Sandy Reid, the author of this article, made his first jump in 1970 and became an FAA Senior rigger in 1971, under the auspices of Ted Strong and Dan Poynter. Becoming a Master Rigger in 1974, Sandy has worked virtually full-time in the parachute industry since then. Along with his wife Brenda, Sandy founded Rigging Innovations in 1985 and they now have been in business for 30 years. Rigging Innovations manufacture harness and container systems, including the Talon, Talon 2, Talon 3.0, Telesis, Telesis 2, Telesis 3.0, Flexon, Genera, Aviator, Voodoo, and now the Curv. Sandy is the inventor and patent holder of the articulated harness design.
Proper Harness Fit – It’s More Important Than You Think!
Proper, or “good” harness fit of the rig to your body is one of the most important issues that affects your freefall efforts. There are three main issues that need to be addressed for a good harness fit. The harness includes the container assembly as well as the webbing straps.
An incorrect or poorly fitting harness can be dangerous to the user since it must hold the jumper securely and keep them from falling out of the harness. The jumper must also be able to reach and activate the main and reserve handles as well as the main and reserve toggles at any point throughout the jump.
The most common fit problem is that of the harness being too large for the jumper. This may allow the containers to shift during freefall and moving the location of the main deployment handle out of reach. At the same time the reserve ripcord and 3-ring release handle may change location and ride up after opening. This may result in difficulty in locating the handles during an emergency and make them more difficult to activate.
In today’s VRW environment, another fit issue becomes very pronounced. If the harness is too long or large, particularly in the horizontal or lateral region, it is common for the containers to “float” off the back of the jumper in a sit or standing position. Under extreme fit situations, in the event of an inadvertent main or reserve opening, the jumper could fall rearward out of the harness. It is important that the harness holds the containers tightly to the body in all positions and attitudes.
A properly fitted harness is important if the jumper wants to make more than a couple jumps a day. Whether the harness is too large or particularly if too small, the forces from the opening shock of the canopy will result in bruises and pain. In extreme situations, it may prevent the jumper from implementing emergency procedures. At the very least the jumper may be discouraged from enjoying the skydiving experience if they think “this is the way it must be”.
A poorly fitting harness has more influence on the jumper’s performance than they may be aware. An oversize harness will allow the containers to shift during freefall and may then fly the jumper during their maneuvers. This is particularly noticeable with small or shorter frame individuals. A typical example is when the individual dives head first from the aircraft and the containers shift upwards towards the head. This prevents the jumper from raising their head to see where they are going. Once they are horizontal, if they are performing belly to earth maneuvers, when they start turning, the containers may momentarily hesitate to follow the jumper. When the turn is completed, the containers will continue to move beyond the jumper causing them to “overturn” or go past the stopping point. This effect becomes more pronounced the faster the jumper moves in the air such as in 4-way sequential.
The same situation occurs in VFS except the jumper axis is primarily vertical as opposed to horizontal. In both cases the jumper may not be aware of the subtlety of the effect of an oversize harness.
A harness that is too small will limit the jumper’s freedom of movement in the air to an equal degree.
Once an individual resolves the above issues either by having their harness properly sized for them or purchasing a custom-made new rig to their measurements, the change becomes immediately evident. All of the above issues should immediately go away.
Whether the individual purchases a used rig or a completely new system, it is imperative that it fits correctly in order for the jumper to fully enjoy the skydiving experience in a safe and comfortable manner. If there are fit or sizing problems with your rig, do not hesitate to contact the manufacturer and discuss your issues. After all, they are the experts on your particular make and model of harness and container system.
As a manufacturer of harness and container systems for over 30 years, I can confidently state that proper harness sizing and fit is the #1 customer issue that the industry deals with. In many instances, a good fitting harness can be as much a matter of “Voodoo art” as it is a well-disciplined science. If there is a problem and we don’t know about it, we can’t correct it.
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