Tip of the month, From Our Rigger Shauna - Your Reserve -- Part 1

PussFoots rigger tip of the month, Your Reserve. If you have a question for our very own in house rigger please email us at PussfootOG@gmail.com. If you would like your name left out please indicate when you send in your question. Don't forget to send us pics if you have them.
Recently, several jumpers have asked me a broad range of questions regarding their reserve canopies. "What color is my reserve"? to "Why shouldn't I buy this $200 1989 "closet queen" reserve over the more expensive brand new one"?  So, I started thinking: why is it that jumpers don't know more about their reserves? This is their most important piece of equipment that they'll (hopefully) never have to use, but realistically will at some point. Why is it that they don't know more about it?  I'm hoping to answer some questions that are being asked as well as clarify info about the reserve canopy.

Your Reserve:

“What you’ve always wanted to know but didn’t want to ask”

Part 1: Choosing and Purchasing




When choosing your reserve canopy, we should be considering a few important things.  First off, in my opinion, should be your skill level with your main canopy. If you're flying a 210 sq ft canopy, and you decide to purchase a smaller reserve, is an emergency the most ideal time to be downsizing for the first time? 1 canopy size smaller may not be a huge deal, but several sizes smaller could pose a challenge under a stressful situation such as your first cutaway and/or an off-field landing.  Another very important aspect that must be taken into consideration is the weight limitations of the reserve. Each reserve is “governed” under their manufacturers TSO specifications. These guidelines are available from the canopy manufacturers and must be taken into consideration when choosing a reserve; new or used.

Choosing either of your canopies, main or reserve, can be a confusing task to try and tackle.  Having trusted “advisors” in your corner can help greatly. If you are a newly licensed jumper, asking your instructors is always a great option because they generally are good judges of your flying abilities and what canopies would be safe for your skill level.  If you happen to be an experienced jumper who is now outside the traditional “student status”, your options may be slightly different, but still not limited. At dropzones that have an active student program, I can assure you, the instructors are there for EVERYONE, and would love nothing more than to assist jumpers in making smart, safe decisions when choosing canopies.  Ask them! Many dropzones have riggers on staff to maintain the gear, and they are always a good resource for gear choices.  



Another great resource that everyone has available to them is consulting manufacturers directly.  While they won’t have personal knowledge of your flying history and abilities, per se, they are the subject matter duty experts on the canopies; mainly because they make them!  If in this day and age someone isn’t able to access any and all information they are looking for online, contacting the manufacturers directly is a great option. Be prepared to answer several questions to better inform them in helping you make the safest decision as to what canopy is best for you.

  You should always make sure that you are choosing canopies for your container within the guidelines that the manufacturers suggest.  Choosing a container that fits your body but not the canopies appropriate for your skill level can be dangerous. If you've decided to purchase a custom container, the manufacturer can assist you in making sure this aspect is correct.  If you're purchasing used gear, it's ALWAYS a good idea to consult the manufacturer before the sale and see if the canopies included are within their recommendations. Specifications for the recommended canopies can be found on the manufacturer websites or by simply calling them to verify. 

  If you can afford a new reserve, I always recommend going that route.  If not, please, always consult a rigger or the manufacturer to have a used reserve properly inspected before purchase.  I've seen time and time again, newer jumpers finding a "closet queen" reserve that is older than they are, the original data card missing or "rigger owned" reserve canopy selling for cheap.  As tempting as this sale might be to jump on, I suggest it be thoroughly inspected and evaluated before making any decision or money exchanging hands. Remember, this is your last chance in survival in the event of a cutaway.  

Certain manufacturers have a "reserve re certification program" for older, well packed/well-used reserves.  Please always consult a rigger when purchasing any second-hand gear; especially reserve canopies. Another aspect to keep in mind is whether or not a rigger will actually pack the reserve for you beyond a certain age.  Many manufacturers leave it up to riggers in the field to determine airworthiness of canopies. The majority of riggers have a certain “age” they are comfortable packing. Beyond that they may refuse and then comes the task in either finding a rigger that will pack it or sending the canopy back to the manufacturer for re-certification, if that’s an option.  Keep in mind, there are reserves still in circulation that their manufacturers are no longer in existence and therefore may or may not have the appropriate support available to repair/service them



There are different type of reserves as well.  One is made from “low bulk material” and the other is made of an F-111 type material.  Both canopies are 7 cell and have microcline (Spectra) style lines. The low bulk material allows for a larger canopy to fit into a smaller container.  For instance, a manufacturer recommends a regular material 190 sq ft reserve for a specific container. The same manufacturer can recommend a larger low bulk reserve for the same container.  This is always something to consider when choosing the appropriate reserve for your skill level.

Regardless of the model, manufacturer or color of your reserve that you choose, please make an informed decision.  This is your life, after all! I have included links to several manufacturers of reserve canopies. Check them out!













Thank you Shauna for providing some good advice.

Blue Skies!!!!


Make sure to check back for part 2 !!!!!

*It should be noted that at the time that this article was written, these are the manufacturers that currently produce reserves for purchase in the United States.  There are manufacturers that produce canopies outside the US and may not meet the requirements of US TSO standards, therefore not allowing them to be packed/utilized in systems in the US.  Always confirm with a rigger/manufacturer if there’s a regulation question.




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