Do Paragliders Wear Parachutes?

Do you know how to take care of your safety when you are paragliding? Do you know what pilots use in case they have an emergency? Paragliding can be dangerous sometimes and so we should be careful. However, do paragliders wear parachutes?

It sounds like a redundant question, but it still has sense, right?

Should they use a parachute when the paraglider has something wrong? In this post of Overfly we will cover everything that you need to know about whether do paragliders wear a parachute or not.

Do not miss anything; this post can really help you someday! And now that we are ready, let’s start!

Then, do paragliders wear parachutes?

And the answer is yes, paragliders do wear a parachute in case something wrong happens. You always must take care of your safety, don’t forget it! Because of this, all harnesses will have a reserve parachute connected to them just in case to prevent any aerial accident.

do i need parachute paragliding

If paragliders wear a parachute, they will have a bigger peace of mind and feel better when they are flying. It is nice to know that no matter what you do, you will have something to cover you if your paraglider fails.

Why do paragliders need a reserve parachute?

There are serveral reasons why paragliders wear parachutes, and you should keep them all in mind before, during and after your flights because we are sure that by now you have already encounter at least one of these situations.

To prevent them from bad weather conditions

It is true that a great paraglider will check the weather in advance their flight to know whether it is safe or not, but nature is still unpredictable and an unexpected strong wind can hit you and spoil your fun. Taking a reserve parachute will always be very handy in these type of situations.

Just in case of collision

Remember, you are not the only one in the sky! There are many other people or things you can find during your flight. If you take the chance and you collapse with someone else, then your harness, your wing, or any other part of your paraglider can get damaged and because of paragliders wear parachutes.

Failure of the equipment

No one is perfect, and not is your equipment. It can fail you someday. Even the most new and fine equipment can cause problems at any moment and a good paraglider should be prepared for that. Taking a reserve parachute with you will always make your feel safer.

Expert paragliders also make mistakes

Okay, so as we said before, no one is perfect! You can make mistakes and there will be a day where you will forget to do this very important thing and then your safety will be threatened. Carrying a reserve parachute is very useful because it will mend any horrible mistake that you might have made.

You will feel more confortable

Just like a like a little kid wearing stabilisers on their first bike, you will feel more at ease if you have something to back you up at a hard time. You will lose fear more easily and trying new tricks won’t be that difficult for you.

Most of the paragliders will wear parachutes, in fact, the experts pilots will always make sure that they count on a reserve on their paraglider. However, what different parachutes are? Which one is the best one? Do you have to buy a certain type of parachute?

Keep reading to know more about how to choose the best parachute for you!

Types of paragliding parachutes → which one is the best?

So, now you know that paragliders do wear parachutes and why do they use them, you must be wondering which reserve parachute is the best one and what types of parachutes are there. It all depends on the type of paragliding you do and the places where you go.

These are the different types of parachutes that paragliders carry.

Pulled – down Apex → for the most conservatives

This type of parachutes is the most common and the more used along the years. It is the one that paragliders usually uses and the more reliable one because it is simple and easy to use. People usually prefer it because is the traditional one and because of its price.

Cruciform → for more stability

Sometimes paragliders can wear a cruciform parachute, which help keeping the descent rate at the same pace and also offers more stability. Its package is more compact, but you won’t be able to take any control over the direction where you are heading.

Ram – air → if you love acroparagliding

This is specially made for acro paragliders who prefer strong emotions. Unlike the others, this parachute will allow you to land at the place you want thanks to its design.

Square – round

This type of reserve parachute can be perfect if you can invest some more money and if you are not sure about what you really need. It combines the best features of the Apex and the Cruciform parachutes with some more additions.

It will open quickly and will offer you a softer descent rate.

Learn more about paragliding with Overfly

parachute paraglider

Are you sure that you know now everything about paragliding? So yes, paragliders wear parachutes, we know what type of parachutes they can carry and why do they use them. But there are still many other things that you might like to know.

If you feel like this post wasn’t enough and that you would like to know more about paragliding, we recommend you visiting our blog or exploring our paragliding guide. There you will find all type of information regarding all types of matters.

Here you have some of our best posts:

And, do not forget! In Overfly we offer different types of tandem flights for anyone that is willing to know how clouds taste like. Take a look at our different offers and choose the one you like at best! And remember that you can call us if you have questions or you need more information about paragliding in Tenerife.

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Skydiving or paragliding? Parachute or paraglider?

parapente vs parachute

Although both sports use a fabric sail to glide through the air, they are very different in their history, their sensations and their ability to fly.

Skydiving vs Paragliding, what are the differences?

History of the skydiving and paragliding :

To begin with, the parachute is the oldest. Historical texts tell of attempts at parachute jumping as far back as 3000 BC. Since then, men have never stopped wanting to fly, like Leonardo da Vinci, and used the towers of the time to test their inventions during test jumps that were more or less conclusive but always spectacular!

parachute ancien

It was not until the late 1700s/early 1800s that the first modern operational parachutes with a basket appeared, but it was in the early 1900s that the harness parachute really came into being. Since then, parachutes have continued to be improved from a hemispherical shape to a directional wing shape, taking advantage of better sink rates, easier packing, safety triggers, sliders that delay the opening of the canopy, in short, everything that makes a modern sporting parachute.

Paragliding is simply a derivative of the conventional parachute. In the 1970s, parachutists were looking for a cheaper way to practice landing without flying. Jumping from a mountain was very economical. The wings became more and more controllable and above all their finesse improved rapidly to become real aircraft capable of exploiting thermals and staying in the air for many hours while covering hundreds of kilometres.

What are the differences between a parachute and a paraglider?

A parachute is primarily designed to jump from a plane or helicopter, reach a maximum freefall speed of about 200 km/h in normal conditions and then open to arrest the fall and land smoothly with an acceptable sink rate. The main canopy is folded in the harness bag and opens either manually by the skydiver or automatically via a safety system based on altitude or via a mechanical system as soon as the skydiver leaves the aircraft. Initially a small parachute called an extractor is deployed in the relative wind of the freefall and will cause the main canopy to open. To prevent the deceleration from being too violent, sliders are provided to dampen the opening of the parachute. In the event of a problem, a second parachute is provided and can be deployed after the first has been released.

In skydiving, this is called a parachute jump.

parachute militaire

parachute hemispherique

saut en parachute

parachute ouverture

In paragliding, the objective is to glide as long as possible. The surface area of the wing will therefore be much larger for increased lift. The glide ratio of the glider will also be much better with less friction in the air. The harness used for only a few minutes on a parachute is too uncomfortable for long flights and is replaced by an open or closed harness (cocoon) in which you sit. The piloting is done with a control in each hand. The take-off is made at the top of a mountain or on a dedicated area, or from any suitable terrain well oriented to the wind. Unlike parachuting, in paragliding you fly, not jump. It is common to leave the ground and fly away before reaching the end of the take-off zone. In terms of safety, there is a reserve parachute that can be deployed if necessary, as well as a shock-absorbing system under the harness in the event of a too energetic landing (airbag system or anti-shock foam). To land, simply get out of your harness, slow down your airspeed with a nice flare and run with your wing.

parapente décollage

Are both skydiving and paragliding equally sensitive to the weather?

Not quite! In both cases, it is forbidden to cross clouds but in freefall the thermals and the winds of altitudes are less constraining whereas in paragliding it is not possible to take off beyond 30-35 km/h of wind under penalty of taking off in reverse. Stable weather is ideal for a first flight which will then be gentler.


What are the differences in the sensations?

Here are two sports that could almost be confused and yet offer very different sensations. In skydiving, you fall in free fall and therefore almost in weightlessness. The fall lasts only a few seconds but the level of adrenalin explodes many meters!

In paragliding you have the impression of gliding through the air like a bird. From the contemplative discovery paragliding experience to the acrobatic flight that raises the G’s with every trick, paragliding has something for every taste and temperament. And the flight lasts much longer!

vol parapente

What about parasailing?

This is another discipline which is neither really skydiving nor paragliding, but rather a device derived from the traditional parachute and modified with specific air intakes in order to create an upward suction effect thanks to the relative wind. And for that, you just have to be towed by a boat or any other mobile device, even if it is still nicer to fall in the end in the water than in the brambles towed by a quad. But afterwards, each to his own, each to his own.

parachute ascensionnel

In conclusion, whether you are attracted by one or the other of these sports, you will inevitably find a skydiving
or paragliding school near you in order to make a first flight and why not to become autonomous afterwards!

Freedom Parapente
3 Chemin de la Chave – 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle
07 62 180 360

What is Paragliding?

What is paragliding? It’s one of the rawest and most pure forms of flight. It involves the use of a paraglider, where the pilot sits in a harness which is suspended by a large, curved fabric wing. There is no engine, pilots launch by running and obtaining lift. The curve in the wing enables a skilled pilot to glide over long distances and to climb to high altitudes. Steering is conducted by pulling handles which are located beside each shoulder.

Paragliding is one of the simplest forms of flight and easiest to get involved in. It’s a popular hobby for those who not only enjoy the skill and thrill of flight, but also enjoy the outdoors and the amazing overhead views obtainable.

However, like other forms of flight, paragliding takes time to learn and master. There are dangers involved and loss of control, sudden weather change, or mishandled equipment can result in death.

man launching a paraglider

What is the History of Paragliding?

Paragliding has a relatively short history, involving many people across the United States and France. Early versions of paragliding were derived from the preexisting parachute, which was round in shape, and designed to descent safely.

The earliest known paragliding was performed by the US military in their parachute landing training. Repeatedly flying soldiers back into the air to jump out of a plane was time consuming. It was less costly, less time consuming and enabled more jumps to be performed in the day if soldiers made their own way into the air through paragliding.

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The first recorded history dates back to 1952 where American Domina Jailbert successfully patented a gliding parachute with multi-cells and controls to enable lateral gliding. In 1963, Domina invented and patented the Parafoil. It’s ‘ram-air’ design contains many cells which collect air and once full, enable the pilot to take off. The shape had evolved from a round parachute to a rectangular, slightly curved wing.

Also in the 1960’s David Barish was working with NASA space capsules in the development of a sail wing as a recovery system to bring astronauts back to Earth. He created a rectangular shaped parachute. Barish took this idea to ski resorts throughout the United States, trying to get “slope soaring” to take off. At the time it was simply seen as a way to race down grassy ski slopes in the summer, skimming above the ground. There was no intention to leverage thermals or dynamic wind and glide high in the sky.

In 1961, French engineer Pierre Lemongine also made advancements to help enable the possibility of paragliding. He developed a parachute design which could be towed into the air and steered.

It wasn’t until 1978 when paragliding started to gain momentum. The defining moment was on June 25th, when two French skydivers Jean-Claud Betemps and Andre Bohn ran down the sleep mountain slope of Mont Pertuiset in France and launched into the air. Betemps and Bohn were training for the national skydiving championships in France and couldn’t afford to pay for fuel for a plane to take them up and down the mountains. At the time they were not aware of David Barish’s earlier work on the other side of the world, but asked scientists if their plans were possible, receiving a somewhat cautious “yes”.

Their paragliding was shown in the media, which encouraged others to try the sport and led to Betemps who was first to paraglide on the day, to become known as the inventor of paragliding.

From this moment on the popularity of paragliding steadily grew. In 1979 the first paragliding school was established, with Betemps as an instructor. The first paragliders become available for the public to buy in 1985. The wing fabric was stiffer than that of a parachute and the lines less elastic. This provided greater control and stability for the pilot.

What Components Make Up a Paraglider?

Paragliding Wing

The main part of the paraglider is called the wing. This looks similar to a parachute, however instead of being round, it’s rectangular in shape and curved. These wings have two layers of fabric, usually ripstop polyester or nylon, which are connected by cells. The curved shape of the wing and it’s cells enable it to collect and hold the wind on takeoff and in flight. This is known as the ram-air airfoil design. There are different types of paraglider wings to choose from, depending on the type of turbulence which may be expected, and the speed that the pilot desires.


The pilot sits in a harness that is suspended below the wing. These can vary from a basic harness setup which is little more than a series of straps, to something with significant protection, like a chair. These more advanced harnesses will hold a reserve parachute under the seat which can be quickly deployed by pulling a handle. These harnesses also provide benefits such as protection from cold air in high alpine altitudes, storage and foam or airbag protectors in the event of a failed takeoff or rough landing.

Reserve Parachute

Nowadays most paragliding pilots fly with a reserve. However this should only be used in when the pilot is completely sure they cannot regain control of the paraglider. Opening a reserve presents new risks such as not being able to control where you land, as well as candlesticking (where the main wing and parachute come into contact and twist into each other). In the possible event of candlesticking, many competitive pilots carry two reserves. As a paraglider it’s best to ensure that you have adequate training and can handle difficult conditions or avoid them completely, rather than fly through anything in the knowledge that you have a reserve.

Paraglider Tech (Variometer, GPS, Radio, Compass)

A variometer is important for measuring your vertical speed, as well as other variables such as relative altitude, actual altitude, air temperature and air speed. Most variometers can give you audio warning tones and record data from your flight which can be downloaded to your computer.

Some variometers also contain a GPS, otherwise pilots will use a separate GPS unit. GPS systems are very useful for paragliders as when your a mile above the ground, it’s harder to notice if changing weather conditions are causing you to slow down or drift backwards. Those who fly in high alpine conditions will carry a digital compass incase they fly through cloud, where GPS units are not effective.

Helmet for the Unexpected

Good paragliding helmets are made of kevlar for light weight and strength. Accidents can cause head trauma from any angle, therefore helmets contain full protection to the head. A large faceguard is particularly useful in the event that a launch does not go to plan.

Footwear Suitable for Landing

Believe it or not, the ankle is the most commonly injured part of the body in paragliding. For many people hiking boots will suffice, but regular advanced users will wear a specialist boot with high sides to protect the ankle from trauma. Paragliding boots are also designed not to have external lacing clips as these can snap on your lines.

Flying, controlling and Landing a Paraglider

Launching a Paraglider

There are three main forms of paraglider take off, the forward launch, reverse launch and a towed launch. The forward launch involved the pilots wing being spread out on the ground with the pilot running forward. This is done in an airstream, often on higher ground. Some pilots prefer this as they only have to run forward, and get the thrill of takeoff. However the disadvantage of this is that the wing is behind you, making it harder to check for correct inflation and no tangling of lines.

In strong winds, particularly at high altitudes, a pilot may choose a reverse launch. Little running from the pilot is required and the pilot can also watch the wing and lines as they leave the ground. However, skill is required to execute this launch successfully, requiring the pilot to hold the brakes, turn to the side and avoid tangling the lines.

A towed launch can involve the aid of a stationary object such as a winch, car or boat. This can make it easier to paraglide from flat ground with little wind.

Controlling the Paraglider

Pilots can increase speed by using the speed bar, which can be controlled using their feet. This is connected through the harness and decreases the wing’s angle of attack. Braking is controlled by two controls, one on each side of the pilot. These are used to adjust speed and a pilot can also use them to manipulate steering by shifting their body weight at the same time.

A skilled pilot can also use lines and risers to control the wing. This can be useful for speeding up the approach to a landing, slowing down if the brakes fail, or for retaining control in sudden changes of wind.

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For the most part, the pilot can let the paraglider glide itself. A common mistake by beginners is to spend too much time overcorrecting and braking.


It’s important that a paraglider landing is well planned and performed gradually. Hitting the brakes hard early in the landing often results in a harder landing and injury. Pilots are taught to resist a poor landing and take their time to land in ideal conditions where possible. Landing with the wind can assist in a smooth landing, landing without wind can require the pilot to exercise some skill and ‘flare’ at the end of the landing. This involves speeding up as you get close to the ground to flare the wing and reduce the chance of a hard impact. Once your close to the ground, legs are down, wing is flared, and your final checks tell you that the ground is safe to land on, you’re then ready to hit the brakes.

If a more rapid landing is necessary, an experienced pilot may be able to perform a spiral dive, b-line stall or big ears landing, depending on the conditions and space available.

What are the Types of Paragliding?

The are different forms of competitive paragliding, to suit those with different interests and abilities. Most fall into three main categories: cross-country flying, aerobic paragliding competitions, and hike and fly paragliding competitions.


Soaring is performed by using wind which is guided up by a large object like a mountain, cliff, ridge or large sand-dune. A constant and suitable level of wind is required to do this. If there’s not enough wind, the paraglider won’t make a clean takeoff. If there is too much wind, the paraglider can be blown back over the slope.

Thermal Flying

Thermal flying leverages the thermals which rise through the air from objects such as rocks which have been warmed in the sun. When pilots find a thermal, they will use a varioaltimeter or fly in a circle, to find the strongest part of the core of the thermal where the air is rising faster.

Cross-Country Flying

Cross-country paragliding involves gliding from one thermal to the next. Paragliders will glide towards land features which could generate thermals or look for cumulus clouds to fly under, as these are usually found at the top of a warm air thermal.

What Does Paragliding Feel Like?

Most people who have tried it will tell you that paragliding feels pretty amazing! Paragliding is flight in it’s rawest, simplest and most pure form. The limited structure and absence of walls and a floor enables you to feel at one with your surroundings. While it’s often lumped in the same category as extreme sports such as skydiving and bungee jumping, it’s actually much more relaxing and appeals to a wide variety of people. Paragliding is definitely not as scary!

If you’re scared of heights, you might still feel comfortable with paragliding. What scares most people about heights is being close to the edge, or jumping off (e.g. jumping off a platform when bungee jumping). Paragliding in this regards, is different. You gently take off and are lifted into the air. And if you’re a first-timer, you’ll probably start with tandem paragliding, where an experienced pilot will take control from takeoff to landing.

Who Does This and Where?

Paragliding has always been a popular pastime in the mountainous regions of Western Europe. There are a number of places in France such as Annecy, Chamonix, Plaine Joux and Dune of Pilat to name a few. Other popular places include Interlaken in Switzerland, Tyrol in Austria, Tuscany in Italy, Oludeniz in Turkey and Algodonales in the south of Spain. At these locations you’ll see experienced paraglider pilots as well as tourism operators offering short tandem paragliding adventures for first-timers.

Other popular paragliding locations around the world include:

However, there are many paragliding enthusiasts who have their own spots where they go to escape the crowds and not only enjoy the thrill of flight, but enjoy the serenity of peacefulness of nature too.

How to get into Paragliding?

It’s a good idea to go on a couple of tandem flights with someone experienced and see if paragliding is something you want to invest your time and money in. If you’re keen on learning to paraglide, most countries and popular paragliding locations have providers who offer training courses. In comparison to other forms of human flight such as skydiving, the barriers to entry are low. Some courses can be conducted in as little as 8 days, where you are then free to fly by yourself.

While we are not against these courses, in such a short timeframe you may not get much experience in the wide range of conditions could be encountered. It’s a good idea after your training to continue flying with some experienced paragliders. They can help recommend places to fly in your local area which are suitable for your ability.

Many countries have paragliding clubs and associations where you can meet experienced pilots who are willing to offer advice.

  • The USHPA in the United States in Australia
  • The British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association in the United Kingdom

It’s also a good idea to brush up on your meteorology knowledge. Learn about different clouds and their effects on thermals.


In most countries paragliding is considered a ‘self regulated sport’ with no licence required for solo flying. However, some clubs and associations may ask to see some form of certification stating that you have undertaken training before you can join.

You are also required to abide by the laws in your country regarding restricted airspaces such as flight paths, airports and military bases. Pilots should also avoid flying too low over buildings and roads.

How to Purchase a Paraglider

If your careful what you’re buying, there’s nothing wrong with buying a used paragliding wing, lines and harness, and navigational equipment. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to bring an experienced friend to view the equipment and check the wing, lines and harness for damage, or buy from someone reputable at your local association.

Two components which are worth purchasing brand new are the reserve parachute and the helmet. You’re life may depend on these at some point, it’s not worth purchasing damaged equipment to save a few dollars.

Paragliding wings are segmented into various EN ratings which act as a guide to help you purchase a paraglider which is suitable for your ability and type of flying you wish to perform. Those new to paragliding will start at the ‘first wings’ class (EN A rating) which are easier to manoeuvre and keep stable. The next level up from this is the ‘progression class which usually gets an EN B rating.

After this there are classes which offer high performance in certain characteristics such as:




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