Your RESERVE – 7 Things you Should Know…

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Seven Things you should know… about your RESERVE

Do YOU know the answers to these questions?…

  1. What make, model and size is your reserve?
  2. How many cells does it have?
  3. What colour is it – and the reserve pilot chute?
  4. How do you release the brakes?
  5. How does it fly and land?
  6. Does it have an RSL, a MARD, or neither?
  7. What type is your AAD, what mode and what activation altitude?
Flying the PD Optimum reserve

Know your Gear

Though we pack and see our main canopy every jump, for many the reserve is kind of a secret. You give it to your rigger to pack and you may never have even seen it. Knowing your gear inside-out is one of the golden rules to be a safer skydiver, this helps you make the right decisions QUICKLY in an emergency because you understand what’s going on.

Let’s look in more detail…

1, Make, model and size?

For example, PD Optimum 126. As a rule of thumb, a reserve canopy is likely to be a similar size to the main, or slightly larger. But never assume, especially if it’s a borrowed or rental rig.

True story: A jumper was using club gear with a 150 sqft main. She had just downsized from a 170. She had a malfunction, cut away and found herself under a 120 sqft reserve, having to make an out-landing into a hazardous area.  She landed safely but would never have jumped the gear had she known the reserve was so small.

2, How many cells?

The answer is most probably seven. As such be aware it will fly and land differently to the 9-cell main you are most likely used to.

True story: A jumper using borrowed gear in an exotic location found himself under a 5-cell reserve. They are still out there! And they do not land well. There are even some rigs with round reserves, so always check.

3, What colour is it, and the pilot chute?

Knowing these colours will help you quickly analyze a situation.  For example, if you are in an entanglement and see red nylon, it helps to know if this is likely to be your reserve, its pilot chute or from another jumper’s equipment.

PD Reserve jumping
A skydiver test-jumping her reserve, rigged as a main in her container
Don’t assume your reserve is white – it may not be

4, How do you release the brakes?

You don’t want to be struggling to release the steering toggles on your reserve when your priority is to steer to a safe area and land without injury. Make sure you know how to operate yours.

True story: A very experienced jumper had an uneventful cutaway but was unable to release her reserve toggles, she had never seen that type. She landed successfully on back risers but toggles would have been safer.

5, How does it fly and land?

Your reserve will fly and land differently to your main so it’s wise and smart to demo your reserve. Keep an eye out for occasions to jump your reserve canopy (eg PD’s Demo tour). Performance Designs will ship a demo PD reserve to US or Europe if you would like to try it (replacing your main in your own rig). Test-jumping any reserve will get you accustomed to flying a 7-cell but there is no substitute for test jumping YOUR reserve to really prepare you for that emergency situation.

PD’s Reserve Backyard Challenge – land your reserve among hazards

6, Does it have an RSL, a MARD, or neither?

If you are in a collision or 2-canopies out situation and wish to cut away your main, it’s good to know if this is likely to initiate reserve deployment sequence. If altitude permits you may (or may not) wish to disconnect the RSL/MARD.

7, Your AAD

Do you have an AAD, is it in the correct mode and what is its activation altitude? Some AADs have different modes, eg, Student, Tandem, Pro, etc. To avoid a 2-canopies out situation it’s important to know the activation altitude and check you are in the correct mode, especially for canopy pilots and wingsuiters. True story: A highly experienced jumper made his normal left 450 turn for landing, his AAD fired because it was set to ‘Expert’ and not ‘Speed’, resulting in very serious injuries.


Knowing your gear inside-out can be the key to staying alive. If what’s in your reserve tray is a bit of a mystery, take ownership, get acquainted with your life-saver. You’ll be a better, safer skydiver as a result.

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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