A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Skydiving Gear
Buying your own skydiving gear…
One question that is extremely common in skydiving circles, is when is the best time to start buying your own gear? Some people want to buy gear before ever even doing their first jump, while others will jump hundreds of times before shelling out for their own gear. While there’s no exact right answer for when it’s time to invest in your own gear, there are many things you can follow to make the whole gear buying process a lot easier on yourself.
When to buy gear
We say the best time to invest in some gear for yourself, is when you’re fairly certain you want to make skydiving a regular hobby of yours. If you still only plan on going skydiving every once in a while (like once or twice a year), then it may not be economically wise to invest in your own gear. If you’re at the point though where you can see yourself going skydiving every couple months or more, then you should definitely thinking about getting yourself your own gear.
Not only will it save you money every time you head out to the drop zone, but it will also allow you to become familiar with the same piece of equipment over and over again. This alone will really help you to perfect your technique, and to become more comfortable in the air than you are on the ground. When you use rented gear, you have to adjust yourself to a whole new set of gear each and every time.
New vs used
There is always a big debate among skydivers about whether you should go for new or used gear. Some people say to save money and go used, while others say go new and never let anyone else dive with your gear.
In all honesty, both schools of thought are correct, to an extent.
If you are still fairly new to skydiving and don’t plan on racking up more than 100 jumps over the next two years, we say definitely go for used gear. There’s no need to worry about used gear being unsafe, as it is checked meticulously before it is sold. If you are still worried about the safety of using used gear, think about this: all the rented gear you have used at a drop zone is also used – probably much more so than the used gear for sale. Unless you have more money than you know what do with or will be doing a ton of jumping, it just makes sense economically to go for used gear.
On the other hand, if you’re more experienced, or plan on getting into skydiving more seriously, it may make more sense to just go straight for a new set of gear. There’s no feeling like the first jump with all new gear or the feeling that you’re the only one who has ever done a free fall in a set of gear.
The decision will be all up to you, and one mostly based on money, but still you need to decide wisely.
Main Parachutes – This is one of the most important pieces, as it will be the component that keeps you alive in 99.9% of your jumps. While it fine to buy your main parachute used, we don’t recommend buying a used parachute that has more than 200 jumps, whenever possible.
Some people will tell you not to buy a main parachute that is more than x number of years old, but the main thing to consider is how many jumps it has been used for. A five year old parachute that has been used 20 times will be in much better and safer condition than a one year old parachute that has been used 300 times. It can often be difficult for beginners to tell how many jumps a parachute has experienced, so ask the experts at wherever you’re looking to buy your parachute.
It’s also important to consider where the parachute was used most often, if possible. Sand really eats away at parachutes, so jumps done in the desert or near the beach will deteriorate your parachute much faster than with jumps done over grass.
Also, and this is probably obvious, but you’ll want to skip any parachutes that have holes or tears in them. It is possible to get these repaired if you are truly on a budget, but we would argue that your life is much more valuable and important than any temporary budget issues you might be facing.
Reserve Parachute – In almost all instances, you should be looking towards a used reserve parachute. Reason being, these are very rarely used, and even a reserve chute that’s 10 years old can be in almost new condition. Still, you’ll want to make sure the reserve chute is less than 15 years old, and has less than five uses.
Five uses might not seem like all that many at all, but when you think about how rarely people actually deploy a reserve chute, it starts to seem like a whole lot more.
Don’t waste your money on a brand new reserve chute, unless you simply have to have all new gear. A used reserve chute is good enough in 99% of cases.
AAD – An AAD is an Automatic Activation Device, and is the device that will save you if you forget to deploy your parachute. For example, if you pass out during your free fall on a solo jump, you might think you’re screwed, right? Actually, if you reach a certain altitude without deploying your parachute, the AAD will jump in and do the job of deploying your parachute for you. It won’t help to guide you safely to the exact point on the ground you need to go to, but it will help to ensure you don’t go speeding to the ground at full velocity.
As for used or new, it really doesn’t matter as you’re essentially paying a fixed cost per year. This is usually between $80-160 per year, although used units are rarer because they expire much more quickly than the rest of the gear you’ll be jumping with. It might seem like a small component that you might never need, but you don’t ever want to find out how much you really need a device like this.
Harness/Container – For most people, a used harness and container is definitely the way to go. Since new skydivers don’t manage to land on their feet every jump, there’s a good chance your harness and container can get scuffed up and dirty. When you get a used harness and container dirty, it doesn’t sting nearly as much as when it happens to a brand new one. The most important part is the fit of the harness and container. While it likely won’t be difficult to find the right sized container for your chutes, finding the right sized harness is a different story.
If your harness is a little too big or a little too small, it’s not really a big deal, it just won’t be as comfortable as one that fits perfectly (which still aren’t all that comfortable anyways). Any more than just a little bit too big or small and you’ll need to get yours resized, although resizing a harness can be almost as expensive as just buying one that’s already the right size.
Also, while most people will be able to find a used harness that fits them, if your body type is atypical, then it will be more difficult. For example, people that are very tall and lanky, or short and stout, will have trouble finding used harnesses in their size, and might have to purchase new to find one that fits them in the right way.
What order should I purchase all of these in?
Great question. We recommend purchasing your reserve canopy first, in a size that will allow someone with your body weight to reach the ground safely in the event of a non-deployment. Then, you should decide (but not buy) what size main chute will be the right size for you. You can pick the type later, but for now, just figure out the size.
Then it’s time to pick out a harness and container. Find one that fits your body comfortably and one that will also fit both your main and reserve chute. Once you’ve got your harness and container, you can select what type of main chute you want.
Finally, you’ll want to select your AAD. Just make sure it’s still within its service life and never purchase or jump with an AAD that’s not. It could very well be the thing that ends up saving your life.
What about clothing or windsuits?
They aren’t necessary but can look and feel seriously cool when you use them. There’s nothing stopping you from doing the rest of your jumps in comfortable, warm, loose-fitting clothing. Where’s the fun in that though? (*See comments section)
If you want to purchase clothing, you can go for either a windsuit or a wingsuit. Either are perfectly fine to purchase used, because they don’t add much in terms of safety to your jumps. A windsuit is like a jumpsuit to protect your body from wind resistance, while a wingsuit will feature flaps of material under your arms, to let you cut through the air like a flying squirrel during your free fall.
Feel free to purchase either if they tickle your fancy, but focus your time and money on getting the gear that’s going to keep you safe for all the jumps you plan on doing.