While there is nothing quite like having all new gear, for many new jumpers spending $5000 or more is a bit more than their budget can handle. If you can’t quite afford to purchase a complete new rig with AAD, you can still have quality equipment that will work for how you want to skydive by purchasing at least part of your rig used.
Even if you can afford all new, you might want to look for used for your first rig. The money you save can buy a lot of skydives, plus you won’t have to wait 6-26 weeks for your custom gear to arrive. Like seeing that first scratch on a new car vs. that first scratch on a used car, you won’t be quite as upset when you buttslide a landing and get grass stains all over those brand new legstraps or scrape the back of the container on the door as you exit the plane.
Mixing new and used is also a good idea if you aren’t average sized or if you’re trying to find something in the more popular entry level canopy sizes. A new harness/container system filled with used canopies and AAD will give you the fit and comfort of a custom harness without the sticker shock of all new gear.
One hassle with used gear is finding a harness/container system that fits both your body and the canopies you intend to put in it. This can be especially difficult if you aren’t an “average” body size and/or shape (i.e. 5’6″ – 6′, 150-200 lbs, not bowling ball shaped or really buff upper body) or if you are looking for one of the most popular entry level canopy sizes (170 – 230 sq ft).
Prior to starting your search, determine what size main lift web fits you best. A simple formula for this is height minus inseam (crotch to floor, no shoes; length of jeans you buy will work) minus 20. For example, Betty is 5’8″ (68″) tall with a 33″ inseam. 68 – 33 – 20 = 15, which means a rig with a MLW of 15″ will likely fit her. Bob, on the other hand, is 6 feet (72″) with a 33″ inseam. 72 – 33 – 20 = 19; a 19″ MLW will likely fit him.
This formula only takes into account main lift web length; other areas to consider are leg strap and lateral length. Leg straps can be easily and economically shortened by a master rigger, or they can be replaced with longer ones at a bit higher cost. Lateral length is much harder and more expensive to change; avoid getting something too small or large here by verifying that the previous owner was of a similar build to yours. Main lift webs can also be lengthened or shortened by the manufacturer or a master rigger; cost varies but is usually less than $250.
You also need to be sure that the container you buy is the right size for the canopies you intend to put in it. You can get container sizing information from container manufacturers’ websites and gear dealers. Note that each container manufacturer sizes their containers differently; a Javelin J1K is not going to hold the same size canopies as a Mirage M1.
If the budget or your body says you need to buy any or all of your rig used, be prepared to talk on the phone a lot and send lots of emails. Ask around at your local dz – someone may know someone who is selling something that will work for you. If you’re lucky you’ll find just what you want at your local DZ, but more likely you’ll find it through classified ads on the Internet or from one of the dealers selling used gear nationwide.
You’ll be jumping your own rig sooner if you remain open to a variety of brands and models. You may think you really want a Pulse 190, but a Sabre2 190 or Pilot 188 (or other similar entry level canopy) will likely be a great canopy for you as well. Especially if there are more Pilots on the market when you are looking – greater supply could equal a lower price. Same thing with containers.
If no one has what you want right now, keep trying. Most dealers get “new” used gear on a regular basis. You can post your wants on skydiving sites on the Internet, including the classifieds on dropzone.com. Ebay is also an option, although many new jumpers who didn’t know what they were looking for have ended up with completely unsuitable gear by purchasing off Ebay.
Before you buy any piece of used gear, either have a rigger check it out and go put a test jump on it or be sure a return policy is offered in case there’s a problem or you just hate it. This is where buying from a private party long distance can get scary. Asking your local gear dealer or rigger to act as a middleman for the transaction can remove some of the risk involved in buying gear from someone you’ve never met. There are also several “escrow” services available online. Asking for references (ie dropzone owner, rigger, anyone who knows the seller that might also know someone you know…) is a very good idea when buying long distance.