Choosing The Right Paragliding Harness
Choosing The Right Paragliding Harness is vitally important, more important than the purchase of your first wing in fact. If chosen well your first harness will last you a while and perhaps even through your first few wings. It is your physical connection to your wing and where you will spend all of your time when flying or ground handling. It is vitally important that you trust the equipment, your are comfortable in the equipment and, of course, that you like the aesthetics of the equipment.
Paragliding Harnesses come in all shapes and sizes and the choice can be overwhelming. To choose the right harness we need to first understand the different styles, designed uses, and protections used.
Paragliding Harness Protection
Paragliding harnesses normally offer two types of protection, foam protection or airbag.
Foam protection has developed over the years and the foam contained in paragliding harnesses are specially designed to absorb impact and protect the spinal area of the pilot. They are bulky and can be awkward to pack and carry but offer great protection and are therefore great for beginner pilots. The foam protection has lent technology from other industries and have become considerably compact and efficient at doing their job.
Airbag protection refers to harnesses that have an airbag that inflates once the pilot is flying through the air via air vents in the front of the harness. The airbag is usually designed to inflate into an aerodynamic shape to limit drag. Airbag harnesses have the benefit of being much lighter than foam protection harnesses and easier to pack and carry. The only disadvantage of using airbag protection over foam protection is that once the airbag has deflated it offers no more protection. An example of when this may be an issue is if you get dragged on launch. The airbag may not have inflated completely and if you do impact the ground then the harness will deflate. Hopefully the air bag absorbs the first impact, but will likely offer no more protection if you continue to get dragged along the ground by your wing. The foam protection on the other hand will, for all its bulkiness and awkward shape, will keep protecting you as you are dragged only the ground.
There is a third type of harness, one that affords no protection at all. We refer to these as string harnesses, lightweight harnesses or even nappies… Primarily used for hike and fly or often used on the beach.
Open harnesses are perfect for beginner pilots and recreational pilots. The upright position offered by open harnesses gives you a nice clear view. Needed for those beginner days when our brains turn to mush sometimes and we fly into trees and then say, ‘I didn’t see it.’
Getting in and out of your harness as a beginner can be a little tricky sometimes. Open harnesses are much easier to get in and out of. Getting in and out of your harness is really important. If you don’t quite get into the harness it can ruin your experience, even make you go and land. Being able to get out of our harness is also very important to ensure you make a safe landing on your feet.
The position of being sat upright often makes pilots feel safer, we know this as quite a few pilots that fly pod harnesses sit upright and tuck their feet in when things get really hairy.
It is possible to attached a stirrup to open harnesses to rest your feet on when you fly which is a way to achieve a more inclined position. This a good way to achieve this without moving from open harness to pod style harness. It is also possible, with some brands and models, to attach a separate cocoon and convert your open harness into a cocoon harness.
Suited more for intermediate and progressing pilots the pod paragliding harness is not for beginner paragliding pilots.
The idea of the pod harness is to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag. The inclined seating position is more comfortable for some pilots and allows the pilot to easily place a ‘fight deck’ neatly in front of them.
Flight decks are important to house your instruments needed to fly cross country. Most pod harnesses nowadays have a removable flight deck and so you can prep your flight deck in advance of your flight. Many of the flight decks have a strip of velcro and lots of lanyard loops to keep your instruments in place and safe from falling off.
Pod Harnesses can be split into two different categories, recreational harnesses and competition harnesses. Competition harnesses are similar to recreational pod harnesses although they have two reserve containers instead of one. Competition harnesses also have a ballast system in them to allow the pilot to carry, and importantly release, water or sand as ballast if needed.
In this image we can see an open harness, a recreational pod harness and a more advanced competition harness. You can see that the competition harness. Competition harnesses are, counterintuitively, normally much heavier than recreational harnesses.
If you are thinking of buy a pod harness please get in touch with us and we can guide your through this transition.
Having a reserve is vitally important when you fly, not matter how high you expect to fly. Reserves can be contained in a specially designed pocket in the harness or it can be carried externally in a front mounted reserve container. As a beginner we would not recommend using a front mounted harness. Normally only specialist light weight harnesses for hike and fly, speed flying or dune flying do not have a reserve pocket. They therefore require you to use a front mounted reserve container.
Having your reserve checked and fitted by a qualified person or at least an experienced pilot is highly recommended.
Seat Plate or Hammock Style
Paragliding harnesses have either a solid seat plate or a webbing structure that hugs the body of the pilot, often called a hammock style seat.
Seat plates are made of wood, composite or carbon fibre. They give the pilot more feedback from the wing and allow the pilot to weight shift and turn the glider more easily.
Tips on buying a harness:
- Ensure you buy the right style harness for your experience and flying sites.
- Make sure you choose the right size. (To do this you must try it.)
- If you can, fly with the harness first. (If no flight then sit in it for 30 mins)
- Ensure it matches your reserve requirements. (if buying used ensure it comes with the correct reserve handle).
- Don’t cheap out but it is also not a fashion contest.
Check out Paragliding Harnesses in our Shop.
For more information on any equipment here or in our Shop, anything paragliding related in fact, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with us. Even if it is some advice on some second hand gear you have found and would like another opinion. Contact Us
Here are some examples of good first/beginner harnesses: