The New Year brings a new skydiving season on the horizon, and while those sun-blessed days of jumping may still seem quite a while a way from now, it'll come round sooner than you think. Especially if your still deliberating whether to order that new rig or canopy. Don't be caught out imagining you have all the time in the world, with current lead-time on gear, it might take longer than you think!
Average production lead-time for ordering a new custom container and harness system is presently 14 weeks. Look at custom main and reserve canopies, the story is very much the same. Translate this to delivery time and you're already looking at May – pretty much the start of the skydiving season right there!
Make sure you get someone who will give you an impartial opinion and most importantly put your needs at the front and centre of their advice
Ordering new gear isn't something you should be doing off the cuff either. Whilst you want to make sure you've got your own gear to jump, you'll also need to make sure you've done your homework. There's several important considerations you'll want to make sure you've nailed down before you get to the order forms.
Style and pizzaz obviously is important, everyone wants their kit to look good and of course, it all has to match! But, once you get over the colour-scheme, there's some serious questions you should be finding the answers to…
Again, this doesn't mean what colours you like - we will get to that later! What it does mean is that you should fully understand how do you like to fly now, and what expectations you have for your gear as you progress. What kind of skydiving ambitions do you have? Big-way, wingsuiting, artistics, canopy piloting, or whatever that may be, you need to have thought this through.
Particularly with regards to your canopy choices, you should always enlist the help of a suitably qualified person in your decision-making process. It could be your instructor/coach for the discipline you're currently focusing on – make sure you get someone who will give you an impartial opinion and most importantly put your needs at the front and centre of their advice.
You can streamline this process by thinking about how you like to fly your canopy, what sort of landing you prefer, any health or physical limitations you may have. Consider also what size canopy you want, what that means for you in terms of your wing loading, and how that will affect the flight characteristics of each canopy.
Yeah, you may not have all of these answers now, and you don't necessarily need to have your skydiving life mapped out, but giving some thought now about where you want to be in the future will help you find the right gear. You're about to spend a good chunk of money, so you want to be sure you don't end up buying twice.
Ask as many questions as you can, to get the most out of any consultation
Everyone has their own opinions on who makes the best gear, and for sure, some companies do specialize in certain areas. That said, there is now a common bottom line, certainly as far as the basics go. All new rigs can be made freefly friendly, and most are as standard. A new rig will certainly fit you well providing the measurements supplied are good.
Where your affiliations lie in terms of the manufacturer will most probably come down to where you were trained, where you jump now, or what your friends jump, or maybe it's just something you've seen and you really like the look of it. Whatever your motivation for going with Brand A versus Brand B, you can be sure you'll be getting a rig that is fit for purpose.
Any reputable gear store is a good point of contact for this area, since they should be able to walk you through the differences between the products from various manufacturers. Make sure you ask as many questions as you can, to get the most out of any consultation.
When it comes to pricing, unless you're looking for a budget new rig (which is possible), once you've added on all the bells and whistles, any of the most recognised brands is going to work out at roundabout the same price. With options, you have to decide on those which you ‘must have’, and those you can do without.
It can be a minefield trying to work that out, but it's not rocket science. Your rig options are split into pretty much two areas – safety and comfort. Examples of this being RSL versus spacer-foam padding, also the addition of freefly friendly options versus pinstripes and tie-dye.
Finally, make sure you've covered the options in some detail before you decide to place your order, the last thing you need is a rig that cost you a pretty penny but won't allow you to skydive the way you want to. Bear in mind that last minute changes to orders can be either costly or impossible.
This is your gear and you can personalise it however much you want
All joking aside, this is important. Mostly because you don't want to be sitting there at the point you're placing your order still being undecided about what colour scheme you want. There's heaps of stuff you can do before that point to get this element straight in your head before that stage.
Use the online canopy and rig design tools and make multiple designs to really crunch it down. Share your designs with friends if you like, to get a different perspective on it. Whilst sticking to black is always the safe option, and will mean the gear might be easier to sell on, remember that this is your gear and you can personalise it however much you want to.
Good equipment will always re-sell, no matter the colour. You may take a small hit in terms of the second-hand price, but that can be worth it to demonstrate your flamboyant side. If your plan is to keep your gear for a long time, you'll have had your money's worth out of it by the time you sell anyway, so why not just go ahead and order it exactly the way you want it?!
Pricing, colours and options aside, if you want gear for this season you should be getting those orders in soon to be able to make the most out of it this year. The process of ordering new gear starts with thinking about it and that's something you can do straight away without any commitment to order.
Once you know within a little what you want, then you are in a position to place an order. Don't leave it and end up wishing you'd done something about it sooner. You don't have to be the one sitting there come the sunny days of spring, thinking 'why didn't I get myself sorted back in cold miserable January?'
If you want gear for this season you should be getting those orders in soon to be able to make the most out of it this year