PD OptimumThis is the last of my write ups for your parachute system, and is focused on that parachute most of us will never pack for ourselves, our reserve canopy.

Expect to spend between $1,400 to $1,750 for a new reserve… more on used prices below. Your reserve is fundamentally different from your main canopy. Regardless of what you fly for your main, your reserve is a seven cell ram air canopy. It’s designed to open quickly and has more docile flight characteristics than your main canopy. This canopy can only be packed by an FAA Senior or Master rigger. After 180 days, if it has not been deployed, your reserve will need to be repacked by a rigger, giving him or her a chance to verify its airworthiness.

What comes with your reserve? Whether you buy new or used, you’ll get the reserve canopy, its slider, and links to attach it to your risers. I prefer soft links to hard links, as do most riggers I talk to. If you’re buying used, I would go ahead and buy a new set of links rather than reinstall links that have been previously used. A new set should cost under $40.

Age Considerations

Both Icarus and Performance Designs require an inspection after 40 pack jobs. This inspection is to ensure the canopy remains airworthy, at which time they will either tell you it cannot continue to be flown or they will give the canopy an extra lease on life, and you’ll be able to continue to trust it to save your life.

I’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t buy a reserve canopy that’s old enough to vote. I have mixed opinions about that. An 18 year old reserve that has only been packed 30 times should be good for ten more pack jobs. If my rigger inspected that reserve canopy and told me it was airworthy, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump with that reserve. I absolutely trust my rigger and have zero doubt that if he believes it’s airworthy, it will save my life. If he has a concern, he’ll say so, and we’d send the wing to the manufacturer for further tests. Would it be worth doing that for an 18 year old reserve? Probably not. But if it’s been in a closet staying out of the light, he’d probably say it’s okay to jump.

I’ve heard it said many times that you shouldn’t buy a reserve with more than 5 or 10 pack jobs. I don’t understand that logic; my opinion is that if the reserve canopy is safe for the current owner, it’s safe for me, too.

Pack Volume and Reserve Canopy Sizes

Most canopy manufacturers offer a lower pack volume version of a reserve canopy. Performance Designs offers their PDR (standard volume) and the Optimum (shown here, lower pack volume). Icarus’ low pack volume offering is the Nano. In any case, consult the sizing chart of your container to determine what size reserve will fit in your container.

Personally, I like a reserve that’s at least as big as my main canopy, and that lead to me purchasing an Optimum. As of this writing, I fly a Sabre2 170 in a Vector V348. That rig will not hold a PDR 176, so I spent a little more money on the lower volume Optimum. Depending on the size of your container, this type of trade-off may or may not be required.

How do you price a used reserve? One easy method is to use the pricing tool at Xcelskydiving.com… but I find its prices to be a little bit inflated. I prefer to consider the starting price of the reserve canopy, and depreciate it by 2.5% for every time it’s been packed. My Optimum has been packed three times, and cost $1,750 new. $1,750 x 92.5% = $1,618.75, which would consider a fair price. 

Other Reserve Canopy Resources

Parachutist’s Ask a Rigger column: Choosing and Purchasing a Reserve

Parachutist’s Ask a Rigger column: Reserves, Part 2: Knowing Your Gear



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