Paragliding vs. Hang Gliding – Key Differences & Which One to Choose

paragliding vs hang gliding

There are two types of gliding – paragliding and hang gliding. If you are familiar with the two, you’ll like that they are similar. Yet, differences exist between the two. There seems to be a never-ending argument about which is better than the other. On social media, on forums, amongst friends and family, the debate continues.

If you are looking to get into paragliding or hang gliding and don’t know which to choose or are just curious about the sports in general, you’ve come to the right place. This article focuses on paragliding vs hang gliding. Which one is better? Which one do you prefer? I’ll leave that for you to answer after you know the most important details about the two sports.

Contents

Paragliding - Mountains

What is Paragliding?

Paragliding is one of the rawest and purest forms of flight. In paragliding, the participant (pilot) uses a paraglider and sits in a harness that is suspended by a large, curved fabric wing. There is no engine involved in paragliding and pilots launch their paragliders by running and obtaining lift.

The curved shape of the wing is skillfully exploited by pilots to gain height, often reaching altitudes of a few thousand meters. The pilot is also able to glide over long distances and the glider is steered by pulling handles put beside each shoulder.

One of the main attractions of paragliding is the skill and thrill of flight, the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, the amazing aerial view, and the ease of getting into the sport.

hang gliding

What is Hang Gliding?

Hang gliding involves flying in a lightweight unpowered aircraft called a hang glider which is essentially a huge wing made of light, tough fabric over a simple and strong frame. The frames are usually made of aluminum or composite. And the pilot hangs below the hang glider in a harness or body bag.

Takeoff is achieved by the pilot running downhill (usually from a cliff or hill) and launching into the air and the glider soars on air currents. Steering is done by the pilot shifting his or her position. Hang gliding promises loads of fun and it’s common to see pilots covering long distances over many hours.

Paragliding vs Hang Gliding – The key Differences

Paragliding and hang gliding have some similarities. Both use unpowered/motor-free equipment and require wind and air to fly. But there are a number of key differences between the two which will be discussed below.

Equipment Used – Paraglider vs. Hang Glider

The most obvious difference between paragliding and hang gliding is the equipment used. Paragliders have a rounder shape resembling a parachute, though it’s stronger than a parachute. There are no rigid structures and the ellipse-shaped wing is made of two layers of fabric – the upper and lower layer.

On the other hand, a hang glider is a stiff structure made of heavy fabric over a metal airframe. Hang gliders have a distinctive triangular shape which offers improved aerodynamics and greater speed.

There’s also a significant difference in the size and weight of a paraglider and hang glider. A paraglider is lighter and easily transportable as it can fit into backpacks. A hang glider isn’t as portable or easily transportable due to the rigid metallic structure. You’ll need a roof rack on a vehicle to transport a hang glider.

Pilot’s Position

Paragliding and hang gliding both require air currents to achieve heights to increase the duration of the flight. And the differences in the equipment used for both sports mean the approaches of the pilots are also different. The main difference in the operation of a paraglider and hang glider is the posture of the pilot.

In hang gliding, the pilot is in a fully horizontal position, similar to how the man of steel (Superman) would soar through the air. Hang gliding pilots have to shift their body weights to change direction.

In paragliding, the pilot sits in a chair-like harness which is more convenient for most people. The wing and the harness are also joined by suspension lines with brakes attached at the pilot’s shoulders to make steering the paraglider easier.

Complexity of Flight

Paragliding is easier to learn and less physically demanding. A few lessons over 10 to 15 days and you are ready to fly a paraglider. Hang gliding, on the other hand, is more complex and required more lessons and time to learn. Using a hang glider is also more physically demanding as the pilot will utilize his/her body weight to steer the glider.

paragliding-hang-gliding

Speed

Hang gliders and paragliders have similar minimum speeds which are about 25km/h or 15mph. However, the triangular shape of a hang glider offers improved aerodynamics and greater speed.

Hang gliders can reach a maximum speed of 150km/h compared to the maximum speed of a paraglider which is 75km/h. People after a more relaxing and enjoyable flight prefer paragliding while the action, adventure, and adrenaline junkies love hang gliding.

Safety

Paragliding and hang gliding are both safe and accidents rarely occur. But if We had to choose which one of them is the safer sport, it’ll have to be hang gliding. Yes, paragliding may seem to be the safer sport due to lower speed and the larger wing. However, paragliders are more susceptible to wind and weather conditions.

And this means the pilots are more likely to spin out of control although this rarely happens. Paraglider pilots are also more susceptible to knee and ankle injuries when landing as pilots often land on their feet. Proper training will teach you how to land safely after a flight.

The rigid structure and additional weight of a hang glider makes the kite less susceptible to wind and weather conditions. And this makes the sport safer than paragliding although a hang glider pilot needs to receive proper training.

hang gliding takeoff

Differences in Takeoff Styles

There are two takeoff styles in paragliding and this involves the pilot moving forward as much as possible or moving backwards. The backward takeoff style is considered easier. For hang gliding, there are several takeoff styles and techniques which can involve foot-launching from a cliff, hill, dune, or mountain. Hang gliders can also be pulled up by aircraft, trucks, and so on.

Cost of Equipment

The cost of paragliders and hang gliders are similar although hang gliders cost a bit more than paragliders. New paragliding kits can cost anywhere between 4000-8000 USD while the maximum price of a hang glider can be closer to the 9000 USD mark. Hang gliders also last longer than paragliders which you have to replace after a few years.

If you aren’t going to go gliding regularly, you can opt to rent the equipment. Hang gliding kite activity may cost from $60 to $300 while paragliding may cost between $45 and $330.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, paragliding isn’t necessarily better than hang gliding and vice versa. It’s simply a matter of personal preference. If you want a type of gliding with an easier learning curve and an opportunity for a relaxing and enjoyable flight, then you should go for paragliding. On the other hand, if you are a thrill seeker and want something more adventurous, then hang gliding should be your jam.

Is Hang Gliding Or Paragliding Safer?

Is Hang Gliding Or Paragliding Safer? | Flight Notch

Neither hang gliding or paragliding are typically thought of when you imagine a safe activity, but they sure are fun! Which one is safer?

Trust me, I get it. Worrying about how safe something like hang gliding or paragliding is can be one of the biggest holdups and hurdles stopping you from getting into these exciting sports. But the truth is, these activities might be much safer than you think. To most people, they might seem inherently dangerous, but that’s not necessarily the case. But is one safer than the other?

Hang gliding and paragliding are both extreme aerial sports that involve free-flying through the skies, and both can be dangerous if done improperly. According to USHPA, there are roughly 3.5 hang gliding deaths per year and 5.9 paragliding deaths per year.

When it comes to the question of which sport is safer – hang gliding or paragliding – both activities involve a certain amount of risk, but how much depends on the individual and their level of experience. In this article, we will take a look at both sports and discuss the risks involved in each. We’ll also offer advice on how to stay safe while participating in these activities, and review the number of accidents and fatalities that have occurred in each sport.

At Flight Notch, our main focus is providing you with the best, most helpful gliding content that you’ll find anywhere on the web. Especially when it comes to any topic related to safety, only the most accurate information will suffice. To ensure this, we extensively researched this topic to find statistics, consulted with other experts and enthusiasts, and used our own knowledge to really outline which sport is safer.

Table of contents

‍ What Is Hang Gliding?

Hang gliding is an aerial sport or recreational activity in which a person hangs beneath a specially designed winged frame and pilots it by shifting their weight in order to control flight. This winged frame acts like a huge kite, or similar to the way that the airfoil (think wing) of an airplane acts.

Due to its shape, air moves across the top of the wing faster than the bottom, creating higher pressure underneath the glider. This difference in pressure creates lift, which keeps the hang glider flying. The amount of lift generated depends on several factors: how fast the wind is blowing, how large and smooth the surface below the hang glider is, how steep the angle of attack is, and more.

We have other articles on the site that dive into the details about how hang gliders work, but that should give you an idea!

What Is Paragliding?

Paragliding is a recreational and competitive extreme sport that involves flying — you guessed it — paragliders! These lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched aircraft are somewhat similar to hang gliders except that they have no rigid primary structure. Instead of a kite-like wing, a paraglider is just a fabric airfoil that’s more similar to a narrow section of parachute.

The pilot sits in a harness (or lays horizontally like in a hang glider) suspended below a fabric wing composed of a large number of interconnected baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over it. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height and fly for long periods of time, just like with hang gliding.

Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between them is that a hang glider has a rigid frame, while a paraglider does not. Hang gliders are also heavier than paragliders and require more wind to get them into the air, which means paragliders can often be used on days and in conditions that are not conducive for hang gliding.

Additionally, hang gliders are more aerodynamic than paragliders, which means that they can travel faster and farther. Of course, this is not a one-size-fits-all comparison. Performance-oriented paragliders or pilots with more experience can still out fly many inexperienced hang gliders out there.

But let’s be honest here, these sports are not in competition just to see who can fly faster or farther. They’re both absolutely amazing sports that let you experience things that nothing else on this planet offers.

Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: Which Is Safer?

Now that you know a bit about what each sport is and how they differ from each other on a macro scale, let’s take a look at the risks associated with it.

What Are The Risks Of Hang Gliding?

Even though it’s typically considered a relatively safe sport, there are some risks that you need to be aware of when you hang gliding. These include:

  • Losing focus and making poor decisions: If you lose focus while hang gliding, you can make a bad decision such as turning too quickly, flying too low, or worse. Remain vigilant at all times.
  • Collision with other gliders or aircraft: One of the biggest dangers when is colliding with other aircraft. This can occur either on takeoff or landing, or while in flight.
  • Poor weather conditions: Flying in poor weather conditions can increase the risk of accidents and fatalities. Winds can gust unexpectedly, which can throw you off balance or cause you to lose control of your glider. Fog and low clouds can also make it difficult to see obstacles and other aircrafts.
  • Landing mistakes: A bad landing can result in serious injury or death. If you land too fast, you could hit the ground at a much higher speed than you intended.
  • Equipment failure: Hang gliders are susceptible to equipment failure, which can result in a crash landing.

Hopefully these risks haven’t turned you away from giving hang gliding a shot just yet. There are plenty of ways to lower the chances of anything bad happening while you fly.

How to Avoid The Risks Associated With Hang Gliding

To reduce the risk of accidents while hang gliding, you should always follow the safety guidelines set out by your instructor and everything you learned during your lessons. In addition, you should:

  • Always fly with a buddy: Never attempt to fly on your own – only do so when accompanied by another experienced pilot.
  • Check the weather conditions before flying: Make sure that the weather is suitable for flying before taking off. Do not fly in poor weather conditions.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and gear: Make sure you are wearing clothing and gear that is appropriate for the weather conditions, as well as something that can hold up in an emergency landing. Never fly in shorts or sandals.
  • Stay alert at all times: Always be aware of your surroundings and the aircrafts around you. Do not become distracted while flying.

Most of these might seem like the basics of hang gliding, and that’s because they are! As long as you follow these simple tips, you lower your chance of anything bad happening greatly.

What Are The Risks Of Paragliding?

Paragliding might seem like this incredibly dangerous activity, but, like hang gliding, it’s actually pretty safe. That said, there are still some inherent risks to paragliding to be aware of. And, to be completely honest, the risks are almost the exact same as those associated with hang gliding since the sports are so similar to one another!

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That said, paragliders also have an additional risk, and that’s of the wing itself getting tangled up in one way or another. A strong gust of wind, or perhaps something like a bird could fly right into it. And since it’s a loose fabric wing, it can easily get tangled up on itself. If this happens, you lose all lift and start heading to the ground.

How Can You Avoid These Risks?

Since most of the risks of paragliding are similar to those associated with hang gliding, I won’t bore you by repeating the exact same things again. However, we can briefly discuss the one major additional risk of paragliding that I mentioned above.

If something happens to your wing while paragliding, the number one thing is to not panic. More often than not, you can use the guide cables to wriggle the wing of the paraglider enough to untangle it or to dislodge whatever is stuck in it. Then as soon as the air hits it, the wing will immediately spread back out and generate lift again on its own.

That said, this is why it’s so important to have the right equipment each time you go gliding, especially a knife and a parachute. In extreme circumstances, having a knife is essential for cutting yourself free from the tangled up fabric and then you can pull your parachute to safely come back down to the ground.

How Many Gliding Deaths Are There?

While comparing the safety of different sports can often be difficult, if not impossible, we got lucky with this one. Both of these sports can be compared easily since they’re both overseen by the same organization, the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Associated (USHPA).

Every year, USHPA publishes annual fatality records for all recorded deaths in each sport among its members. USHPA members can be used to represent the entire population of people that participate in these sports since most hang gliding sites in the US require an USHPA rating for you to be able to fly. So let’s dive into those reports and see which sport is safer.

Based on the annual fatality reports , there is an average of 3.5 fatalities per year while hang gliding. Based on data from the same reports, there is an average of 5.9 hang gliding deaths per year. With those two numbers alone, it would seem that there’s a stark difference between the two sports, but that’s not the entire picture.

You also have to take into account how many hang gliding pilots there are and how many paragliding pilots there are. According to the organization, the number of hang gliding members fluctuates between 3,000 and 4,000; for paragliding members, it’s 4,000 to 5,000.

So there are more paragliders out there, and if we assume that the average paraglider pilot goes on as many flights as the average hang gliding pilot, then there should be a bit more paragliding accidents. All taken into account, there is roughly 1 fatality in every 1,000 hang gliding pilots and 1 fatality in every 760 paragliding pilots.

Is Paragliding Safer Than Hang Gliding?

There is no definitive answer when it comes to which sport is safer since it depends on your own definition of safe vs dangerous. Both sports have their own risks, and there are ways to minimize those risks and stay safe while participating in either activity.

However, purely looking at the fatality numbers, it seems that hang gliding may be a bit safer than paragliding. There are fewer fatalities each year associated with hang gliding accidents compared to paragliding accidents, but this difference alone probably shouldn’t be the driving factor behind your decision to choose one sport over the other.

So, if you’re trying to decide between the two sports, it might be wise to go with hang gliding if you just want the statistically safer option. But remember that both activities can be dangerous if not done properly. Heck, I recommend trying out both sports and seeing which one you enjoy more!

About THE AUTHOR

Tom Savage

I’m Tom Savage, and I love hang gliding. It’s a passion of mine that I’ve been pursuing for years. I’m always looking for new opportunities to fly, and I love sharing my experiences with others.

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Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding

Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding | Flight Notch

Although often mistaken for one another, hang gliding vs paragliding are two totally different sports. Let’s compare them and see which is better.

If you want to take to the skies and glide around to your heart’s content, then hang gliding and paragliding are two of the best options you have. Sure, you could always go skydiving, but that’s not really the same thing! Gliding is meant to be much more relaxing than free falling and pulling your parachute. So if gliding sounds more up your alley, then this is the hang gliding vs paragliding guide for you.

Hang gliding and paragliding are two of the more relaxing extreme air sports that are similar, but not quite the same. The biggest differences are that hang gliding uses a rigid frame, paragliding can fly with less wind, paragliding is a bit more dangerous, and hang gliding costs a little more.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, then you may be wondering whether hang gliding or paragliding is the better choice. Both of these sports can give you an amazing experience, but they are quite different from each other. In this article, we will compare and contrast these two sports so that you can decide which one is right for you!

When you visit Flight Notch, we want you to find nothing but the most helpful content that you’ve been able to find on any given gliding & diving topic. We’re confident in this because we’re just like you! We’ve been through it all and have had the same questions, so we understand what you’re looking for and aim to provide you with the information you really want.

Table of contents

‍ Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: A Complete Guide

Hang gliding and paragliding often end up getting confused with one another, but they’re actually very different sports that use entirely different types of aircraft. Just because they’re both gliding sports, doesn’t mean that they’re exactly the same thing!

Hang gliding is a sport where the pilot is wrapped in a harness and suspended from the bottom of a big fabric wing that’s wrapped around a rigid frame, with the pilot lying prone like Superman. By running down a hill and generating lift or being launched via aerotowing, the big wing generates lift and keeps the hang glider (and pilot) afloat using air movement, wing, and thermal updrafts.

Paragliding, on the other hand, does not have a rigid frame. Instead, the aircraft consists of a loose section of fabric that’s connected to the pilot through guide cables and ropes. It’s similar to a narrow section of a parachute, but the design enables the pilot to generate lift rather than simply allow them to slowly descend towards the Earth.

As far as extreme air sports go, hang gliding and paragliding are both considered to be on the more relaxing end of the spectrum. This is opposed to the insane adrenaline-inducing end of the spectrum where you’ll find things like BASE jumping and wingsuit diving. Both of these gliding sports are more focused on soaring through the air like a bird and taking in the incredible views that this beautiful planet has to offer.

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Now that you have a bit better of an idea of what each of these sports are, let’s compare them side-by-side and try to determine which one is right for you.

Safety & Risks

While both of these sports offer exhilarating experiences and are both something that you should absolutely experience during your lifetime, they are not without risk. Some risks are worse than others, and in catastrophic events, some of these risks can even lead to death.

So it’s important that you understand the risks associated with both hang gliding and paragliding before you decide which one to do. The main risks associated with hang gliding include:

  • Collisions with other aircraft or obstacles in the air
  • Losing control of the glider and crashing into the ground
  • Getting lost while flying
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Equipment failure

Due to how similar the two sports are, with the biggest difference really being the design of the aircraft, the risks for paragliding are similar to those associated with hang gliding. Bad weather, collisions, losing control, and equipment failure are all still present when you go from hang gliding to paragliding.

There’s also one additional risk of hang gliding that has to do with the way the canopy is designed. Since it’s not rigid, a paragliding canopy runs the risk of getting tangled up with itself and the guide ropes, which can lead to a rapid decline in altitude. If this happens, it’s essential to remain calm and do everything you can to get the canopy opened back up so it can begin regaining altitude.

While the risks of the two sports are fairly similar, let’s take a quick look at the fatality statistics. Thankfully both sports are overseen by the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA), so the statistics are easily comparable . That said, we have a full, in-depth article comparing the safety of hang gliding vs paragliding in which we really dissect the stats.

Since that article goes into great detail, I’ll just touch on the final findings here. In total, there is an average of about 1 fatality for every 1,000 hang gliding members of USHPA, and roughly 1 death for every 760 paragliders. So if both types of pilots fly roughly the same number of flights per year, there’s a greater chance of a fatal accident while paragliding.

So which sport is safer?

Both sports have their dangers, and it ultimately depends on the individual pilot’s skill level and experience. However, we would say that paragliding has a higher risk of fatal accidents because there is typically more that can go wrong. So in a close race, we’d have to say that hang gliding is just a bit safer than paragliding.

Hang gliding and paragliding are both relatively affordable sports, but there is a bit of variation in terms of how much they each cost. Hang gliding typically costs more than paragliding because it requires a higher-quality wing. However, the equipment requirements for each sport are fairly similar. In addition to the cost of equipment, you will also need to pay for lessons and/or training.

The good news is that most locations where these sports can be enjoyed offer lessons and training programs. To start either sport, you’ll want to get all the equipment you need. For both sports, this includes: the necessary aircraft (i.e. hang glider vs paraglider), a harness, helmet, reserve parachute, and variometer.

The cost of lessons will vary depending on your location and the provider. However, expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 for an introductory course in either sport. Once you have some basic training under your belt, you can start exploring the world of hang gliding or paragliding in more depth.

Which One Is Harder To Learn?

Sure, you could do a tandem hang gliding adventure or take a guided paragliding flight on vacation somewhere, but I’m talking about really learning how to do these sports on your own. As in to go from never doing either one to being able to perform solo flights and enjoy it anytime you want. When it comes to learning how to hang glide, it typically takes a little bit longer than learning how to paraglide.

Paragliding is easier because the training process is a lot less time-consuming and doesn’t require as much technical knowledge or physical strength/stamina. Hang gliding requires more upper-body control but also allows the pilot to go farther distances and gives them more visibility. Paragliding has better maneuverability but can be tricky in strong winds since there’s not much weight pulling down on the wing.

If you want something quick that doesn’t require too much work, paragliding might be better for now. But if you want something more challenging and potentially more rewarding in the long-term (I know I know, this is subjective, but I am a bit biased towards hang gliding!), hang gliding is the way to go. It’s worth the extra effort to learn.

Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: Which Is Better?

Both hang gliding and paragliding are thrilling sports that offer a lot of excitement and fun. And while there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all answer to this question (since fun is so subjective), we can help you get an idea of which one you’ll think is more fun based on your preferences.

Hang gliding is typically considered to be a slightly more extreme sport than paragliding. After all, where else do you get to fly through the air like a kite-wearing Superman? You need to have good balance and strength to control the hang glider, as well as nerves of steel (Man of Steel?) — because it can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing! However, when done correctly, hang gliding is an incredibly exhilarating experience that provides a lot of excitement and thrills.

Paragliding, on the other hand, is less extreme than hang gliding. It involves flying through the air using a small parachute-like device at lower speeds than hang gliders. You don’t need to have as great of balance or strength to control a paraglider, nor does the wind have to be nearly as strong to be able to fly. However, it can still be quite exciting and fun, and I love every second of it when I go paragliding!

So, which sport is better?

That depends on your preferences. If you’re looking for an affordable sport that offers a lot of excitement and adventure, then paragliding may be the better option for you. Hang gliding is definitely more challenging and can be a bit more expensive at times, but it provides a unique and exhilarating experience that you won’t find with paragliding.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and cost really shouldn’t be the only driving factor behind it!

About THE AUTHOR

Tom Savage

I’m Tom Savage, and I love hang gliding. It’s a passion of mine that I’ve been pursuing for years. I’m always looking for new opportunities to fly, and I love sharing my experiences with others.

Powered Hang Gliders Vs Paramotor

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Best Hang Gliding Locations In Maryland

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How Big Are Hang Gliders?

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Best Hang Glider Manufacturers

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Best Hang Glider Design

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