Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'gear'.



More search options

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Forums

  • General
    • Announcements
    • Introductions and Greets
  • Community
    • The Bonfire
    • Speakers Corner
  • Skydiving
    • General Skydiving Discussions
    • Questions and Answers
    • Gear and Rigging
    • Safety and Training
    • Events & Places to Jump
    • Skydiving History & Trivia
    • Instructors
    • Wind Tunnels
    • Tandem Skydiving
    • Skydivers with Disabilities
    • Blue Skies - In Memory Of
  • Skydiving Disciplines
    • Swooping and Canopy Control
    • Relative Work
    • Photography and Video
    • Freeflying
    • Canopy Relative Work
    • Wing Suit Flying
    • BASE Jumping
  • Dropzone.com
    • Suggestions and Feedback
    • Error and Bug Reports
    • Security and Scam Alerts

Calendars

  • Boogies
  • Competitions
  • Miscellaneous
  • Rating Courses
  • Training Camps

Categories

  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bermuda
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Guatemala
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • New Zealand
  • Namibia
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Pacific Islands
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Suriname
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Categories

  • Altimeters
  • AADs
  • Cameras
  • Containers
  • Helmets
  • Jumpsuits
  • Goggles
  • Main Canopies
  • Clothing
  • Reserve Canopies
  • Software
  • Wingsuits

Categories

  • Disciplines
  • Safety
  • News
  • Help
    • Account Help
    • Forums
    • Dropzone E-Mail
    • Dropzone Database
    • Photo Galleries
    • Premier Membership
    • Event Planner
    • Classifieds
    • Dropzone Locator
    • Security And Scams
    • Videos
    • Content
  • Advertise
  • General
  • Events
  • Gear

Categories

  • 2004
  • 2005
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2006
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2007
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2008
    • Africa
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2009
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2010
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2011
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2012
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • Pacific
    • South America
    • North America
  • 2013
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2014
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2015
    • Africa
    • Asia
    • Europe
    • Middle East
    • North America
    • Pacific
    • South America
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Categories

  • Aads
  • Altimeters
  • Containers
  • Helmets
  • Main Canopies
  • Reserve Canopies
  • Cameras
  • Wingsuits
  • Jumpsuits

Categories

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • China
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Israel
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Latvia
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Categories

  • Classifieds
  • Forums
  • Profile
  • Gallery
  • Calendar
  • Other

Blogs

There are no results to display.

Product Groups

  • Advertisement
  • Dropzone Listings

Categories

  • AFF
  • BASE
  • Coaching
  • Compilations
  • CRW
  • Demos
  • Emergencies
  • Exits
  • Freeflying
  • Miscellaneous
  • Relative Work
  • Special Jumps
  • Tandem
  • Swooping
  • Wind Tunnel
  • Wingsuit
  • Skydive TV

Categories

  • Aads
  • Aircraft
  • Altimeters
  • Clothing And Jewelry
  • Complete Systems
  • Containers
  • Employment
  • Head Gear
  • Jumpsuits
  • Main Canopies
  • Miscellaneous
  • Photography
  • Reserve Canopies
  • Spare Parts
  • Tandem
  • Tunnel Time
  • Videos And Books
  • Wingsuits

Find results in...

Find results that contain...


Date Created

  • Start

    End


Last Updated

  • Start

    End


Filter by number of...

Joined

  • Start

    End


Group


Facebook


Linked In


Twitter


Google Plus


Youtube


Vimeo


Instagram


Website


About Me


Ratings


Container Other


Main Canopy Size


Main Canopy Other


Reserve Canopy Size


Reserve Canopy Other


AAD


Home DZ


License


License Number


Licensing Organization


Number of Jumps

 
or  

Tunnel Hours

 
or  

Years in Sport

 
or  

First Choice Discipline


First Choice Discipline Jump Total

 
or  

Second Choice Discipline


Second Choice Discipline Jump Total

 
or  

Static Line


IAD


AFF


Tandem


Formation


Rigging Back


Rigging Chest


Rigging Seat


Rigging Lap

Found 156 results

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. We're at the PIA symposium this year, scouting out what the manufacturers have lined up for release this year, and we've managed to grab some images to show you what has just arrived on the market and what is coming soon. Check out the following items and let us know in the comments section which ones you're most likely going to be picking up once they hit the shelves. Alti-2 - Chronos Cookie Composites - M3 Larsen & Brusgaard - Pro-Track II Sun Path - Aurora Airtec GmbH - Wingsuit Cypres
  4. 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?
  5. Image by Ralph Turner Remember when getting a camera onto your helmet required power tools, soldering irons, hot knives and makeshift camera mounts? Um--probably not. It wasn’t so long ago, really, that you had to have access to a workshop to get a camera on your head. Back then they were, like, really big, too. And it was obvious that cameras were problems waiting to happen. Those behemoths could--and regularly did--snap the stuffin’ out of the jumpers’ necks, making jumpers literally painfully aware that the camera posed additional safety considerations. With the advent of the GoPro, jumping with a camera started to seem, well, obvious. Just peel off the little sticker on the mount, slap it somewhere on your helmet, clip in the little plastic doohickey and away you go. Set it and forget it! You won’t even know it’s there! ...until it decides to get all uppity and grab a handful of your lines at an inopportune moment, that is. Here are the key questions you oughta be asking yourself before you end up in a spiderweb of your own making. 1. Should I even be jumping this thing?The USPA actually recommends that you be the proud bearer of a C license before you jump a camera, and that you’ve jumped everything else on your person at least 50 times before. If that causes you to make a big, exasperated noise, consider this: your overall bodyflight and canopy skills need to be beyond reproach before you add the risks and distractions of a camera. 2. What am I actually going to do if it all goes pear-shaped?You’ll need to make a decision about what the exact steps you’ll take if part of your system ends up snagged on your camera. Go through the individual components: bridle, pilot chute, lines, etc. Talk to your S&TA; about these details to check your intuition. Perhaps, if your helmet allows, you’ll fit it with a cutaway system so your helmet doesn’t impede your life-saving efforts. That said: Talk to someone who has actually had to use a quick-release chinstrap setup under duress. Yes, it’s great that they exist. No, they are not failsafe. If you don’t install a cutaway system, you’re going to have to be able to get that helmet off your head yourself. This is, suffice it to say, not the easiest thing to do while spinning and plummeting and stuff. If you’re convinced your flimsy-seeming little mount will pop right off when it counts, think again. It seems that, at least when you don’t want them to come off, those GoPro mounts are tougher than they look. (A lot tougher.) 3. What’s it worth to me to buy a safer mount?The free mounts that come with your camera have that one thing going for ‘em: They are, y’know, free. You don’t have to buy anything else. They are gratis. No more exchange of funds involved. Free, however, sometimes isn’t the way to go. As ubiquitous as they have become, the venerable GoPro was not invented for skydiving. Check out the array of sky-specific aftermarket mounts that aim to eliminate that looming snag hazard. Ask the camera flyers you admire what mounts they prefer (and why). 4. Can I anti-snag myself in the absence of after-market parts?If you just don’t see yourself buying an alternative mount, you shouldn’t just throw up your hands and leave it to the fates. You should still make the effort to reduce your snag hazards. The SIM has some advice for industrious DIYers: All edges and potential snag areas should be covered, taped or otherwise protected. Necessary snag points on helmet-mounted cameras should at least face away from the deploying parachute. A pyramid shape of the entire camera mounting system may deflect lines better than an egg shape. Deflectors can help protect areas that can’t be otherwise modified to reduce problems. All gaps between the helmet and equipment, including mounting plates, should be taped or filled (hot glue, etc.). Protrusions, such as camera sights, should be engineered to present the least potential for snags. Ground testing should include dragging a suspension line over the camera assembly to reveal snag points.That last one is key, so I’ve gone ahead and put that sucker in bold. 5. What’s my decision altitude?There is very little in this life that’s more distracting than getting a dangly brake line looped around your helmet camera and whipping into a brutal spin. The wha huh OH CRAP OH NO moment turns into GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF and, before you know it, your dytter is giving you the business. So: it’s a smart idea to bump your deployment altitude up a little big to give you more time to extricate yourself. More variables require more buffer and, make no mistake, that light little fluff of a sports camera is an additional variable to be reckoned with. 6. Is this thing going to put me on the facepalm-inducing-incidents list?...Because that, at the end of the day, is a more important question than “is it on?”
  6. Image by Keith CreedyC’mon...just how much damage can one little line really do? Actually--lots. When a suspension line gets out-of-place and slides across neighboring nylon, another line, or another skydiver (in a collision scenario), the damage can be catastrophic. The lines connecting your mortal coil to your nylon conveyance are, after all, thin strands of extremely strong material – and, in deployment and flight, they move very, very fast. Line burn is, as you have no doubt extrapolated by now, caused by the generation of heat by friction. The amount of heat a fast-moving line generates is enough to literally melt the canopy – and, under certain circumstances, the line itself. Here are the questions you’ve gotta answer in order to avoid cooking your precious canopy. 1. How melt-resistant are your lines?Both F-111 and ZP nylon melt at 417 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a lower melting point than almost all the common suspension line materials (Dacron®, Vectran® and HMA), which melt when exposed to heat levels of 482-932 degrees. There is, however, one exception: Spectra®. Spectra®, that tender little princess, melts at just 297 degrees. Even if they literally melt a hole in the canopy, all lines but Spectra® will likely survive the incident unscathed. If you have Spectra® lines, however, check them carefully if you discover line burn on your canopy – they are likely sufficiently damaged to require replacement. 2. Is that crease really a crease?Most modern sport canopies used to be made of F-111 nylon. These days, for lots of reasons--from performance to fading mitigation--they’re generally constructed of ZP (zero-porosity) fabric. The behavior of these two materials under stress varies widely. When an F-111 canopy suffers line burn, the damage tends to be localized – often, sufficiently contained to be landable. ZP fabric is not so forgiving: high-speed line burns tend to cause major structural disintegrity. In addition to that, burn damage to ZP fabric can be difficult to identify, often appearing as a simple crease in the fabric – though testing to that crease finds it to have been massively reduced in tensile strength. (For this reason, Performance Designs doesn’t use zero-P fabric in their reserve canopies.) 3. Are you packing for a smacking?According to the United States Parachute Association, incorrect packing is the most common source of line burn. The other cause, of course, is canopy collision – but that is a subject for another article entirely. To reduce your risk: Don’t throw your canopy in the bag. Take a moment to mindfully arrange the lines towards the center of the pack job, making sure that rogue lines aren’t nestled deep in the fabric where they could cause burn. Mind your slider. Keep the slider flush against the slider stops and tucked between the line groups. Not only will this help to mitigate opening shock, it will help to manage the lines as the canopy deploys and keep them from unnecessary intimacy from the neighboring fabric. Clear your stabilizers. The stabilizers (the “ears” of fabric that come down slightly on each lateral side of the canopy) have a tendency to tuck themselves in towards the lines when you’re pro-packing. Make sure they’re clear. 4. Have you already been burned? Look for melting and discoloration. Line-burn damage looks very different than puncture damage (or any other clean cut or rip). Check your lines. If you notice burn damage on your canopy, it means that the nylon most certainly came into contact with your lines. To check lines for burn damage, use your hands more than your eyes. While seared lines often show signs of melting at the burn point, the easiest way to determine damage is by feel: an undamaged line will feel smooth if you pinch it and slide your fingers down, while burned (or otherwise damaged) lines will feel bumpy and rough. Get help. If you notice evidence of line burn – or what you suspect to be line burn – on your canopy or lines, take the damage to your rigger for inspection as soon as possible. Don’t freak out! In many cases, the damage can be repaired simply and economically, with replacement suspension lines and patching. Don’t be a dick. If you notice any damage on a rental (or student) rig, don’t hesitate to point it out to your coach or the rental office, whether or not you believe the damage happened “on your watch.” You’d want the same treatment--and you don’t want to be burning your fellow skydivers. Right?
  7. Let me ask you this: When was the last time that you saw the pilot running down a safety checklist on the jump plane? Photographer: BatCam If you’re paying attention, you certainly have--or at least seen the clipboard stuffed somewhere in the cockpit, lookin’ official. Metal-tube pilots have an actual checklist to run down to confirm the safety of the gear that heaves us all up into the sky. That’s a great idea -- it’s a reasonably complicated system, and a checklist ensures that nothing’s being forgotten. Now: when have you ever seen a nylon pilot with a clipboard and a pen, spinning briskly around in front of a mirror and checking things off? Yeah--never. Even though a wingsuit has lots of little safety details that need to be confirmed before every flight, our before-takeoff checklist exists only in our heads--and it’s significantly more complicated than a standard skydiving gear check. Let’s make that checklist a little easier to remember, hey? A gear check should be a mantra. Here’s the abbreviated checklist to add to your “standard” skydiving gear check: The Four-Three Wingsuit Check 3 Checks 3 Straps 3 Handles 3 Zeroes Here’s what it means. Three ChecksThis will be familiar to any skydiver, since it’s been a recommendation since the dawn of the sport: you should perform a pre-flight gear check three times. Perform one in the hangar, one before hoppin’ on the plane and one before you exit. Also: Never underestimate the value of another pair of eyeballs during this process. Three StrapsTwo leg straps and one chest strap are the only things that keep us skydivers from being skyfallers. All wingsuits cover up two-thirds of those vital bits of webbing; some wingsuits (in BASE mode) obscure the chest strap as well*. As you might imagine, fatalities--and many close calls--have resulted. Check them with your eyeballs before you’re zipped in. Some suits fit snugly enough that the straps seem tightened when they’re not (gulp!), and once those straps are out of sight, they can easily slip out of mind. After you’re zipped in, you can check your legs by lifting your shoulders and feeling for the pull of the leg straps. Three HandlesMake sure you know exactly where all three of your handles are, and that they’ll be available to you while you’re flying. Your cutaway and reserve handles must be readily accessible and visible to you in flight -- so make sure your suit is fitted and attached in a way that puts those handles on proud display. Switching from BOC to leg pouch? Switching from leg pouch to BOC? Best be damn sure you know which one you’re wearing. Three ZerosZero Holes When you’re fully zipped in, every zipper on the suit should be zipped and every cable should be properly routed. If a zipper is down, you’re in for a rodeo. Your wingsuit closure zippers aren’t the casual affair at the front of your pants, either, my friends. Check: Are the female and male ends mated properly so that each tooth of the zipper alternates? This is checked at the fitting end of the zipper. If that’s not done properly, you risk losing that wing in flight (or potentially shifting the zipper during deployment, which can cause jamming and possible damage). Eminent wingsuit athlete and coach Matt Blank has additional advice. “I have my students zip their arms all the way closed,” he explains, “Then touch their handles and then open both arm zippers. This insures that the clothing they have on under their suit does not inhibit the student from reaching his or her handles--or is a risk for being caught in zippers if they need to rapidly unzip after deployment.” Look at your pressure zippers, too. Are the pressure relief zippers in the appropriate place for the flight, and symmetrical from arm to arm? For beginner flight, we quite often unzip the pressure zippers, which naturally comes at a cost to performance. As we advance in the sport, we may zip them partially closed or closed all the way. In either case, check for symmetry. If one arm is zipped differently than the opposite, the suit will have an asymmetric inflation--causing an unbalanced flight. Image submitted by bruno.ferrazza Zero Dangles Check for dangly anything: cables, webbing, half-stowed pilot chutes, camera bits, etc. As a rule, dangly bits are bad. Oh. and another thing: Never disconnect your RSL for wingsuit jumps. Take it from Richard Webb, one of the discipline’s most experienced and respected athletes (as well as the founder of the science-forward, no-nonsense human flight information source Top Gun BASE). “I've been saved by an RSL when my reserve pillow got sucked into my wingsuit on a spinning malfunction,” Webb explains. “It literally saved my life. I didn't have an AAD at the time. Now, I will never wingsuit without an RSL. Ever. I strongly endorse RSL use for all wingsuit ops. The data is conclusive. Even on spinning malfunctions on tiny cross-braced canopies, RSLs and Skyhooks work remarkably well at getting you under an inflated reserve safely with minimal line twists.” Zero on Your Altitude Indicators Make sure your AAD is on (and reads zero), as well as your other altitude indicators -- and that you can see your visual alti while you’re in flight mode. If you wingsuit with an AAD, you need to know this: most AADs will not fire at even modest wingsuit speeds. That said, they have saved wingsuit pilots who got little-bunny-foo-food on the way down, so don’t let that dissuade you from turning yours on. The Rest of the RecipeA good gear check requires that you know your gear. As a wingsuit pilot, it falls on you to become intimately familiar with the design, operation and function of the suit you’re whizzing around in. If you’re checking your flocking buddy and you’re not familiar with his/her particular equipment, ask. (If your buddy doesn’t seem to know what the hell he/she is wearing, take that as a warning.) Allow your intuition some room to breathe, here. Check for a comfortable range of motion, that the configuration makes sense to you and that you feel good in the suit. You can rest assured that if you don’t feel good in the suit, you’re not going to have a good time. *Sound confusing? Yeah. Well. It is. Wingsuit design varies widely by brand and model--sometimes, with some manufacturers, even within the model. Wingsuits are often built to be configured differently, depending on the jump specs, the container design, pilot preference and--I dunno--current mood. You are likely going to have questions. Ask them of your mentors and the manufacturer of your suit.
  8. Image by Lukasz SzymanskiPaul Iglin has been brokering used skydiving gear for more than a decade. He’s seen it all. He has definitely seen your kind before, and wants you to know a few things about the buying process, so you don’t make the same mistakes he’s seen over – and over – and over. I asked him what people need to know about buying used skydiving gear when they begin the process, and he had plenty of sage advice to share. Here’s what he has to say about it. 1. Curb your enthusiasm.“Your job as a buyer is to get the right gear at the right time and at the right point in your skydiving career. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Every once in a while I have had people contact me who have not actually started skydiving yet. It is very rare, but it happens. They are clueless – and they are dangerous to themselves from a financial standpoint, because they have no idea what they’re buying. I tell them to go to somebody else; I won’t sell them gear. Before you start shopping for gear, you need to know what you are shopping for. So, if you don’t: Stop right there. Good shape, good brand, good used gear at the right price: Make no mistake; that’s hard to find. In skydiving gear, the supply-and-demand curve is really messed up. There’s very little supply and very high demand. It’s also seasonal. Come March and April, everybody rushes to find gear, and then demand stays strong all the way through end of the season around September. Try to shop outside that time frame if you can.” 2. Don’t trust your friends.“Man, people get their advice from some terrible sources. A lot of the time, they’ll just go to their friends. But when you’re a new jumper, most likely your friends are also newer jumpers who basically don’t know jack****. Their understanding is very, very narrow; they have blinders on. Like: they bought themselves a brand-new Infinity rig with a brand-new Optimum with a brand-new Sabre 2, and it works for them, so that’s what they tell their friends to get. Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the gear they’re recommending is the worst. It just means that these people don’t have a statistically relevant sample, so their opinion doesn’t really count for anything. And they always tell whoever’s asking that ‘this is the best,’ as opposed to making the correct statement: ‘This is the one I have, and it works well for me.’” 3. Do your homework.“All of this ties into the fact that people often just don’t do proper research. How do you do proper research? Well, whenever people ask me this question, I tell them this: Look at the gear as tier A, B and C as far as manufacturers, quality and pricing. I’m going to go ahead and throw some manufacturers’ names out there. You have your tier-A manufacturers: your Vectors; your Javelins; your Mirages; your Infinities. All those guys have been around for a long time. There are no questions about quality. They are very reputable. All the options are available. Then you have your tier-Bs: Icons, Wings, Perigees, whatever Dolphin became and a whole lot of other brands that are either obscure or very localized to another continent or a particular country. Avoid the latter if you’re a new jumper, because you don’t know what the **** you’re doing. You may have somebody try to sell you another brand that’s technically TSO’d, but you’re really going to suffer when you try to resell. You’ll have a hard time finding replacement parts if you are outside of the country of manufacture – and you’re going to get killed on shipping, and support is going to be pretty crappy. Be aware. Your can ask any rigger what the tier-C manufacturer is. They’ll tell you.” 4. Make peace with your pants size.“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is being a over-optimistic about their weight. It happens a lot, because it’s usually people who are just slightly overweight that make the biggest mistakes. For example: a 5’10”, 180-pound person says, ‘I am going to be exiting at 210 pounds, so I should get a 210, But I’m going to work out and lose weight, so I’m going to go with a 190.’ I immediately tell them not to shop for the future. You shop for right now. If you need a 210 based on your current body weight, for chrissakes get a 210. Because in my experience -- and this is 15 years of skydiving speaking -- it is very unlikely that you will actually get to that goal weight. Sorry. It is possible, sure, but nobody has ever gotten hurt because their canopy was bigger rather than smaller. Don’t be stupid about it.” 5. Then add to that number. More than you think.“The other problem that I see a lot of people early on in their careers -- and a lot of times even as they become experienced skydivers with a couple of hundred jumps -- is that people don’t account for exit weight. People add a couple of pounds and call it a day, and that’s completely wrong. You step out of the shower, and that’s your body weight. Then you put on your clothes. You put on your boots. You put on your rig. You put on your helmet and whatever suit you wear and your cameras and whatever else you’re jumping with. Then you step on the scale, and that’s your exit weight. You know all that already. Even knowing that, a lot of people don’t bother with the scale and egregiously underestimate what their rig weighs. A lot of people estimate 15 pounds for gear. Seriously?! What the **** are you talking about? You are going to put on 10 pounds just of clothing and boots alone. Then a canopy weighs about eight pounds. Your container weighs 8-12 pounds, depending on the amount of hardware. Your reserve? About six pounds. Your AAD, even, weighs six ounces. Your jumpsuit is going to add another couple of pounds. None of that stuff is magically weightless. Add 30 pounds for your gear. Maybe more. Don’t underestimate! You’re only hurting yourself.” 6. Consult the chart.“The loading chart that I share with my customers – Brian Germain’s chart -- is the easiest one that I think is out there. I’m not necessarily saying it is the best one; I just think it’s the easiest to grasp. What he says is this: If you have 100 jumps or less, you should load one-to-one or less. For every 100 jumps, increase your wing loading by .1. That means that if you have 300 jumps, there is no reason you shouldn’t be jumping the 1.3 wing loading. Of course, you have caveats. People who jump at high-altitude dropzones and people who jump in very windy areas will need to choose different gear than people who jump at sea level, and so on and so forth. If you live in Colorado, you should probably jump a bigger canopy, because the air is thinner. If you jump where it’s really, really windy, you may get away with a slightly smaller canopy because you really do need the speed. Also, keep your head.“If you get a 170, you weigh 210 pounds and you’re 50 jumps into the sport, you are not doing anybody any favors. You may survive. You may not. But I certainly won’t be the person selling you a 170-square-foot canopy.” In general, please: Don’t go into it blind. Ask very experienced people for advice. And if you come to me as a buyer, expect me to tell it like it is. Because I will.”
  9. No-Punches-Pulled Advice From A Long-Time Suit Dealer Image by Joel StricklandYou might think twice--or three times, or never--about dropping many hundreds of dollars on a dapper tuxedo. A skydiving suit, however? Shut up and take my money, dear manufacturer. Just make sure it’s in my colors and that the sponsor logos are right. When you’re slinging that kind of cash around, the last thing you want is for the object of your ardent longing to show up too loose, too tight, too short, or too long--and, due to a bafflingly high instance of improper measuring on the part of the buyer, that happens all the time. Take it from Joel Strickland, double British gold medalist (in both freestyle and freefly) and dealer for the venerable Vertical Suits. He’s been wrapping innocent skydivers in measuring tape for some years now, and he has excellent advice for the un- (or under-) initiated. 1. Relax.“Measuring is not as difficult as people think it is,” Strickland soothes, “So, if you follow a few simple rules, it is pretty straightforward.” In other words: don’t get too nervous about this. 2. Get someone to help. “While it’s technically possible to measure yourself,” Strickland explains, “It is not recommended. There will be some touching. Try not to make it weird.” 3. Make it a dress rehearsal.Strickland advises everyone who comes to him for a fitting to wear what he/she would normally wear under a suit: base layers, thermals, underpants, jeans, whatever’s usually under there. You’ll want that suit to fit comfortably over your usual undergirdings, not strain over a pair of baggy, beloved chinos you didn’t wear to the fitting. 4. Follow the video. “It is difficult to get it wrong if you use the talking pictures,” Strickland says. “We live in the future. Few people are ever more than ten feet from a device that will let you do this. No excuses.” He’s referring specifically to the Vertical Suits fitting video, of course, but similar helping hands are available from other suit manufacturers. 5. Measure twice, cut once. “Always measure twice,” Strickland insists. “Maybe switch hands or stand on the other side and do it the other way around. Perhaps switch the limb being measured. See that the numbers match up.” 6. Don’t tweak. “Suit design has grown into a very precise process using science and maths and brains,” Strickland says. “The manufacturers ask for a lot of measurements for a reason, and the best results come from sticking to the plan. If you mess with them, it can throw out the form of the suit and compromise its awesomeness.” 7. Let the company know about your special needs.If you do require a specific area to be looser--for example, if you wear a brace--reach out to the manufacturer for advice instead of altering your measurements to suit what you think the suit requires. They’ve almost certainly seen your issue before and can give you the best advice. 8. Don’t fudge the numbers.Your measurements now are what counts. “If you want your suit to fit,” Strickland sighs, “Do not adjust anything based the diet you just started or the gym membership you just bought.” 9. Be gentle. “When wielding the tape measure,” he continues, “You should be aiming for tickle, not strangle.” 10. Come as you are. When being measured, stand naturally. “Don’t puff out your chest or suck in your stomach or clench your buttocks or whatever,” Strickland explains. Your suit will feel better, fly better and look better if it fits you as you really are, right now. 11. Look to the experts, if you really want to nail it.The best way to get all of this stuff done is to seek out one of your chosen suit’s stable of official dealers. “In and around all the places where skydiving is popular,” Strickland advises, “There are people who work closely with the company as boots on the ground to help.” These dealers have the benefit of many years of combined experience, as well as a direct line to the manufacturer for questions. They’ve generally tried and tested many different jumpsuits through the years, and can offer horse’s-mouth feedback on any issues or questions you might have. Sniff around at boogies or events--not just under the loudly-logo’d tents, but in the crowds, as well. “They will go on and on,” Strickland assures. “You will wish they would shut up about it after a while.”
  10. Three-ring systems look pretty tough. They’re made of thick, heavy metal, after all – what could possibly go wrong? Bad news: lots. The rings are husky little guys, that’s true. However, they depend on the webbing behind them–and the cutaway cables that fasten them in the ready position–in order for them to work. It behooves you to know when and how to maintain the system. How Sloppily Maintained 3-Ring Systems Can Cause a Bad DayNylon webbing, the material used to make skydiving (and BASE, for that matter) risers, stiffens over time to conform to the position in which it’s usually stored. Sometimes, they “set” so firmly in that position that the risers can’t flex the backing nylon–and can’t detach from the harness when the jumper engages the cutaway system, especially during a low-drag malfunction (such as a streamer). This, of course, is a very bad thing. The B-SidesYou’ve probably gotten used to looking at the little snowmen of your three-rings during your preflight gear checks. Great! How often do you look behind them? The loop that connects the cutaway cable to the three-ring system can get dangerously abraded over time. You should peek at it every time you pack. The Deep TracksTo keep your three-rings in proper working order, the three-rings need to be manually disassembled, the cables checked and the webbing treated to a little massage. For skydivers, this is the stuff of riggers. According to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 65-111, skydivers “must be under the supervision of a rigger when performing any maintenance on a parachute system.” Don’t let your rigger have all the fun, though. Having a hand in the process has the significant benefit of familiarizing you with the operation of the system and increasing your confidence that it’ll be there when you need it. The best advice is to go through these steps every three months, whether or not you’ve been jumping the rig. Check your user’s manual for specific instructions. You can always find this on the manufacturer’s website. Pull the cutaway handle. Set the cutaway and connected cables on a clean surface. (Do not pull the reserve handle – unless you need a repack, of course.) Inspect the Velcro on the cutaway handle and the seating on the harness. You may need to use a stuff brush to “fluff” the Velcro and clean off any adherence-preventing dirt, especially if you jump at a dusty drop zone. Check the ends of each cutaway cable to be sure they haven’t developed any kinks or rough edges. Run a microfiber cloth over each cable. While you do, check for smoothness. Disassemble the risers. Carefully check each riser for signs of wear. Look especially carefully at the white loop that “locks” the cutaway cable to the three-ring system. (You should be checking this loop each time you pack the rig, but this process gives you a better, closer look.) Twist and flex the webbing of each riser near the ring system. You can safely be vigorous. You’ll likely feel the problem-causing stiffness as you do this. Reassemble the system. Refer to your user’s manual to ensure you’ve done it correctly. Before your next jump, have an experienced jumper or a rigger confirm that the system is correctly reassembled. Enjoy a little more gear confidence, dear reader. You’ve earned it.
  11. Aerodyne recently announced the release of their new canopy, the Pilot7. This new main, which was initially developed with wingsuiters in mind, is a 7-cell variation of the popular Pilot canopy which Aerodyne have sold for over a decade. The original Pilot canopy is in fact the company's most successful product, with the 9-cell elliptical holding an average rating of 4.67/5 based off 69 votes in our gear section. Aerodyne say they found their design for the Pilot7 heavily influenced by the strengths of the initial Pilot, and wanted to ensure that the new canopy lived up to the expectations set by its older sibling. Something for EveryoneBoth beginner flyers and experienced wingsuit pilots have reportedly demoed the Pilot7 with great results and public feedback as to the performance of the canopy. The company claims the Pilot7 provides 'superbly consistent openings', while in flight offers the pilot something fun and agile, while still remaining stable and easy to fly. "It has a flat glide and a powerful flare, likely more so than any 7-cell you’ve experienced.", claim Aerodyne. It was clear that solid, reliable openings were a key factor for this canopy during development, and testimonials from those who have been demoing the Pilot7 seem to confirm that Aerodyne have really hit the nail on the head with regards to the reliability of openings. While the focus of the Pilot7 was wingsuiting, Aerodyne say they expect that the canopy may become popular in other demographics of jumpers. Due to forgiving openings, handling characteristics and low pack volumes of the canopy, it could serve as a great choice for all skydiving skill groups, however could prove especially useful for beginner skydivers. MaterialsThe standard version of the Pilot7 will come in ZP, while there are also the options for Aerodyne's honeycomb low pack volume ZPS and their new UltraLPV material. "This builds the top skin and stabilizers from ZPX, and the ribs and bottom skin from FX-11 (the low pack volume material used in the SmartLPV). We use the ZLX lines to create an amazingly low pack volume canopy." Available sizes: 117, 137, 147, 167, 187, 207, 227, 247 sq ft.
  12. POA Labs has announced the launch of the GoHawk, an expansion pack for the GoPro Hero4 that adds three new levels of functionality for POV Still and Video photographers. The GoHawk adds three new camera ports, allowing the user to connect: Remote shutter button. Save time by only shooting photos when you want to. Choose from hands-free mouth switches or a thumb triggered handlebar switch. Works with any 2.5mm remote shutter switch. Remote LED indicator lets you know that your camera is on and recording. The bendable indicator can be mounted in your helmet or wrapped around your handlebars. Auxiliary USB Power Input for extended shooting - plug into any battery pack and never run out of power again. The GoHawk enhances the process of shooting POV photos with your GoPro Hero4. Choose from a mouth-operated shutter button (best for chest or helmet mounted cameras) or a handlebar-mount push button (ideal for handlebar mounted cameras, cyclists, and motorcyclists). Simply plug your switch of choice into the GoHawk and start shooting! For still photographers, the GoHawk can be used in Continuous or Burst photo modes to capture the pictures you want, and ONLY the pictures you want. You’ll never have to spend hours sorting through the contents of a full memory card for that one magical shot. If you shoot video, you can easily start and stop recording using any external shutter switch. With the bendable LED indicator.you’ll never have to worry if your camera is on, taking a photo, or recording. A blue standby LED lets you know that your camera is on and flashes to let you know when your battery is low. A red record/shutter LED mimic’s the GoPro’s own shutter button lights no matter what mode you’re in. No special software is needed to operate the GoHawk. Simply plug it in and start shooting. The GoHawk is perfect for photographers and videographers who value the durability, price, and compact size of their GoPro’s, but need more control over how they capture the action. For more information, visit: the kickstarter page If you're interested in backing this project, you can support it on their kickstarter page, which is now live. About POA Labs POA Labs is a Portland-based product incubator focused on developing new and innovative products that enhance the lives of people who take their fun seriously. We want to enable our customers to do more - do it better, do it easier, and do it safer. Have more fun.
  13. NZ Aerosports released the original Icarus Safire in 1999. They followed up in 2001 with the release of the Safire2, and she went on to become their biggest selling mainstream canopy, and one of the most popular beginner and intermediate canopies on the market. About five years ago, there began to be rumours of a Safire 3 and Crossfire 3 being developed, but the development of Petra and Leia stole the limelight and the research and development hours, and kept the company preoccupied for a few years. But last year NZ Aerosports started making some noise about them again, and since there's been a few teaser posts on their Facebook page about these new wings. Everyone wants to know when the Safire 3 and Crossfire 3 will be released, but the team at NZ Aerosports are staying tight lipped on that one. They have stated that the Safire 3 will be first to go public. And they've released a bit of information about what we can expect to see in the Safire 2's successor. They say they are also working hard on the Crossfire 3 project and that it’s going to be ready later in the year than the Safire 3, but it’s looking pretty good! The starting point for the Safire 3 project was reshaping the Safire 2 in the same software and using the same 3D design technique used to design Petra and Leia. They’ve kept the crossport design and repartition the same, to reduce surface distortion and improve load bearing, and the 3D lineset design, which gives a more accurate shape in flight. They’ve used the same elliptical lobe, so the shape of the canopy given by the way the lineset attaches now follows a true ellipse. And they’ve added their statement Powerband that flattens the 3D panels more accurately and reduces fabric stretch to keep the new design true to it’s shape in flight. These are some of the design changes you can expect from the Safire 2 to Safire 3: New planform totally reshaped through true 3D design Proportionally tuned air inlets that open wider in the centre of the canopy and less toward the tips New brake configuration, providing a more efficient flareIt won't be more 'high performance' than the Safire 2, because it is aimed at the same type of pilot that flies them now, but she will be more efficient and responsive, have a better glide and an even more powerful flare. The Safire3 Project: Opening Progression from NZ Aerosports Ltd on Vimeo. When the Safire 3 comes to market she will be available exclusively from NZ Aerosports in New Zealand, and NZ Aerosports dealers.
  14. admin

    Four-Armed is Forewarned

    Altitude awareness is easily the most important aspect of skydiving and it’s no wonder that audible alert systems were one of the first technological inventions in the earlier days of skydiving. Like most things technical, significant advances have been made, and any device that provides information/feedback during a skydive is a valuable addition to any skydiver’s tool kit. Larsen and Brusgaard, the foremost authority on altitude-measuring/awareness devices, launched a new product named the “Quattro,” in early 2014. With four user-programmable altitude notifications/alarms, the Quattro has become incredibly popular. Why?It’s important to understand what an audible offers skydivers involved in precision activities. Once relegated only to scream at a skydiver that they’d missed their point of deployment, audibles are now used for indicating user-controlled altitude alarms, while still providing feedback for deployment, hard deck, cutaway, or other altitudes warnings. From a wingsuiting perspective, I cannot imagine anyone not owning a Quattro. With the ability to generate seven notifications in flight, wingsuiters have no reason to not be set for exact breakoff points, maneuver points, deployment, entry and exit gate-points for performance training, competition points, and the list goes on and on. Wingsuiters fall at different rates, and with radically different wingsuits, everyone has different needs and wants. With this in mind, I’ve put together a few bullet points on where the Quattro benefits wingsuiter pilots. COACHING: Frequently, wingsuit coaches have a “no more work altitude” that is different than deployment altitudes. For example, I want students to not perform tasks below 6000’ but frequently continue stable flight until 4,500. As a coach, I want these notification alarms in addition to my own personal alarms of 3,500’ and 2500’ and my hard-deck alarm at 1600’. As an FFC/First Flight Course coach, students are given specific tasks at specific altitudes on the climb to altitude. The Quattro provides three “climb to altitude” alarms that a coach might use to remind him of those points where the student should be providing feedback or information. For example, students might be giving a verbal description of the skydive at 5000’ or indicating their countdown and waveoff point at 6,000’. In any event, climb-to-altitude alarms serve a multitude of value. PERFORMANCE TRAINING: Wingsuiters competing in FAI Performance Categories need to enter their performance gate at 3000m/9842’ and exit the gate at 2000m/6562’ and while the mandatory Flysight can provide these entry/exit indicators, competitors can benefit from a pre-gate announcement that the Quattro can provide, in addition to deployment indicators. ACRO COMPETITION: In Wingsuit Acro, the competition clock starts as the competitors exit. In non-compulsory jumps, synchronization is frequently part of the jump, and having set points for an action, particularly where wingsuiters may not be facing each other (back to back flying), an alarm or series of alarms can provide valuable timing information. The multiple alarms are also good for notifying competitors when they’ve reached their competitive deck, while still providing the “standard” three alarms for deployment, reminder, and hard-deck. HIGH ALTITUDE JUMPS: Wingsuiters engaging in high altitude jumps are flummoxed that most audible systems cannot provide feedback above 10,000’. The Quattro is capable of informing the wingsuiter as high as 19,990. Although the Quattro offers a broad spectrum of alarm settings, users are not required to enable them, and this is one of the features I appreciate most about the Quattro; users may configure the system to be as personal as needed, turning on/off various alarm points. Wingsuiters focused on performance frequently do not want to look at their wrist or chest mount altimeters if they’ve got a good performance groove happening, and full-face helmets often make it impossible to see chest-mount altimeters when in a performance configuration; an audible provides valuable feedback when cranking a chin around to see a visual may have a negative impact on performance. The unit allows for offsets, so if the landing area is a different elevation than the point of take-off, audible settings can be user-adjusted if the offset is known. Otherwise, the unit will recalibrate itself every 14 hours to the last MSL point of take-off. Manually zeroing the Quattro is as easy as pressing the center button a couple of times (this is the same procedure for generating altitude off-sets). As with previous L&B; products, the Quattro uses a pair of 2325 batteries, easily found at most any electronics store or grocery store that offers a wide variety of button batteries. In my experience, the batteries seem to be good for about 1000 jumps, or about a year. However, the Quattro and Optima seem to be very forgiving when the battery indicator says “replace me.” I’ve tacked on another 300 jumps after the indicator told me I had an empty battery. While just about any discipline in skydiving can benefit from the Quattro’s numerous features, wingsuiting is one aspect of the sport that frequently demands “more.” Wingsuiters love data, feedback, and algorithms designed just for them, and the Quattro certainly delivers. It probably helps that some of the folks at L&B; are avid wingsuit pilots, and have taken time out to really dig into what makes wingsuiting and wingsuiters just “a bit different” than other skydivers, and in the Quattro, they’ve really done it well. Although I’m not a speed skydiver, I can only surmise the multiple alarms would also benefit the speed discipline. Several helmet manufacturers have recognized the value of L&B; products, and have custom-fit slots for the Quattro (or Optima2, Solo) audible, and some have given exterior access to the audible. One feature I very much appreciate in my Tonfly helmets is that I can access the audible from the outside, letting me know my altitude settings are correct, that my battery is good, and that the unit is active (I frequently turn it off if I’m not going to be jumping for a few days). The unit display turns off after 14 hours, but will reactivate if it senses a climb to altitude. Unless manually turned off, it is always ready to jump. During frequent/daily jump cycles, I don’t bother to turn off my Quattro. By the way, for the color coordination-conscious skydiver, these are available with custom-configuration buttons, just like the Optima and Viso.
  15. A Spa Day For Your Skydiving Rig Image by Andrey VeselovCharlie Chaplin has nothing on you. That landing was nothing less than *art*. You managed to use that doofus downwind setup to milk every last opportunity for comedy out of your return to earth. You nailed the exaggerated “uh-oh” expression. You executed the perfect shortbus flare. You transitioned majestically from a banana-peel touchdown to a ten-foot skid through the one spot of mud in the landing area. You, my friend, are awesome. Now, you’re going to have a nice laundry day. Here’s how. Wait for it.If you’ve managed to drag your beautiful gear through the mud, you’re going to have to stare at it in shame for a while before you make a move. Wait for it to dry completely -- which may take a couple of days -- then scrub off what you can with a dry brush. Take it apart.Remove both canopies from the rig. (Do this after performing a practice reserve deployment -- as you always do before a repack, right?) Remove your AAD from the rig. Remove all hardware: reserve handles, risers, RSL, hook knife, etc. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, ask for help from a rigger. Treat your rig like a dog....or, at least, like you’re administering a doggie bathtime. Gather a big plastic tub, gentle detergent (such as Woolite or castile soap) and a nylon scrub brush. Fill the tub about halfway with lukewarm -- not hot -- water. Dunk your empty rig and agitate it in the soapy water, but don’t let it sit and soak. After the container is fully saturated, go at it with your scrubber. Repeat the dunk-and-shake cycle. Once your rig is good and scrubbed, empty the tub and refill it with soapless, lukewarm water. Dunk and dunk and dunk, emptying and refilling the tub as necessary, until not even the tiniest hint of soap remains. (Dried-on soap is a filth magnet.) ...Or treat your rig like fine lingerie.You can machine-wash a rig, but you’d better make sure you act like it’s a set of ridiculously fancy, spendy underthings. (Ridiculously fancy, spendy underthings with hip rings, of course, that need to be strapped up with athletic tape to keep them from denting the inside of your machine…) Put your empty, hardwareless, Velcro-mated rig in a mesh laundry bag and run it with gentle detergent on the delicate cycle. String it up.Hang your wet skydiving container in a dry place that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight. As you get it set up, straighten every flap and fold to prevent wrinkles from locking in. Keep tabs untucked. If your rig has Cadmium hardware, you’ll need to do a thorough hand-drying pass with a towel at the very beginning to prevent rust. Stop time.Okay. You can’t stop time. You can, however, encourage the time between cleanings to maybe slow down a little bit. After your rig is spotlessly, white-glove-test-ready, make-your-mama-proud clean -- and as dry as the beer truck at the end of the Skydive Arizona Christmas Boogie -- you can apply a single coating of fabric protection, such as Scotchgard, to shield it against redirtying. Check the manufacturer’s recommendation for application before you get all spray-happy. That said, the general advice is to apply three whisper-light coats of protectant, making sure each coat is dry before applying a new one. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area (lest you waterproof your lungs). Get out, damned spot.Keep a baggie of stain-removing wipes in your skydiving gear kit. They’re a lifesaver for little oopsies. Take a canopy course....or start working at a laundromat to save money. Your call, Charlie.
  16. Image by Juan MayerWhen are you going to be alone in the sky with a useless bag of laundry and two little handles? If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s going to. Sure, there are skydivers with thousands of jumps who have never had to make alternate nylon plans. But don’t be fooled: your first reserve ride is not a question of “if.” It’s a question of “when.” If you don’t feel ready, you’re not alone. Here are ten proven ways to boost your confidence and safety. 1.Stay current Long lapses between jumps are dangerous. Time on the ground dulls skills, sharpens apprehensions and weighs down your jump with the clammy fog of unfamiliarity. Most importantly, it unravels the easy muscle memory you’ve spent so much time and effort to develop -- and muscle memory is of primary importance in the event of a reserve ride. Especially at the beginning of your skydiving career, you’ve got to make the effort to jump at least every couple of weeks. 2. Give ‘er a spin Do yourself a favor and deploy your reserve for every repack. You’ll learn the unique direction of pull for your gear, and you’ll be able to feel out the force you’ll need to exert. If your rigger watches the process, he/she can keep an eye on the deployment and identify potential problems. (Even if you have deployed your own reserve, a repack is an unwasteable drill opportunity for a refresher.) 3. Just touch your stupid handles, Mr. Bigshot, OK? Sheesh Touch your handles in sequence before you enter the plane. It is not beneath you. Being blasé about basic safety doesn’t make you more awesome -- it just makes you more blasé. While you’re at it, check that your reserve handle is seated (so you don’t end up on a reserve ride without the yeehaw fun of a malfunctioning main). 4. Don’t overthink it It’s simple, really. If you believe that your main is unlandable, you’re going to have a reserve ride. Sure -- lots of skydivers have landed under reserves only to realize in hindsight that they could have solved the problem. However, lots of skydivers have gone in while striving to sort out malfunctions that did not improve. If those are the choices, which would you rather be? 5. Get your priorities straight Do not worry about stability. This is the very least of your problems. Worry about altitude. cutaway) handle no lower than 1,000 feet. Initiating a reserve ride below 1,000 feet isn’t always deadly, but it has an unnerving tendency to be. Don’t take the chance. 6. Hold on tight After you pull your handles out completely, hold on to ‘em. You’ll save some money, and you’ll save face when you land. 7. Make sure it’s out This is kinda your last shot at nylon, so you’ll want to be sure it’s working. Arch and look over your shoulder for the reserve pilot chute. Reserves deploy fast, so this head position is gonna butter your bread – but if the pilot chute is somehow caught in your burble, this should either shake it loose or make it clear to you that you need to do some burble intervention, stat. 8. Don’t chase after your ex(-parachute) I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you not try to run after it and grab it in the air. (People have, y’know, died doing that.) You broke up with each other for a reason, after all; you can reconcile after everybody’s had a little time to cool down. Instead, get your head together and use landmarks to identify where the gear is headed. Then take a deep breath, leave it to the fates, and work on navigating your meat to a safe landing. 9. Tell the peanut gallery to sit and spin When you land a reserve, you’re going to be the talk of the DZ (for about five minutes, usually). During that five minutes – longer, if the loads are turning slowly – you’ll probably be approached by a receiving line of would-be mentors. They’re gonna question your malfunction, and they’re gonna be eager to discuss your decision to cut away. My advice: speak to your trusted mentors and co-jumpers about your little adventure in private, and tell the rest to go suck an egg. You were there. They were not. When you need to save your life in the sky, you are absolutely alone. In the entire world, there exists only you and two handles. Your cutaway is your business. 10. Go to the liquor store Buy a bottle of posh booze for the rigger who packed the reserve you rode. It’s tradition.
  17. Image by Ralph TurnerYou probably have one meaningful interaction with your AAD: you chase the red light. Poke, poke, poke, watch. ...Zero. Okay. Off you go. Just a quick note, friend: you might want to poke a little deeper. According to the USPA, there have been no less than nine fatalities related to AAD fires at designated firing altitudes that did not result in fully inflated canopies before impact. The point is that these guys chased the red light just fine, but there was likely a difference between what the AAD was told to do and the actual conditions of the jump. A couple hundred extra feet could have made the difference between nine annoying repacks and nine funerals. Food for thought, y’know. If your equipment is new-ish, your AAD probably has a feature that allows you to change its activation altitude. It’s good to know that feature exists, and it’s good to know how it works -- because it helps you understand that mysterious little whatsit in your rig a little better when you do. If you’re ready to explore, do a little introspection first. Here are the important questions to ask yourself before you change the activation altitude on your AAD: 1.Do you want this to be forever, or just-for-now? Most currently manufactured automatic activation devices let you offset the device’s activation altitude to allow for a one-time altitude differential between takeoff and landing area. This will be a factor for you only if you’re making a single wahoo at a dropzone with a significant altitude differential between takeoff and LZ -- or if you’re doing a demo jump with an offset. This method resets when the device turns off. If you need a change that sticks around a little longer, don’t despair: both the Cypres 2 and Vigil 2+ have a way to increase the activation altitude until you change it back again. Your owner’s manual will explain how to do this. 2. What’s the difference? The Cypres 2 adjusts in increments of 100 feet, from 750 up to 1,650. The Vigil adjusts in 150-foot increments. For example, if you have a Cypres you’ll add increments +100 feet for a higher landing zone compared to the take-off and increments of -100 feet for a lower landing zone. 3. When’s it going to give the all-clear? When you make a positive altitude correction, the AAD will still disarm at its standard number of feet above the ground zero reference -- the exact same altitude as it does when no altitude correction is set. When a negative altitude correction is applied, however, it will disarm at its standard number of feet above the preset negative altitude correction -- the new landing zone. 4. How forgetful are you? If you’re the type of person to run into sliding glass doors at full clip, wear your shirt inside-out all day and/or infuriate your spouse/partner/lover by brainfarting every single anniversary, beware: Adjusting the activation altitude on your AAD might not be the best idea for total space cadets. To avoid a two-out, you’re going to need to remember that setting and ensure that you’ve got an open, functional main no lower than 1000 feet above it. Remember: a slow opening messes with that margin. Think about density altitude, and think about your packing choices. Another liability for nutty professors: turning on your AAD in the landing area of one dropzone and driving to another dropzone with a different altitude without resetting the AAD. (Work out how much of a kerfuffle that could be.) Finally, balance your know-how with your need. Bryan Burke, Skydive Arizona S&TA; (and über-adventuring renaissance man) has this to say about it: “I’m willing to bet that, for most skydivers, messing around with an AAD is likely to cause more problems than it’s going to solve.” 5. Which way are you pointing your belly button? You may be surprised to know that your body position directly affects your AAD’s activation altitude. AADs work using the metrics of measured air pressure and measured time. Those two parameters allow the little guy to calculate your pretty-much-exact altitude (±3 feet or so) at any given moment as a function of the registered air pressure, as well as your vertical speed related to a pressure variation within a certain period of time. But wait! Does that air pressure change depending on where your body has oriented that little AAD? Why, yes. Yes it does, smartypants. A belly position puts your AAD in a burble. This changes the atmospheric air pressure registered by your AAD by up to 10 millibars. Interestingly, that works out to a difference of ±260 feet. In an AAD activation scenario, 260 feet is y’know kindof a big deal. The AAD senses that the belly-to-earth jumper is higher than they actually are -- kinda like a policeman working the exit road of a music festival. Be aware. 6. Why do you even have this little gadget? If you have an AAD in order to make your skydiving life painlessly safer, you need to know that it’s not the foolproof set-it-and-forget-it piece of furniture you might think it is. You put so much faith in that thing that you really ought to get to know it a little better. There will, after all, likely be a fatality number ten...and it doesn’t have to be you.
  18. The first tracking suit was a humble thing indeed. Invented by pioneers of the tracking discipline in the unforgiving terrain atop Norway’s bigwall exits, the first suits were resourceful repurposings of the stuff they already had on-hand – the rain gear required by Norway’s reliably inclement weather, and the cigarettes they used to while away the time as they waited for it to pass. The “big idea” was simple: increase a tracker’s surface area, and he/she can use it to fly longer, flatter, faster and farther from the danger posed by the solid object behind him. With this in mind, someone -- no one quite remembers who -- burned cigarette holes in their waterproofs, positing that enough air would enter the holes to afford meaningful inflation. Somewhat miraculously, it worked. The rest, as they say, is history. The first purpose-built version, the original Phoenix Fly tracking suit, was introduced in 2004. Until recently, it has seen little serious competition: suit tracking was born by and for the BASE environment, and non-BASE-jumpers had little interest in it outside of its contested, folk-wisdomy usefulness as a stepping stone to wingsuiting. The past year has changed everything. Skydiving and BASE have both seen an unprecedented boom in participating athletes -- as well as a notable rise in tracking as a specialization. Whether the boom owes to a sharp increase in wingsuit-related incidents or to a renewed interest in tracking subdisciplines such as angle flying is unclear, but the empirical evidence speaks for itself. In any case, suit manufacturers have responded with an explosion of new technologies and designs. The new range aims for lighting-fast inflation, foolproof pressurization, optimized lift-drag ratios and multi-orientational usability. In a couple of cases, the designs even introduce wingsuitesque one-piece construction into the mix. I five brand-new suits through their paces in both the BASE and skydiving environments to find out which provide an optimum performance in different circumstances. Here’s the rundown on my findings.* *You will note that I am one human, and that, while I have quite a lot of time in tracking suits, I am not any kind of god, savant or superwoman. Your experience may vary from mine. Heck, it’s likely to. By Joel Strickland The SuitsPhoenix-Fly Power Tracking Suit Currently the most popular tracking suit on the market, Phoenix Fly’s Power Tracking Suit is the more powerful baby brother of Phoenix Fly’s venerable and much-beloved Original Tracking Suit. Along with a bigger general profile, the new suit integrates thicker stiffening fabric, additional gear pockets on the jacket, tougher construction, mesh lining and inlets redesigned to deliver quicker pressurization. Aerialists love its forgiving transitions, and the power zone is relatively easy for lower-experience trackers to find (though Phoenix-Fly suggests a minimum of 120 jumps on the Original Tracking Suit before putting on the Power). I found the Power Tracking Suit to be instantly comfortable, and its construction to be thoughtful and solid. While the suit doesn’t have the raw power of some of the other new offerings, it’s accessible, predictable and confidence-inspiring – which is probably why so many personal-best tracks have been performed in it. Pressurized Tube 4 The Tube 4’s predecessor, the Tube 3, was a polarizing piece of gear. Trackers either loved or hated it, citing distinct roll-and-yaw wiggliness and unpredictability during the transition. In response, Pressurized redesigned the Tube 4 from the ground up. Features include inflation-staging leg inlets, zipper safeties and a thicker arm profile. Long, strong stiffeners at the front of the calf effectively smooth the leg profile. Backfly inlets are available (though not standard), and zippers aside the leg open up a sizeable extension to the leg volume. Given my previous experience with the Tube 3, I was expecting a rodeo when I tested the new suit in the BASE environment. I was shocked by the new suit’s ease of use: it was a baby-smooth ride from the get-go. Though it took a bit of trial-and-error to find the power zone, the Tube 4’s transition was among the smoothest I’d ever experienced. I had a couple of nagging issues with the Tube 4’s construction. For one, I found the vent-stiffening material easily malforms – and quickly “learns” the new shape – when the suit is folded for packing. (Overnight storage on a wide-shouldered hanger reduces the problem, but doesn’t solve it; after all, the suit has to go into a stash bag sometime.) Beyond that, I was constantly fighting my suit’s sticky zippers. Tony Suits Masai There’s no denying that the Tony Masai, wingsuit manufacturer TonySuits’ first tracking offering, is a head-turner. I was the subject of several baffled stares as I marched across Skydive Empuriabrava in it – probably, because the one-piece Masai looks neither like a tracking suit nor a wingsuit but an idiosyncratic combination of both. Where other tracking suits are distinctly baggy, aiming to inflate across the entire body, the central body of the Masai is unusually trim. This decidedly anomalous design inflates via both front and back inlets on a set of tubular fabric “rails” that run from armpit to ankle and down the inseams. The jumper’s rig zips in just like a wingsuit. The Masai comes standard with Cordura booties, stealth-rubber soles, backfly inlets and a humorously roomy zippered pocket positioned right on the seat. When I first geared up in the Masai, I was worried about inflation. In other, far looser suits, a slight bend in the limbs doesn’t noticeably deform the inflating portion of the suit; on the Masai, however, slight changes in the articulation of legs and arms pulled the fabric unnervingly taut to the body. When I jumped it, however, my worries were instantly dispelled. While the Masai tended to misbehave in a steep dive, the suit kept its inflation admirably through the rest of the test maneuvers, achieved solid marks for distance and delivered the crispest transition to and from backfly of any tested suit. S-Fly Cruise Fly Your Body’s first addition to the field, the Cruise, is getting a lot of attention, and not just because it’s the suit that Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet used for their record-breaking freefly-tracking jump from the Burj Dubai. The Cruise is massive, it’s intelligently designed, and it’s delivering eyebrow-raising results from trackers with low jump numbers. The suit features several industry-first advancements. Internal airlocks maintain pressurization. Thumbloops on both sides (so they remain available whether you track with palms up or down) keep the arm stable. An integrated deflector improves airflow around the jumper’s rig. The Cruise comes standard with both front and back inlets and removable booties (as well as the option to order rubber with a BASE tread). The wide, one-piece design inflates centrally -- very differently from a two-piece design, which is necessary cinched around the waist. (Jumpers can expect this to result in yaw instability during the first few jumps.) The Cruise’s optimal flying technique moves closer to that of a wingsuit than a born-and-bred tracking suit, and it’s a lot for a newer jumper to handle. However, an athlete with some experience -- and the time and willingness to put a few skydives on the suit -- will likely have the same take-away I did: something akin to jaw-on-the-floor disbelief. Squirrel Sumo The Squirrel Sumo is aptly named: it’s a very burly suit. It’s so voluminous, in fact, that it’s likely to be mistaken for a small wingsuit in a stash bag. The Sumo comes standard with a bevy of thoughtful details: loads of oversized, difficult-to-deform Mylar inlets, a close-fitting collar and cuffs to prevent air escape, three Mylar-reinforced toe tension settings, Cordura reinforcements and brawny industrial-grade zippers. Uniquely, Squirrel’s suit also includes Velcro-fastened stabilizers on the inner leg to prevent its abundance of fabric from jostling out of position on exit. All that fabric, flown correctly, delivers rocketship power. My first skydives on the Sumo were gainers from the back of a military Casa over the open ocean off the coast of Panama, and the suit ferried me back to the island landing area with room to spare. I was pleased to see that it was racking up similar distances to smaller flocking wingsuits without much dialing-in. In full flight, the Sumo felt rock-solid. As with any other large suit – especially one that inflates as quickly and sizeably as the Sumo – BASE exits proved a trickier proposition, though the field-leading start speed is well worth the effort to workshop. Note: Squirrel purpose-built the Sumo to maintain solid internal pressure in order to outfly aggressive exits in the BASE environment. Because of that laser focus, you won’t find backfly inlets on the Squirrel. [Originally published in Skydive Dubai’s now-defunct Dropzone Magazine, Fall 2014]
  19. Image by Lukasz SzymanskiAh, your canopy. When you first got together, everything was great. A few tussles over crispy, slippery fabric were the biggest issues you two had. You packed carefully -- lovingly, even -- or you were at least habitually spying on your packer. And after freefall, it was a joy to reach for that pilot chute. Now, things are horribly, horribly different. What happened? Maybe it’s because you stopped paying attention -- or maybe because you’re both getting older -- but something has changed. There have been some bad moments. Violent moments, even. There was that time that you landed from a jump with a three-ring mark and a stunned expression on your face. Your friends asked what happened to you. You started to wonder if it’s time to say goodbye for good. Don’t thumbtack that “for sale” sign to the corkboard too quickly, friend. You can save this relationship. Here’s how. 1. Wrap your head around the dynamics involved.When a ram-air canopy opens in freefall, the dynamics of that opening are controlled by two processes: cell inflation (air pressurizing the airfoil through the nose inlets) and bottom-skin spreading (the side-to-side spreading action that takes place as relative wind rushes against the bottom of the canopy). You might not be aware of how separate these processes are, but they are quite distinct. Even without cell inflation, bottom-skin spreading is such an efficient phenomenon that a canopy can open entirely by this method, before the cells have a chance to inflate and pressurize. Since the force of that kind of opening is brutal enough to be quite literally fatal, square skydiving canopy designers invented a system to put on the all-important brakes -- the humble slider. That funny little square has a single function: to sync up bottom-skin spreading with cell inflation. A correctly packed slider stays at the very top of the lines during the early part of inflation, kept there by the same forces that would smack the canopy open with bottom-skin inflation. 2. Help your slider help you.Make quartering your slider the most important part of your pack job. Be thorough about it. Draw the folds evenly between each of the four line groups, then tug the center of the slider straight down to settle the grommets snugly against the stops. A slider that’s sorted out in this way is a slider that is most likely to present itself correctly to the relative wind (and therefore do its job optimally). 3. Avoid getting dumped.Optimizing your slider is only the first step in the process. The second, as you might imagine, has to do with your tangled handfuls of marionette strings. Incorrect line stows can release prematurely -- or, colloquially, “dump” -- resulting in a configuration wherein the canopy inflates before line stretch. When the lines catch up to the nylon, the jumper gets one heckuva headbanger. (Picture a Great Dane running at full tilt to the end of a long, long leash.) 4. Keep the right amount of pressure on.It should take roughly 8 to 12 pounds of pressure to pull your lines from the stows. If you’ve gotten complacent (or too tired to be trusted), you’re probably going to pay for it. 5. Use the rule of thumb.The loops of line on the outside of each rubber band stow (technically called “bights”) should be approximately two inches long. If that’s longer than you’re used to, that’s normal -- but know that right-sized bights keep about a quarter of the stowed line on the outside of the stow, minimizing the lines’ ability to dump. Luckily, two inches is about the size of the average human thumb, so you have a ready reference when you’re on the packing mat. If you happen to have stowless gear, your line dump issues are probably related to uneven folding of the lines (or lazy bag closure). The same pressure principle applies to the closing bands on your system: close the bag with 8-12 pounds of pressure, equal on each side. 6. Get professional help.If you go through all those steps and you’re still not on good terms with your canopy, look elsewhere for guidance. Take your canopy to a rigger for inspection. You may discover a deeper problem -- and he/she might just be able to fix it right up. (There’s no shame in a little counseling, after all. Love is worth it.)
  20. Image by TriggerHey, new skydiver! Congratulations. That A-license stamp looks great in the middle of your forehead. Very flattering. Now that you’re in the fold, do yourself a favor: don't dally at the rental counter. It’s an investment (and somewhat counterintuitive) but trust me: you will find it much more cost-effective to buy your first set of gear than to keep renting, but If this is your first set of skydiving gear, you should buy used -- and spend the money you save on jumping. Here’s how to do it right. How to Buy a Used Reserve Parachute Get comfortable with the idea. Picking up a used reserve -- if it’s in spotless shape -- is a smart place to save a lot of cash. Riggers tend to agree that the cost of a brand-new reserve isn’t justified. Choose a damage-free reserve -- no patches, please -- with less than ten rides. Less than five is better. If your reserve is old enough to vote, it’s too old to jump. How to Choose a Used Main Canopy Look for a main with as few jumps on it as you can afford. Newer canopies fly better -- and, importantly, flare better -- than older canopies, because the passing seasons make the fabric more porous. As a rule, you can expect a harder landing from an older canopy. It can be tricky, but your best move is to choose a used main with its original line set. Even honest resellers don’t often know for certain the canopy’s actual jump numbers, and the condition of the line set is an inspecting rigger’s best clue. Find out where your canopy used to live. If it was jumped seasonally at grassy drop zones, it’ll be in much better condition than a year-round desert dropzone. That silicate desert dust chews up the fabric’s protective coating. Beware of beach DZs, too: seawater landings can result in very serious, sneaky damage. Be picky. Do your best to find an undamaged main canopy -- even one that’s been meticulously repaired. These are hard enough to resell that it’s rarely worth the up-front savings. Image by Halldor92572 How to Buy a Used Harness/Container System Do not look for a container first. There are so many reasons why this is the case. You must know the exact sizes of both of your canopies before you can choose a harness/container to fit them. Have a rigger measure your body. Don’t go it alone. Harnesses are sized and carefully proportioned to both height and weight, and you’ll save yourself time by eliminating the guesswork. Ask the seller for the serial number. Then contact the manufacturer with your sizes. Ask the rep whether it’s a good fit for your body and canopies. Impossible to fit? Don’t worry. As you’ve undoubtedly noticed by now, non-standard body types are not uncommon in skydiving. However, new A licenses with unique body types sometimes face an uphill battle. Resizing a harness is almost always an option, but it’s can be so expensive that buying simple, new gear may make more sense. If this is you, research the basic, no-bells-and-whistles container systems available: for instance, the Dolphin, the Genera and the Shadow Racer. How to Buy a Used AAD Be sure that the used AAD meets your basic requirements. Determine that the AAD on offer is within its service life, has met the proper maintenance schedule and is approved for your container system. (Note that both the Cypres II and the Vigil II are waterproof, but the earlier (I) versions are not. Beach/lake dropzone? You know your answer.) Determine your timeline. When you buy an AAD – whether used or new – you’re paying a fixed cost per year. The quality of the AAD doesn’t change over time within its approved lifespan, so don’t worry about snagging a unit within a couple years of expiration. (Just save your pennies while the time runs out.) Buy new, if you can afford it. AADs are very easy to resell. Purchasing a new one is not a bad choice if you have the cash. General Advice for Buying Used Parachuting Equipment Keep an open mind. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a container that matches all the other criteria and comes in your colors. Accept that fact early. Pay a trusted rigger to conduct a pre-purchase inspection on any used gear you buy. The inspection will run you about $25 (or a matching amount of beer). Ask him or her to write down a list of issues – including potential ones – and the cost to remedy them, as if you’re buying a used car. Trust your instincts. If you don't like any potential component of your new skydiving kit — even one that has been suggested to you by a skydiving friend or a rigger or a boogie rep – do not buy it. You'll never be happy with it, and starting out with gear you dislike will adversely affect your entire skydiving career. Love the gear you’re in, and you’ll be a better skydiver for it.
  21. (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.
  22. Powerful, small, and flexible, the new NeoXS from Parasport is the newest product in audible altimeters available to skydivers. If you’re a freeflyer, wingsuiter, speedskydiver, or a relative work skydiver, you’ve probably already recognized the need and value of a trustworthy audible. Slightly smaller than other audible devices, it is also slightly thicker. The casing is a combination of heavy-duty cast aluminum and plastic. The NeoXS fits inside of any skydiving helmet set up for an internal audible, and with a little work can be made to fit on the outside of any helmet set up for external mounting. Although there is no cradle currently available for the NeoXS, it should be easy to mount on goggles if jumping without a fraphat or helmet. The Right Stuff-Heavy and tough, this is one tool you won’t have to worry about dropping on the floor. The test unit sent to me survived several drops from an 8’ height onto carpet, linoleum, and concrete without missing a beat. The aluminum case is available in multiple colors, making it easy to spot in a gear box or bag, or on the ground at the DZ. It also makes it easy to engrave your name and license number for quick identification and loss prevention. With three alarms for freefall and three alarms for swooping modes, the NeoXS may be set up for any skydiving discipline. Alarms may be set to various volume levels, and you’ll want to be exceptionally careful with the highest levels of volume. This small package is LOUD when set to the high-volume setting. On one jump, I used standard foam earplugs to see if I could hear the device at full volume, and the cutting pitch and squeals easily penetrated the foam ear plugs. This can be of significant benefit to hard-of-hearing skydivers or for those that like to wear earplugs in the aircraft, and would prefer to leave them in during freefall. The NeoXS is slightly smaller than most audibles, but not significantly so. It'll fit the audible pocket in any skydiving helmet. Skydivers that enjoy multiple disciplines will appreciate the various profile modes the NeoXS offers. Going from a tandem to an AFF to a wingsuit jump? No problem. This unit stores up to four profiles, allowing very rapid switching from one profile to another. Simply push the joystick three times to enter "edit" mode, move the joystick to the left to change the profile, and put the NeoXS back in the audible pocket. The audible always resets automatically but can be manually reset. Another benefit is the always-locked modes of the unit, making it impossible to accidentally change profiles when the unit is left in a gear bag. The unit may easily be reset for new MSL altitudes, simply by entering the configuration mode and using the joystick, reset the zero point of the device. What You'll Love (in a nutshell) 3 freefall signals 3 canopy warnings countdown timer real time altitude display while climbing to altitude simplified programming of warning altitudes 4 user programmable profiles Can be set EXTREMELY LOUD (user selectable volume) May be programmed during climb to altitude It's heavy (durable aluminum). It won't crush in your gearbag The Not-So-Right Stuff-The owners manual could use some improvement. It’s not immediately clear how to program the profiles, or which profile is being used. Actually programming the unit makes the profile modes perfectly clear, however. The same may be said for swoop modes. Better diagramming might alleviate this small concern, or perhaps some on-line help. Once the programming dialog is accessed, the procedures for setting altitudes become readily self-evident. The only major concern with the unit is that the small joystick sits slightly higher than the recessed area in which the joystick is mounted. The recessed area makes it obvious that the manufacturer wanted to prevent the joystick from being accidentally knocked about, but the joystick does slightly protrude above the recess. The joystick is marginally elevated. Initially, this suggested a problem, but in working with the unit in real-world situations, it is not an issue due to the unit always being locked. Three button pushes are required just to unlock the unit, and then the joystick is used to enter programming modes. The unit also offers no backlight, making it difficult to set up for night jumps or in those wee hours of the morning. The LCD is clear and textually driven, however. What You Might Not Love Owners manual is weakly written Joystick button is slightly higher than body/recessed space No backlight for night-time programming It's heavy, weighs nearly double compared to other audibles (I personally like the heavier weight.) General Comments:Although the owners manual could use some improvement, the only real challenge encountered was figuring out how to unlock the unit. (This is achieved by repeatedly pressing the joystick until the lock icon first flashes and then turns off.) A quick glance at the owners manual was required to determine how to unlock the unit after a few minutes of trying to do it by instinct. Once I’d unlocked the unit, I put the manual down to see if I could self-start the programming procedure based. I could, and it was very instinctive once I’d reached the unlocked stage. The four main menu options are Profile, Swoop, Alarm, and Configure. Programming for Meters or Feet display is offered in the Profiles menu, with three altitudes available. Additionally, unique volumes may be programmed for swoop alarms vs freefall alarms. Alarm altitudes cannot be programmed lower than a subsequent altitude, thus preventing accidental programming errors. The NeoXS is easily opened with a normal screwdriver. No special tools or jewelers-sized screwdrivers are required. The unit does not need to be opened to change batteries (you can see the battery door in the housing), I simply like disassembling things to see what they're made of. The reason for the weight is obvious; this is not thin, easily crushed aluminum. *(Opening the NeoXS will void your warranty, do not try this at home, kids!) The alarms are varied, allowing for each alarm to play a distinct tone and pattern, thus eliminating confusion about what alarm is for what altitude. As a side note, I wouldn't mind seeing a manufacturer develop personally-created alarms such as one recorded by a user. Wouldn't it be cool to hear your own voice at the third warning saying "Hey buddy, it's time to pull?" All that would be involved is either a USB connection to a computer, or a microphone built into the audible. It would be difficult to output audio frequencies that cut through the noice properly, yet wouldn't a voice be more fun than a screech? But I digress... In evaluating the unit, the joystick could not be accidentally moved in “real-world” scenarios, but in putting it in the helmet and using fingers to move the unit around, I was able to “accidentally” hit and move the joystick but could not affect the programming modes, as the unit is virtually always locked. It is impossible to leave the unit unlocked, as it returns to a locked mode 30 seconds after programming input is ceased. Therefore, it’s impossible to accidentally change the modes by moving the unit around inside a helmet pocket or other location. The unit uses one CR2430 battery and offers a very long life. These batteries are easy to find at most any grocery or large retail store. All in all, I like this little audible. After having used it for a little over a month, I feel pretty good about the quality, durability, design, and how it functions. I’d first seen it when it was announced at Reno PIA 2007 when Paulo from Parasport overheard me complaining about a particular audible I had (A Cool n' Groovy Fridge Company audible) and its lack of adjustable features. When he set the NeoXS to screaming, it had everyone anywhere near covering their ears, it was so loud. The fact that it can be taken down to a nominal level is great for those that still have fully intact hearing. Levels may be checked on the ground, so it's not an exercise in aerial experimentation to determine which volume levels are best for you. At $170.00 USD, the price is right too, and makes it an accessible cost point for most any skydiver. Overall, this is a very tough, well designed and manufactured tool for skydivers and from my perspective, should be part of any consideration in purchasing an audible altimeter. ~douglas
  23. Squirrel are soon releasing their Swift 2 and Funk 2 wingsuits, which are now available for pre-orders. We're excited to bring you this first look at the Swift 2. Image by Dan Dupuis New smaller planform New profile New leading edge construction New arm sweep More R&D; per square inch than any suit in its class The SWIFT 2 is an entirely new design that brings a higher level of efficiency and performance to the beginner-intermediate class. This is the most balanced and versatile beginner-intermediate design that we have flown, and we think it represents a meaningful step forward in wingsuit design. In the same way that the FREAK has upset the intermediate class market, the SWIFT 2 offers performance and ease of use in a ratio that we think is unique in the category. Compared to the SWIFT, the SWIFT 2 has less surface area yet more glide performance, range, and speed. What this means is that the SWIFT 2 is easier to fly than its predecessor, and offers higher performance. This has been accomplished by increasing efficiency in the profile and planform. Traditionally, wingsuit manufacturers have added surface area to a design in order to increase “performance”. But, as surface area increases, so does difficulty. Surface area is the one factor in wingsuit design that cannot be cheated: if it’s bigger, it’s potentially more difficult to fly. Our mission at Squirrel is to maximize the efficiency of each design by focusing on glide and speed gains that come as a result of profile improvements and drag reduction, instead of simply increasing surface area. When we increase the performance of a suit without reducing the comfort and ease of use, it can be considered a “free” upgrade. That is the focus of the SWIFT 2. Image by Avalon WolfThe SWIFT 2 planform has less arm wing surface at the wingtip section of the span, increasing the aspect ratio and improving handling and ease of use. The wing root chord has been slightly increased, adding range and stability particularly in applications such as flocking. The added surface at the wing root enables smoother pitch adjustment and increases roll stability by supporting the pilot’s CG and hips. This also eases transitions from belly to back fly positions. The leg wing stance is also narrower than the original SWIFT. A new arm sweep and leading edge construction, taken directly from the FREAK, has reduced drag and improved agility. The SWIFT 2 feels considerably more compact than its predecessor, or any other wing in its class, thanks to these factors being combined with a profile also adapted from the FREAK. The FREAK profile was chosen for its moderate thickness and excellent behavior across a wide range of speeds. THE RANGE Versatility is a key tenet of the SWIFT 2 design. Arm and leg wing pressure can be adjusted via the internal wing zips, allowing a softer and more manageable ride for newer pilots, acrobatic pilots looking for rapid transition and ease in flips where wing area has to be rapidly compressed. With zips closed, the SWIFT 2 delivers the range, performance, and stability needed for high or low speed flocking. INLETS The SWIFT 2 inlets are adapted from our newest high-performance suits, and feature a more efficient intake with less drag than the original SWIFT. Back-fly inlets are offered as an option, and make the SWIFT 2 a fun and agile suit for freestyle flying and steeper, more advanced, formations. LEADING EDGE Leading edge construction is a complicated matter in wingsuit design. Performance can be enhanced by creating a rigid structure over the arm, but this results in a significant reduction in passive safety. We have focused on this part of our wingsuits since the beginning of our development and we are constantly striving to create the best balance of comfort and performance. The SWIFT 2 leading edge is adapted from the FREAK, and features a grained non-flexible main arm segment with a flexible Glideskin arc at the wrist for BOC and riser/brake toggle access. The interior is finished in Lycra, which provides a smooth surface for skin or clothing to slide across, and houses the optional leading edge foam. Never underestimate the importance of an easy pull and access to your risers. Brake and riser access is a learned skill: practice it thoroughly! PLANFORM The SWIFT 2 planform is completely new, and was chosen for its distribution of surface at the wing tip and wing root. Additionally, the sweep and stance are similar to the FREAK and FUNK 2, making the transition to our more advanced suits feel more natural. PROFILE The SWIFT 2 profile is adapted from the FREAK, modified only to fit the smaller planform and shorter chord. Thickness and camber was chosen for stability across a wide range of speeds and angles of attack. Image by Luis Lopez MendezFEATURES We believe that all performance-enhancing features in a wingsuit should be standard. If it's important to performance flying or improves ease-of-use, then it's included in the price of your suit. Padded and reinforced foot cavities, chest pocket / belly-cam access, internal pressure-zips, nut-sack storage compartment, mylar reinforced leading edge, and rubber BASE soles are all standard features in all of our suits. ACCESS In BASE and Skydiving, easy BOC and brake toggle access has proven to yield the safest and most reliable deployments. We firmly believe in the mantra, "Keep it Simple and Safe". For that reason, we designed a suit for which arm cutaways are unnecessary, BOC access is clean thanks to the extended wing root that helps to prevent the trailing edge from covering your PC, and risers / brake toggles can be accessed without unzipping. The arm sweep, wrist-cut, and leading edge construction have all been engineered for a balance of safety and performance. PERFORMANCE The SWIFT 2 has an exceptional amount of performance for its surface area. No other suit in this size range delivers as much speed, glide, or range. Ease of use is a critical factor for this class of suit, and the newest pilots will instantly appreciate the SWIFT 2’s stability in an arched position. If you have questions about flying your SWIFT 2 at any level of performance, please don't hesitate to contact us! We are always here to answer your questions.
  24. Action cameras aren’t merely changing the production world, they have become a staple of the production world. Getting the inside shot is simple with POV cameras and the number of choices in this niche world is broad and perhaps daunting. Action cameras are inexpensive and provide a simple means of additional camera angles to any production. In this review, I’m going to tackle all of the “name-brand” cameras available out there. This article will not provide the answer to “which camera should I buy?” The range of criteria is so broad that the question is beyond the scope of a single review. This review will provide information about which action-camera is best suited for specific criteria and provide information that may help you make informed purchasing decisions. I’ve gathered what I believe to be the most viable options for most “extreme” sport enthusiasts for shooting broadcast-quality video. During this review, each camera is set to 1920x1080, 30fps (except where otherwise noted). The criteria for inclusion: Price point (150.00-400.00 USD) Bit-rate (16Mbps or higher) Codec (must be non-proprietary) The selectees: GoPro 3+ ($399.00) GoPro 3 Black ($349.00) Sony AS100 ($299.00) Sony AS30 ($299.00) JVC Adixxion ($299.00) Midland XTC400 ($249.00) Polaroid XS100 ($169.00) ReplayXD Mini ($199.00) Liquid Ego ($179.00) Drift Ghost S ($399.00) Scoring Procedure With the criteria determined, particpants selected, I created a scoring sheet that could be used as a reference throughout the process. The goal is to be as objective as possible in a subjective conversation. A panel was selected, four people who would review images from the cameras and choose the best image when image quality was relevant. Other factors such as battery life, wireless functionality/reliability, audio features/quality are objective. Scores are based on how these functions are implemented and may be relied upon. For this shootout I mounted 17 action cameras on a single helmet, then took it skydiving, snorkeling, zip-lining, bob-sleighing and motorcycling to enable accurate side-by-side comparisons of each camera. For example in the battery life test, the Liquid Ego went for nearly 5 hours of record time, blowing through a few cards, while the Garmin VIRB and GoPro 3 Black barely reached 50 minutes of record time. The Liquid Ego nets a score of “5” while the Garmin VIRB and GoPro 3+Black earn a score of 2. The Sony AS series weighed in at just over 2.75 hours earning a score of “4”. Had it not been for the curve-altering record times of the Liquid Ego, the Midland and Polaroid cameras, Sony’s AS100 would have won this category. Regardless, with a linear scoring value of 0-5, the weighting may seem unbalanced from time to time. Please note that the score card contains two scores; one based exclusively on image quality, and the other score relevant to the overall product experience. Most of the cameras have tweaks and settings that allow them to be the best they can for specific situations. Rather than setting each camera to its best settings, all cameras were used exactly as they come out of the box. In other words, once the box was opened the battery was charged, a card inserted into the camera and formatted, it was put to the test. Sony, GoPro, and ReplayXD all have internal tweaks accessible via either proprietary software or .txt files. Each allow for an optimized image even though I’ve avoided using any of these optimizations. After all the results were in and the panel gave their feedback, here's what the final result looked like. I sorted the score sheet below by total score but you can click on any header to sort the table by that column and see how the different cameras compared in any specific test. I discuss each test area in detail below. Score Sheet Image Quality Winner in Image Quality - Sony AS100V The subject of image quality is subjective. The four panelists had to choose from a variety of videos (a few of which are linked in this article). Factors involved in the comparison are dynamic range (darkest to the brightest representation of image content), saturation, color accuracy, codec compression/banding/pixelation, motion management, and frame to frame blurring. Watch the Wingsuit Exit Video For example, in the image above, the center top allows for the lake in the background to be seen, while also allowing for the darker interior and tires of the aircraft to hold details. There are no blowouts of the highlights, and the reds, greys, whites, and orange colors are all accurate to original. Watch the YouTube-linked video at the 4K resolution on YouTube for the best experience and ability to determine which image you find best. Each camera is displayed at approximately 720p. You’ll likely want to turn off your audio as there is no usable audio content. Watch the Zipline Video Watch the Bobsled Video In the above test, one of the cameras failed due to (I believe) card error. The high motion, high contrast, light and dark areas for exposure testing provides for a terrific challenge. Even in the still framegrabs, the torture is evident in blur, color, and compression artifacting. Watch Wingsuit Overhead Video The complexity of the ground coupled with the high motion makes for a good test of contrasts and detail management in moving platforms. Note that the majority of the cameas are set to an FOV of 120 degrees, as that’s how they come out of the box. A couple cameras are 170 degrees. All panelists unanimously chose this action camera over all others in all resolutions and framerates. The GoPro 3+ came in second. The Sony AS30 takes third prize, and an honorable mention goes to the Drift Ghost S. In well-lit situations, the Midland and Garmin VIRB cameras really surprised me too, but at 35Mbps (this camera also does 50Mbps in XAVC-S mode, not used in this shootout), the Sony AS100 sweeps the image quality score. Battery Life Winner in Battery Life - Liquid Ego This was a stunner. I left all the cameras running/recording and went to dinner. Battery life would be lessened by movement, but the bigger point was how long the cameras could record. In most cases, the camera battery died prior to the card being filled (I used 16 GB cards for this test). The Liquid Ego kept running and running, filling a 16 and then 8 GB card before finally dying at just under 5 hours in 1080 mode. Wifi was disabled (all wifi was disabled for most tests). This is one of the least expensive cameras in the shootout; it has some shortcomings, yet one major bonus is that this camera, removed from its own mounting clip, can be fitted to GoPro mounting systems. Brilliant move on the part of Liquid! What I didn’t like about this camera are the number of button presses to record in 720-30p or 60p without wireless enabled. However, shooting in 1080 mode is as simple as turning it on and hitting record. When in the waterproof case, it’s impossible to see the LCD display. For budget users, this is an easy camera to like. Profile Winner of the Action Camera Profile Category - ReplayXD Mini 1080 At slightly larger diameter than a nickel this camera is rock-solid, doesn’t need stabilization, and blew my mind when I found I could drive a car over it. So small to present less of a snag hazard for skydivers, this tiny marvel is also perfect for UAV/Drones, hiding on cars (ReplayXD is the camera most used in professional auto-racing) and so small it can even be placed upright under a skateboard. It’s tiny and weighs virtually nothing. The camera also offers a threaded head so that lens adapters may be used for either lenses or filters for better image. This is tremendously valuable for outside photography, where an ND filter will immediately remove the heavy contrast and juddered playback, while reducing jello-cam (rolling shutter) issues. JVC, Polaroid, and Garmin all have the ability to come in fairly high in this conversation except their mounting systems are not only flimsy, they’re high profile and a snag hazard. Using these cameras without their manufacturer-issued mounts will provide a very low platform and a much more stable image. Testing Locations The waters of Ocho Rios Jamaica, Mystic Mountain for snorkeling, bobsled, and zipline testing Lake Elsinore California for skydive tests Virgin River Gorge for road/motorcycle testing Toronto, Ontario for slow motion and other comparisons Although durability wasn’t a measured factor in this shootout, ReplayXD would easily win the durability category (comparing cameras out of their waterproof box). There simply isn’t a tougher camera on the market. Other features I like; the camera offers up timecode for professionals, external audio inputs and user-controllable image quality (Saturation, Exposure, Audio Gain, Sharpness, etc). Wifi Winner of the Wifi Category - Sony AS100 and Liquid Ego This was a tougher call. Other than the Replay Mini, all of the POV cameras offer wifi control or connectivity to a mobile device. I tested the systems on a Samsung GalaxyIII cell and Samsung Galaxy Tab2 tablet. All devices connected successfully. All devices allow for some level of “streaming preview.” Some devices such as the JVC Adixxion allow for streaming directly to UStream if the user has an account and is fortunate enough to be very close to a WAP. Streaming for preview is a serious drain on battery life, rarely works in a moving environment, and is overall somewhat useless beyond setting up a camera angle or adjusting settings (in this writer’s view). Sony’s Play Memories application was difficult to use on their early AS15 models but on the AS100 they’ve gotten it right. It’s install and done. The same can be said for the Liquid Ego. JVC’s Adixxion was a bit of a struggle but it did work once all the paths were traveled properly. The same can be said for the Garmin VIRB, the Polaroid X, and the Midland XTC. GoPro was also reasonably easy to set up so saying that the Sony and Liquid win this category is essentially a small thing. In the end, these two were simply easier/faster to set up than the others by a small margin of time and/or frustration. It should be mentioned that the JVC Adixxion was the most difficult to set up. They use a broader-scope application called WiVideo, designed to work with a host of action cameras. Wet Use Winner of the Wet Use Category - Three Way Tie Between GoPro3+, Sony AS100 and Drift Ghost S What made the difference in this category is “how deep can they go and how easy are they to operate under water?” I did not take the action cameras to their rated depths and I am relying on the manufacturers for accurate information on how deep these POV cameras can go. With that said the Replay Mini, Garmin VIRB, Ghost S, Polaroid XS, do not require water housings. Watch Underwater Video After spending 3 hours in the water with the action cameras, water was no issue for any of the cameras. GoPro and Sony both include the waterproof housing in the purchase price. Garmin, Midland, Liquid, and even ReplayXD (for depths greater than 12’) all require the purchase of a waterproof housing for wet use. For underwater image quality, Sony AS100 and Drift Ghost S provide the most accurate image, yet the GoPro has a slightly smoother color saturation that is pleasing to the eye. For reasons I could not figure out, the Sony AS30 fogged in the lens. This didn’t happen with the AS100 and more curious, it didn’t happen with the hand-held AS15 I was using to document the event. The fogging didn’t affect the image much, but it was there. What I liked most about the AS100 is that the LCD panel is large and it was easy to see what was going on with the camera while under water. Audio Winner of the Audio Category - Sony AS100 With external microphone-in that requires no adapters, AGC, and high-end audio converters, this camera offers wonderful compressed audio, equal to the audio recording capability of significantly more expensive cameras. The Sony AS30 also offers external audio inputs, but is a bit less flexible, as the audio input is hidden under the connection cover. ReplayXD also offers external microphone input as does the GoPro 3+ but both require larger, more bulky adapters that cost more dollars. ReplayXD offers a user-controlled gain function which is a real benefit to professionals needing nat audio from locations and in loud environments (such as auto races or helicopter skins). However, the Sony AS100 offers not only the external microphone input on the bottom of the action camera (obviously cannot be used in the water housing), but a higher grade of DAC (Digital Audio Converter) than its categorical counterparts. Ease of Use Winner of the Ease of Use Category - No Clear Winner Most of the cameras offer a one-button on/record feature. Out of the box the Sony series, Polaroid, Midland, Garmin, and ReplayXD cameras offer a one-button record feature. GoPro offers one button record as a menu feature, and the Drift can be programmed to loop and record when turned on for ease of use. However, out of the box there are several that are easy to use as point and press action camcorders and so there is no clear winner. If menus are the measure then the Drift Ghost S, the Garmin VIRB, and the JVC Adixxion win for graphic interface. Sony AS series win for clear instruction and ease of navigation. The GoPro wins for sheer depth of options. I’m not a fan of some of the GoPro surface options that make the menus long and kludgy to navigate. Curiously enough, ReplayXD has no menu; all controls are done in a .txt file set on a phone, tablet, or computer. However, their menu options go deeper and are more relevant to picture quality than any other POV camera available. Mounts Winner of the Mounts Category - Replay XD Mini Although the (likely obvious) winner for mounts would be GoPro, it actually isn’t. On sheer numbers of achievable angles and mounting systems, REPLAYXD Mini takes the prize with GoPro following a close second. There is a reason there are so many mounting kit options for some of the cameras out there; their factory mounts are terrible. Many of the parts and pieces available for various POV cameras are designed to compensate for the initial weaknesses of the mounting system. Mounting systems matter far more than most users of action cams realize. If the mount is not 100% solid then the image will be unstable and aside from needing stabilization in post (which affects image quality), the image will likely incur ‘jello-cam’ also known as “rolling shutter,” which cannot be repaired. In this video, both are out-of-the-box mounting systems. Note the difference in stability. A rock solid mount needs no stabilization work in post. Choosing the right mount system is important. A weak mount will be buffeted by the wind, bounced around by roads, surf, or the turbulence that affects a UAV camera platform. Internal stabilization is a tremendous benefit if it is done well. The Sony AS100 has a tremendous stabilization system (Sony has long been famous for their BOSS camera stabilization) matched by no other low-cost camera whether a POV/Action camera or a larger palm-corder category camera. This stabilization system makes the AS100 superior for use on a UAV platform, as it is not susceptible to jello cam, is very light weight, and allows for long battery life. Matched with a two or three-point gimbal flawless smooth video is possible for very little cost on a drone system. JVC and Garmin VIRB ELITE offer stabilization, but at a tremendous cost of resolution and color saturation. Slow-Motion/Overcrank Winner of the Slow-Motion/Overcrank Category - Sony AS100 It’s no surprise that the newer Sony AS100 wins in this category. Only Sony and GoPro offer high framerates of 120 or 240 frames per second, so only the Sony AS100 and the GoPro 3+ were tested for these features. Most every action sport benefits from slow motion, so with the ability of the Sony AS100 to sync up to five cameras with one button push, it makes for a wonderful mix of slow motion and normal motion possibilities. GoPro 3+ shoots 240fps with a resolution of 720 x 480 pixels and Sony shoots at 800x480 pixels. The Sony has been cropped to match the GoPro3+. Both cameras would benefit in their “pro modes” where GoPro offers up to 35Mbps and Sony AS100 offers 50Mbps in the semi-professional XAVC-S mode. However, since these tests are entirely “out of the box,” it was not appropriate to compare the slow motion at anything but the stock settings. Low Light Winner of the Low Light Category - Tie Between Sony AS100V and GoPro3+ This is a challenging category for most of these cameras. All of them have very small imagers and lenses that shoot at a very high resolution. Packing so many pixels onto very small surfaces means very little light can get into the individual pixel sensors and therefore, noise is usually part and parcel of for each of these POV cameras. GoPro offers the smoother color representation with slightly more noise. Sony is brighter with less noise, but a blue cast is apparent in both Sony cameras. The additional information in the 50Mbps file allows for a cleaner color correction, yet the smoother color in the GoPro 3+ means less need for color correction. Pushing the color in the GoPro3+ at 35Mbps brings up the noise pretty quickly, so if matching cameras is part of the workflow, beware that matching higher grade formats might be difficult. It’s a choice between removing blueish casting or a fair amount of noise reduction processing in the professional environment. On a personal note, I’d prefer to remove/reduce the blue cast. Watch the Low Light The table cloth in this image is purple, not black. The GoPro3+ (lower right) is smoother in its dynamic range but less accurate than the Sony AS100V (upper left). The GoPro Black at 16Mbps is quite noisy, while the Sony AS30 is clean, but also displaying a blueish cast. Extra Features Winner of the Extra Featured Category - Garmin Virb This category is easily earned by the GARMIN VIRB. With a cyclometer, heart rate monitor, GPS, ANT+™ wireless control (a wide range of remote and input possibilities), accelerometer, barometer, and a “skiing” mode that is a huge benefit to action sports enthusiasts, this camera is packed with features. In Skiiing mode, the camera knows when you’re engaged in your activity or not. It will stop recording when you’ve landed, stopped moving, etc. Unfortunately for skydivers, the camera senses aircraft movement as “sporting movement so in this mode, it will record the climb to altitude. For mountain-cyclists, this is a great feature. However, it’s also a battery-eater. Sony AS100 and GoPro 3+ also offer a plethora of features that advanced users will appreciate, such as higher framerates, controllable scenes, FOV adjustments, 24p, and other video-related features. Both Sony AS100 and ReplayXD Mini offer Timecode for multiple camera sync, logging, or reference video. Professional Codecs/Bitrates Winner of the Professional Codecs/Bitrates Category - Sony AS100V Both Sony AS100V and the GoPro 3+(Black) offer users higher bitrates and professional codecs for critical functions that will benefit the editing process during post production. Only these two cameras offer these features and although the unique features go beyond the scope of this review, I feel it’s worth of demonstrating what the differences look like. Not all video editing systems can manage these codecs. Professional video software has the necessary decoders yet even casual users can find free decoders on the GoPro and Sony websites. Apple FinalCut has issues with both the XAVC and Cineform codecs without downloading the decoder but again, every pro-level application can decode/read files generated by these cameras. Why would one want a higher bitrate, more robust codec? If color correction or compositing are to be employed to process the footage captured by these action cameras, it’s a good idea to have as much information in the file as possible. A higher bitrate provides more “bits” that the NLE can push around, and still retain quality. Watch the Codec Test Video This image is raw, no processes added. Keep in mind that when shooting high bitrates the camera is shooting flat, no internal color processing. In the upper right is a GoPro Black shooting standard bitrate. In the lower left, I’ve set the Sony AS 30 to “Neutral” so that there is no color processing. Pay attention to detail rather than color range. This is an overcast day, so there is no blue in the sky. In the next image, I’ll oversaturate and over luminate the image to better demonstrate how far the footage can be processed without falling apart. Here, an HSL filter has been applied. Note that the Sony AS100V in the upper left, and the GoPro 3+ in the lower right, best hold together. As subjective as this conversation is, most would agree that the AS100V at 50Mbps holds together better than its counterparts, although the GoPro 3+ at 35Mbps is very impressive. This is a very important consideration for professional users. To access high bitrates with the Sony AS100V action camera, a 64GB SDXC card is required. Smaller cards use the FAT format while the larger 64GB card uses EXFAT. EXFAT is necessary to access the PRO mode in the AS100V. The manual does not clearly state this, so beware. It actually took two calls to Sony technical support to realize this. Their own technical support team didn’t know the answer, probably due to the newness of the camera model. See the 4K video for more content and comparison. In Summary All in all, each of the action camera/POV camera products tested in this shootout did very, very, well and far exceeded the quality of cameras only one generation past. This shootout truly came down to a select few cameras though, and any one of the top five are excellent choices depending on requirements for form factor, image quality, post-production requirements, and high framerates. Not unexpectedly, the scoring fell very close to the price points of the cameras. Only the ReplayXD Mini was the surprise. Ultimately, it came down to a few things, all of them feature-related as opposed to picture quality related. Truly, there are so many offerings overall, it’s impossible to suggest that any one camera is significantly better than the others for overall use. My personal preferences come down to the Sony AS100V, it’s been called the “GoPro-killer” by many reviewers, but there is a reason everyone compares themselves to GoPro cameras; GoPro is a damn fine product. I don’t care for the GoPro manufacturer mounts, and mount stability is a very large factor in action sports, motor sports, and high-impact situations. The Garmin VIRB took me by surprise; the camera is the heaviest of the lot and has a terrible mount. It would be a terrific camera for most users if the mount was as stable as the camera itself. It truly feels like manufacturers pay almost no attention to the stability of the mounting system, and it’s for this reason that I didn’t use most of the manufacturer mounts (I was doing them a favor while also watching out for my own safety). Mounts aside, battery life aside, the VIRB is an exciting newcomer to the mix of cameras. Midland’s new XTC 400 really threw me for a loop, as the camera feels/looks cheap. Again, they have a horrid mount that is even more flimsy than GoPro’s mount. Yet the picture quality, price point, and ease of use make the Midland a wonderful choice for the budget-conscious sport shooter. Finally, Liquid’s EGO really is a delight. Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass to use when in the water housing, and it has a mount identical to GoPro, but it looks like a Minion. How can one just simply not LOVE a Minion? The record time makes this an all-day camera and given that it shares mount points with GoPro, a whole world of mounts are available for this fun little camera at the lowest price point in the mix (it barely made the review criteria). Final Standings: Sony AS100 74 GoPro Hero 3+ 60 ReplayXD Mini 1080 58 Sony AS30 53 Garmin VIRB 52.5 GoPro 3 Black 51 Drift Ghost S 49 JVC Adixxion 45 Midland XTC400 41 Liquid Ego 34 Polaroid XS100 34 All The Test Videos: Motocycle / Road Motocycle / Road Underwater Snorkel Underwater Snorkel II Underwater Snorkel III Wingsuit Overhead Wingsuit Exit Zipline Zipline II Bobsled Slow Motion Codec Test Low Light This Week in Photo 1st Runner Up GoPro Hero 3+ $399.99 More Information Winner Sony AS100 $299.99 More Information 2nd Runner Up Replay XD Mini $199.99 More Information New Action Camera Releases - Sony HDR-AZ1VR (Release Date: October 2014) - GoPro Hero 4 (Release Date: October 2014) About The Author Douglas Spotted Eagle (D29060) is a videographer/producer living between the world of professional production and skydiving. With more than 5000 skydives and 300 film/television productions, he loves playing with cameras and things that go fast. He is the managing producer and instructional designer at VASST, who will be releasing “ActionCam ClipFix,” an NLE plugin product designed for POV camera shooters. Thanks to Max at Mystic Mountain, John/Karl/Steve/Kenn/Ziggy at Skydive Elsinore, Pepper at Jamaica Snorkel, the Arizona Highway Patrol, Dropzone.com, Adam, Roger, and Nashie who helped make this review happen as smoothly has herding lenses can be. No animals alive or simulated were harmed in the production of this shootout/review.
  25. PRODUCT SERVICE BULLETIN 2016-01 (PSB # 2016 - 01) ISSUE DATE: 4th January 2016 SUBJECT: Stainless Steel Mini Base Ring STATUS: Ground Equipment Until Further Notice IDENTIFICATION: PSB # 2016-01 Affected Vortex Rigs: To be updated ASAP. Subject to a notification on Saturday, Jan 2nd, 2016, from our dealer in Holland that a stainless steel mini base ring presented with a problem on a Vortex container on its fourth jump (DOM October 2014), we are immediately advising all customers with a Vortex that has “DSF” stamped base rings (flip the base ring over and if its stamped DSF) to ground their equipment until we can ascertain which batch is impacted and obtain more detail from the manufacturer. We are diligently pursuing this information in as quick a time as possible. We will post serial numbers of potentially affected Vortex's as soon as we have the manufacturers’ confirmed information and steps that need to be taken to resolve this issue. Please be assured that Parachute Systems will make all efforts as quickly as possible to resolve this issue. Discussions regarding this issue are being discussed on Parachute Systems' Facebook page. This bulletin will be updated as more information on the affected containers are provided. UPDATE - Permanent Grounding For All Vortex Harness Containers With DSF Ring An update has been provided by Parachute Systems that has seen the permanent grounding of all Vortex containers with the affected DSF ring. "While the hardware manufacturers believe the compromised stainless steel ring could be an isolated incident, and expert opinion has confirmed this is very possible, in the absence of being able to test every single ring quickly and efficiently, both companies have decided that they will not risk the possibility of even one Harness Container in the field with a potentially faulty stainless steel ring. It has been decided, therefore, that every Vortex Harness Container with the stainless steel hardware as referenced in the Bulletin and stamped “DSF” BE GROUNDED PERMANENTLY" This grounding does NOT pertain to the Vortex Harness Containers that do not have the referenced stainless steel hardware per the Bulletin and stamped “DSF"> It has been further agreed to by both companies, that EVERY Vortex harness container that has the stainless steel hardware as referenced in the initial Bulletin, will be replaced with a brand new identical Harness Container as the original order. The replacement phase (VORTEX REPLACEMENT PROGRAM) will commence immediately and the closing date for the receipt of claims under this program is December 31st 2016." More information available in the Service Bulletin They have also made a recall form Available on Their Website