Tips for Buying Kit
We've compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions relating to buying your first glider and the differences between types and variations in harness, reserves and wings.
If your still have questions about anything or want some confirmation as to your kit planning then just email me directly via our email or try us on the shop chat room
How do I choose the right paraglider?
It's not really like going snowboarding for the first time, paragliding experience and hours takes time. So don't rush it or get too ambitious. You need to ask yourself what type of flying you aim to be doing.
What type of flying will you be doing?
Ask yourself how much real time can you put aside to fly, do you work flexible hours, only have weekends, have a family life to juggle, possibly just one paragliding holiday a year or are you giving up work and travelling the world.
If you're giving up work and travelling the world then you might consider a low-end EnB wing, if you do other sports like kite surfing or sailing then you might feel comfortable on a similar wing.
For the most part, if you're only getting occasional weekends out flying and the odd holiday then take your time and get a good En A. Most modern En A' gliders give all the performance you need to fly In thermals and make your first Xcs. Plus they give a better level of security when you go abroad and might find yourself in taking off at the wrong time of day or in fruitier conditions you had bought into! Obviously going with seasoned guides will help with all that.
New gliders have all benefitted from the advances in new technology over the last 3 years, En A gliders are now faster and more agile as a result.
One thing is true or maybe two...
We've never had either a low B or En A returned to us that's been worn out by a pilot in its first three years. You always get a fair return on your first wing especially if it's a popular brand, the lesser spotted or less familiar brands are always a little harder to resell.
Different wings like to be flown at different places on the weight range but I think as an easy rule just aimed to be at least in the middle or towards the top end of your glider weight wise.
How do I work my weight re glider size?
Add yourself clothed plus wing, harness, reserve, helmet and biscuits. That will give you an all up weight which you can then apply to sizing. Some manufacturers are subtly different with sizing so best check, hence why FlySpain offer a mix of manufacturers to make sure you get well placed for a wing. Remember when you start looking at reversible or airbag harnesses, lightweight reserves then you can find a 75-kilo pilot dropping out of the approximate medium sized paragliders and looking at small or medium-small. Again all brands can vary greatly.
These often shape up into two styles, uber light and semi-lightweight. Your standard wing tends to be around 6 kilos for a medium size. Where's a semi-lightweight will offer 1-2 kilos less. An uber lightweight maybe as less as 2.5 kilos.
Remember these wings lose weight by a change of line type and thinner materials. The uber light needs some love and respect as they will tear if pulled out of a bush, whereas a full-fat wing won't notice you ragging it around.
Micro lines are great but they do easily snag and are really irritating when you get them caught In thistles or long crops.
Choice of risers
If you're getting a lightweight wing as a first glider the I'd consider going for slim risers as opposed the ultralight string option as they'll play with your uncertainty when you go flying until you've got used to them.
Most important - handling
So lightweight paragliders can be great in flight, they can offer nice handling, a light touch but some can be a little more chatty or busy in thermic air as they pitch about a little more.
The most noticeable side of flying a semi-lightweight is that because there is less weight sitting on the ground they are easy to forward launch in nil or light winds but they equally prove to be a tad more billowy and unstable in stronger winds as they seem to lift up a little easier. So if you don't put the ground handling time into it when you buy one they'll be a right chore when you want to go flying in soarable winds
Needless to say with a well-chosen lightweight glider, a lightweight harness and reserve you can round your kit weight down to sub-ten kilos. Sometimes getting a lighter weight harness can be enough to bring your kit weight down to nearer ten kilos without adding the cons mentioned above.
Getting the right Advice
You should, in theory, be able to ask your instructor if they know much about what you want to buy and can they give you some pointers especially when it comes to sizing. I tend to think that it takes a great deal of effort to gain customers to your door so there's never any need to force a sale or sell them a kipper assuming you want to see them again on a future holiday or course...well that's my theory. Equally, if you've trusted your health and safety with your instructors why should it end when buying equipment, we like to see you make the right choice whether it be new or second hand.
Needless to say, we sell loads of equipment all over Europe and the U.K. every week. We have a rack of instructors at FlySpain, some with interests in speed or mini wing flying that can be more informed than myself for instance - you can, of course, browse our online paragliding shop for new and used paragliding equipment
So if you need any advice then do feel free to drop us a line
How do I choose the right paragliding harness?
So harness choice is huge, in short there are some very established firms with a lot of R&D offering great options and some others making poorer copies.
You need to work out what style of paragliding harness to look at and that can depend on what environment you fly in. Let me explain by breaking it down into the main harness considerations.
All paragliding harness do a similar thing, but it's now possible to buy lots of lateral and back support or go more minimalist and light weight.
You can choose the type of back protection, foam or airbag, sometimes a mix of both.
Foam options [Cross section of foam harness]
So all harness design is similar as they are webbing based with a seat board or hammock style I.e. without.
Foam options come with a physical padded insert generally between 16-20 cm thick to protect your lower spine against hard landings. They have been used for used are bulky but not necessarily heavy, they end up making a larger carrying package, some new paragliding pilots flying on big hills like the idea of them as in windy conditions they do offer a more consistent level of protection if being dragged across the ground, where as airbag options once deflated offer little but fabric between you and any rocks
So airbags have gone from being huge baggy ideas with inflation through the seat under your legs, they used to require some time after launch to fill properly. They are well thought off and tested to show the best option for first impact in an accident involving a fall from height as they offer a bubble of air that slowly deflates until near popping. Sound design and even better shaping have made theses types of harness a really useful and practical solution in modern paragliding.
Modern airbags are generally pre-filled by the time you get to take through a stiffening rod or foam plate to give shape and act like bellow. An additional side vent helps with full inflation within seconds after take off, they are sized according to harness design.
Reserve fitting [Paragliding harness under seat reserve option]
Everyone flies with one and only a handful ever need using, that's the way you want it but get what you want and get the best.
Most harnesses come with an under seat or lower back option, these are the best of the bunch, no one uses shoulder mounted options anymore. They are convenient space-wise and generally only accessible with your right hand, there are some brands that offer a left and right-handed option.
One option and arguably the safest but slightly less convenient is the front mounted reserve which allows both hands to reach it in an emergency. The downside for some pilots is that it adds another level of fuss as they sit more of less on your lap in flight.
A term described to the behaviour of harnesses in flight, the feedback they give and receive from the gliders pitch, roll and yaw in turbulent and thermic air. There was a period of design back around 2002 where pilots were super keen for as much weight shift and feedback as possible, we've since realised that the downside to this is reduced stability at just about the wrong time that you want it I.e in turbulence.
Sometimes lighter weight harness or poorly fitted harness can offer too much feedback at a time in your flying when a little less rock and roll would be appreciated!
Chest-strap settings are now recommended by manufacturers for optimum use of their gliders and are given out online or with a manual when you buy them.
Passive safety characteristics of a wing can be compromised by poor harness strap settings.
Reversible harnesses [Reversible harness option]
These are a relatively new idea, well five years old maybe and of course, there are pros and cons.
Reversible harness offer smaller packing size as the wings neatly folds into the centre of the harness when reversed out. By doing this they stow away smaller and reduce the need for a traditional outer bag, meaning less weight.
They also come with an option of seat plated or hammock style(i.e. each leg is supported by fabric and webbing and move independently to the style of the seat board.)
They prove more comfortable to carry up hills if your local sites need a half hour walk in.
There is a lot of clever stitching that goes into reversible harnesses and often goes hand in hand with cutting down weight. They don't tend to be as hardy as the traditional foam options so you can't chuck them around in quite the same way on the ground or across an airport conveyor belt.
Remember you can buy airbag harnesses without the reversible option and still get the smaller pack.
A note about materials and second-hand gear
Here's something to consider when buying your kit, buying a lighter weight harness does mean that you sacrifice robustness and the potential damage factor that goes with it. Older style harness were made out of Cordura fabric which you could bounce on the ground countless times before you saw wear and tear. For instance FlySpain has over fifteen training harnesses, all less than 3 years old but all made with Cordura and thick foam airbags, they are guaranteed to open and are scruff proof in a teaching environment.
The downside of how great Cordura is, means that there are some very doggy old harness on eBay from a time when harness design went through more styling then sensible thought say, they work but you might find they give too much feedback and not enough protection...these harness surface and I guess look the part, so in short if your buying second don't get anything older than six years and you'll not make any obvious blunders.
They mostly come in Small, medium, large and XL. Everyone is a different shape and all harness need a little time to set up to your shape in-flight comfort regardless of how much you spend.
For instance, if your middling weight but have very long legs then an XL harness might well feel too wide and I truth adding a foot stirrup with a large might be the better option.
Pod harnesses [Pod harness fro Xc flying]
So I can't really see any reason why a new student might buy one of these harness fresh out of school. I appreciate they look good, but they can add extra faff for launching, it's harder to be nimble on launch and run with something hanging around your feet. They can also be a faff to get into and add an extra dimensions of rock and Pop in rougher turbulent air which again you might prefer to experience later in your flying. The performance gains are in truth mostly wasted when flying En A gliders and on low airtime pilots.
If your upgrading to a higher performing wing, thermally and making your first Xc, then there a great deal of choice in pod harness. Many have again followed the design of big and uber heavy to lighter and lighter, you'll have to ponder the pros and cons obviously and bear in mind that the lighter some of these options are the less you get in back protection.
Paragliding Hike and fly harness Options
So you can go as skinny as you like, there are options out there that are really minimalist, and they look appealing if packaged up with a lightweight wing about the size of someone's handbag. If you're a new pilot then the downsides are too much feeling and wobble in flight and a scarcity of back protection. So if you want to go hike and fly look at some of the manufacturers who now offer a halfway house, say reversible or airbag harness. Once you've spent a couple of years in the sport consolidating your skills, you'll have a better idea on how to make a more informed choice of a harness.
FlySpain has a full-time team of instructors who've been flying for over twenty years, we appreciate the importance of finding the right equipment to suit your flying and build. Feel free to inquire or ask any of our instructors about what equipment they like or recommend and why.
What's the best paragliding Helmet to choose?
How to choose a Helmet?
Well, it’s really all about style and colour surely?!
All European helmets now come with a safety rating for their activity or range of activity. If you ensure your helmet has that then it is then down to size, fitting and styling.
Fitting: They don't have to be as snug as a motorbike helmet but you don't want them to fall off to slip and obscure your vision.
Paragliding helmets should conform to EN 966 (airsports), using a helmet that doesn’t conform like a climbing helmet or cycling helmet might upset any public liability you have with your flying federation.
As for the helmet design then they generally come in two physical styles
Full face: so full protection of head and integrated chin guard. These obviously offer the most protection and tend to be a little warmer than open face helmets, they can restrict the view a little.
Open Face: Offer less protection but better visibility, they are generally lighter and pack smaller in with your gear.
The choice is massive now with some great styling, it's worth checking your ski or snowboarding helmets as some are now rated for free flight activities.
Visors: the airforce look is always great and visors come in clear and tinted, they also keep the wind and the sun off your face on long flights which in turn keeps you fresher and without the classic sunglasses panda eyes. The downside for me is they are tricky to keep scratch free and can lead to extra faff on takeoff and more stuff to drag with you like helmet bags etc.
Almost always open face but come with visor options and ear defender options. When flying with two-stroke engines you need to either wear earplugs or ear defenders.
Most PPG helmets allow optional ear defender for them to be integrated. If you want to use radios to talk with friends then you’ll want to buy a separate headset with integrated coms. See Microavionics in our shop for an idea but there are others
FlySpain has pretty much a demo of every product we sell and distribute in the UK, so whilst you're here you can see and even buy a helmet that suits.
What's the best Paragliding Reserve to choose?
Reserve design has changed over the last ten years, the early idea of keeping it small with a quick opening has been ditched for big and therefore slow descent rate. A big one that fits your all up weight in is ideal.
Currently, the standard benchmark reserve sold out of schools are traditional round versions that in truth haven't changed massively in 20 years. They are all about descent, no glide or directional control, buy a big one and they do what they say on the packet.
These often favoured by the acro community who throw their reserves more in a month than most would contemplate throwing in a lifetime. They are directional so as well as gathering in your main canopy you have to fly them into wind for landing, the upside is that you can fly them away from power lines and trees. These are complicated reserve options and really not for the beginner pilot.
Square or Round
Square reserves are the latest design and possibly the best to date for your jobbing pilot, more info below
Lightweight: The last few years has seen reserves being made out of very lightweight materials, so they’ve dropped from 3 kilos to almost 1 kg, some alpine extreme types can be much less but come with a warning of to be thrown only once. Fine if you never want to try it out, not so good if you are a budding acro pilot.
Latest design: The Square reserve, is a new idea offering the same descent speed as before but more stable or rather less likelihood to pendular swing. It means traditional round canopies tend to roll around a little once opened or if the main canopy is still flapping about they can swing around a little. Square reserves suggest once opened they offer a more stable descent rate with a less pendular wobble. These are fairly new designs and are a little more expensive and in time I’m sure they will be the standard option to have.
Sizing: Make sure that when buying a reserve the weight range covers your all up flying weight. So Add all your equipment plus you on the scales to work that out, it's approximately 15 - 20 kgs plus your naked weight, different manufacturers offer different sizes reserves for different jobs, solo, tandem etc.
Descent rate: Manufacturers will state a descent rate for reserves, do check they state the descent for maximum weight. For example, some offer a descent rate of 6 metres descent per second, Ok if you are light and springy. Personally, I’d go for anything around the 4-5 meters if possible. When thinking of descent rate ponder jumping off a 3-metre high ladder or land rover roof rack, that's approximately 6 meters per second of decent, like jumping off the top of a landrover!
Age of reserves: Currently anything over ten years old is likely to be unfashionably small in size and offer very quick descent rates. Only buy second hand if they have been inspected and repacked by a professional or on a budget, any reserve if its been recently repacked is better than none.
The key thing about reserves is to make sure they are repacked at least once a year. They tend to be positioned under the seat so when the equipment is packed away they are compressed by all materials around. Imagine pulling out an old tent that has not seen the light of day, heavily creased.
Get them repacked annually or every 6 months and they will stay fluffy and keen to unfurl in the unlikely event that you’ll use them. There are many schools and agents who offer a reserve repacking service.
The official recommendation is to replace them every ten years. Whether they have been used or not, although they are a porous fabric you can get line shrinkage and fabric can corrode, the best way to find out is to get a reserve repack and inspection from a professional repack house like The Loft or Aerofix, they'll give you a health report.
How often should I get my glider and equipment inspected?
All equipment needs an inspection - Surely?!
In truth, if you have bought your glider and harness from new then I wouldn't expect to get a check on it for two years. You should be doing a series of checks every time you get it out the back and before you pack it away post flight. Obviousy if you've nested in a tree or ragged it across a barb wire fence then its worth an inspection. A standard inspection will set you back aprox £100, repair more on top.
Hence why I'd not bother getting my wing inspected for a couple of years, you can in truth see any damage you might have although a good line inspection after 100 hours would be a good idea, especially with more lightweight lines that suffer from potential UV damage. Full inspections make a porosity check on at least four places on a glider, top leading edge, underneath and wing tips and trailing edge. Plus they break one line to check line strengths.
Reserve parachutes have a life span, esentially ten years but they need repacking every year or prior to a big flying trip, which ever comes sooner.
We have facilities here at FlySpain to offer both glider inspectons and reserve repacking and glider repairs, you can ls buy a inspectionat the Loft in the uk via our shop
When is a good time to buy equipment?
If you know it is what you want to do then crack on, you are not sure then I always believe that once you’ve done your Ep course then that's an ideal time.
Flying is in truth relatively easy, the common insecurities for new pilots are at take off. The pressure of taking off with or without an instructor in wind especially.
If you are back in Blighty on a club site with an audience of suited and booted flyers on the hill it can feel like public speaking for the first time. As with public speaking know your subject well and there should be no problem.
Its all a head game, the best place to practise Reverse launching or Alpine launches is on the flat or a gentle slope in light winds, once you’ve got that dialled you can experiment with stronger winds. In no time at all, you’ll be back on launch in a delightful soarable breeze confident that you are familiar with launching not just a passenger at the crucial sacrificial alter. We’ve put a quick refresher video on Youtube to help Reverse launch technique. We are constantly adding video tutorials so keep in touch.
The only downside to waiting post Cp qualification is that you might well have to wait four weeks or more for manufacturers to deliver. The bonus of buying whilst training is that your instructors, who you've trained with and trusted can offer sensible advice and show you how to connect and adjust speed bars, foot straps and reserves. Plus as you’ve already invested in our training FlySpain will be best poised to offer you the best discounts and to encourage you to come back for more flying with our great team.
FlySpain offer demo equipment of everything they sell and deliver around the UK, so be it helmet, harness or glider, you can try, fly and size perfectly your equipment. Just ask an instructor
Choosing the right lightweight equipment
This is aimed at new pilots, by the time you are feeling more seasoned, the pros and cons of lightweight gear will be more apparent.
You can essentially buy any paragliding gear from wafer thin to full fat. The concept of taking purely hand luggage onto a Ryanair flight is easily achievable.
The main pro is the size…its just so James Bond and minimalist by comparison to other toys
The downsides are less obvious, lightweight means often less robust, less harness protection and less practical in some ways.
New pilots, ideally you want easy to recognise risers and lines, simple harness configurations and generally some back protection.
So the choices go from pure lightweight wings where the riser distinction from lines to risers is very subtle to full-fat wide risers all colour coded etc.
There are teasingly some halfway houses, some manufacturers offer a range of lightweight wings, some mostly for a simple top to bottom flight, others with a performance that would allow you to thermal up and go Xc with your friends.
Many of these same manufacturers offer a riser option, they add little in truth to the all up weight but add more concern to take off if you are worried about twisted looking risers etc.
Come in both full fat with back protection and seat boards as the norm to worthy airbag alternatives and reversible harnesses for smaller packs to skimpy harness options which suggest they could be better used for a child's swing. Modern harnesses weigh about 3.5 - 4kg.
The lightweight options
They generally offer no or limited back protection. That is all good if you are aware of the implications re back protection and safety. Some lightweight gear means they can offer either too much feedback or not enough. Everyone is different and we all have different needs.
If you just want a lighter pack to carry up hills then a reversible harness and lightweight reserve will mean your pack weight drops from 15 kg to nearer 12. For example, change a full-fat wing like an Ozone Buzz to a Geo 5 or a Mojo to Jomo
Most Paraglider manufacturers now offer an exclusively light weight option as well as their entry level reserve.
Lightweight wing choice
Many manufacturers are catching on with lightweight versions of your favourite wings, they also offer a super lightweight option. These haven't always been the best for making cross county flights but I'm told that is changeing. remember getting anything made in lighter cloth will mean a compromise in the way you look after it or treat it and what you can do with it. You can't practise deflations on the super uber thin wings like the Pi 2 or the ultralight from Ozone, you can do all that and more with an Iota or Geo. You need to look at what you want to do with the wing .i.e purely hike and fly, a little bit of thermalling or a wing for all conditions but you carry and extra kilo on the walk up etc. If in doubt, ask and get some advice from us, we've years of experience.
Picking a vario, Gps or flight instrument
Do I need an instrument to start…?
The main function of a variometer - that measure the change in air pressure to tell you when you are going up. On a soarable ridge that is more obvious than you might think, thermalling, on the other hand is a little harder and without any inherent spider sense requires as much help as you can get. Audible varios are a real useful tool.
Varios offer audio only so an up and down noise, very small and relatively cheap.
They can also offer a visual display with memory that records your altitude and measures the length of your flight. useful for keeping a log of your hours, and especially if you fly during thermic periods near congested or prohibitive airspace areas.
For instance, If you have a ceiling of a 2,000ft above your local site, flying without would be deemed reckless and potential airspace infringements are damaging to the sport, irresponsible and come with CAA fines and potential prosecution or flying over the back of the hill and landing in a no-flying zone.
Vario Gps: Integrated units are now the norm, so if you're planning to get stuck into thermal flying and Xc then best skip the visual vario and go for the full functionality, you’ll learn more about the instrument as and when you need it. Many instruments come future proofed for free software upgrades.
Basic Gps units offer ground speed which is essential for Xc pilots working out wind strength and direction. Many units now offer a last thermal function, so they track the last piece of lift you entered and fell out off and show you a mate where it is in relation to yourself. The more high-end units offer preloaded airspace maps, warnings, and now live tracking which is both useful fro safety and retracing your best days on google maps when the weather is lousy! Top end Gps are competition rated and allow the loading of predefines tasks route optimisation etc…
So Do you need one…If it’s not a budget decision then go for the integrated Gps, if you are off to the mountains, get some form of live track facility. If you only ever fly at coastal sites I wouldn’t bother and enjoy the peace and quiet. if you are on a budget then start with an Audible only device.
How to choose a paramotor?
Quick starting guide to choosing the right machineread more