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Choosing The Right Paragliding Reserve

Choosing The Right Paragliding Reserve

Another absolutely essential part of your paragliding equipment. We hope we never have to throw it in anger but it is best to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

There are quite a few different types of paragliding reserve and it can all be quite confusing to a beginner pilot.  

Here is our guide to choosing the right paragliding reserve.

How does a Paragliding Reserve work?

A rescue, a reserve, a chute, parachute, your mayday, your laundry, it has many names but one thing is for sure is that it is your best friend in the sky. Although we hope you never need to throw it importance should be placed on understanding how it works.

In a nutshell we carry a parachute with us when we fly that we pack up really small and place conveniently within reach. If the situation arises we may deploy the parachute by pulling on a handle which pulls the parachute out, hopefully it opens, and we safely float back to the ground. The parachute is attached to special bridles that are connected to your harness or your karabiners.

Reserve Types

Traditionally most reserves were made as large round canopies although the shape and design of the canopies now include many shapes. The main shapes of Paragliding Reserve are:

Round (Pull down Apex or Anular)

The most common type of paragliding reserve, the round canopy is designed to force air outward and cause the maximum drag possible with the minimum surface area of canopy. The canopy is also designed to open rapidly to minimise deployment time and Round parachutes can be unstable and oscillate. Swinging around under a parachute as you fall from the sky at up to 5.5m/s can be quite dangerous. Coming down on a reserve that you cannot steer can be quite scary while oscillating wilding.


The evolution of the round reserve took us toward square shaped canopies as designers tried ingeniously to decrease the oscillations and thus stabilise the pilot much more. The decent rate was also improved with the square reserve and thus the pilot fell slower from the sky resulting in less injuries such as broken limbs or sprained ankles from the hard impact.


One step further in a bid to improve decent and stability that one bit further the emergence of the roundsquare canopy has come. Although these aspects of the reserve have been improved we are still left with the disadvantages of oscillations and lack of ability to steer oneself. Although the best of the round or square in terms of decent rate and stability the sheer complexity in sewing a roundsquare makes it expensive to produce by the manufacturers and therefore many pilots still prefer to buy the round chutes.


Not for beginners due to the way it opens and requires the pilot to take control and steer it, all while detaching your main paragliding wing. The Regallo was originally designed for the parachute that would fly the space shuttle back to earth 50 years ago. It was from this design that the paraglider itself was designed from. The Regallo offers the fastest opening times, the lowest sink rate or decent rate and because you can steer it you can avoid danger and land safely.

Container Styles

Where the Paragliding Reserve has been stored or mounted has changed position over the years as the safety associations and the manufacturers figured out the most optimum position for deployment and safety. Unfortunately the data that this has been derived from is likely when it went wrong and why. Thankfully after 30 years of development Paragliding is such a safer sport, much in part to the efforts of the safety associations and the manufacturers to figure out such things as the optimum mounting position of the reserve.  

Most harnesses and any harness that we would recommend to a beginner has the reserve container mounted in the harness under the seat. With modern harnesses you can choose to place the reserve deployment handle on either the left or the right hand side.

Some light weight harnesses have no reserve compartment therefore, if the pilot wishes to carry a reserve, which we always highly recommend,  the reserve must be mounted in a front mount reserve container. Front mounted reserve containers usually attach to the karabiners. We do not recommend these to beginner pilots as a front mounted reserve is another thing to attach and check. It is better to introduce things like this later, after you have had some experience.  


Whilst discussing reserve containers and compartments it is important to note that some reserves may not fit in some harnesses. For example some harnesses are designed for lightweight reserves and therefore smaller reserves. It important that you ensure the reserve fits in your harness reserve compartment. 


Paragliding reserves get tested for a number of key parameters and are certified if they pass their tests. Honestly I don’t actually know what all the individual tests are but one can imagine that they test the speed of opening, the decent rate, the collapse rate, stability, breaking strength of all the materials used and so on. It is for this reason that we must ensure we buy a paragliding reserve that has passed one such test. We advise that you should buy a reserve that conforms the CEN Standard EN12491.

Reserve Size

What size you choose will depend solely on your all up flying weight when paragliding. This is the weight of you, your wing, harness, all your instruments and water etc… Basically everything that you will fly with (including the weight of the wing). Don’t forget to add in the weight of the reserve you are considering buying. The best way to know this is to pack all your gear and get dressed as you would to go flying, put your glider bag (all packed up) on your back and stand on some scales.

The size of the parachute and where you sit in its weight range will affect the speed of opening and the decent rate of the reserve.

Packing in Your Harness

The first time you have your reserve packed into your harness you should have this done by your instructor or a very experienced and trusted pilot. A Club coach or similar Club member can help you with this. This is a great opportunity for you to watch and learn how this is done. Ask questions and even ask to remove it and pack it again yourself under the instructor or the coaches supervision.

Ensuring the reserve is packed properly and attached to the bridles correctly is vitally important. 

Inspection & Repacking

Your reserve must be checked regularly, perhaps once a year is the standard association advice. This check includes removing the reserve from the harness and then opening and repacking the reserve. This should be carried out by a qualified repacker. It’s Technical See the video we have added below. This is a very good step by step guide on how it is done. 

Many clubs organise repacking event in which some also set up things like zip lines so that pilots can practice throwing their reserve and then repack it afterwards. The Big Fat Repack is one such event. Get in touch with your local club and ask about reserve repacks, there is usually good information shared in the club about repacks and repack events.

Acro Harnesses & Reserves

A note on Acro harnesses and competition. These are a little different that normal harnesses in that they often have two reserve compartments. Some Acro harnesses come with a base parachute system built into them that, when deployed, detaches the main wing from the harness. The Base system is steerable. These are not for beginner pilots.

Paragliding Reserve Videos

Here are some of our recommended viewing regarding Paragliding Reserves. 


You might feel some pressure from the school to buy their ‘preferred’ or particular brand. That coupled with the fact that any pilot  you talk to on the hill will tell you they love their wing and their brand. So, who do you listen to and which brands are the best?

We here at Paragliding Guide have no affiliation to one brand but of course we have our preferences. In fact,  our shop is a reflection of our preferences, if we don’t believe in the product or the brand then we don’t sell it.  Our advice to you would be to stick to the well known brand names until you have more experience and have your own preferences.

More information

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 Reserve Parachutes

Check out our other Buying Guides