Tips for Skydiving in Cold Weather

Tips for Skydiving in Cold Weather

Published: June 30, 2013

Ahhhh - the chill is in the air.....back to school, crisp mornings, the early sunsets.....that's right. It's that time of year again.

While it can be comforting to not be sweating all day, when we are not jumping - the weather is perfect. A nice warm sweater does the trick.

But how cold is it at altitude for your first tandem skydive jump you ask??? VERY COLD. At least to me anyway. But then again I am a wus. Typically the air gets cooler by about 1 C (about 9/5 Fahrenheit) for every 500 feet increase in altitude

Assuming a sea level temperature of (72°F):

- at a typical jump height of 4,000m (about 13,000-ft) it will be -2°C (28°F)

- at a typical height when the parachute is opened of 1,500m (about 5000-ft) it will be 13°C (55°F).

So now that the temperatures are lowering to the 40's, 50's and 60's right now - do the math - it's COLD.

This leads to some things to consider now that the weather is changing.....how to stay warm at altitude.

One must bear in mind that you can add layer upon layer either under a jumpsuit or to regular clothing, however, several things to think about:

· If layering up under a jumpsuit - make certain that your mobility is not affected. Do several practice touches with your layers, jumpsuit and rig on. Can you feel your pilot chute? Can you mimic throwing the pilot chute out? Are you able to reach your handles comfortably? Some clothing stores sell "cold gear" nylon clothing that are quite warm and fit comfortably under jumpsuits. That may be more comfortable that wearing so many layers that you look more like Randy from "A Christmas Story" as opposed to being able to move, fly, arch, reach and pull.

· If wearing regular clothes (sweaters, etc.) - be mindful of hooded sweatshirts. You do not want your hood to get caught up in lines as they are deploying. Also, with sweaters, etc., - be mindful that they get tucked into your leg straps and are not flying up over your handles in freefall. Your handles need to be easy to reach at all times and you do not want clothing covering them up in the event they are needed. Also, with bulk clothing - be certain that you can reach/feel/grab handles at all times.

· Next is gloves - ahhhhhh - gloves. They are always a concern. A jumper just had a cutaway recently for wearing gloves for the first time and he had difficulty feeling/finding his pilot chute with them on. The result was a reserve handle pull at his hard deck (which was the correct procedure by the way - so kudos to him for reacting accordingly) however, it raises awareness of the issues that can occur when wearing gloves.

o First - the obvious. If we wear bulky gloves - finding/feeling your pilot chute can be tough

§ If we wear bulky gloves - finding/feeling your handles can be difficult

§ If we wear bulky gloves - grabbing our toggles can be difficult

· Example - a toggle getting stuck in the eyelet will be extremely difficult to wiggle out when wearing gloves (trust me.....I know)

o Second - what kind of gloves to wear. There are all different types of gloves, however, the overall goal is to have mobility AND be warm. Anyone who has ever jumped without gloves can tell you how painful that can be. Your hands will be so cold that they will literally feel like they are on fire - burning badly. Imagine now trying to grab toggles or heaven forbid, cutaway handles, when you can barely feel your hands? Not a fun time to have limited mobility with your hands. Some people say they do not like gloves, and I totally agree, I do as well, however, as the weather is getting colder - practice jumping without them until you cannot any longer. When the time comes - many jumpers opt to take the winter off or head to warmer climates to jump.....but if you wish to continue jumping and must jump in the cold - gloves are something to consider.

o Gloves part II - one trick I've learned over the years (and I will say your welcome now in advance) is to wear surgical gloves under a pair of thin gloves. The trick to this is - put them on when you first get into the plane and do not take them off until after you land. Your hands will sweat while on the plane and in freefall- that is ok. Better to be sweaty than to be so cold you can barely stand it. What I do, when I land - I take the gloves off and invert the surgical gloves so they dry out. I keep inverting them after every jump - if you put them on wet it will not be affective. You can buy a box of these gloves at your local pharmacy store relatively cheap. I've heard people say "the sweat will freeze in freefall" - that is not true. These gloves under gloves will be so helpful. Also - the reason for putting them on when you first get in the plane is that if you wait until you are ready to exit - your hands will have gotten cold in the plane and now the gloves are holding in the cold. Better to put them on "before" going up while they are warmer so they can stay warm.

This time of the year is always bitter sweet. Our desire to jump never stops, but the desire to jump in the cold taunts us. If you follow some of the above advice - it can help make the experience a bit more pleasant. For some brave souls - the cold never phases them at all. If you are like me and are not a cold-blooded creature, the above will help you jump all winter long with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart, body and gloves

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