We all hope to never need to use our reserve, but flying without one would be a big mistake! But what are the most important features for this essential piece of kit?
Opening time is one of the most critical reserve criterion. If a reserve has to be thrown at low altitude – and that is often the case – a single second can make all the difference.
Low Sink Speed
Assuming a reserve is open with its paraglider in a stable situation the next most important thing is sink speed. The EN certification authority has confirmed a sink rate of 3.9 m/s at maximum weight of 130 kg (without the paraglider). The additional braking effect of a paraglider reduces this value to less than 3m/s.
A well-developed braked reserve opening can also prevent ‘downplaning’, the scissoring problem created when both the paraglider and reserve develop forward speed and pull against each other, causing both the head straight downwards – markedly increasing sink rate!
After opening a reserve, the paraglider can stay attached (the usual emergency situation with no quick release/cutaway) and in real-life reserve-throwing situations the paraglider can become a massive problem. As such, a reserve with a very slow forward flight is important in order not to encourage the paraglider to disturb the flight.
Steering and Flying Forwards
You never know where or why you’ll need to throw your reserve, so being able to direct yourself for a controlled landing may also be key to your safe return to solid ground! Not all reserves offer this feature, but it is worth considering when you purchase this piece of your gear.