What do I need to know about gear?
You’ll want to make sure, right from the beginning, that your equipment is appropriate for wingsuiting. Most people who dabble in the discipline without the proper gear have a scary opening experience/s, decide it is not for them and miss out on all the fun. Choosing a main parachute that prioritizes consistent and reliable on heading openings is crucial. The best choice is a docile non-eliptical 7-cell design made from low-bulk, semi-permeable fabric. Wing loading should be no more than 1.3:1, but of course, always consult manufacturer recommendations.
The AAD or Automatic Activation Devices is an important safety tool and should be considered mandatory. There are no downsides to having one when flying a wingsuit. There have been cases where an AAD used by a wingsuiter did not fire due to the slower descent rate or varying pressure areas. However, there have been several documented saves. Keep in mind wingsuits can present an added risk for collision.
As far as RSL or MARD devices, wingsuits shouldn’t significantly alter your decision-making about whether or not to use one. They are generally recommended for newer skydivers and most expert wingsuit skydivers choose to use them.
Most considerations for our reserves while wingsuit skydiving are the same for wingsuiting. They should not be loaded much higher than the main canopy while loading near 1:1 provides more margin for a safe landing in case of injury or unconsciousness. Any vast size difference between the main and reserve can add additional danger in the case of a two-out situation.
Drag, during any stage of the deployment, can add unwanted movement and asymmetry which can lead to line twists. Choosing a semi-stowless bag can help provide smoother deployments. If using a standard bag, consider leaving 18 inches (45 cm) of line unstowed and carefully S-folded at bottom of main pack tray. This allows the bag to move further out of the burble before hitting the first resistance.
An 8 to 9-foot bridle will extend the pilot chute further from the wingsuit wake turbulence. Bridles shorter than 7 feet will increase the risk of the pilot chute being affected by wake turbulence, possibly leading to a PC-in-tow. The minimum PC size for wingsuiting is 26 inches, and 28 to 30 inches is strongly recommended. The weight and shape of the handle will contribute to PC stability, deployment, and effectiveness. Hackies and heavy PVC handles should not be used.
As we talked about drag with the d-bag, the container can also introduce drag. A “dynamic corners” modification where the bottom flap of the main tray opens completely can reduce the deployment bag from snagging on a corner during a more horizontal extraction that can come with the higher forward speed of wingsuit deployments. This modification is generally available from most manufacturers and/or can be completed by any master rigger.
The right wingsuit for your first jumps should be one that fits, is a model deemed suitable for FFC use by the manufacturer, and does not interfere with access to your handles once installed. Most manufactures and sales reps should have rental equipment suitable to take you through your FFC.
Some jumps with a tracking suit can be helpful but not necessary. This is largely dependent on the student and their general flying abilities. More jumps with the additional power that tracking suits can offer definitely can’t hurt your progression.
Having both audible and visual altimeters should be considered mandatory as the increased free fall time and additional cognitive load that comes with navigation can add to a change in altitude awareness.