Which reserve size should I choose?

"Which size am I?" The ultimate dilemma. Should I go for the smaller or larger reserve? This is especially difficult to decide when you are on the borderline between two sizes. On one side - you have a lighter, smaller package - with slightly faster opening times, better pendulum stability, but also higher sink rate - and on the other, a slightly heavier and larger package, but with excellent sink rate. In the end actually - it's all a matter of personal preference and flying style.

Let's define some terms commonly used:

Max. load - usually the maximum takeoff load the reserve has been tested for, and therefore is the maximum permitted TOW (takeoff weight) it should be flown with. This is the loading under which the rescue has passed the drop testing;

Recommended load - This is the weight range which is optimal by the manufacturer. In this range the rescue has the best sink rate/stability ratio.

Load/Takeoff weight - The declared maximum and recommended loads always take into account your total take-off weight,including your weight, your wings weight and the rest of your equipment. The reason the wing weight should also be taken into account is because your wing weight can also have a slight affect your descent depending on multiple factors:
1) Whether you jettison your wing or not (quick out carabiners etc.);
2) Roll your wing into your lap;
3) Keep your wing inflated;

Size selection mainly depends on your flying style and preference. If you are borderline between two sizes, you have two options:
1) If you are a recreational pilot in need of a primary rescue, with a TOW around the optimal range of the larger reserve, and are prepared to "sacrifice" a bit of weight, but in return get a lower (safer) sink rate, it is always wiser and safer to go for the larger one.
2) If you want to go for the lightest setup possible (for instance for hike and fly), or you plan to use the reserve as a secondary reserve, and are reasonably fit - you can go for the smaller reserve, but have in mind the higher sink rate accompanied with this decision.

Use, operation and maintanance of a reserve

So, you have purchased a brand new reserve? A reserve provides you with passive safety, but also requires some know-how on how to properly maintain it and use it in a case of emergency. In order to ensure a proper, safe and a long operational life of your reserve, one must do more than just "throw it in" his harness and forget about it :)

Some general tips:

Regularly check and repack your reserve - reserves tend to get "sticky" over time and silicone bands tend to dry off and stick onto the lines. That's why it is crucial to regularly repack your reserve (we recommend repacking at least every 6 months), when the reserve is "aired" for 24 hours, in order to remove any excess humidity, panels are freshly arranged and new silicone line bands are mounted. Have in mind that you need to go through proper training for this, or that the repack is done by a certified professional. Regularly check the pins of your harness container before takeoff, in order to prevent an accidental reserve deployment;
Always store your reserve in a dry place at room temperature - avoid humid rooms, like basements etc. Moisture and mold can damage the fabric of the reserve. If your reserve gets wet, dry it in a well ventilated place, out of the sun, in order to prevent mold formation. If you land in salt water, use only tap water to wash it;
Don’t leave your equipment in the boot of the car for long periods of time - especially in the sun or freezing temperatures. The excess heat will not just damage the fabric of your reserve, but also the rest of your equipment;

In order to be prepared for a reserve deployment in a case of an emergency:

  • Practice reserve deployment on the ground or over the water under professional supervision - this will provide you with valuable experience which may be crucial for proper action in a case of emergency;
  • Periodically practice reaching the reserve handle during flight, so that you always know where it is - this is especially important if you have recently changed your harness etc;

In case of an emergency during flight, in order to activate the reserve grab hold of the reserve handle and firmly pull it in order to get the reserve container out of the harness and then in a swinging motion throw the whole reserve package away into free space, enabling the reserve lines to tighten and free the reserve from its inner container.

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