Skydiving vs BASE Jumping: The Differences & Insanities
BASE jumping and skydiving are very similar, but also incredibly different sports. They’re often lumped into the same basket by those unfamiliar with them.
In this quick guide I’ll fully explain how they differ – and what that means.
Disclaimer: I’m a skydiver, not a BASE jumper. That said, I’ve watched countless hours of base jumping and know a whole ton about the sport. I’m just also wary about it’s fatality statistics!
Skydiving needs no explanation. You’ve got planes flying through the sky dropping out humans for fun. The sport has a huge history and is super regulated – with safety codes and rules covering every part of the sport. Each skydiver has two parachutes and a TON of altitude to work with (in aviation, altitude means safety).
Skydiving offers complete freedom as you dance through the sky.
Introducing: BASE Jumping
The craziest of the crazy. BASE means that you’re jumping from one of:
- Spans (Bridges)
- Elevations (Cliffs)
Base jumping is more like the wild west. There’s best practices, but there’s no laws or regulations. You’re truly taking your own life in your own hands when you base jump. Base jumpers only have one parachute. There’s not enough altitude to try and open a second one. If the first one fails, you’re probably dead.
Base jumping is 10x as cool, but about 50x more dangerous. Image Source – BaseJumper
BASE jumping offers complete adrenaline – you’re truly putting everything on the line.
Skydiving vs Base Jumping: Comparisons
Alright, so from those short introductions alone you can probably see the huge differences in the sports. However, it’s important to understand the detail behind those differences. What they truly mean in terms of gear, risk, locations, and communities.
I’ll compare each difference one at a time. Let’s start with the biggest.
Safety & Fatalities
Skydiving has what I call a ‘false-reputation’ when it comes to safety. The sport appears super dangerous, but it’s very safe. The risk of a fatality in skydiving (1 in 100,000 jumps) is roughly equal to the risk of driving 500 miles (driving fatality risk is 1.7 in 100,000,000 miles), or about a day of driving.
While some skydivers say that driving is more dangerous than skydiving, I’d argue they’re roughly equal. I’ll be doing a much bigger breakdown on skydiving safety here in the future.
BASE jumping, however, has a fatality rate of 1 in 2,300 jumps. That’s almost 50x more dangerous than skydiving.
You’d need to drive about 25,000 miles to get the same fatality risk from driving as one BASE jump!
I hope those stats make it obvious enough. Base jumping is around 50x the danger level of a skydive.
Here’s another way to put it:
- – Don Kellner – has about 45,000 jumps (second place is about 30,000). That means he has been 45% likely to die in that huge number of jumps. – Sean Chuma – has at least 5,000 BASE jumps. This means he has been 200% likely to die! This is a huge credit to his skill and experience.
Before you even consider getting into BASE, it’s highly recommended (by base jumpers themselves) to check out the base jumping fatality statistics. Even more important is the fatality list. They have the story and accounts of almost every base jumper. Try reading a few, while thinking about the people who would miss you most.
Okay – enough statistics! Let’s look at how these two sports compare in a jump.
In aviation, altitude is safety. The higher you are, the more time you have to deal with a problem.
As they say in skydiving – if something goes wrong, don’t worry! You have the rest of your life to figure it out.
The glaring danger with base jumping is that you have almost zero altitude. Jumps are often made from as low as 150ft, giving you just a few seconds to work with. If something goes wrong, you probably have about a second to fix the entire problem before you kiss the ground.
Around 38% of base jumping deaths occur without a parachute being pulled. This is often because of a missed grab or bad flip, and the jumper not getting to their handle in time.
One of the key differences between skydiving and base jumping is your level of control.
Skydivers will almost always reach a terminal velocity of 120mph. This gives them a ton of airflow at a constant speed, which makes controlling their position and movement easier.
On the other hand, base jumpers need to pull their chute almost immediately. This means they need to jump and pull while gaining speed – the airflow can be quite uneven. This makes controlling your position much harder.
Combine that with all the flips and tricks base jumpers love to do, and you massively multiply the chance of a malfunction or an entanglement. All combined with zero altitude to work with.
Sometimes your parachute might not open exactly how you want it to. It might open up at a weird angle, or even backwards (off-heading openings). This means you’re going to be swung round to fly whatever direction the canopy opens, until you correct the heading.
In skydiving, this an off-heading opening is totally fine. You’re surrounded by nothing but air, so no worries!
Base jumping has a huge issue with this because of the hazards around you. Many, many jumpers meet their end because of an off-heading opening that sends them smack into the cliff, building, or antenna that they just jumped from.
Colliding with the object they jumped from is one the most common causes of death for base jumpers.
Skydivers run with a full rig setup. They’ve got a lot of kit to help make sure they land safely – including:
- A main canopy
- A reserve canopy
- An AAD (automatically pops your reserve if you’re still falling at a low altitude)
- An altimeter (to judge your height and make safe decisions)
- A knife (to cut away a bad canopy)
On the other hand, base jumpers have:
Everything relies on that canopy having a good opening with plenty of altitude to spare.
Okay, so let’s say you’ve gone base jumping. You’ve jumped, kept stable, pulled your chute, and it’s opened well. Now – where are you going to land?
If you were skydiving, you’d have a paradise awaiting you. A flat, level airfield with a concrete runway or cut grass to touch your beautiful feet down on.
Base jumpers, however? Good luck finding anything that doesn’t have boulders, rocks, or other debris. Let alone near roads, small buildings, and telephone wires (super hard to see from above).
The ‘jumping’ part of base jumping isn’t where the danger ends – it’s where it begins. Bad landings can quickly put you in the back of an ambulance. Once they somehow get to wherever you are.
Training & Regulations
From a birds-eye view, these two sports are clearly separated by their regulations.
While one is super regulated – with rules and regulations almost every step of the way – the other is more of a cowboy sport. Aside from very rare spots, you typically learn base jumping by doing it with your friends. It’s less of a “here’s manuals and certifications” and more of “my mate Billy says to do this instead of that”.
Similarly with the amount of training you do, skydivers must complete at least a day’s training before they can get in the plane. Either that, or be strapped to an extremely experienced tandem instructor.
With the above said, most base jumpers do put in a ton of time and effort to practice and prepare before they go. It’s just that there’s a few cowboys out there who go with nothing but an ego and a parachute.
Skydiving is surprisingly easy to access. All you need to do is drive up to a drop zone, and everything is there waiting for you. Gear rental is super cheap, and everything is so streamlines.
Even the most relaxed base jump needs a lot of forward planning. It’s on you to scout the location, find the exit point, the landing point, and make sure the weather’s going to be suitable to you. This is most true when it comes to buildings – there’s not many who are happy to have you risk your life on them! This is where base jumping starts to coincide with trespassing, with building access being planned more rigorously than in Ocean’s Eleven.
Alright – so that’s about every category I can think of!
I hope this guide has helped shine a light on the real differences between skydiving and BASE Jumping.
Overall, I’d say that skydiving will never match the total thrill of BASE jumping. However, the sheer statistical risk (rightfully) puts off many jumpers. Those that do it seem to feel it’s more of a calling, something that goes beyond a choice. That they have to do. I guess that’s how you get past the risk of the most dangerous sport in the world. It’s like the hard drug of extreme sports!
That said, skydiving is absolutely incredible. There’s nothing like flying through the sky with nothing but you, a parachute, and maybe a few friends.
If you’d like to learn more about skydiving, check out the related posts below!
BASE Jumping, Skydiving or Parachuting: What’s the Difference?
Do you like the thrill of a fast-paced adrenaline rush? If so, then you may have considered BASE jumping, skydiving, and parachuting.
But how different are these three activities? Are they all the same thing?
Let’s explore the differences between these three sports and help you decide which one is right for you!
BASE Jumping Vs. Skydiving
For an onlooker, any activity that involves jumping off a plane, cliff, or tall building is the same. That’s why skydiving and BASE jumping are consistently used interchangeably.
But there is a big difference between the two sports! BASE jumping is considered an extreme sport because of the dangers involved. These dangers include low altitude, small landing areas, and obstacles on the ground.
On the other hand, skydiving is not as dangerous because you’re jumping from a higher altitude and have more time to open your parachute.
Other distinctions they possess:
Number of Parachutes
BASE jumpers use a single-parachute system inside a simple fabric container.
It’s not certified by any governing body and is the product of many years of evolution since the game was created.
It’s a one-shot system because there isn’t enough time for backup emergency procedures after a few seconds of freefall.
Meanwhile, skydivers have a considerably more stringent and complicated safety harness system on their backs.
A skydiving rig consists of the main parachute and a recommended automatic activation device that activates the reserve parachute if the jumper loses consciousness.
Before sport skydivers use them, all equipment is subjected to rigorous testing.
Jumps from Different Locations
A BASE jumper aims to jump from a fixed object- such as a cliff or bridge- and land on a safe area for both the jumper and spectators. The sport can only be done in specific locations around the world which have been deemed safe by experienced BASE jumpers.
On the other hand, Skydivers jump out of an airplane and can land almost anywhere, as long as they have a clear area to touchdown.
This is why BASE jumping is considered more dangerous- you’re limited by where you can jump from and land.
BASE jumping is typically done for fun or thrill-seeking purposes, while skydiving has both recreational and competitive objectives.
In BASE jumping, athletes typically compete to see who can make the most creative or difficult jumps.
Skydiving, on the other hand, has three main competitive disciplines- formation skydiving, freestyle skydiving, and canopy piloting.
In these competitions, athletes attempt to complete different tasks or stunts while flying their parachutes.
Skydiving is a popular and regulated sport in the United States and across the world, with a strong emphasis on maintaining high safety standards.
There are places around the world where BASE jumping is legal. However, climbing something to jump off the top of it will often involve breaking a law or two. This is usually because of trespassing on private property.
BASE jumpers are usually responsible and unlikely to cause damage. However, even the most responsible people can get arrested for breaking the law.
Skydiving Vs. Parachuting
While skydiving and parachuting involve jumping out of an airplane and landing with a parachute, they have fundamental differences. Let’s discuss some of them:
Most people start their parachute jumps at around 5,000 feet. This is high enough to get good winds, oxygen levels, and temperature as you reach the ground.
On the other hand, Skydivers travel at a much greater speed (up to 120 mph) and acquire that speed rapidly when they are freefalling without a parachute.
This is why skydivers need a greater altitude to enjoy freefall fully.
Depending on their jumping altitude, skydivers typically experience 30 to 90 seconds of freefall while unencumbered by any safety net.
They descend gradually, allowing them to enjoy the wind in their faces for a few minutes before touching down.
On the other hand, most parachuters release their chute soon after exiting the plane. This means they are in freefall for a reduced time and have a more controlled descent than skydivers.
Because the parachute is deployed so much sooner, it takes longer for a parachuter to hit the ground than a skydiver.
Parachuting doesn’t require a lot of commitment to do a solo jump. This is because there are multiple ways to deploy the parachute. There are also other safety measures in place.
These days, there are even self-deploying parachutes that activate once the skydiver reaches a certain height!
However, skydiving is more strict because of the element of freefall. While being fun and exciting, freefall can be dangerous because you can reach speeds near terminal velocity.
Skydivers who use freefall techniques can also have automatic parachutes deployed, but things are different in freefall.
The jumper must be able to interpret an altimeter and other instruments while in the air, which is next to impossible without proper training.
Freestyle skydivers lack the experience to distinguish when it’s time to let go of the chute with enough time to slow down before hitting the ground.
These days, parachuting is typically done professionally by paratroopers and military personnel rather than as a pastime. Parachuters are frequently paratroopers who utilize their chutes to rapidly travel from the air to the ground.
Skydiving, on the other hand, is a more worthy leisure pursuit. In fact, it is considered a sport (and an “extreme sport”) by people who pursue it professionally.
Sponsorships and teams are formed worldwide based on complex acrobatic routines that take place during freefall.
Parachute and skydiving have some areas of overlap in terms of training. The military uses high-altitude, low-oxygen (HALO) jumps as a covert method of deploying soldiers, and skydivers use them as an adrenaline-pumping event.
Parachuting VS. BASE Jumping
When it comes to BASE jumping and parachuting, BASE jumping takes the cake for being the most dangerous.
Because of the challenging altitudes and speed at which they jump, BASE jumpers have a much higher fatality rate than parachuters. In fact, for every 100,000 jumps, there are approximately 18 fatalities in BASE jumping as opposed to three fatalities in parachuting.
Here are other differences between the two:
Parachuting is when you jump from a high point, like a plane, helicopter, or cliff. These elevated areas need at least 10,000 feet of altitude before descending to the ground.
Meanwhile, BASE jumping requires you to jump from a stationary object. You don’t have to worry about the altitude as much because you’re starting your jump from a lower point.
This makes BASE jumping a more accessible sport, but it also means that you’re jumping from a less elevated area. This increases the chances of something going wrong during your jump.
Number of Jumps
There are typically three stages in BASE jumping: the exit, the flight, and the landing.
Parachuting only has two stages: the exit and the landing.
This is because parachuting doesn’t require you to freefall as BASE jumping does. You can deploy your parachute at any time, which gives you more control over your descent.
Parachuting is a popular hobby as well as a competitive and dangerous activity. The goal is to land safely after parachuting from a high elevation point to the ground.
For experienced parachuters, their objectives become more challenging as they perform stunts and acrobatics in the air while maintaining control of their descent.
Meanwhile, the main objective of BASE jumping is to reach the ground safely after jumping from a stationary object. This is a more dangerous sport because of the challenges associated with height and speed.
Parachuting follows a set of rules and regulations. These rules are in place to ensure that all parachuters are safe when descending from a high point.
Some basic rules include weight limits, age limits, and required training.
Here are the most essential parachuting regulations to keep in mind:
- The minimum age requirement is 18 years old.
- Weight limit must be between 200-250 pounds
- Participants must be familiar with all emergency procedures and how to react and execute if there is a failure.
- Check your gear before you jump.
Meanwhile, BASE jumping has no rules or regulations set by any governing body. Basically, BASE jumpers just have a general understanding to “not kill each other.”
Because of the inherent dangers in BASE jumping, fatalities are more common, and there is less structure than parachuting. This means that there is more room for error and that jumpers must be responsible for their own safety.
BASE jumping, skydiving, and parachuting all have their own unique dangers and benefits.
It’s important to understand the difference between these sports before deciding which one is right for you.
BASE jumping takes the cake for being the most dangerous, while parachuting and skydiving have lower fatality rates and follow a set of rules and regulations.
Ultimately, the choice between these sports comes down to personal preference. So, what’s your poison?
Is Base Jumping Dangerous? Ultimate Safety Guide
Is base jumping dangerous? Base jumping regularly makes headlines for fatalities or trends on social media due to its death-defying moments. You wouldn’t be 100% wrong in thinking that base jumping is only for the slightly crazy and suicidal. Even watching a go pro flight of a regular base jump can have your heart beating fast and the adrenaline starting to pump.
Is base jumping really as dangerous as some of the footage makes out, or is it that just the most extreme footage and most dangerous moments get the attention? Are there ways to perform base jumps with relative safety?
Let’s explore just how dangerous base jumping is. We will look at why it’s considered one of the most extreme sports and how it compares to skydiving. We will also talk about ways to base jump with more safety.
Why is base jumping dangerous?
Why is base jumping dangerous?
The premise of base jumping is leaping off grounded objects. The acronym BASE stands for Bridges, Antennas, Spans (bridges), and Earth (Mountains and cliffs). The fact base jumping means to jump off and descend so close to objects, buildings, and natural dangers is one reason it’s so dangerous. Jumping so close to an object always runs the risk of your lines crossing, your canopy twisting, and then suddenly you are heading into the object you just jumped away from. Some techniques can spin the jumper around again, but reactions must be lightning quick to avoid serious dangers; often, there just isn’t enough time.
At 330 feet, a low base jump takes just 4-seconds to hit the ground without the parachute. While specialist configurations are in place to allow the parachute to start filling with air the moment you jump, things can still go very wrong. Jumping at low heights, you are at the risk of a rogue gust of wind. You are relying heavily on your gear and the packing of your canopy. If anything goes even slightly wrong, you can have a fraction of a second to react. One of the most common causes of death during a base jump is not deploying the canopy in time.
One of the most dangerous details is your speed. Despite immediately going into freefall, you need time to gain momentum. You won’t have time to reach your terminal velocity (which takes up to 12 seconds). After 1 second of freefall, you will only be traveling at 10 MPH. It takes 3 seconds to reach 50 MPH, and parachuting equipment is designed to open at high speeds. Opening a parachute at lower speeds allows any incorrect body positioning or strong winds to cause significant problems.
How dangerous is base jumping?
How dangerous is base jumping?
As far as extreme sports go, base jumping is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous. Base jumping is up there with free climbing, cave diving, and heli-skiing. It’s arguably the most dangerous. No matter how well you plan a base jump, there are always dangers that rely on split-second reactions.
With almost every sport in the world, you learn through experience and making mistakes, but you rarely get that luxury in base jumping. When things don’t go to plan, the consequences are usually high; minor issues can become life or death moments in a blink of an eye.
When we try to estimate or calculate how dangerous base jumping is, it’s hard to put it into numbers because there is no widely recognized governing body. Many successful and event-free base jumps go unrecorded. There are lists of base jumping and wingsuit deaths, with the current number at the time of publishing being 412. This reliable list shows the date, place, and reason behind each death. On average, there are 15-20 deaths per year, with the exception of 2016, which saw 37 deaths, and in 2018 where 32 deaths occurred.
How many dangerous accidents happen in base jumping?
How many dangerous accidents happen in base jumping?
Despite base jumping being a somewhat secretive sport, some necessary studies have looked at the dangers of base jumping and wingsuiting.
Here are the two most significant and detailed studies of base jumping accidents:
How Dangerous is BASE Jumping?
This 11-year study by Ellingsen recorded 30,850 jumps with an average height of 1,983 feet (ranging from 400 to 3,000 feet). There were nine fatalities (equalling one death in every 2,317 jumps) and 82 non-fatal accidents (1 in 254). Deaths were exclusively related to heavy impacts and severe injuries. The most common non-fatal accidents were to ankles and knees and some minor head concussions.
Analyzing 106 base jumping fatalities, Dr. A. Westman found the following as the fundamental causes of deaths.
- Parachutist free fall instability: Body positioning errors made by the jumper in freefall
- Freefall acrobatics and deployment failure by the parachutist: Failed maneuvers and failing to deploy the parachute
- Equipment factors included pilot chute malfunction and parachute malfunction.
- One of the most common causes of death in cliff base jumping was parachute twists, opening, and causing the jumper to fall back towards the cliff.
Shockingly, Westman concluded that in 2002, an estimated one in 60 base jumpers died.
The most dangerous sports tend to record deaths per 100,000. Using Elligsen’s extensive study, we can estimate the risk of death during a base jump at 43 in 100,000 jumps. When we compare that to other risk spots, it isn’t very comforting. Rock climbing records one death in every 320,000 climbs, scuba diving sees roughly one fatality in every 200,000 dives, and hang gliding sees one in 116,000.
Is base jumping more dangerous than skydiving?
Modern skydiving is a relatively safe sport
Base Jumping is significantly more dangerous than skydiving. Base jumpers face all the dangers of skydiving, plus some extraordinarily more dangerous problems. Modern skydiving is a relatively safe sport, with lots of training, supervision, equipment, and procedures to limit risk and avert danger. Base jumping is certainly not.
Not only does base jumping lack a recognized governing body and set of strict rules and procedures, the added factor of jumping close to objects and at typically low altitudes also creates lots of unpredictability. The majority of recorded base jumps are under 2,000 feet, with building and antenna jumps averaging under 1,500 feet. Put this into context with a skydive, where most professional skydivers will deploy their parachute by 2,500 feet, or at lowest, 2,000 feet, with permission.
Even base jumping at 2,000 feet leaves little time to gain freefall speed. And while a skydiver may have time to assess and correct any issues, if the parachute doesn’t open correctly during a base jump, there will be little to no time to fix things.
While there’s no such thing as a totally safe skydive, the chances of receiving an injury during a tandem skydive are around one in 1,100 jumps and one in 3,300 jumps for a trained solo skydiver. When it comes to fatalities, it’s estimated to be 0.12 per 100,000 tandem jumps and one in 100,000 solo skydives by a licensed jumper. These stats make base jumping about 43 times more dangerous than skydiving.
Can you base jump safely?
Can you base jump safely?
While it might not be possible to base jump safely, things can be done to limit the risks of death and injury. Many incidents are indeed caused by an error in judgment during a base jump; with very little time to react, these can often be unavoidable. However, making an error in judgment before you jump can be avoided.
Risk and consequence assessment are essential to limiting base jumping dangers. Base jumpers must know their level and earn their stripes at simpler and safer jumps before taking on more challenging ones. Here are some essential things to check and consider: