That's it : you are hooked, you have followed two paragliding courses (minimum recommended), we can finally think of getting equipped to fly. Which paraglider to choose? How to decide? Buy new or used? This paragliding buying guide is aimed primarily at beginners, but if you've been flying for a few years, you might also learn a few tips.
Paraglider purchase: Which wing?
Table of contents
- Paraglider purchase: Which wing?
- Choose your paraglider according to your Weight-In-Flight
- Try before you buy
- Aspect ratio and performance
- Paragliding revision certificate
- Paragliding: A seasonal purchase
- Buy a new or used paraglider?
- Budget to buy a paraglider
Before buying a paraglider wing, it is important to understand your level of practice.
In the same way that it will not occur to you to start by buying a “big engine” when you have just obtained your motorcycle license (it has even been banned for a few years), you have to go slowly in paragliding. It will depend on your level of practice:
- How long have you been flying?
- What volume (number of flight hours / year)?
- What is your type of practice? (flight on site, trekking, cross country flights).
- Place of practice?
The current “A” paragliding wings perform better than the competition paragliders of 20 years ago, with increased safety! There is no point in wanting to gain a little performance and scare, or hurt yourself. Even in cross-country (distance flight), it is more relaxing to fly under a less performing wing than with a more demanding paraglider that you will have to fly constantly. Especially if it lasts for hours. Finally, it is rewarding to realize that we did the same flight as another pilot who was flying in a higher category! If you count on paragliding abroad, think twice : rescue will not be up to what is in your country and could get complicated and costly. I is better to fly below your assumed level. Better be safe than sorry.
If you already have a paraglider, and you plan to change, it is not necessary to "upgrade" (move to a higher category). I even know paragliding instructors who fly less than before, and who wisely come down from category. Because of their profession, if they teach, they spend more time grounded than in flight during the summer months. Not everyone has the chance to spend the winter paragliding 😉
If it is not necessary to be signed-off to fly under a paraglider (at least in France), on the other hand the paragliders sold in France and Europe must all have a certification. Beware of exotic models. Certification comes at a cost, multiplied by the number of sizes available, but it's still reassuring to know what you're buying.
To be certified, a wing takes two types of tests : load tests, and flight tests.
First they are tested under load: we make sure that it supports 8 G.
They must withstand two types of tests.
First a strength test, then a progressive load test.
Then they are tested by pilots in flight. What we will try to assess is the behavior of a wing following a flight incident, without any pilot input. In other words, we check how non-eventful it is. The "A" wings are the most accessible, but that doesn't mean that an "A" wing doesn't collapse, and that nothing will happen to you if you defy all logic and common sense.
These wings pass a battery of tests (22) allowing them to be assigned a rating, or rather a letter, according to their behavior. The paragliding wings are tested for a given all-in weight. These tests are carried out in calm conditions, but this is rarely the case in “real life”, and it is therefore the pilot who, here, causes the incident. Depending on the result of the test, the sail is assigned a score per exercise.
Depending on the results obtained, wings are classified A, B, C, D.
- A: school wing/ Beginner's wing
- B: Intermediate paraglider: You fly more than 50 hours per year.
- C: “Sport” paraglider: For long distance flights (Cross-Country), you fly more than 100 hours per year.
- D and CCC: “Performance” wing. For very experienced competitors and pilots
Part two :
It suffices that the paragliding wing has only one “B”, to be classified in B. Even if all the other tests are in “A”.
Two paragliders can be classified as B, but the one with several B's will obviously be more demanding than a wing with only one B. In short, it's worth looking at the test results in detail and for your all-in weight. On the other hand, if you hesitate between two sails, and one is classified in a higher category only in the event of an accelerated 50% collapse (this is generally the “critical” test), we can remember that it is enough to not use speed bar. too close to the terrain. It is common sense.
Choose your paraglider according to your Weight-In-Flight
Your all-in weight (total flying weight) should be within the weight range for which the paraglider has been designed.
As the name suggests, this concerns the pilot's weight + all of his equipment (minimum helmet + sail + harness + reserve parachute)
In short, everything he takes in flight.
That is to say also his bottle of water, his food, his tent, his stove if he goes on a bivy flight ...you name it !
In the majority of cases, this gives the weight of the naked pilot + 12 or 13 kilos. Less if you equip yourself with light equipment, more if you are a competitor ...
It is interesting to note that your paraglider is tested with a classic harness (seated), whatever the model. Nothing foreshadows what happens with a coverleg harness, more and more in fashion.
All-In Weight example: 75-95.
Where 75 (kilos) is the “lower” limit of the weight range, and 95 is the upper limit.
Note that if generally a wing is generally more lively when it is well loaded (at the top of the range), there are some cases where the sail at the bottom of the range is given a lower rating, because due to its wing loading being lower, the return to normal flight will be longer ...
In short, it is important to analyze in detail the homologation report of a paraglider, that is to say the one concerning your wing size, whether you are at the top or the bottom the weight in flight.
Most of paraglider certification reports can be found on this page.
Try before you buy
It would be a mistake to buy from a catalog, which is why “demo wings” exist in paragliding shops. Following numerous abuses, the tests are now often charged (around 25 €, deducted from your invoice in the event of a purchase), but this allows you to try out the canopy in real conditions, and you don't need to be an expert to try a wing. No need to test its stall behavior either: Ask your instructor, he will be able to advise you on a paragliding wing because he surely knows the model in question… and he knows you.
If you buy second-hand, it is generally accepted to do a test flight, even if it means leaving the buyer with your identity card. If the seller refuses, go away.
On the other hand, the firmness at the controls, the braking amplitude, the linearity or the progressiveness of the braking, the efficiency and the hardness of the accelerator, the quality and the precision of the turn, the thermal efficiency, the damping or on the contrary the liveliness of the animal, how the big ears stay put, how it flares when landing are criteria that you can assess yourself. If you have the proper skills, you could also cause a maintained collapse, wing-overs, 360. Go easy anyway!
Even an ground-handling session allows you to assess the character of a sail.
Even if it is not possible to try a wing and do a SIV with it, also find out about how a paraglider in SIV is going, from your SIV intructor. Otherwise, videos are quickly available on Youtube. And forums in English and in French talk a lot about the new paragliding wings, where everyone gives their opinion.
You can of course read the reports published in the specialized press (Parapente Mag, Parapente +), but you have to know how to read between the lines: the published paragliding tests are informative, but rarely "critical", insofar as they are the manufacturers who partly finance these magazines, through advertising.
Ziad Bassil regularly tests paragliders and makes reports and comparative on his site. His difficulty in obtaining certain models (which he nevertheless buys) testifies to the reluctance of certain brands on this subject.
During a paragliding course (progression / autonomy) do not hesitate to ask to try this or that sail. Often the easiest way is to buy the paraglider with which you have done the course: You know the equipment, and you will surely have a preferential price.
Aspect ratio and performance
A more elongated paraglider is theoretically more efficient: it is true in terms of glide ratio and speed, but in the event of "whack", it is sometimes more difficult to manage (autorotation). In addition, a higher aspect ratio wing does not climb better, it would even be the opposite: Its larger wingspan does not ease turning. A wing with less aspect ratio will have an easier time coring the thermal. In short, this is a factor to take into account when purchasing a paraglider.
Paragliding revision certificate
Even if this is not compulsory, the airworthiness certificate of a paraglider wing has now become commonplace (at least in France), as for a car check-up: A third party establishes, through its expertise, the actual condition of the paragliding wing to both parties (buyer / seller).
This is to ensure that the glider you are selling or buying is “airworthy”. We will check, at a minimum, its trim (and correct it if necessary). A resistance test (line breakage) is also carried out, in order to check the solidity of the lines. Finally, a porosimeter check makes it possible to assess the aging of the material. This test carried out on the leading edge of the upper surface makes it possible in particular to measure the state of the induction (layer waterproofing the fabric).
Of course, you don't have to wait to take your paraglider to a check-up center just for sale ! If your glider becomes lazy during inflation, that the speed range deteriorates, that you are constantly on the accelerator in flight to move forward and / or follow friends having the same wing category, that it tends to parachute, no longer swoops correctly on landing ... it is urgent to check your wing. This “investment” can save your life! Consult the user manual for the maintenance intervals recommended by the manufacturer.
A correction of the trim is often enough to give it a second youth, and it costs much less than buying a new wing!
Finally, knowing that a season usually lasts 6 months, a paraglider with an inspection carried out at the beginning of the year (in the spring), which we sell to you in the fall, will have much less value than a more recent inspection.
Certification of check-up / maintenance workshops
As surprising as it may seem, these workshops do not really have a standardized procedure. And are not certified by this or that organization.
Of course, they engage their responsibility in the event of litigation, have an undeniable know-how, but the reports of revisions vary a lot from one workshop to another. Some will give you an overall result (a ballpark estimate of the percentage of life remaining), while others will make the effort to give you quantified results (number of seconds during the porosimeter test, line length values found and then corrected) . This will allow you to follow these values from one year to the next. Some systematically change the brake lines, others don't ...
Note that with a little experience, you can check tweak and trim the paragliging wing yourself, this is particularly the case in countries that do not have an specialized paragliging workshop but it requires real knowledge. - this goes well beyond the scope of this article.
Paragliding: A seasonal purchase
Like skiing, paragliding is a seasonal activity, governed by the law of supply and demand, and the logic of stocks: It will be easier to negotiate your paraglider purchase at the end of the season, when schools and shops get rid of their stocks (fixed assets). Obviously, there may be less choice… It's a bit like going to the market at the end of the morning, hoping that the market seller sells out: Sometimes there isn't much left.
And you may not use it much for a few months, unless you come to fly in Mexico this winter 😉
The risk is also to see your paraglider “almost new”, replaced by the following model in the spring: It would be devalued.
Buy a new or used paraglider?
It's a personal preference, and of course a budget matter. If you contact a professional, you know where to turn in the event of a problem ... Some manufacturers offer a 3-year warranty if you carry out regular checks in approved maintenance workshops. A professional will offer you a wider range of paragliding gear, and several brands, his opinion will undoubtedly be more objective, than the individual who despairs of getting rid of his old model which is rotting in his garage, or that he needs to sell before to buy his new paraglider.
There is a fairly large second-hand market for A, B paragliding wings as they are the best selling markets. It sells well on the second-hand market. If the wing is over 5 or 10 years old, don't expect miracles: Paragliding is a young sport, and the progress is real, although the marketing is taking its toll too.
The higher the range, the more expensive the new sails: There are more cells, therefore more work, and these are smaller series. However, they sell quite poorly on the second hand market. The competition pilot will look for the latest wing, ditching that of the previous one. “Good” sails are in demand, and therefore rare for sale on the second-hand market.
Budget to buy a paraglider
When we see people getting into the activity and looking for a paraglider (or worse a “pack”) for less than 900 € used, should we remind them that it's their life that is hanging underneath? Certainly we can come across real deals, but it is rare and you have to know about it. Count at least € 2,500 for a beginner pack (harness - paragliding - rescue) from a professional. Usually the equipment is second-hand, but has very few hours (bought new at the start of the season).
Paraglider "fit for the Dune"
You will sometimes see advertisements mentioning this term, in reference to the dune of Pyla (or Pilat). We sometimes also see “ideal for Ground-handling”: It is true that it is more enticing than “to reform”!
These are generally “worn-out" paragliding wings at the end of their life. Even on a training hill, there will be times when you fly, because after all that is the aim. If you are a beginner, this is the best way to acquire bad habits (heavy wing, badly trimmed, out of age).
The purchase of a paraglider should be considered carefully. If you have read this article, you are one of the people who researched before deciding, and you are right. You have to consider your experience, your practice, then see if the model you are eyeing offers an adequate size for your all-in weight. Analyze the homologation reports, the aspect ratio of the wing. Consult the forums, and above all, try before you buy!
Invest in training first, before thinking about equipment. And if you only fly one week a year, it is better to consider booking a course with a school, which will provide you with an up-to-date wing… It will cost you less !