Paragliding, the exhilarating activity that entices thrill seekers everywhere. If you are unfamiliar with paragliding, it is the activity of soaring through the sky, while only being attached to a paragliding wing and a harness. Since the stakes are so high for paragliders, it is important that they own the proper paragliding equipment. When shopping for paragliding equipment, it can be flustering and confusing. That’s why we have created your ultimate shopping guide for paragliding equipment!
To begin, every paraglider needs a paragliding wing. Before we dive into details about the canopy, you should know that some people and manufacturers may refer to it as the canopy, glider or the parachute. Anyway, if you have glanced at paragliding wings, you have probably noticed that they come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and fabric. Out of those aspects, the color of the paragliding wing is the only thing that does not necessarily matter. So, feel free to choose any color you want, no matter what level of paragliding experience you have. But, the other things (shape, size, and fabric) do matter. Let’s start with a shape and size.
If you browse through paragliding wings, you should notice that there are some wide wings and some very slim wings. And they are designed like that for a reason. The wider wings tend to be safer because of the strength and area in which they take up. Thus, wider paragliding wings are designed for beginner paragliders. The wider design of the paragliding wing will also make your flight go a little bit slower. Since the wider paragliding wings are designed for newer paragliders, you can probably figure out who the narrower paragliding wings are designed for. If you guessed advanced and competition paragliders, than you are right! The narrower paragliding wing design allows the paraglider to have more mobility and to fly faster.
Thus, you should only use a narrow paragliding wing if you are extremely comfortable and confident with what you are doing. If you ever forget what paragliding wing design is suitable for a specific paragliding level, just remember; as the size decreases, the performance increases. Another thing you need to focus on while shopping for a paragliding wing is the size. The size of the paragliding wing is determined by your size. Make sure that you purchase the adequate paragliding wing that is designed for your weight. Now let’s move on to the different fabric options.
While paragliding wings offer different fabrics, it usually depends on the manufacturer. Paragliding wings are not created using only one type of fabric. Usually there are three to four different fabrics that are blended together to make a durable paragliding wing. But, the question of what kind of fabric is used in a paragliding wing will vary among different companies. Some companies that manufacture paragliding wings are known for weaker wings, wings that pick up dust more often than others, and wings that are almost perfectly durable. The best advice we could give you referencing the various types of paragliding wing fabric, is research that specific company you have in mind.
There are a ton of paragliding forums, which touch on paragliding equipment. Look through the forums, or even scroll through the reviews on the manufacturers’ website! That’s your best option for purchasing a paragliding wing with the kind of fabric you desire. Aside from the basics of paragliding wing fabric, there is an option of waterproof paragliding wings. While it is usually not recommended to fly during precipitation, some advanced fliers choose to. Thus, waterproof paragliding wings are usually purchased and used by more advanced paragliders.
Since we have covered the fundamentals of paragliding wings, let’s discuss the price of paragliding wings. When you shop for a paragliding wing, you most likely notice that some wings are at a discounted price. Please disregard the discounted price, and do not purchase the wing that is on sale. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. More than often, the discounted wing is an older model. There are reasons why manufacturers have created a newer model, and those reasons are important. It is worth shelling out a few more dollars to ensure your safety. Finally, you can purchase paragliding wings anywhere from $500 to $5,000.
Once you have a suitable paragliding wing, you are going to need a paragliding harness. While you may think that shopping for a paragliding harness is just as easy as shopping for groceries, it’s not. There are a lot of things that you need to pay attention to when shopping for a paragliding harness. One of the most important aspects of a paragliding harness is back protection. Sometimes, when you are preparing to descend a high altitude area, you can be picked up a few feet, and dropped by the wind. Having a harness with back protection could save you from lots of pain. Back protection also allows you to have more security and feel more comfortable while flying. Like paragliding wings, some older paragliding harnesses are at a discounted price. But, the low price comes with a catch. Usually those discounted paragliding harnesses do not have back protection, which is extremely bad.
Other than that, the requirements of a paragliding harness are pretty basic. The harness you purchase should be suitable for your weight.
Some harness models have pockets, which can be used for drinks, snacks, or safety gear, a storage section, or a container designed for a reserve parachute. Whether your harness has these extras or not is completely up to you. One last thing about paragliding harnesses, is that you should ensure you have the proper connecting system for your harness. The most common way to connect your harness to your wing is by the carabiner system. There are a few other options of how to connect your harness and your wing, but it all depends on your paragliding experience, and what you are looking for on your flight.
This next piece of paragliding equipment is not necessary, but every paraglider should have it. A reserve parachute is a piece of paragliding equipment which is basically a second paragliding wing. The reserve parachute is there to save your life, in case something ever went wrong with your paragliding wing. Reserve parachutes come in various shapes and sizes. Since their main purpose is to get you to the ground safely, the design of the reserve parachute does not matter as much as the design of the paragliding wing.
The most common design of reserve parachutes is a round, almost donut like, shape. Although reserve parachutes are much wider than paragliding wings, they are very difficult to steer. So, don’t expect to continue with the tricks you had planned for a flight if you’re descending with a reserve parachute. It should be noted that reserve parachutes have an extremely limited useable lifespan, so make sure to check and replace yours frequently. While having a reserve parachute is not mandatory, every paraglider should have one, especially advanced and competition paragliders.
When we learn to bike ride, our parents most likely told us to wear our helmet everywhere when we rode our bikes. This probably lasted for a week. After the week of catching our bearings on a bike, we pulled off the helmet, and continued bike riding, helmet-free, for the rest of our lives. This is not the case for paragliding. You will use a helmet, no matter how easy or short of a flight you are going to do. Some paragliders use a hard shell motorcycle helmet. While a good quality motorcycle helmet is better than not wearing a helmet at all, paragliders should purchase a helmet that is specifically designed for paragliding. Paragliding helmets are designed with a specific kind of fiberglass, which ensures the most safety for your head. Remember, a head injury could be detrimental to your life. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You may question how paragliders can adequately pull their brake and steer themselves through thermals. While paragliders usually know a lot about the weather, they also have something called a variometer. A variometer tells a variety of things, such as altitude and rate of ascent or descent. Thus, having a variometer ensures paragliders that they are adequately flying for the conditions around them.
While we have covered the necessary paragliding equipment, there are some other pieces of equipment that paragliders prefer. These items include, but are not limited to; gloves, a flying suit, a hook knife, boots, and a radio. Gloves are good to have because they keep your hands from catching frostbite, and could prevent your hands from getting line burns. Another item that can help your body adjust to extreme temperatures is a flying suit.
If you paraglide in exotic places, then you might want to purchase a flying suit. As for a hook knife, this is usually purchased by paragliders who fly over water. If there was ever a situation where you landed in water, a hook knife could cut you free from your gear. Some paragliders like to ensure safety in all parts of their body, so they purchase specifically crafted paragliding boots. Thus, their ankles will have adequate support and protection. Finally, advanced paragliders usually carry a radio, since it allows them to contact other pilots or flight services.
So, there you have it. Who would expect paragliding equipment to be so complicated? The reality is, if you want to ensure your safety, you have to be willing to purchase expensive paragliding equipment. Do not cut corners, or choose older models. After all, you are flying in the air, which poses obvious risks. Thus, it is extremely important to have adequate, suitable, and safe paragliding equipment.