Skydiving Tandem Equipment Explained

If you’re thinking about doing a tandem skydive, you might have some questions about the gear that is going to be used during your jump. We pride ourselves on jumping equipment built by the most respected manufacturers in the industry. In this blog, learn all about the magic backpack that’s going to take you to the skies- as tandem skydiving equipment is explained. 

All skydiving parachute systems consist of 4 main components:

  • The Container - The backpack-like system that houses the parachutes
  • The Main Parachute- The primary parachute
  • The Reserve Parachute- The “backup” or secondary parachute, intended for emergency use
  • The Automatic Activation Device- A safety device designed to automatically deploy the reserve parachute in emergency situations

How is tandem skydiving equipment different from solo skydiving equipment?

The main difference is the size. Because the system has to support the weight of 2 people instead of 1, everything is bigger. Both parachutes are much larger and so is the container needed to house them. Additionally, tandem equipment also includes a harness which connects the student and instructor together.

Tandem Skydivers with outside video showing the difference in size of the tandem container and sport jumper container

The Student Harness

This durable, nylon harness is strapped securely to the student with a series of adjustable straps. The straps go around both legs, over both shoulders, around the waist and chest and across the butt. The harness has 4 large, metal clips which attach the student to the instructor’s parachute system. 

What are the tandem harness weight ratings?

The metal clips connecting student to instructor are rated to hold more than 1000lbs each. The student’s weight is distributed over 4 of these clips- 2 at the hips and 2 at the shoulders. 

So, if the harness is so strong, why is there a weight limit in skydiving? The weight limit actually has nothing to do with the harness, it’s based on the maximum suspended weight for the reserve parachute.

How are main parachutes packed?

Once you’ve been trained, it only takes about 10 minutes to precisely fold fabric, stow lines and secure them inside of the container. However, it’s still an important thing to do well and with precision. For this reason, tandem parachutes are packed by trained professionals, under the supervision of a Federal Aviation Administration Certified Parachute Rigger.

Tandem parachute coming in for landing

How are reserve parachutes packed?

Because reserve parachutes are intended for emergency use, they can’t be packed by just anyone. The process is much more meticulous and takes about an hour to complete. Reserve parachutes can only be packed directly by a FAA Certified Parachute Rigger. Reserve parachutes are unpacked, inspected, and repacked every 180 days, even if they haven’t been deployed.

Skydiving Reserve Parachute

Skydiving Altimeters

All tandem skydiving instructors are required to wear an altimeter. SDMW instructors also offer altimeters to their students to enhance their experience, especially if they are considering joining a solo skydiving licensing program.

Tandem Skydiving Student checking their altitude on their wrist mounted altimeter

Skydiving Jumpsuits

Jumpsuits are completely optional. For a student, a jumpsuit can offer an extra layer of warmth and some protection for clothing against grass and dirt stains. For instructors, a jumpsuit can also offer a means to control fallrate; adding or subtracting the drag of a jumpsuit can help adjust freefall speed to match up with a videographer’s fallrate.

Solo skydiver falling towards the earth on their back

Skydiving Helmets

Almost all skydiving instructors choose to wear helmets when performing tandem jumps- though it is not required by the USPA. Tandem students, however, are usually prohibited from wearing helmets. A helmeted student poses an additional risk to the instructor- making their head harder, larger, and more difficult to avoid.  A student’s head sits just below the instructor’s chin during a skydive, putting them in a prime position to cause serious injury to an instructor’s face, teeth or chin and potentially knock the instructor unconscious. 

Tandem Skydiving pair with instructor wearing helmet and student not wearing helmet

Skydiving Goggles

Each tandem skydiving student will be provided with a pair of goggles to combat the 120 mph winds of freefall. For students who wear glasses, we offer over-the-glasses style goggles which are large enough to fit over most prescription glasses.

Tandem skydiving student wearing goggles during a skydive

Who makes tandem skydiving equipment?

We carefully select where our skydiving equipment comes from; each component of the system is manufactured by different industry leaders. Skydive Midwest proudly uses tandem skydiving equipment manufactured by: United Parachute Technologies, Performance Designs, Icarus World, and Vigil Aero.

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