also your specific discipline(s) of choice and, thus, what makes the most sense for you. To borrow a mantra from wingsuit BASE, a safe-bet for many styles of jumping is fly fast and pull high. If you can abide by those two tenets, regardless of your choice as to whether or not to use an RSL, you’ll be all-the-better for it.
    Stay safe folks.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Hybrid Valkyrie Available Now!

    “Performance Designs has once again raised the bar. The flight characteristics seem even sharper than my standard Valkyrie. The canopy has amazing acceleration with complete confidence in the power of the rears or toggles to change directions or level out if needed. If you are serious about your chosen discipline and serious about canopy choice, for me, there is no better swoop machine to allow you to maximize both freefall and canopy time.” - Brian Vacher
    You love your Valkyrie. You've been jumping her for the past two years. She gives you the buttery smooth openings, with the responsiveness and power you crave! Now you're wanting more...and we're ready to give it to you!
    Introducing the Hybrid Valkyrie - everything you love about the Valkyrie but more. We incorporated sail fabric into the Valkyrie's ribs to give her more power, more responsiveness and longer swoops than an all ZP constructed Valkyrie. Think of her as a "Valkyrie on steroids" with more sensitivity in the harness and more stopping power than ever before. Available as an option when purchasing your next custom wing, the sail ribs are a great addition for the seasoned Valkyrie owner. And it gets even better, the Hybrid Valkyrie option is only $100.
    When choosing between the all ZP and Hybrid Valkyrie, keep in mind that the sail ribs will increase pack volume by about a half size in comparison to the all ZP Valkyrie. The overall lifespan of the canopy is similar to that of an all ZP wing.

    Photo by: Wolfgang Lienbacher The Hybrid Valkyrie is available to order now, contact your dealer and get your custom Hybrid Valkyrie ordered.
    Demos and stock canopies will be available in the coming weeks.


    Flight Characteristics and FAQs available here.

    By karlm, in Gear,

    Introducing the PD Horizon - The easy ‘off button’ to end your wingsuit flight

    The wait is over! No one is more excited than we are here at Performance Designs. After years of development, hard work, and dedication we are delighted to announce our first wingsuit specific canopy, Horizon, is ready to order.
    In 2013 Performance Designs began development on a wing with emphasis on eliminating deployment problems caused by the large burble of wingsuits without sacrificing a great flare or responsive handling. When you have been making canopies as long as we have here at Performance Designs, this process is always evolving. The one thing that never changes is our high standard for quality, performance, and our focus on providing excellent products to everyone in our skydiving community.
    The result, we think the Horizon has the best openings and the best landing power of any canopy in its class! Best of all the Horizon gives you the ability to upsize as many as two full sizes compared to a non-crossbraced ZP main. This means you can fit a larger canopy in your existing rig for wingsuit jumps. No need for a new container!
    The Horizon features

    7 cell construction
    Hybrid ZP and low-bulk 30 denier fabric
    consistent and reliable openings
    efficient glide when it counts
    responsive handling and a powerful flare
    slider presentation snaps
    HMA or Vectran Lines
    packs 1-2 sizes smaller than a similar ZP main
    Introductory Retail Price- $2100
    Available in sizes 120-135-150-170-190 Horizon’s openings are stress free and comfortable, but they don't eat up a lot of altitude. Although this canopy was not designed to win any swoop meets, the response in flight is quite a pleasant surprise. With its agile response to control inputs, the Horizon is a joy to fly. It has a fairly long control range with excellent slow flight characteristics. Its dynamic response to braked flight turning inputs makes it an excellent canopy to conserve altitude as you fly back home from a long spot. The Horizon continues to uphold the landing performance that Performance Designs customers have come to expect. With a quick response to proper flare input it is easy to predict the “sweet spot” for a nice easy shutdown no matter what the wind is doing.
    Pack volume has been reduced significantly by combining our proprietary low-bulk fabric technology with our well known Zero-P fabric. In fact, the Horizon typically packs two(2) sizes smaller than a similar non-cross braced ZP main. The incredibly small pack volume easily facilitates easy upsizing for safety.
    In short, the Horizon is an easy off button to transition from wingsuit flight to canopy flight stress free.

     
    Pablo Hernandez landing at Skydive Dubai.
    Photo by: Ivan Semenyaka  
    Do you have any questions? We might have some answers below!
    When can I get one?
    A: We will be accepting orders from PD’s Authorized Dealers as of today! (May 10th 2017). Standard production time will apply to the Horizon. These lead times are posted on the PD website at www.performancedesigns.com
    How do I buy one?
    The Horizon will be sold through PD’s Authorized dealer network. Interested customers should contact their local dealer to discuss if this canopy is right for them.
    Can I jump this without my wingsuit?
    We can’t tell you what to do with your canopy. Most people like the way the Horizon opens in freefall at terminal speeds when properly configured and packed. However, in order to get the most bang from your buck we recommend saving the Horizon for its intended wingsuiting purpose.
    How long will this canopy last?
    Putting a specific number on the lifespan of any canopy is quite difficult as it is impossible to consider all of the ever-changing variables that affect that canopy. A person who does 1000 jumps a year will go through equipment a lot faster than a person who does 100 jumps a year…and that is just one small piece of the puzzle. Our proprietary low-permeability, low-bulk fabric has proven to be more forgiving when subjected to the wake turbulence of a wingsuit deployment. We have added ZP to the center top skin and across the leading edge to enhance the performance and longevity of the Horizon. However, it does not possess the same durability that a canopy constructed of all ZP material would have. Following our recommendations for wing loading and taking the proper care of your equipment will go a long way toward getting the most out of your wing. With proper care the Horizon should bring you joy and happiness for several hundred jumps.
    What size should I buy?
    The fabrics utilized in the Horizon’s construction are part of what make this canopy so well suited for wingsuit skydiving. Because the characteristics of this fabric combination are different from traditional ZP, jumping a Horizon that is too small or loaded too high could demand a little more from the canopy pilot to ensure comfortable landings (when compared to an all ZP canopy in a similar size and design). Size your Horizon one (1) or 2 (two) sizes BIGGER than the smallest ZP canopy you are comfortable with.

     
    Roberta Mancino flying over Perris Valley Skydiving.
    Photo by: Sebastian Alvarez  
    Your Wing Loading is also a critical factor in the performance of your Horizon canopy.
    Check out our Wing Loading chart on the Horizon page of our website.
    When considering what size wing is best for you, the size of the reserve in the container that you intend to use should also be strongly considered.
    It is always advisable to consult a certified wingsuit coach/ instructor when selecting a canopy to optimize your wingsuiting experience. For more information visit the Horizon page on our website www.performancedesigns.com
    Additional Information:
    Horizon Packing Manual

    Horizon Flight Characteristics

    Horizon FAQs

    By karlm, in Gear,

    Introducing UPT's Mutant Swoop Rig

    The Mutant is a purpose-built swoop harness and container system that is a swooping game changer!
    Designed by Vince Reffet and Blikkies Blignaut, the Mutant is significantly different than a standard sport rig. The risers connect at the hips, similar to that of a speed flying harness, and control is initiated more by weight input than toggle pressure. The laid back, supine position of the pilot reduces drag which ensures a super long and fast swoop.
    This innovation significantly changes the flying dynamics of the canopy which means the Mutant is not suitable for all flyers. Jumping the Mutant requires training and a high level of experience; those with speed flying harness experience will realize an easier transition than those with no supine harness experience.



    Here's what some of the early testers have to say about the Mutant:
    It only took me a few seconds under canopy to realize that the increase in performance with the Mutant was phenomenal.
    The performance envelope is increased and the sensitivity through the harness is shocking. After a couple of jumps I up-sized to give me time to get used to the increased in control.
    I feel like the harness adds another dimension to the canopy, like it's on steroids!
    -Pete Allum

    The biggest benefit from flying a MUTANT harness is that you can control your pitch angle just by using weight shift , there is no need to pull the front risers to dive neither to use the rear risers to recover if done right, just leaning forward makes you dive and leaning backwards helps you to recover with less wing distortion as you barely apply any input on the rears.
    -Pablo Hernandez

    This harness is so awesome! It is the most comfortable harness period.
    It's the next step up in high performance parachute flying. Relearning to fly using the hip attachments is fun and challenging. The mutant harness automatically makes you feel like you just down-sized. It turns your katana into a velocity and velo into a peregrine.
    -Jarrett Martin





    "I think the name says it all :D Mutant. A hybrid between a paragliding harness and a skydiving one. I have been intrigued by it since the first time I heard about it and when I saw it I realized it is the obvious step ahead. It is very fun to fly but because it is so different, we will have to relearn and redefine a lot of what we know about swooping. The skydivers with a paragliding/speedflying background will have an easier transition to it. I am excited to figure it out even though I know it might take me some time. It is definitely worth the effort. The next generation of skydiving harnesses is finally here!"
    -Cornelia Mihai

    My bro and teammate Vince Reffet has been working on it for a long time and I can only thank him for putting all these efforts into it!! This harness is a door open to a new era of skydiving, it's been a long time that I didn't have that much fun under canopy!!! I did a lot of speed riding and paragliding and the mutant is a way to get the power of the canopy control that you can have under a paragliding wing but in skydiving! such a blast to go from a position that is standing up to seating and then be able to use the weight to move so fast and so powerful!! it is really a new world. thank you vine and thank you UPT!!!
    -Fred Fugen





    Stay tuned for updates about the Mutant release.

    By admin, in Gear,

    Safire 3 - Jill Grantham's First Impressions

    Jill Grantham is a travelling gypsy from Australia with 1900 jumps and 12 years in the sport. She has hair like Rapunzel, a penchant for lords and ladies and is as sweet as her favorite candy.
    What is your canopy flying experience?
    I have historically been a consistently terrible canopy pilot due to low confidence (slid in on my butt for 11years). Before I got Lady Safina (my new Safire 3 129 from NZ Aerosports) I was flying a Safire2 139, for 800 jumps. I have now done about 150 jumps on Lady Safina at a bunch of different dz’s with weather etc. But I am loving flying this canopy.
    Lady Safina, how I love thee, let me count the ways:
    Amazing flare! No matter what sort of things I do with regards to my landings (I’m currently learning to do a front riser approach) there is always a good enough flare to stand me up. This is giving me the confidence to try and progress to higher speed landings rather than straight ins and not worry about getting dumped if I come out too high.
    Slightly easier to get on the front risers
    Slightly faster opening than the Safire 2, which is not too fast and helpful to not be hanging up a slow opening canopy in amongst traffic.
    More responsive to harness turns.
    Feels more solid in bumpy wind conditions
    Heaps and heaps of range to get back with the rears from a long spot.
    Plus she is really pretty. Is there anything you don’t like about the Safire 3, sorry, Lady Safina?
    She is a Beta test canopy that was built for me before the Safire 3 was released to the public. I was having inconsistent openings to begin with. After filming some openings and sending some feedback a mod was made to mine and all subsequent Safire 3 models - and now she opens great!
    What do you notice different in the Safire 3 to your previous Safire 2?
    I feel like the Safire 3 is just overall more responsive. I definitely feel like I am more in control and can actively fly her. We work together a bit more. With the Safire 2 I felt more like a passenger. Could have been the difference in size a little too of course!
    The rears are better for getting back from a long spot and the fronts are a bit easier to get on than the Safire 2. She still pulls out of a dive pretty quickly - you can’t hold the fronts down too long before they’re pulled out of your hands.
    Who is the Safire 3 suitable for in your opinion?
    I think she is suitable for beginner and intermediate canopy pilots. Especially good if you are a bit nervous or don’t want to push it, you can have a lovely safe easy flight to the ground.
    You have heaps of range to set yourself up in the pattern, which helps you not become cornered by having too small or too big a canopy...and if you don’t want to do much other than float down softly it will allow you to do that.
    If you do want to start flying it more, and seeing what you can do with it, then it is a really responsive wing and awesome to try out some new things on. But because the flare is so good it doesn't matter soooo much if you don’t nail the landings while you’re learning, because the canopy sort of fixes your little mistakes up :)
    What's the main benefit or advantage to you personally of having a Safire 3 rather than another canopy?
    Aside from her being the prettiest Lady I have seen?
    When I’m flying her I feel comfortable enough that I can choose what is appropriate for the situation and group and fly her how I need to to be safe and keep everyone else safe too.
    The increased responsiveness and flare have made me confident to try more when flying her.
    She has really changed my attitude towards skydiving. I feel more in control of how I am flying her rather than feeling a little bit exposed to the elements. She is basically all those empowering girl songs in canopy form!.
    ** Jill Grantham received early access to the pre-released version of the Safire 3 gratis from New Zealand Aerosports. The article above was Jill's unpaid opinion on her experience with the canopy.

    By admin, in Gear,

    The Slickest Rigs From PIA 2017

    Each year some of the manufacturers show off some unique and exciting rig designs at PIA, sometimes these rigs are actually able to be put into use, while others are simply demo rigs to show off some really cool design concepts.
    This year saw a couple of really awesome looking rigs, with a transparent rig from Sun Path and an amazing "steam punk" rig from the guys at United Parachute Technologies.
    United Parachute Technologies













    Sun Path





    Which of these rigs would you most like to be flying?

    By admin, in Gear,

    The ProTrack II - A Detailed Look

    With the release of the new ProTrack 2 we have a look at exactly how many more things it offers.

    ProTrack II Design When falling through the sky it is not only a jolly good idea to have a little gizmo the beeps in your ear to remind you to do stuff - in many situations it is mandatory. For some people the simplest set of warnings are sufficient - one distinct electronic chirrup for each of break-off and deployment, then an angry screechy one for being lower than is safely acceptable/possibly getting told off about what you just did. However, even the most rudimentary electronic devices now come packaged with a tiny computers buried inside that have enough computational power to perform orbital mechanics and help serve the purpose of pacifying your life’s need to do anything much other than binge watch old episodes of Deep Space Nine on Netflix.
    Original ProTrack Design I bought an original ProTrack as my first set of beeps back in 2007 as I am a big nerd and it was the most fanciest audible altimeter available. I remember being tremendously excited about how it allowed me to download the accumulated digital data from my skydives and then produce graphs from the correlated information to share on my MySpace page - thus proving beyond all doubt I was both cooler and smarter than the people who laughed at me in school for my ongoing interest in toy soldiers.
    Technology moves fast and our insatiable appetite for mobile phones that do more and more has led to some mind-boggling miniaturisation in our daily lives. We are now very used to tiny electronic doodads with little screens that do many things. So - we some beeps to remind us of a few important things in freefall, but how much more is it possible or necessary to do with an audible altimeter if we apply the technology we have available now?
    With this update of the ProTrack, what Larsen and Brusgaard have done is smoosh together the features of the original device with those of their flagship audible altimeter - the Quattro - then sprinkle it with some modern goodness that we recognise from things we see every day in phones and such.
    If we break it down the ProTrack 2 can be divided into categories as follows:
    Things ProTrack Did Already:
    Mass Storage: It records the details of your jumps. Including accumulated freefall time, which is nice - especially if you find adding up units of time a pain in the ass.
    Connectivity: There is much to be said for a digital record of you achievements. A meticulously crafted pen and ink logbook is beautiful artefact of your skydiving career (and still a requirement for advancement in many places), but equally splendid in a different way is a lovingly curated online adventure zone that enjoys all the fruits of modern computing.
    Exit/Deployment Altitude: With time one learns that the altitude advertised by a Dropzone is not always what you get. Many variables determine your precise altitude when you are when you are in the right place to get out of the plane and mostly it is not a big deal. It is nice to have proof if you find you are getting fleeced though.

    Things The Quattro Does That The ProTrack 2 Does Too:
    Low Speed Warnings: These are the swoop alarms we know and love. They are programmed to register low freefall speeds too, which can be right useful if you are into complex wingsuit flocking where they can be set to signal points along a flight path or breaking into groups or stuff like that.
    Beeps Going Up: Having settings to signal certain altitudes in the plane is a convenience that can be beneficial. Efficiency with your jump preparations leads to safer and better skydive and good awareness is crucial.
    Always On: You don’t have to remember to switch it on and off. Unless you want to.
    New Things The ProTrack 2 Does Now:
    Micro USB: Which seems so normal but is new and exciting as the old model came with a cradle thingy that had required you to have a serial port (a serial port?) or, for Mac users - some kind of laborious solution. The JumpTrack software offered by Larsen and Brusgaard has been around a good while and although due for an overhaul it is still used around the world.
    Live Jump Playback: With 2MB of internal flash memory the unit is able to replay the speed profile of your jump in real time. (Approximately 200 jumps with 2 minute profiles or 26 jumps with 15 minute profiles). If you are prepared to put in some effort (like watching side-by-side with video) there are things you can learn from this.
    Economy Mode: These devices don’t use very much energy and if you get the batteries from somewhere sensible instead of a dropzone shop then they don’t cost very much. However, If your jumping is random or infrequent then the ability to actually switch it off properly means your battery will last a while longer. A modest boon, but nice if you gain satisfaction from managing the small things.

    Useful but very 90s looking software. Note the attached videos and images While there are undoubtably people out there who just desire some beeps that beep at the right time and nothing much else, devices like the ProTrack 2 offer extra information that can be very valuable for those that are inclined to manage and study it. Skydiving represents a huge investment in your own skill and experience, and the ability to analyse accurate, reliable data relating to trends in your performance is another way of squeezing a little a little more from your jumps.

    By admin, in Gear,

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