Published: August 15, 2017
It takes a lot to go skydiving. Passion, bravery, a willingness to step into the unknown... But those things won't get you anywhere if you don't have a few essential pieces of skydiving equipment!
Ask anyone what their one must-have piece of skydiving equipment is and they'll definitely tell you, it's their parachute! Try skydiving without one and, let's just say, it'll be a challenging situation!
Here, we'll share some of the top pieces of equipment you'll need for skydiving:
A Skydiving Parachute
That's right! The skydiving parachute is the most important piece of equipment required for skydiving - and experienced jumpers take a great deal of pride in the chute they choose.
Parachutes come in all different sizes. If you're just starting out, you'll want something a bit bigger and a bit more docile. It's like starting your driving career with a nice small engine Civic. It's not going to win you any races but it's going to get you from A to B.
As you get more experienced, you might want to downsize to something a bit smaller and sportier. It's like upgrading your Civic to a smaller sports car; it's quicker, it's higher performance and you'll need some extra skills to get the most out of it.
All skydivers jump with two parachutes; a main and a reserve. The reason we have two is that, in the event one has a problem, we can deploy the second.
Parachutes are contained in a backpack, known as a 'container', and together, they're known as a 'rig'. Rigs come in different sizes depending on the size of the parachutes inside. They're also made to fit their owner. If you're buying your own brand new rig, you'll probably want to choose colors that match the rest if your equipment. If you're buying second hand, the most important thing is the fit (though if you can find colors that match your other gear too, you're onto a winner!).
A Skydiving AAD
An AAD is an 'automatic activation device'. It's installed in rigs to deploy your reserve parachute in the event that you can't deploy either your main or reserve for yourself.
Let's say for some reason you find yourself unconscious in freefall. The AAD monitors your descent rate and altitude and if you're still falling at freefall speeds by a certain height, it will use an electrical charge to cut the loop that holds your reserve parachute in.
There are two main manufacturers of AAD - Cypres and Vigil. There are other brands coming onto the market, but skydivers mainly choose from the top two as they're tried and tested and have been around for many years.
A Skydiving Jumpsuit
The next thing skydivers won't be without is their own jumpsuit. We're not saying skydiving is all about looking cool... but we won't pretend it's not an important part of it!
Seriously, check out the skydivers on the drop zone and you'll be amazed by the array of colors and designs people pick. It's like something from a 90s rave at times! Though jumpsuits do go through different trends, the choice of design essentially comes down to the owner's preference - and it's a really personal thing.
There are certain jumpsuits that are designed for certain disciplines. For belly flying, you'll want a jumpsuit that's fitted with something called 'booties'. These are like sails for your feet! They make turning more efficient, making it easier to get more points and make more formations.
For freeflying, you don't want booties at all, but might want something with some drag on the arms and legs to help you stay stable. As you gain more experience, you'll want something tighter to the body.
Then there are wingsuits. Have you ever seen a 'flying squirrel'? That's basically what a wingsuit is; it's a jumpsuit with sails that go from your arms to your legs and which enable you to fly through the air, kind of like an airplane.
The altimeter is the device that tells you what height you're at. This is important because you need to know where you are and when it's time to deploy your parachute. It's also important as you come in to land, to know where in your landing pattern you should be.
If you're just starting out, an analog altimeter will suit your needs. Worn on your hand, they're kind of like a big watch. The dial moves around to indicate your altitude. Simple!
Then there are digital altimeters, such as 'Visos', which are a common brand. These show numbers in a digital format and are usually smaller than analog altimeters. Skydivers who want less bulk on their hands may choose this as an alternative to the more traditional alti.
Goggles are another essential bit of equipment. They protect your eyes when you're in freefall - and it's always nice to be able to see as you're falling through the sky at 120mph!
Some people choose to wear tinted goggles, partly to shield them from the sun, partly because they look so darn cool! Others choose clear goggles. Goggles can be worn over glasses or contact lenses, too.
Though it's not a requirement here in the US, a helmet is always a good idea when you're putting together your skydiving equipment list.
Wearing a helmet protects you, especially during exit and freefall. Not only that, it's a great place to keep your hair. if you have longer locks, you won't have to deal with nasty freefall tangles when you land!
Helmets, like all skydiving equipment, come in all shapes and sizes. There are loads of helmet manufacturers based right here in the US, selling open face helmets - those which are open to the elements and worn with goggles - and full face helmets - those which have a full visor and don't need to be worn with goggles.
In line with the desire to look as cool as possible, many skydivers mod their helmets with vinyl stickers or custom paint jobs. If buying a new helmet, you can choose from a range of colors and finishes, and they come in different sizes too.
When you're starting out in skydiving, we might equip you with a radio. This can be attached to the side of your helmet, making it a multi-functional part of your gear!
Should I Buy My Own Skydiving Equipment?
Yes, we'd recommend it. We're not saying go out and buy it all today - that could cost you thousands of dollars and few people can afford to do that all at once. Think about building it up over time.
You'll probably start with something simple like your goggles. If you're just learning to skydive, it's nice to have your own pair. You'll know that they're in great condition and that they are adjusted to fit you, so it's easy to grab them when you need them.
Your jumpsuit will probably come next. Having a jumpsuit made to fit you is so much nicer than having to wear one that's a kind of 'one size fits no one'! If you're lucky, you may find a well-fitting second hand suit, so it's always worth looking around.
When you do come to buy a rig and your parachutes, there are so many choices. Some of the world's top skydiving brands are based right here in the US. Be sure to chat with your rigger or instructor to get advice on the best skydiving equipment for you.
Note: tandem students need not to worry about buying or having any type of equipment beforehand. All the equipment is provided for you from your first time through the student progression. If you have any questions, let us know!
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» Jennifer B.