Dive Dr, I want a Small Rig…

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Dear Dive Doctor,

I have 50 jumps. I want to get my own container as I’m tired of renting gear… but I won’t want to jump a 190 forever. Should I get a smaller rig for now so I’m ready to downsize later?

Thank you


Alethia Austin happy with her new Vector
Photo by Roy Wimmer Jaglom

Answered by Mike Gruwell

a super-experienced rigger and CEO of Chuting Star skydiving superstore

1. Buy for today not tomorrow

Mike Gruwell

Dear Frances,

Buy the gear that you can jump NOW. Worry about what you might jump later. It could be that the 190 is what you end up flying for your entire skydiving career. Or it could be you upsize or downsize later… but worry about that when the time comes.

2. Learn to fly your canopy

If a 190 canopy size is what you and your instructors and/or safety advisors have determined to be the ideal first canopy size for you, then buy your gear set-up for that size of canopy. You most likely will, or should, be under that same size canopy for your next 600 jumps or more. You’ll want to take at least a couple of canopy flight courses with that size canopy, learning the ins/outs of all the flight controls, and learning how to push every bit of performance you can out of your canopy. These skills form a solid flight knowledge base for you that will translate for flying this and all your future canopies.

3. One size only?

This canopy is too big for the container
This canopy is too big for the container

Most containers can be fit a main canopy range of 2 standard sizes. But, low-bulk canopy types can expand that range to a third size. If you really want to make sure you get at least one downsize out of your container, let the gear shop that you are buying your container from know that you want that ability with your container. A container can be ordered to fit the maximum of your current canopy size, for example a 190 standard ZP canopy, but then also fit a 170 standard ZP canopy when you’re ready to downsize. So that container would allow you a one-canopy downsize. Just make sure that the container does indeed fit the 190. You don’t want to order a container made for a 170 maximum size canopy and struggle to fit in a 190 for the next 600 jumps… you’ll kill yourself or your packer trying to make it fit, and tarnish your love of just having fun at the drop zone.

To possibly expand that range of 2 sizes, to 3, you could start of with a low-bulk main canopy of say a 210, which depending on the type/brand, could fit in a rig made for a 190 standard ZP canopy. So theoretically, you could then later downsize to a 190 and 170 in standard ZP canopies. Different brands, canopy types and low-bulk fabrics can mess with these numbers a bit, so this isn’t a hard fast rule, but this would be how you could expand that range. Talking with your gear shop and the container manufacturers can help sort out that range and canopy types before your container is made.

You’ll kill yourself or your packer trying to make it fit

“Buy for today not tomorrow”
Image: Domi Kiger by Roy Wimmer-Jaglom

4. Time for a change?

When you’ve come to the time that the canopy size you want to fly does not fit into your current container, it’s time to sell the container and buy a new one. And that process isn’t as daunting as it seems. There are usually plenty of skydivers looking for “used gear” in the 170, 190 and 210 canopy range so selling rigs of that size doesn’t usually take too much time and then you’re ready to buy your next rig.

Answered by Dive Doctor Mike Gruwell

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Meet: Mike Gruwell

Bio: FAA Master Rigger, Designated Parachute Rigger Examiner, AFF Instructor, Tandem Instructor, 4-way competitor, Canopy Piloting competitor, PRO Demo jumper, Videographer, Former Safety & Training Advisor, Former USPA Southeast Regional Director, Blue Skies Magazine writer, Old School Skater and ChutingStar CEO. 6213 Jumps Since '95. Skater Since '83.
Into: tunnel, canopy piloting, formation skydiving, freefly

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