How to Buy Skydiving Gear

Buying skydiving gear is not as simple as it might seem. Yes, you might get all the stuff you need and be able to use it, but sometimes, especially when you don't have that much experience, you might spend your money and then have to re-sell some components because something doesn't fit. This only results in loss of money and frustration.

Let's take a look at some ways of choosing gear and avoiding financially costly mistakes:

New or used?

The best answer here is that if you are buying your first gear, used is perfect. You will be learning the ropes of skydiving and will be able to figure out exactly what you want for your next set, which then can be new and more tailored to your needs. Used will help you save money in the meantime.

Let's take a look at all four major components:

Automatic Activation Device (ADD)

This one is simple. It doesn't really matter if you buy used or new because you will be paying a fixed cost per year, usually between $80 and $160. They expire pretty fast, so it's not easy to find a used one. If you do find it, get it. This device is very easy to re-sell if you need to, so it's pretty save to spend a bit more and get new.

Reserve Parachute

Our recommendation here is a used one. You will be able to save a lot of money this way. Buying a new reserve parachute for new skydivers is really not necessary. Those parachutes are used very rarely, so they stay in a great condition for years. The designs don't change often, so used 10 year old reserve parachute will be the same thing as brand new, just a lot cheaper. The only two things to consider are that it has no more than 5 rides on it and is not older than 15-18 years.
Also check for holes and repairs. If any of these occur, negotiate and then send it to the factory to have them rechecked and professionally fixed for you.

Main Parachute

This gear component is vital to your survival, so if the budget allows, get new. Otherwise try to find one with as few jumps as possible, definitely fewer than 200. This is your lifeline and calls for perfect condition. The number of jumps matters here more than age. Check used parachute for original lines as they fade with each jump. Telling the number of jumps otherwise is hard if the parachute was kept clean and out of the sun.
The locations of jumping are also very important. If it was used for six months out of the year for jumping and landing on green grass, it will be in a much better shape than the one that was used all year round to jump on beaches and deserts. Sand is an enemy for parachute's coating and seams.
For those of us who have very limited jumping experience, it makes sense to get the main parachute that is 10-15 years old and have a rigger inspect it. Make sure to not pay too much for it.

Harness/Container

Again, for new skydivers, used is a way to go. Used container will take non-perfect landings better and you won't feel so sorry if it gets a bit scraped up. This comes with a few complications you have to find a size that will fit both of your canopies and will fit on your body. Having a harness that is a bit too lose or too tight is an issue of comfort. If it completely doesn't fit, you can always get it resized to your custom needs. The problem with that is the cost.
While used container is great for most, if you have an unusual body type, consider new. A 6 foot tall guy and a 4.8 foot girl might have great problems finding a used one in a right size for obvious reasons. It's often cheaper to buy a new one versus resizing.
If you want to save as much as possible, consider companies like Shadow Racer or Rigging Innovations Genera for brand new containers and harnesses that are very basic and very affordable.
Always look for discounts, especially of you are a military member. Many manufacturers offer 30% off on new gear, so it's really worth it then.

Let's take a look at what needs to be bought and in what order:

Reserve canopy selection should happen first. Choose one that is just big enough to keep you alive during a reserve landing and sized accordingly to your wing load. This comes down to having a reserve that's just one size bigger than your main canopy. This means that you should decide on the size of the main also right away even if you are buying it later.
Next, start researching what container/harness you will need. Look at features, manufacturer descriptions, and volume charts. Choose containers that are "soft" or "normal", stay away from "tight" fits.
Many manufacturers don't make containers that would fit a main and a larger than main reserve. While this is sad, it's a fact of life. In this case, consider a larger reserve that is marketed as low-bulk, but talk to your skydiving community and instructors if it's really worth stuffing everything in so tight.
Once you know the size of your reserve and main, and picked the size on container, it's time to shop for the right size harness to go with it all.
If you are looking for used harness, ask the seller for a serial number before buying to verify if it's really the right thing for you. With this number you can contact the manufacturer and find out the exact size. This strategy will eliminate a need for guessing and protect you from buying a cat in the bag.
When it comes to your main parachute, there are countless variations on the market 7-cell, 9-cell, F111, ZP, Hybrid, low bulk, square, elliptical, air locked, and so on. The brand and the type are completely up to you and your needs.
Finally, it's time for your ADD, which is the least risky thing to buy as long as it's not expired and has been maintained properly. It has to also be approved for the harness/container that you are buying.


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