A Beginner’s Guide to Skydiving Gear Safety
When you first start skydiving, you will most likely rent your gear. And you will probably continue to rent gear for the next few jumps. Some recommend that beginners continue to rent their skydiving gear until after they’ve completed the accelerated freefall certification and for a few dozen jumps afterward. But if skydiving becomes a mainstay in your life, you should consider purchasing your own skydiving equipment.
Having your own gear can save you time and money at the dropzone, so long as you’re properly trained to use it. But with a variety of brands and manufacturers, it can be an intimidating prospect. Be sure to seek guidance from a trusted instructor who is familiar with your skydiving history, skill level, goals, and budget.
The Basics of Skydiving Equipment
At a bare minimum, you will need the following skydiving gear to get started:
- Jumpsuit – A jumpsuit is there to protect your body from the wind and strain of freefall. A good jumpsuit will also keep you safe from scratches and bruises during landing. General athletic clothing or jeans are not good enough.Some professionals recommend purchasing your own jumpsuit after completing your “A” license. Because jumpsuits can be delicate and bad landings can damage them, it’s best to stick with the rentals while learning. This will also give you time to figure out what you really like. A jumpsuit is also more than just for protection and aesthetics: it will help you progress faster, control fall rate, and provide functional elements such as grippers for relative work, etc.
- Altimeter – These are devices to let you know your exact altitude and help you gauge when to deploy the parachute. They’re important pieces of skydiving gear for safety, and the USPA requires all students to wear them. Wrist-mounted altimeters are worn like watches, and are a great place to start. An audible altimeter is even better. These are worn inside your helmet and indicate the altitude directly into your ear.
- Goggles – You get a spectacular view from 12,500+ feet. With the air whipping past you at 120mph, you’ll want to be able to see it! This might be the cheapest item on the list. Goggles can be purchased for under $20. Fancier options can go over $50.
- Main Canopy – Choosing the right canopy is a function of many things, most importantly jumper weight and skill. Generally speaking, less experienced jumpers should demonstrate competence at canopy control with lower wing loading before downsizing.Canopy size and selection is arguably the most important decision you will make when it comes to skydiving gear for avoiding injury or worse. There are so many factors to consider that we couldn’t cover them all in this article alone. Your instructors and experienced members of the community will be happy to guide you!
- Reserve Canopy – The reserve canopy is there to save your life if your main parachute fails. Don’t try and save money here, get the best one you can. The number of repacks, deployments and age are the primary price influencers of used reserve canopies. You should also have the reserve canopy checked for water damage and patches by a trusted rigger.
- Container System – The container system is the backpack-looking harness you deploy your parachute from. You will need to know the exact dimensions of both parachutes before buying a container. You should get a container that fits your body and skydiving equipment properly.
- Helmet – These are a step above your average goggles. An open-faced helmet provides head protection and a great field of vision. Your helmet should be snug and have an easy-to-remove chin cup or clasp. A well-fitting helmet is the most effective way to keep the wind out of your face and can protect you if you from accidental impact, like a collision with another skydiver.
- AAD (Automatic Activation Device) – This device monitors your altitude and deploys your reserve parachute if your main parachute hasn’t been deployed by a certain altitude. This device can save your life if you become unconscious or lose track of your altitude on a jump. Reliability and autonomy are key here.
New vs. Used Skydiving Gear
Skydiving is an expensive sport. If you can afford to do so, it’s always nicer and safer to have newer skydiving equipment. All of the gear listed above will run you about $5000-$8000, depending on brand and quality. But just like with buying a car, buying used skydiving equipment can be a viable alternative to expensive new gear. There is a very active second-hand market in skydiving. Most newcomers and seasoned veterans alike predominantly buy used. When buying used equipment, be sure to have it inspected by a trusted FAA certified rigger prior to purchase.
Tips for Buying Used Skydiving Gear
- Get an Inspection – Pay an expert, like a professional rigger, to inspect skydiving equipment before finalizing the deal. It might cost a little extra cash but it’s well worth the peace of mind and quality control. On the same note, don’t exclusively trust your friends, especially if your friends are also fairly inexperienced jumpers. They probably don’t know much more than you do. For important decisions like this, seek professional advice.
- Talk With Other Skydivers – Most dropzones are tight communities of fun-loving people, something we’re really proud of here at Skydive Taft. Other experienced skydivers will be happy to tell you about the gear they use and where to get deals if you ask. While you should not trust their advice above those of instructors or professionals, they can help you find brands and manufacturers to look into.
- Trust Your Gut If Something Seems Off – If any of the used skydiving gear you find doesn’t quite fit right or makes you uneasy, just don’t buy it. You never want to make yourself uncomfortable or unsafe just to save a few bucks.
- Be Honest With Yourself – Buy a canopy that matches your current weight, not the weight you want to be. Never buy a smaller canopy in hopes that you’ll lose weight. If anything, you should err on the higher side of your actual weight.
- Shop at The Right Time – Skydiving season generally runs from March to September. Everyone is rushing to stock up on gear just before and during that time. Buying your gear at the end of a season or in the off-season can save you some cash and allow you to take your time when making selections.
- Do the Research – Learn about the industry, compare manufacturers, their quality, and pricing. Also consider their customer service and availability. If getting parts will be a hassle with a particular manufacturer, you might want to reconsider.
When To Upgrade
As you gain experience, you will learn more about your own preferences and can always upgrade your skydiving equipment in the future. One mistake newbies sometimes make is going out and buying the most expensive skydiving gear they can find. New skydivers often don’t have the experience to know what they really like and need.
Other newbies might swing the other way and seek out the cheapest gear they can find without doing their due diligence. This could be dangerous, as your life literally depends on your gear. Don’t put yourself at risk to save a little cash.
Once you have the essential skydiving gear in order, you can start considering some accessories for convenience. A sturdy logbook is great for keeping track of your jumps. You might also consider a handheld camera to record your adventures. However, be sure to learn safe camera practices from an instructor before taking a camera on a jump. USPA recommends a C-license or 200 jumps and solid flying skills before taking any camera with you. A helmet carrying bag is also a great way to keep your helmet safe when not in use.
The Skydive Taft Experience
Skydive Taft has served the Los Angeles area with outstanding professionalism for over twenty years. We’ve been recognized for our great vibes, amazing dropzone, and outstanding safety record.
So, start your skydiving adventure with Skydive Taft today! We offer tandem jumps, accelerated freefall courses and advanced training for experienced skydivers. We keep our rental skydiving gear in pristine condition so you can have peace of mind when jumping with Skydive Taft.
If you’re in Los Angeles or Southern California, stop by and see us! our professional and experienced staff are here to help you take to the skies.