Adrenaline junkies who have completed their first tandem jump and are ready for the next adventure may want to learn all about skydiving equipment before they invest their hard earned money. Equipment can often be rented from local skydiving schools or clubs but serious skydivers will want their own and may spend several thousand dollars for everything that is needed. This equipment will include the main parachute, emergency parachute, an automated activation device, reserve static line, jumpsuit, altimeter, helmet and goggles. Choosing the right equipment and learning how to properly use it is essential to a safe ride.
Traditional parachutes or canopies were round until the introduction of the rectangular ram canopy in the 1970’s. These rectangular canopies have almost completely replaced the older round canopies for skydivers because they are easily controlled and allow the skydiver to land more accurately where they want to land. This type of parachute has also allowed skydivers to do away with landing boots as they are able to control the speed of impact. Canopies do vary in design, airspeed and size to accommodate the weight of the jumper. Novice jumpers tend to use larger parachutes to increase their control while more experienced jumpers may use smaller parachutes. The round parachutes are still used in the military and for very specific emergency uses.
The material of modern parachutes is woven in such a way as to keep any tears that do occur from spreading. The fabric is also treated to prevent any air flowing through the fabric. This creates a parachute that acts more like a glider than a simple parachute and allows a much softer landing.
In addition to the main jump parachute each skydiver has a smaller emergency parachute packed to deploy if needed. This is attached by the reserve static line. Many skydivers also use what is called a pilot parachute. This is a very small parachute that is thrown into the airstream by the skydiver. This small chute is attached to the main parachute by nylon webbing that then pulls open the main chute. These chutes are packed into a specialized backpack that is worn by the skydiver.
The backpack that contains the main parachute and emergency parachute also has straps to hold it securely to the skydiver. The lines from the main parachute also attach to this backpack. These lines are called risers and there are usually five sets of them. The backpack is worn over the jumpsuit. A jumpsuit is not required, but most skydivers use them. They are made of different materials to allow skydivers to move faster or slower through the air. Some also have additional tailoring to allow the skydiver to control their descent and glide.
Skydiving has many safety devices and the first is the automated activation device (AAD). This device will automatically release the reserve parachute if the main parachute has not already been deployed by a certain altitude or if the individual is in free fall at 750 feet. This ensures a distracted or injured skydiver is able to land safely. The AAD is a computer monitoring system that is turned on while the skydiver is still on the ground. Once the skydiver reaches an altitude of 750 feet if they are still in free fall the AAD will deploy the reserve shute. This equipment is vital to the safety of the skydiver.
Another safety device is the altimeter. This device indicates the current altitude of the jumper. There are two basic styles. A visual altimeter is one the skydiver must look at to read and is usually worn on the wrist or somewhere on the front of the body. There are also audible altimeters that beep at specific altitudes. These are usually worn close to the ears so the skydiver can easily hear the beep.
Other safety equipment includes goggles and a helmet. The goggles help prevent injury to eyes from debris in the air and from the 150 mile an hour wind flow. A helmet will help prevent injury to the head in the case of a hard landing. Helmets are required for students. Experienced divers may choose not to wear a helmet.
Part of learning how to skydive is learning how to use the equipment. During training skydivers may have an opportunity to use a variety of altimeters, parachutes and goggles. Ask questions of other experienced divers to see what they recommend for local conditions. A good class will teach the students all about skydiving equipment as well as how to properly use it.