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Choosing Gear to Paraglide
Choosing gear to paraglide for the first time might feel like an overwhelming, daunting task. As you browse through respected paragliding gear sites, you will come across tons of different options from varying brands to choose from, which can easily make any newbie’s head spin. What might make this even more confusing is the reality that each piece of gear for paragliding you come across is not necessarily better than the other, but more so targeted to fulfill certain pilot needs.
Now, even as a beginner, you are more than likely aware that the quality and type of gear you choose will strongly dictate the experience and safety levels you will have. Because of that, below is a comprehensive guide on critical things to look out for when gear hunting, along with some prime suggestions for you to consider as well.
What You Will Need
First and foremost, let’s lay out the essentials you will need in order to get started. You will need to invest in:
- The paraglider itself, aka the wing (this often comes with a compression strap, inner bag, and a decent rucksack);
- A harness;
- A helmet;
- A reserve parachute;
- Quality shoes/boots;
- Flying suit;
- A compass;
- A maillon; and
- An integrated Variometer with GPS or a simple Variometer will do
Tips For Choosing the Right Primary Gear
There are quite a few things to keep in mind when picking out the right gear for paragliding. Starting with the wing itself, understanding the different classes is key. You have first wings (great for first-timers), progression wings for those who are ready to upgrade, and then you get into the more experienced ones like XC class, performance class, advanced class, and competition class. For just starting out, you will either want to go with first wings or progression.
Tip: Try going with a standard certified glider. EN-A ones are the easiest to control, whereas EN-D and CCC ones are more difficult and should be handled by pros.
Aside from getting fitted gear that is not too loose or small, some other tips include:
- Keep the weight of your gear in the back of your mind. With all of your equipment, it can easily add 30-40 pounds on top of what you already weigh. And because paragliders tend to reach peak performance when you are at about 50 to 75% of the weight range, make sure to look into what the actual percentage is when purchasing a wing so you can work around staying in the ideal weight window when buying the rest of the gear.
- For your harness, this acts as more than just a chair for you; it can be your buffer to protect you if you happen to fall. Many modern harnesses have airbags as well for extra protection. Along with this, some are reclined, some are shaped like a pod, and some are entirely upright. As for your advice here, go with the standard upright harness if you are a first-time buyer. And though there is not a classification system for the majority of harnesses, make sure to get one that is both EN 1651 (load tested) and LTF91/09 (protection tested).
- The last big one is your helmet. Most pilots prefer to invest in a helmet that contains a faceguard as a way to protect themselves from both crashing risks and the wind. Nonetheless, this one is up to you. For some reference, helmets without a shield offer more “freedom” during flight, but the shielded ones are generally safer.
Conclusion – Gear Up and Enjoy!
It is no secret that paragliding is one heck of an exhilarating sport. In fact, it can fulfill just about any thrill seeker’s craving for adventure in ways that other activities simply cannot compete with. But whether you are learning how to paraglide now or are newly certified, choosing gear to paraglide is a fundamental element that should always be well researched and thought out. Sure, the basics are the same for every pilot, but the differences boil down to skill, goals, experience, and class levels. For example, wider wings are better for beginners because they are designed to make you fly slower.
In summary, go with the gear that you will feel confident in using. Start with beginner choices, and work your way up to the elite stuff as you get more masterful. In the end, as long as you choose paragliding gear from reputable resources that matches your performance (while giving your room to improve), then go ahead, gear up, and enjoy!