What’s in Amy Chmelecki’s Gear Bag?
According to Amy Chemelecki, what’s in a skydiving gear bag is the product of nothing less than Darwinian evolutionary theory…and she’s damn well right.
“Gear is evolving with the sport,” Amy begins, “because it has to evolve with the sport. This sport is constantly changing. The way people fly their bodies has become much more aggressive and dynamic. The manufacturers have two choices: either keep up with it, or start to lose business. But in general the gear is evolving. The gear has got to keep up to speed, and for the most part it has been.”
Amy, thanks to decades honing her craft at the very pointiest end of the sport, sits in the very enviable, very well-earned position of having the absolute pick of the litter when it comes to that “evolved” gear. If you’re curious about what a superstar chooses when that superstar can have anything she wants, you came to the right place: Here’s the what and the why of it all…
Container: The Curv
“The Curv is the best solution I’ve found to the problems that I’ve had in the past, especially with the type of flying I’m currently doing. There are so many things that I honestly love about this rig,” Amy waxes ecstatic. “The yolk is designed with this cross-section in the back, and it keeps the rig on my shoulders really nicely. It allows me to have a breathing system. The articulated harness makes the rig fit me really well, especially for a curvy person like myself. It really does the trick.”
“The Curv’s design also stays tight on my shoulders when I’m at a steep belly angle,” she adds. “None of that ‘go off on one shoulder’ stuff. I’ve never found that in another rig, and it has always been a problem for me.”
“Also, my husband really loves packing [the reserve],” she laughs. “He is, like, totally stoked. And that makes me happy.”
Helmet: Cookie G3
“I love my Cookie,” Amy says. “I like the shape of it, the weight of it, the flip-up visor–and I love the company. Jason Cook is just an all-around great guy.”
“They have a new helmet coming out soon in August, the G4,” she adds, “And I’m really excited to see how it flies. The G3 has been the gold standard for so long, and there’s a lot of excitement about what’s next.”
Suit: Boogie Man
“Boogie Man suits are, hands-down, great, for lots of reasons,” Amy smiles. “They have this measuring system that’s different from everyone else’s, and it makes a huge difference. Instead of taking a bunch of measurements that you may or may not get right, they have these mock suits you put on. The fitter pins it in places and makes notes. It is a bit different, but it gets the fit so precise, and you can see right away if you need to adjust it.”
“I like how much they bring to the table,” Amy says. “They have been around for a really long time. They have saved a lot of people. It gives me serious confidence knowing I have all that experience on my back.”
Canopy: NZ Aerosports
Amy jumps the Leia, and she couldn’t be happier about it. “The Leia is phenomenal,” she gushes. “It is such a joy to fly. It has power on every level and delivers a solid finish every time. You never have this awkward run-out unless it you’re totally downwind.”
“I also like NZ,” she adds, “because they have that technology where they’re able to print on the canopies instead of sewing logos on. The printing for the Red Bull canopies came out beautiful. I’m so proud to fly that Leia.”
Altimeter: Larsen & Brusgaard
“I’m so lucky to represent L&B,” Amy says. “Great products and great customer service.”
Now that jet-setting Amy has status with the airlines, luggage is a slightly easier battle than it used to be. That said, carting gear around the globe remains a battle in which the proper equipment determines the outcome.
“[Ogio bags] are lightweight and they are sturdy,” Amy says. “I put one rig in each bag.”
The “to check or not to check” debate still rages hotly at dropzone bars around the world; for her part, Amy self-identifies as a checker.
“I check my rigs all the time,” she says. “I used to carry them on–when I was paying for checked bags, or when I was traveling for competitions–but now I check everything. Sometimes I have to get thrifty if I’m traveling a weird airline that charges for bags, or If I’m going somewhere that feels a bit questionable on the arrival side.”
Not that it always goes perfectly… “Delta lost my bag once, in Croatia,” she moans. “ They lost my Curv! They didn’t even know where the gear was for days. In the meantime, I had to jump used gear, which was unbelievably uncomfortable.”
“Then when I get my gear back at the end of the week,” she continues, wincing, “It was soaking wet. It turns out that it had been left out in the rain the whole time. Everything was able to be salvaged on the rig except for one thing: the bridle of the reserve, because that’s made of cotton, so it got moldy. Delta paid for it, but it was still awful.”
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No Problem, buy Second Hand…
If you’re not in the same position of ultimate choice as Amy, don’t worry. Brand-new gear isn’t a great choice yet, anyway.
“When you’re a new skydiver,” she says, “it’s a good idea to buy used equipment so you can see why people love the gear they love, and what fits your unique body. You won’t know what your flying style is–and you don’t know how gear fits you–until you have worn a couple of things that don’t quite work.”
“And you go grow out of it quickly,” she grins. “No one is going to buy a brand new car for their first car unless you are totally rich. There’s a good used market for beginners! Just hop on that train for a while and figure out what you like.”
Don’t worry! Work hard and. before you know it, you’ll be taking that “beginner train” straight up badass mountain–and athletes like Amy will be waiting up there to mentor you.