After a recent accident flying a paraglider I’ve had both the time and desire to reflect on the gear I bring with me during flights. I’ve seen a few lists of others’ gear and the contents of their flight decks and I’ve found that while some items are brought for comfort and pleasure, many are carried strictly for survival.
The following (in no specific order) is a non-exhaustive list of the items I find most useful and reasonable to carry. Feel free to comment below on what you bring when you fly. Together we may just save someone’s life.
I was very fortunate 3 weeks ago after a very hard crash to have brought with me some Percocet painkillers. Upon impact I immediately found the pills in my side pocket and ate one. After the paramedics arrived, it was almost an hour before they were authorized to give me additional pain medicine because they had to acquire authorization from the doctors waiting for my arrival at the hospital. It was during this time that the Percocet helped me remain calm, collected and able to give the paramedics all the crucial information the needed to help diagnose and treat my injuries.
Had I not been so lucky to land relatively near sufficient help, these painkillers could have potentially allowed me to struggle through my pain and climb out to safety. Worst case, they would have made bearing the pain possibly while awaiting rescue. You may not have access to prescription painkillers, so pack some Aleve or Tylenol. Any painkiller is probably better than nothing, but check with your doctor to be sure.
A good multi-knife will contain several useful tools that may come in handy after an accident or simply before or after flying.
My favorite is the Leatherman Juice CS4. It’s not overly heavy (0.13kg/0.3lb) and includes both a set of pliers and a saw – two items I find invaluable for paragliding. The pliers will allow you to open and close the mallions holding your paraglider’s lines, should they need adjustment and the saw can aid in a tree rescue if you find yourself in that precarious position. It also contains a pair of scissors, useful for cutting repair tape and spare lines when you find your glider in need of emergency repair(!). Also included is a knife, useful for virtually everything and my favorite, a wine opener for helping celebrate when you break that XC record you’ve been working on.
3. Drinking Water
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It doesn’t matter what climate you fly in, you never know what will happen out there and even the best-planned flight can end up with a landing “out”. While we can survive without food for 2 weeks, we cannot survive without water for more than 2 days. Save yourself the risk and be sure to pack an extra liter or 2 just in case. You can always feed the plants when you land if you’re not thirsty or don’t want to carry the extra weight.
Most of our flights begin midday and end, if we’re lucky, sometime near sunset. Having a flashlight is great for these moments when you land a little late in the day and need some light to help you pack or even walk the trail back to safety. If you land out or land in a deep canyon, a flashlight may help save your life by allowing you to find or build shelter, walk a dangerous path or even scare animals away.
My favorite light is on my cell phone and many cell phones come with some form of LED. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with your cell phone’s light and learn how to operate it in the dark. My second favorite and my backup (you should consider having a backup light) is the Petzl E+Lite headlamp. This lightweight lamp will fit on you head thus freeing your hands, which is great for when you’re working on your gear or walking out in the dark. It takes up almost no space at all and will last for many hours on the included CR2023 batteries. The best part is that it comes with a strobe mode which may help you signal for help should you need it.
Yes, I do believe personal hygiene is important, even when you’re paragliding or out in the bush, but this is not why I am making this recommendation. A regular size roll of floss (50m/150ft) will be very helpful should you find yourself high in a tree or up on a ledge with no easy way out. Hopefully a rescue team is on the way and when they arrive it may be easier for them to give you some tools to help in your recovery i.e., saw, clippers, rope, etc. A standard roll of floss will allow you to lower down (or throw up) a line for your rescuers to attach these items to. Pull the goodies to you and you’re on your way to self-rescue. In a pinch you may be able to use the lines of your glider or even toss your reserve down from a tree, but a roll of floss is not cumbersome, nor expensive and for these reasons, makes a great addition to your kit.
Although I don’t smoke cigarettes, I do enjoy an occasional cigar. This however is not the purpose of a lighter in your kit. Nor is the purpose so that you can pull out your lighter and light the cigarette of the femme fatal siting at the LZ, Mr. Chivalrous. Hey, don’t you know smoking is bad for you? But I digress.
Lighters are great for burning the ends of spare lines to get rid of that fray – the lines you’ll need to help repack your reserve when it gets inadvertently pulled out on launch. They’re also great for lighting a fire if you land way out and aren’t going to make it back before morning. You can use them to make a signal fire too, if you’re in dire need of rescue, but let me remind you that fire is dangerous and you should be very careful where and when you use your lighter.
Great for keeping in touch with your fellow pilots while in the air, radios also allow you to call for help should you need it. Radios can be used to transmit important site data too such as strong winds at the main LZ or mandatory landing of all pilots due to an incident. Make sure you know the local channels and pack extra batteries.
PTT (push to talk) is a nice feature, so is dual band so you can use more frequencies when traveling, but the most important point is to bring your radio with you – it does nothing if left at home.
There are lots of good radios out there. A good bang for the buck is the Yaesu FT270.
8. Emergency Tracker
Whether you opt for the Spot or maybe the Delorme, an emergency tracker will help to ensure others know if you need emergency assistance… and it will tell them where you are. If you’re not familiar with emergency trackers, please get familiar. These little guys will usually work where your cell phone won’t. They connect to satellite systems in space and can alert emergency services with the push of a button. Many of these trackers can also send preconfigured text messages to your friends, family, Facebook and Twitter allowing you to let others know you are either “OK” or “Need Help”.
Both of the trackers mentioned above require monthly or annual contracts, but the money you spend may payoff by saving your life should you find yourself in deep trouble.
9. Spare Batteries
As I already mentioned, carrying a spare radio battery is a great idea, especially since we can forget to turn off our radio on our last flight only to find it dead right before launch the next weekend. As a backup to my Vario, my cell phone and other USB powered devices I may bring; I carry a 10000MaH battery in my flight deck. It can recharge my cell phone 4-5 times and power up my vario should I forget to recharge it at home. The model I prefer is the Anker 3E. It’s only $40 and has a great reputation as well as a solid warranty. If your vario uses AA or AAA, be sure to pack a backup set in your gear. Remember, when you’re uncomfortable because your batteries are dead, you will be distracted and could make poor decisions.
I like to throw a couple gel packs in my flight deck to eat quickly while I’m flying. Gel packs take only a second to open and can be consumed without any hands – hands that should be holding the brakes. In addition to the gel packs, I usually pack 8-12 ounces of beef jerky or some other dried food (like almonds) for when I land. Often I don’t consume it and save it for later, but again, if you happen to land out or find yourself in an emergency, a little extra food in your pack can mean the difference between survival or peril.
You don’t want to hike an hour up the hill under light clouds only to find yourself at launch, clouds opening up and the sun really beginning to beat down. In addition, you’ll find your nose seems to get a full dose of sun no matter which direction you’re flying so throw and extra tube of sunblock in your gear bag or flight deck. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting to put on sunscreen again… and the same goes for some Chapstick or other lip protectant. Sunburned lips are no joke.
12. SOS Information Card
Many of today’s harnesses have SOS card pockets and some even include a card for you to fill out. Don’t neglect this very important piece of your equipment. Make sure your card contains (at minimum):
• Your full name
• Your phone number
• Your emergency contact (Name and Number)
I also like to include my blood type and any allergies I may have. In the worst case, you may have an accident in which you are rendered unconscious. If your SOS card is filled out and not too difficult to find, you may save your own life by passively providing emergency services the vital information they need to treat you and notify your emergency contact.
If your gear is ever left behind or picked up accidentally by someone else, your SOS card may result in a happy phone call from someone wanting to return your gear.
13. Spare Lines
You don’t need to pack a full line set, but a few 30cm/1ft bits can help in many ways. As mentioned above, you may need to repack your reserve and a couple short lengths of line will make the process much easier. *Please make sure you’ve been shown by a trained professional how to properly repack your reserve into your harness before trying this on your own.
If you ever snag and break a line on launch or while flying, a short 4-5cm piece of line can be used to repair the damage. Again, have someone qualified show you how to make the repair and be sure to replace the entire line once safely on the ground or back home.
14. Repair Tape
Like spare lines, carrying a good-sized square or long strip of repair tape can help save you wing, your flight and maybe your vacation should you find a small rip or tear. Be careful applying the tape and be sure to trim the patch into a circle or oval, as the corners of a square tend to come undone over time.
Again, it’s best if a professional shows you how to apply the tape, but in a pinch you may have to apply it yourself. Whatever you do, don’t try to repair a major rip or tear. Anything over 15cm/6in may be pushing the limit of what simple repair tape can manage. Use caution.
15. Hook Knife
Probably one of the least popular tools in paragliding is the hook knife – I say least popular because I know so few people who use one. It comes in several different shapes and sizes, but all of them serve the purpose of quickly cutting through nylon webbing and paraglider lines.
Should you find yourself hanging from a tree or in the middle of a lake, a hook knife attached to your harness will allow you to quickly cut yourself free and make your way to safety. Without an easily accessible hook knife you could find yourself stuck or, in the case of water, face-down and struggling to escape. A well-placed hook knife is cheap insurance and a very useful tool that I believe should be included in your paragliding gear.
All of these items together will fit in the smallest of flight decks (except the water), so there’s no excuse not to bring these items with you; they may just save your life.
Do you have any other items you recommend carrying while paragliding? Please help us out by listing them in the comments section below.
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