Ordering Your New Harness/Container , Part 1

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Commonly referred to as a container, the harness/container system is the heart of your rig. It is also one of the most confusing pieces of equipment to purchase, since they come in an infinite variety of container sizes, harness sizes, colors and options.

Most containers, new or used, are or were originally built to custom specifications, If you are ordering new, this is only an issue when confronting the bewildering number of options and color choices. If you are buying used, this can make your search a bit more difficult. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of used purchases later. For now, we’ll be looking solely at new, custom containers, If you are planning to buy used; you’ll find lots of helpful information here too.

You have a number of decisions to make when purchasing your new container. First off, which one? There are so many containers out there, and each has it’s own squad of cheerleaders and detractors.

In no particular order, here are a few things to consider when choosing your container:

1) Safety: Every container manufacturer strives to produce the safest equipment possible; dead skydivers don’t buy new gear! That said, there are a few container manufacturers that offer additional safety related options (the Skyhook is an example). If those options are important to you, your pool of container choices is a bit smaller.

2) Delivery time: Delivery times – the number of weeks the manufacturer estimates between order and shipping – can vary depending on the time of year, if they have a big military order, problems sourcing hardware, or even moving of the factory. As such, your chosen manufacturer may have a delivery time that is weeks or months longer than other manufacturers. If you are currently renting gear, an

additional month of wait for your container could get expensive (or very boring and frustrating if you can’t afford to rent after buying a new rig).

3) Location: If there are container manufacturers near you, put them at the top of your list. If you have an issue with your new container, upon delivery or in the future, having the manufacturer on the same side of the country (or in the same country) will make communications easier and shipping less expensive and faster.

4) Price: Containers are sold much like cars. There’s the base price, which includes everything you need to attach two parachutes, install an AAD and skydive. And then there’s the price you end up paying after loading it up with harness rings, custom color patterns, your name on the mudflap and padded everything. Some manufacturers include as standard things that other manufacturer charge extra for, so be sure to consider the out the door price for similarly set up containers when comparing prices.

5) Looks: Hey, it’s gonna be on your back for awhile. Might as well choose something that you like the look of.

6) Comfort: Many skydivers insist that the container they jump is the most comfortable rig available, which may be true – for them. Don’t listen. Instead, try on as many different brands in your harness size as possible. Jump them if you can. One or more will stand out as being the most comfortable, for you.

7) Customer service: Although you will likely be ordering your container through a dealer, the reputation of the manufacturer for customer service could be important to you if there is a problem with your new rig, or if you need replacement parts or have a problem in the future.

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll be discussing how to fill out that order form.  Watch for it in a couple weeks!

The Five Commandments Of Measurement (and some secret stuff)

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Some of us have worked hard in the gym, on the court, on the rink, in the water, on the track… worked hard toward an awesome body that we are proud of. So proud that we know many of our measurements, down to the quarter inch (centimeter, whatever). The Gear Guru isn’t one of those people. Perhaps you are not either.

Even if you are, part of the suffering that is buying skydiving equipment is getting your body measured. Every time you order a new container or jumpsuit, it’s a whole new set of measurements. And getting some of those measurements requires a degree of intimacy with a stranger that approaches happy endings. Buying used gear isn’t a way out either, as you will need to know a few basic measurements to determine if a harness or jumpsuit might fit you.  To help lessen your suffering, here are the Five Commandments Of Measurement.

The 5 Commandments of measuring for skydiving equipment

The 5 Commandments of measuring for skydiving equipment

First commandment of measurement – Do Not Measure Oneself.

This is important. At a minimum, have a good friend or loved one or seamstress or tailor or random stranger off the street measure you, using the measuring guide provided by the manufacturer of the item you are ordering. Best case, have a dealer or manufacturer representative measure you. But do not measure yourself. You will screw it up.

Second commandment of measurement – Use a Soft Cloth Measuring Tape.

Not a ruler. Not a yardstick. Not the measuring tape from your toolbox in the garage. A Soft Cloth Measuring Tape. You can buy one at WalMart in the sewing section.

Third commandment of measurement – Measure According To Manufacturer’s Directions.

The directions from the manufacturer of the item you are ordering. They are all different.

Fourth commandment of measurement – Ask All Questions

Do not be afraid to contact the manufacturer if you have questions about measuring. They are nice people who will help you.

Fifth commandment of measurement – Measure Twice, Repent Not.

Take each measurement twice. If they do not agree, measure again.

When ordering a new harness/container system or jumpsuit, the order form will have a list of the measurements needed, and usually directions for taking them. When searching for a used harness/container system or jumpsuit, it is handy to have a few of your measurements on hand.You will need to know your height and inseam measurement to determine if a harness will fit you.

Secret stuff!! When taking the inseam measurement, have the person stand straight up. They should be holding the top of the measuring tape between index and middle fingers of one hand. Then place it in their crotch – top of the tape where the seams come together on a pair of pants.

More Secret Stuff!! To determine the length of main lift web that should fit your body, take your heigh in inches, subtract your inseam in inches, subtract 20. For example, Bob is 5’10” tall and has a 32 inch inseam. 70 – 32 – 20 = 18, so Bob will likely need an 18″ main lift web on his harness. Sue is 5’5 and has a 30 inch inseam. 65 – 30 – 20 = 15, so Sue will likely need a 15″ MLW.

You may also need to know your waist, hips and chest measurements for jumpsuits. A head measurement is helpful for helmets – measure mid-forehead, above the ears, all the way around.

I’m So Confused! Who Do I Listen To?

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So many choices, and twice as many opinions about those choices. One person says Canopy X is perfect for you, another one says you will die under that handkerchief. One person says Container Y is the best in the world, another one says it’s not worth half what they charge for it. Who can you trust to tell you the right gear choices for you?

Trust no one. For gear purchasing is suffering, and it is a path that you must walk alone.

Okay, maybe not. But there is no other person on the dropzone with a vested interest in keeping you alive and uninjured besides you. In the end, it is you who has to pay for it, wait for it, wear it, maintain it, fly it and land it… as well as suffer the consequences of a hastily made or ill informed decision.

Common wisdom around the dz is that you should ask a rigger or your instructors for advice on which container, main, reserve and AAD to purchase. Is this wisdom really wise? A rigger’s ticket in the USA indicates that the holder knows how to pack reserves and maintain containers and parachutes. It does not indicate that they have any knowledge at all about which container or main is suitable for a novice skydiver. Same goes for any and all instructor ratings – selection of suitable components for a novice jumper’s first rig is not part of the instructor certification process. Experience in skydiving competition does not make a person knowledgeable about purchasing gear. Even experience selling gear doesn’t guarantee solid advice.

Many jumpers are sponsored in various ways by various manufacturers – competitors, instructors, gear salespeople, riggers. Everyone has an ulterior motive, even if it’s just to have someone validate our choices by buying the same thing we did. Even those who don’t have a financial interest in their answer have an opinion. Ask six skydivers what the best gear combination is and get six different answers… and each one of those is answers is probably the right one. For each different person. But probably not for you.

So much of which main or container or whatever is best for you is personal; the container that I love could be the most uncomfortable thing you’ve ever jumped, the main that I adore could bore you to tears.

Which is why you shouldn’t listen 100% to anyone when deciding what skydiving equipment you want. Ask other jumpers what they have, why they chose it, what they do and don’t like about it. But your mantra needs to be “try.” While renting gear, don’t always jump the same rig. Try on and jump different containers. Take advantage of demo mains and jumpsuits and helmets. See what works for you. Take the opinions of others into account when deciding which items to try; rely on your opinion when deciding what to buy.

That said, some things are not suitable for novice skydivers. Follow manufacturer guidelines for novices when choosing your first main and reserve. Stay away from more aggressive canopy types and sizes. If someone says “yeah it’s a bit small but you’ll be fine”, move along. It’s better to err on the side of boring than to wish you’d gone one size bigger… from a hospital bed. Plenty of time for that later in your skydiving career.