Going light

Hi y’all! Let’s discuss a bit about reducing the weight of our equipment. Many of us jump immediately and search for a light version of the desired wing i.e. buying an Alpina instead of Delta. Here are the weight differences for the ML size: Alpina 2 ML – 4.5kg vs Delta 3 ML – 5.44 kg. The problem is, that the kilo shaved off in the wing weight comes with a pretty hefty trade off: the wing’s life time. Are we willing/able to change so often the wings? Are we ok with the price difference? Well, the answer should always be: what do I get for it? You get a lighter wing to carry, it’s true, but how often do you carry your backpack more than 30 mins? You get a slightly better flying behaviour due to the lower weight of the wing, this is just something found by the users of both variants. But you also get a thinner fabric which is more prone to rippig off when taking off in high grass with God knows what other nasty thorns or pointy rocks are hiding in there. You get a fabric that will deteriorate much faster from UV, and finally you get a wing that can potentially break easily in high energy manoeuvres or recoveries – I know, you will say they are tested, and they indeed are, but when they are brand new, that is. No producer is publishing the results of same EN tests done when brand new, for old wings, although this will be a good idea.

Now, all that being said, there are people out there that are hiking and flying. They are aware of the trade off, but they still need the lighter and safest wing possible. But those chaps are not limiting themselves just at the weight of the wing itself, they are rigorously checking everything: reserve, harness, clothes, electronics, food, water, and all the other bits and bobs we carry around in our kit. Before considering investing fortunes in a new wing, let’s take a look at all the sh*t we keep carrying. We can consider a lighter rucksack, an ultralight reserve to replace the already old solid block of concrete, replacing the harness seat with a carbon one, but those are the obvious ones. Personally, I found myself one day looking at the 2L bottle of water I brought on the slope (although my camel back is 1L only), the extra clothing that basically double the one I wore already (so it couldn’t be used anyway), the GPS spare batteries (although I really do not see myself changing the batteries while flying), the second pair of lighter gloves, the batteries packs of my heated gloves (not using the heating in summer), the extra radio for the eventually friend that eventually (pun intended) forgot his, another 1/2L bottle of water half empty (or better said half full) hiding in my cockpit, two protein bars (never use them – when I am going for distance I usually land and choose a nice pub to wait for the missus), and so on. I am carrying them so I won’t forget them at home and then need them on the hill. That is fine, but why don’t we make an extra bag with all the extra stuff we “might” need and take them in the car with us, but not in the backpack? We can call it the plan B bag, or whatever and if you will weight it, you will discover that it matches easily the weight difference between the light and normal versions of same wing. That, on top of the advices on lighter carry bag, harness seat, lighter reserve, will reduce your weight-on-shoulders with at least 2-3kg if not better. Now go ahead and spread all your kit in the middle of your living room for the pure happiness of your partner who just wants to watch the telly! 🙂

Later edit: When was the last time you cleaned you wing? Once, I found trapped inside apart from the usual dried weeds and insects, a good sized rock. 😉

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