Is Your Rig Freefly Friendly?

(Published in Parachutist Magazine and Canpara Magazine)

So you’ve decided to delve in the realm of freeflying, but you bought a used rig that’s just a tad big on you and that one main riser cover is always opening on you during exit. Is that a big deal? Probably. Can it be fixed? Maybe. Will I have to buy a whole new setup? Not likely.

Lets take a look at a couple of things to consider before subjecting your body to the possibility of a premature opening at 150 mph.

Fit

It’s more critical your harness fits you appropriately now that your body will be moving around the sky in a multitude of positions. Throughout a freefly dive, you will expose all sides of the rig to the relative wind at some point. If the rig doesn’t fit you properly, it can push the rig from side to side, down your legs or up your back. At a minimum, this can affect your ability to learn new freefly skills. At worst, this can put you in a dangerous position of coming out of your rig.

If the rig was not custom-made to your measurements, make sure someone knowledgeable on gear fitting (dealer, rigger or instructor) takes a close look on how your container fits you when all geared up. This includes how much the rig and harness can move around on your body, especially in a sit position.

See this related article in the August 2018 edition of Parachutist interviewing ChutingStar Owner Mike Gruwell on used container fit.

Also, are you properly adjusting and tightening your leg straps and chest strap? It amazes me how many skydivers I talk to per year that complain of leg straps slipping or the chest strap ending up near their throat on opening. Many times this is corrected with a quick walkthrough on proper strap adjustment. Leg straps are not meant to be loose, and the rig is not supposed to wash around on your back.

Minor fit issues not fixed through proper strap adjustment can sometimes be solved through harness, leg pad or leg strap adjustments. Some of these fixes are only a couple hundred dollars, but some are several hundred dollars. Talk to your local rigger if rig fitting is an issue to see what can be done. On the extreme side, if a proper fit cannot be achieved through adjustments, it will be necessary to get another harness/container that fits you properly and move your canopies and AAD into that better-fitting harness/container.

Condition

Starting from the bottom, is your BOC pilot chute pouch in good condition? It should hold your pilot chute securely. Check for holes in the pilot chute pouch as well as the condition of the elastic mouth of the pouch.

The pilot chute handle is not automatically good if it’s a “freefly handle.” Some of these handles use the pressure or the closed main container and the side flap to keep the freefly handle in place. If your main is oversized or undersized for the container it can affect the security of that handle. Check to see that your handle is secure to the pilot chute and will stay stowed until you are ready to deploy.

Is your pilot chute F-111 or Zero-P? I prefer F-111 pilot chutes for freeflying, but it’s not an absolute. It all depends on the condition of the BOC pouch and how securely the pilot chute is in that pouch. An F-111 pilot chute usually is less likely to get pushed out of the pouch if bumped or when pressure is applied to it when sitting in the plane. This is because the fabric isn’t as slippery as Zero-P. But if the BOC pouch is in excellent condition, it will hold either type of pilot chute adequately.

The main pilot chute bridle should be hidden under a side flap and/or secured with Velcro down to the point it reaches a flap or protector. Any exposed or unsecured main bridle is not friendly to freefliers and can lead to a premature deployment.

Your main closing loop needs to be the proper length and in excellent condition. Once you notice any fraying, it should be replaced. A properly sized main closing loop will not leave exposed grommets of the container flaps when the main container is closed. Undersized and oversized canopies can affect the ability to have the main container closed securely. See your local rigger, consult the owner’s manual or call the manufacturer if you have any questions on closing loop size and the security of your closed main container.

The main pin cover flap should be secure and not easily opened. Is the stiffener in good condition? If Velcro is used for the main pin cover flap, is it secure? These are the same items that need to be looked at and addressed with the reserve pin cover flap.

The main riser covers need to be secure. A tuck flap that seems secure when the rig is not on you can sometimes pop open when you put the rig on and tighten down the straps. This can be due to your upper body size in relation to the harness size or due to worn out tuck tabs or Velcro. Some of this can be a fit issue. If your upper body is too big for the yoke size of the rig it can cause the tuck tabs to pop out. Sometimes this can be fixed with new tuck tabs and/or less material in the upper portion of your reserve container.

If the riser covers popping open is due to broken or warped stiffeners, get the stiffeners replaced. If Velcro covers, the Velcro must be kept in nearly brand new condition.

Cutaway and reserve handles must be secure with Velcro in great condition. Pull on that cutaway handle on the ground. Does it take a bit of pressure to get it off the Velcro? Make sure the Velcro is completely mated up between the handle and the pocket.

Check your reserve handle Velcro too. If a D-handle, the Velcro should be mated around the handle and keep the handle secure, especially when moving into a sit position. Some of the smaller main lift webs tend to push the bottom of the D-handle out of the pocket in some freefall positions. If a pillow reserve handle, make sure the Velcro is mated properly. And with either handle, it should take a bit of pressure to pull it out of the pocket.

Final Thoughts

When just starting to learn how to backfly, sitfly or hold a head-down position, it isn’t necessary to automatically get a soft reserve handle. As long as the D-handle is secure in the pocket in all of your freefly positions, you can stick that that to begin. But as you start working on docking, grips and linked exits, you need to change to a low profile D-handle or soft reserve ripcord handle to reduce the chance of a foot or hand getting caught in your D-handle causing an accidental reserve deployment.

If you have a harness/container that fits your properly, is in good condition and is securely closed, than continue on your path to freefly godhood! If your harness/container doesn’t fit you properly or it’s not in freefly condition, than get it fixed. And if it’s not possible, then you need to buy another used harness/container that meets those requirements or a brand new harness/container that does the same.

If you like the canopies and AAD you have, then everything can be moved to your new container as long as the container is sized to fit those canopies and AAD. This would be the second-cheapest way to solve a bad fit or condition issue that can’t be fixed by a rigger or manufacturer.

And lastly, whether it’s a used rig or a new rig, it still is important to keep up on the condition of the parts of your container that can wear out, break and need to be replaced.

At a minimum, regularly check these items:

  • BOC pouch
  • Main closing loop
  • Main/reserve tuck flaps
  • Main riser covers
  • All Velcro

Now go work on those freefly skills! And get some coaching too!

If you need to purchase a new skydiving rig, built to your measurements, visit our container listings online at ChutingStar.com at this link.