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Buying your first parachute - What kind of parachute should I buy when I'm ready for my own?

You'll get a lot of advice on this subject, and not all of it will be in your best interest. Whatever you decide, please check with the instructional staff first, even if you have a license. At Skydive Orange, we require that all jumpers make reasonable equipment and training choices, student and experienced jumper alike.

First, determine if you want used equipment or new. For used equipment, you will need a lot of support from a trustworthy and experienced instructor or otherwise qualified mentor. You will pay less, but you will probably need to make some compromises in your choice, which may include settling for earlier designs. A used system may require some work to return it to its original specifications and perform update. The instructional staff can advise you on design choices, and a rigger can help with the technical details. But sometimes you'll get luck, and find a great deal on just what you want.

You'll need the most support if you buy a number of used components from different sources and have the rig assembled. Getting some components used and some new might be a little easier, for example, buying a used container, reserve, and automatic activation device with a new main canopy.

The easiest but most expensive way is to buy a complete new system. You will still need to rely on someone knowledgeable and qualified (rated for the advice they give), but everything is guaranteed to fit and be compatible. You can also choose your favorite colors*. Some manufacturers are offering new designs that we'd recommend watching for a few years first. What looks like a good idea on the drawing board has often in the past turned out to cause unforeseen problems in general use, some very dangerous. We sell products for a number of manufacturers, chosen for their product and service reputation.

For canopies, we feel there is a clear choice of manufacturer:
Performance Designs. More jumpers jump PD canopies than any other brand worldwide, and the company has a reputation for testing its products heavily before putting them on the market. Keep in mind, however, that ten years ago, the industry knew considerably less about how to design for consistent soft openings, so lean toward the newer models, even with PD. See also parts of a parachute.

We are most concerned with your goals for canopy flight. You'll want to choose the versatility/group freefall route or the performance/advanced training route. Knowing that, we can help you choose the style and size of the canopy that will suit you best and provide you the most options in the future. To give you a ball-park idea, responsible manufacturers recommend a wing loading of one pound per square foot for the average jumper in size and experience. Keep in mind that you're not average in experience yet (200-300 jumps), and lighter jumpers need a lighter wing loading to get the same safety margin. However, with additional focused training and coached practice in advanced canopy flight, you may be able to safely handle more aggressive wing loading.

There are a number of harness and container systems that provide the jumper with good security, reliability, and durability. Differences are more a matter of preference in most cases, but you should choose a system that offers the experience of hundreds of thousands of jumps in varying field conditions. The Relative Workshop  (United Parachute Technologies) (Vector, Micron) probably offers the most tested design. Sun Path (Javelin, Odyssey) offers very popular rigs that are well proven in the field. We have other good systems available that offer different advantages, and we'll help you steer clear of equipment that we've observed problems with or are not too sure about yet.

For AADs, none are anywhere near as well field tested as the Cypres- by a huge margin. Lately there are many new kinds of Cypres-like AAD's advertised. Keep in mind the number of jumps made on all non-Cypres AAD's together is probably less than one tenth of percent as many jumps made on Cypres AAD's. I can't understand why anyone would want to effectively be an AAD test pilot by jumping anything other than a Cypres.

Bottom line - never buy any parachute system or component without checking with a couple of your instructors.

Email me any suggestions for this first gear purchase webpage


New Parachutes, Harness/ Containers-
Ask Ned for a price on new skydiving equipment, email me what you are looking for. Check the gear sales link If you rather buy used things, tell me and I'll see what I can find for you. Never buy anything, especially a parachute, harness/container without checking with a couple of our senior instructors.
Choosing a first Parachute or AAD's-
There are always new manufacturers coming out with the next great skydiving bargain, beautifully advertised in living color on the pages of parachutist or online. Be really careful what you buy. There have indeed been killer canopies marketed over the years. Many avoidable fatalities happened on Glide Path Nova Parachutes. The original Crossfire main parachute, like the Nova, was prone to collapse in turbulence with several resulting fatalities. Neither of these parachutes had been properly tested prior to release to the skydiving public. Parachute aerodynamics is an incredibly complicated thing. Even though other kinds of parachutes may not have such large design defects, there have been other releases like the original Saffire, which just didn't flare as well as a modern main parachute should. There are probably no more than 30 or so skydivers in the US who really have the skills to evaluate a parachute design. Just because your friend says they tried a parachute and they liked it does not mean it performs particularly well in all situations.
The best way to avoid unexpected problems when choosing a brand and model of parachute, other than asking a respected skydiving instructor, is to go with one of the brands that has the most of it's products in regular use. That would be Performance Designs "PD", the parachute manufacturer for parachutes, and the Cypres AAD. PD & Cypres have dominated the market by probably a factor of 1,000 or so in most cases. Their initial product introduction to the sport was an order of magnitude better than all available products at the time. I see lost of new adds for Cypres wannabees, proudly touting a handful of saved lives, but  none of them had anything like the long-compiled success record of the Cypres AAD.
Harness/Containers, on the other hand, don't vary as much in safety in that they are not aerodynamic flight components like a main parachute. United Parachute Technologies (AKA Relative Workshop) Sky Hook appears to be a worthwhile innovation. Time will tell if it has any drawbacks.
Stock jumpsuits-

*Colors are a matter of personal preference, but I will give a little advice:

1) Fluorescent colors tend to fade first. Most parts of a parachute or harness container require considering hand rigging and sewing and might be impractical to replace. Examples of easily replaced parts are leg straps and padding on a ring harness, some reserve cover flaps, pilot chutes, sliders.

2) When designing a parachute, consider what it will look like when you view both layers of a parachute through the bottom; a red top skin and white bottom skin might look like a pink parachute. The most popular main parachute options are 825 microline and soft fabric connector links "slinks".

3) A modern parachute being good for well over 1,000 jumps with reasonable care, consider what it will look like after a sweaty packer has laid on the top of the center cell hundreds of times. You might want to avoid light colors on the top center cell since they will show the packer dirt more. A contrasting slider color might be useful in evaluating slider hesitations or slider-up malfunctions. Bright colors will be easier to find if you have to cut your main parachute away if it malfunctions.

Here is a typical order form. The most popular, or else most highly recommended options are marked in red, other things we think you will probably want in blue, email Ned or ask one of your  instructors with any questions. Sometimes the production time can be many months for the most popular brands. Ned sometimes has a few production slots so you can get a popular rig a little sooner if you order through him:



Most of this page was professionally written by a former magazine editor. Then Ned put a line across it, added part of an email he sent to students, and added a rambling discourse with a few random color facts below that. I hope you don't mind.


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