Equipment Investment

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Equipment and what to invest in?

Paragliding: we've seen and probably dreamt about it, maybe we've taken a tandem flight, maybe we have already made some training, perhaps we are about to start and thinking about our own equipment.

Some schools include the use of equipment in their initial training and some like us ask the new student to train on their own gear. Why, well if you are keen to fly and the majority who try continue without hesitation, then training with their own equipment is a huge advantage. Let me explain.

After learning the basics on used school equipment the jump to your own higher quality glider/harness can be danting. Whereas training on your own gear from day one will make the progress smooth and easy from the early school days to your own freeflying.

There are different types of paragliding flight, including ridge flying, soaring like the birds/seagulls on cliffs or hills, or using thermals to climb high and fly cross country making some distance. Popular is Hike and Fly with lightweight packages for climbing/walking up then flying down. Plus there are many organisations offering guided flying holidays around the World and lighter gear is easier to pack down and carry.

Popular are paragliding competitions, whether racing around a course, running up mountains and flying off and gliding to a fixed destination, spot landing for accuracy or acrobatic flying. However, all of these are for future interests, and we should take into consideration some of their values whilst thinking about our equipment.

Glider development is forever changing and by design everything changes with each new model. Better ground handling, sweeter to fly, improved launch and landing characteristics and nearly always have better performance with greater safety. Nearly all models are updated every 3 years.

There is a choice of paraglider construction from lightweights to full-fat versions and have been designed for different aspects of the sport. To be realistic our first year of paragliding will have a huge learning curve attached, as perfecting paragliding flight takes many flying hours and we need suitable equipment for our safety and pleasure.

As you would have read earlier gliders are graded and certified for safety reasons and choosing badly can set back the learning process. Higher performing gliders are more difficult to fly as we trade performance for handling and stability.

Also mentioned in the Beginner page, gliders are rated/certified for safety reasons and an EN-A rated wing is the perfect to train with and for the first year of flying. The next level EN-B is often split into a low, mid or high B category, and a low B could be considered, though the performance difference between a good EN-A and low EN-B is insignificant, whereas the handling/security of the EN-A may well be superior.

1. Full fat wings (double skin) are made with robust material that has good wear and tear and the suspension lines would have a cover (a sheath) making them more resistant to damage if snagged. A medium size glider would weigh around 4.5kgs.

Pros: They are more robust, easy to ground handle especially in windier conditions, smooth and stable in flight, lower cost and easier to sell on when upgrading. Last longer than a lighter wing.

Cons: a full-fat glider is a bit heavier but not by much, they are a larger volume when packed.

2. Light gliders (double skin) are more fragile and easier to damage if dragged/snagged on rough ground. They are made with lighter material and have unsheathed lines that are easier to damage. Light gliders only weigh 2.5 to 3kgs.

Pros: They are lighter and pack down to a smaller volume, they are easy to inflate and ground handle in light wind conditions. They are fun to fly!

Cons: Being more fragile they are easier to damage on rough terrain, they get blown around more on windy launch sites and can be a handful at times. In flight they move around more and may feel less stable overhead than a full-fat wing. They are more expensive and wear out quicker.

Single Skin wings: There are some super light gliders made purposly for hike and fly and can be packed down to a very small volume. The 'Single Skin' wing and has one main surface compared with a 'double skin'. The lightest ones weigh just over a kilo!

Single skin wings are very easy to ground handle inflate and launch in no or light winds. But they can be very agressive in wind on the ground and in turbulant flying conditions. The overall performance is not as good as a normal double skin wing. They are also very fragile and damage easily and this doesn't make a great option for the first purchase.

We really don't want to consider learning to fly on a single skin wing. Its best to go for the Full-Fat option and spend the first year learning how to fly!. The expression 'learning to walk before we can run' is very important. Paragliding is a progression and we don't learn it all in the first 10 days.

Speed Wings: The wings are small and fast and speed flying is for the experienced paragliding pilot looking for more excitement.

Harnesses: There are basically two options: an open harness that is a seat with your legs hanging out, or a pod harness where you are enclosed in a cacoon. Harness protection is very important especially in early days and some have a foam or airbag protector under your bottom and some without. At beginner stage and for the first year an open harness with good underseat protection is invaluable.

The harness is almost more important than the glider and its worth finding something that fits well, holds a reserve parachute and has good storage. The fit and the stabilty are the most important parts: harnesses and gliders are often matched, try and buy both from the same manufacturer. Pilots often change their gliders more often than the harness. Seek professional advice on this very important subject.

The basic Hike and Fly harnesses only weigh around half a kilo and have no protection. We call them nappy harnesses. If you land heavily on your bottom with one of these its going to hurt!?!

The market is extensive and here is what we can recommend:

Advance Alpha 7 glider. In our view this is one of the best Full Fat beginner/intermediates first buys Alpha 7

Advance Pi3 glider for one of the best lighter versions Pi3

Advance Axess 4 harness. A very good medium weight harness with airbag protection. Axess 4

Advance Boundless. A very versatile reversable light harness with good underseat protection. Boundless

Light reversible harness with airbag protection. Easiness 3. Easiness 3

There are many manufacturers on the market and here are some listed below.

Bruce Goldsmith Design

Niviuk Paragliders

Nova Paragliders

Gin Paragliders

Mac Para


A new setup is going to cost close on 4500 Euros. You don't have to buy new as there is a constant flow of second hand gear on the market as pilots are upgrading all the time. If you follow this path try and find something less than 3 years old by design.

Gliders/harnesses should be serviced and checked over every couple of years by a reputed company. Make sure the second hand purchase has an up to date service certificate. A second hand setup may only cost around 2000-2500 Euros and not much will be lost if you move it on in a short time. However, there's nothing like flying a brand new glider?

A word of warning don't just go to Ebay and buy whatever you see. Buy from a reputed dealer or pilot that can show you recent photos, a service certificate with equipment serial numbers and check if they are bona fide as there are plenty of scams about these days

You may already have flying friends, belong to a club or have made some training and been to a shop. Chat to them all or don't hesitate in coming back to us.

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