Paragliding Accessories

Moving beyond the basics now, let's look at some paragliding accessories. After you are strapped into, and hanging under the appropriate gear, about all that is left is instrumentation of various kinds.

Oh, and maybe your lunch, your digital camera and few other personal bits and pieces stashed away in the pockets of that fancy harness you just bought...

By the way, regarding paragliding cost, all the prices quoted here are just useful 'ballpark' figures, in US dollars.

Prices change over time, and from country to country after all.

Flight Instruments

Altimeters are a basic instrument in all types of aircraft. Very useful for flying cross country in a paraglider, although a good pilot is always making rough judgments of altitude by eye. One option, not so surprisingly, is to find a skydiving altimeter.

A company called Flytech make a lot of paragliding accessories and have a wristwatch unit that shows altitude and wind speed as well. About $180 worth. But there are some slightly cheaper options around, that can be used as a paragliding altimeter.

As every keen non-powered cross-country pilot knows, one of those paragliding accessories you can't really do without is a decent variometer. A 'vario' tells you whether you are losing or gaining height, and how fast.

If you want to start small and simple, an audio variometer is the way to go.

There is a large range in the price and sophistication of varios, and plenty of second hand gear is available. Anything that actually works will get you to the top of a thermal. At the top end you can get limited change out of $1000! But the super-expensive devices are really quite complete instrumentation and recording packages. What they can tell you is amazing!

Other Accessories

When you step out of the car at the launch site, you can either guess the wind strength or use a wind meter of some sort. There are plenty of these paragliding accessories on the market, ranging from simple mechanical tube devices that you point into the wind to get a reading, to little hand-held electronic devices that tell you the wind speed and more.

An important safety item that isn't an instrument is a hook knife. This is something you hope you don't ever have to use, but it's for quickly cutting yourself free from your canopy in an emergency situation.

An emerging trend in paragliding is the use of a flight deck which is used to group all your flight instruments together. It functions like the instrument panel in a light aircraft, but is adapted to the needs of paraglider pilots.

Ever Heard of These?

Here's something fairly recent. Solartime is an innovative piece of paragliding gear that was birthed in the paragliding industry. It is a small, thin panel which collects light, and converts this to a readout in time. It is fixed directly to the top of the glider canopy.

Until this more accurate method came along, paraglider pilots could only use logged air-time to estimate when their canopy might need to be checked for safety. The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight has a weakening effect on many materials, including paragliding gear! This is why you will often see used canopies advertised with the air-time the pilot has logged. It gives you some idea of the remaining life of the canopy.

A direct measure of the degradation of a canopy's sail material can be obtained with a porosimeter. Devices like this are 'the last word' in evaluating the condition of a paragliding canopy.

A porosimeter measures very accurately how long it takes for a known amount of air to go through a known amount of material. If the material lets a lot of air through, it's no longer very safe. At the very least, you lose performance!


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