Choosing a Wingsuit

Marketing is crazy shit, and in BASE jumping, every company's marketing slant is magnified by some BASE jumper's cultish brand loyalty that borders on insanity. Personally, I think that trying to convince someone else that "My suit is better than yours" is fucking retarded. If you like your suit, and you've tried the rest, then yours is obviously the best for you. Furthermore, and I've said this many times before, I don't give a fuck what suit you buy. I really don't. Just get the one you like, and enjoy it. And I hope we can jump together someday.

In American English, "Drinking the Kool-Aid" is an expression reserved for those who will bet their life's future on marketing. Your life may depend on choosing the wingsuit that is right for you: Whose opinion do you trust more than your own? My point is, try it before you buy it. Don't be one of those people who swallows all the Kool-Aid, and then pukes it back up in other people's faces by saying: "My suit is better than your suit, and you're an asshole for thinking otherwise."

Unfortunately, most people can't jump as much as they like. We have other responsibilities and obligations that get in the way, and it's much easier to read other people's opinions about wingsuits on the internet than it is to request your own demos and then go to the DZ and fly them. The vast majority of people will make their wingsuit purchase decision without actually trying the suit and most people who demo a suit will not fly it enough to make an informed decision about it.

My advice here is very clear: fly it before you buy it, and fly it plenty.

If you want to know my personal thoughts on wingsuits, then click here. Otherwise, if you just want some advice on choosing a suit, then read on.

While there are only a few companies manufacturing wingsuits at this time, there are many options to choose from and a lot of them are good, and relatively safe. Just a few years ago, wingsuit designs had shockingly narrow leg stances, arm wing designs that necessitated bizarre and awkward arm positions, and cutaway systems that were complicated to use and tedious to reassemble. Wingsuit design progress in general has moved at an exciting pace during the past 2-3 years and although glide performance continues to creep upward at a slow pace, the most exciting breakthroughs have been made in the usability and comfort categories - and these points are far more important than glide and speed, no matter what some skydiver dickhole on the forum says.

You should choose a suit that is easy for you to start, fly, and open with. That way, you won't get scared.

The easier and more comfortable your suit is to fly, the better you are going to fly it. The better you fly it, and the more relaxed you are, the more likely it is that you will not fuck up and die.

The only way to determine whether or not a suit is easy for you to fly, is to actually fly it. This should be obvious. It should be really completely obvious that you should try a wingsuit before you buy it, and that you should probably try it more than once. One jump is probably not enough. And what's definitely not enough is someone else's opinion on the suit. What is totally not enough is someone's opinion published on an internet forum, or here on this website. What matters is what you think of the suit after you fly it. So, go and get a demo. This entire article could be distilled down to one simple sentence: Fly it before you buy it.

But which suit to try? Most jumpers struggle with the question of size, and want to jump the largest suit (in terms of wing surface area) that they feel they might be capable of handling, or generally one size above it. My advice is to take the manufacturer's advice. Sorry, this may sound obvious, but too often it's not. Every manufacturer will recommend a certain number of skydives that you should have before trying to fly each suit, and there is no reason to not take their word for it. Although you may believe that you are more athletic and capable than average, the fact is that if you're already skydiving then you're not completely average, and manufacturers do understand this. The recommended jump numbers for each suit are set for someone with your level of radness, not for someone with less ninja skills. So, take their advice.

In 2011, there are a plethora of wingsuits that feature much more wing surface area than suits used for BASE jumping in the past. These suits have more range and "power" than their predecessors, but with great power comes great responsibility. If you choose to jump a large modern suit, then do not underestimate the amount of skydive training that will be necessary to master it. And don't think that you can BASE jump the suit before you really truly understand it in every possible flight configuration. Just because you can fly it in a straight line and deploy without line twists doesn't mean you're ready to BASE jump it.

So get off the internet, and get out there and try the suit first. Find a demo, or find a friend who has the suit you're interested in and is the same size as you. Fly it a few times, and get a feel for it before you make any decisions. Most of all, jump only for yourself, and have fun!