Paragliding Pod Harnesses
What is the paragliding pod harness?:
The paragliding pod harness is designed for maximum performance and warmth. The actual history of paragliding pod harness may surprise you. Around twenty years ago, paraglider pilots flying in the French Alps were starting to achieve some great long distance cross country flights. They also found that the limiting factor wasn’t so much their flying skills but instead the size of their bladders! It is a well-known fact that when you get cold, a lot of people get the urge to pee and this is what was happening to these pilots. So they came to the quite obvious conclusion that the answer was to be able to stay warmer in the first place. This lead to the invention of sleeping bag type ideas that certainly showed that the concept was good, so the development continued from there. It is an interesting note that increasing glider performance was a byproduct but was never actually the main goal. The paragliding pod harness started as a simple flying sleeping bag but things have moved on since those days.
What kind of pilot is the paragliding pod harness designed for?:
The paragliding pod harness is great for those pilots who like to spend a lot of time in the air on each flight. They keep you warm in very cold conditions as previously explained and also offer the added benefits of better aerodynamics, especially during accelerated flight. In warmer conditions, you will not need to wear a flying suit and many pilots fly through the summer months in just a pair of shorts and a warm jacket. It can even be warmer being in the air in a pod than on the ground waiting to fly on a cold and windy day.
How heavy are these harnesses?:
They used to be heavy but many lightweight paragliding pod harness designs are now available. You will find pods down to under 3kg and there is no reason for most pilots to fly a harness weighing more than 5kg. A good lightweight pod together with a lightweight rescue parachute would weigh typically around 5kg total. Used together with a lightweight paraglider, the whole lot in the bag can be as little as 9kg or less.
How much protection do they offer?:
Almost all paragliding pod harnesses now come with some element of protection. This can be of the pre inflated mousse bag kind, the self-inflating system seen on a lot of standard harnesses or a combination of both. One manufacturer is using a type that you manually blow up before takeoff and it will be interesting to see if other manufacturers decide to also go down this route. Some harnesses though definitely have more in the way of protection than others and the ones offering the most all come with a weight penalty.
Do I need any special experience to use these harnesses?:
Heres where things become a little more interesting. There are three different things to consider if you are interested in buying a paragliding pod harness:
- Flight position: Lying down with your legs out in front of you will not suit all pilots; some will hate it. It is, without doubt, the most comfortable way to fly but you have to get used to it first. A great way to practice is to first start flying with a leg stirrup. This will feel exactly what it will be like once in the pod and is a really good way to acclimatise.
- Roll response: Some paragliding pod harnesses have a shorter karabiner to seat plate distance than a typical standard harness. This means that in turbulent air things can feel a little more active than you may be used to. This was the case a few years ago with an extremely popular harness that was released from one of the major manufacturers. The harness was a great design but was too much for some when things got rough. Luckily it was found that all you needed to do was to change the supplied karabiners with ones a little longer. The 2cm difference was all it took to transform the harness and everyone was happy. That illustrates just how important that this measurement is. Weight shifting a pod harness also takes a slightly different technique requiring the pilot to roll their hips more than usual.
- Different inertial rates between the pilot and wing: This is a big one. There is a problem with lying down supine in a paragliding pod harness. If you were to accidentally spin the glider or the wing was to take a large collapse, leading to a large rotation, the pilot can find themselves being ‘left behind’ the reaction of the paraglider. If the wings rotation was to get more than 90 degrees ahead, you could get into a situation with the risers crossing and twisting in front of the pilot. The standard advice given is, if you find yourself in this position, you should drop your legs as quickly as possible. Not only is this difficult to do in practice, if you are late, you can spin yourself up even faster much like when a ballet dancer pulls in their arms during a pirouette. Many pilots have flown for years in a pod harness with no problems to report but these three issues should always be kept in mind.
As always, it is encouraged that you ask a question if you need clarification on anything that is written above using the form at the bottom of the page. If something is puzzling you, it is guaranteed that you will not be on your own. By putting your questions on this page, other pilots will also be able to learn.
Free Rescue Parachute Fitting
We offer a free parachute fitment with every new harness to save you having to do it. Some new harnesses require that you use the deployment bag that it is supplied with, so your rescue parachute will need to be removed from the one you currently have. If you would like us to do this for you, just post down your rescue parachute with connector link and send a message letting us know. If you do, we’ll hold onto your new harness until then and send it back to you by return post, free of charge.
Here to Help
I have been involved in paragliding full time since the very beginning of the sport in the UK. I have been instructing full time since 1993 until 2017 and available to help you with advice whenever needed. Helping paragliding pilots new or old is my way of putting back into the sport which has given me such incredible experiences all over the world and I want you to be able to share in that. If you need any help, just write in the chat box found on this site and I’ll get back to you either immediately or when I’m back in the office.
Good Flying! Paul Williams