(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.