Whether you are new to skydiving or certified and looking to get into base jumping, it’s essential to understand what a base rig is. There are some apparent similarities between skydiving and base jumping equipment, but there are also some critical differences.
While you won’t need to go into your first base jumping lesson knowing all the equipment and base jumping gear and what it does. It’s good to have an idea of what a fundamental base jumping rig is in advance.
Let’s look at a typical base rig. We can look at what the critical pieces of equipment are and why they are essential. We will also talk about new V second-hand rigs.
What is a base jumping rig?
Once you have learned the ropes and hooked on base jumping, you’ll be eager to buy your first base rig. But purchasing a base rig can be a daunting task and typically lead to confusion and indecision.
Gone are the days when base jumpers would use modified skydiving gear. Today there is a wide range of base jumping equipment that is much safer and more reliable than ever before. There are also a lot of choices; depending on who you talk to, different jumpers will swear by different types of equipment and setups.
As with many sports and pastimes, different participants have different style preferences and experiences and have loyalties to different brands. Let’s break down the key pieces of a base rig with an impartial look at what you’ll need and why.
The type of pilot chute and deployment option you go for will ultimately depend on the jumps you are planning to do. You also need to consider the canopy weight (heavier parachutes require more drag than lighter ones). Most base jumpers won’t stick to the same type and height of jump all the time; they will either progress in difficulty or, more likely, keep up a good variety of jumps. This means you’ll probably want to start with a middle-of-the-range 42 or 38-inch pilot chute, which will fit most mid-level bridge jumps and beginner-level objects. Over time you will build up a collection of different pilot chutes as you add more variety to your base jump repertoire.
Canopy choice can be a contentious issue, which often causes a lot of debate. Ultimately all base jumping canopies are designed around 7-cells with front-facing vents, and it’s the additional options that require more thought and choice. Size is one such important option. Unlike skydiving, base jumping requires low wing loading, ideally around 0.675; to get your wing load, you should divide your weight in lbs by the size of your canopy in sq/ft.
Another critical factor to your canopy is the glide. Most parachutes will heavily market their glide quality, but you need to get deeper into the specs. It’s important to know what you need, based on where you’ll be base jumping. Some canopies offer strong performance in turbulence and deep brakes but at the cost of less glide. If you require greater glide distance over the accuracy, you should opt for a flatter canopy known for gliding. If you are looking for shorter glides with more challenging landings, you’ll want something with superior control.
Lines also bring a lot of options. Heading control and shock absorption are essential, so you need to opt for proven and trusted line material such as dacron line. When you need to reduce weight, you should opt for a combination of dacron line weights and reduced mass in other areas. You also have a choice of a ZP nose or a hybrid top skin. Both have their pros and cons. ZP top skin shines for its ruggedness and durability, but it can be awkward to pack and give newbies some issues. ZP nose is easier to pack (but still not as easy as F-111 or UltraLite) and offers some durability and longevity. Finally, you need to opt for a slider. Sliders come in many varieties, but large mesh sliders are the most common.
Base jumping containers are an essential piece of the rig. Despite their simple look and features, their light, super reliable ability while also offering quick deployment speed saves lives. The first thing to consider when choosing your container is the opening system. There are three main options; single-pin, dual-pin, and velcro. While velcro is usually the system of choice for wingsuit pilots, the dual-pin system is a clear favorite for base jumpers. With the dual-pin, make sure you opt for something with good pin protection. While it’s rare, there have been well-documented cases of the pin cover flap opening up mid-flight and exposing the bridle and some even scarier occasions where the pins have come out!
You also have two options with the bridle; you can go for a built-in bridle harness or a bridle attached by a three-ring system. While it’s almost unthinkable ever to need to release your parachute mid-flight, there are occasions where you might land in trees or rapid waters and need a quick release system. The three-ring system is the fastest, easiest, and safest to use, but it does add some extra weight on the downside. Consider how likely it is you will be jumping near dense trees and dangerous waters. There are some options with bridle length, but you should opt for a 9-foot long bridle as standard for your first rig.
One final thing to consider when choosing a container for your base rig is spine protection. While we can get critical pieces of body armor to protect our head, chest, ankles, knees, and elbows, a container without back protection leaves a crucial part of our body vulnerable. Don’t shy away from containers that offer extra back protection, like D30 tech, regardless of the weight.
Is it OK to buy a used base rig?
Some people will preach the importance of buying a new rig when base jumping. Such arguments often center around choice and comfort. While there is some truth to that, and fit and variety are definite pros to buying new, budget is an issue for many. Suppose you are financially secure and have an attractive budget. In that case, buying new is the way to go. But if you need to exercise some limits to your spending, purchasing an excellent second-hand rig or a mix of used and new equipment is a viable option.
When buying new, it’s important to know what you are looking for, especially regarding sizes, fits, and options (such as wing load and pilot style). It’s likely that during your introduction and first base jumps, you will be renting gear under the supervision of highly trained professionals. During this time, you should get an idea and advice on what bits of gear work best for you. If you haven’t found your perfect rig setup, it’s worth carrying on hiring rigs and speaking to your trainers and mentor to get a good understanding of what you want before you make your purchases.
If you have some flexibility with your budget, it may be best to purchase the lower cost items such as your jumpsuit, helmet, and body armor as new. These are much more affordable items straight off the shelves, and getting the perfect fit and comfort is essential. Whereas shopping for a used canopy and container, you can save $1,000s, and you may find you want more than one of these items as you progress as a base jumper.
As with buying anything second-hand, it’s vital to get the history and deeply inspect the quality and wear. When buying pre-used items, they must also be pre-loved and in close to new condition.