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FreeFlight Advice: Side mount parachutes

Q: Side mounted chutes? Why?

A: Side mounted parachutes create less drag, trucking the bulge of the parachute behind your arm(s).  In racier harnesses the parachute actually sits entirely in the harness, utilizing the void area in the harness above the small of your back, reducing frontal area and even more drag.  The more bigger and more important reason for most people is the side mounted parachute allows hanging closer to the base tube, creating a longer pendulum. The longer pendulum is the same principle of a kingpost-hang, creating lighter pitch and roll pressures, as well as a little more “full throw” for extreme situations.

As with everything, there are pro’s and con’s… Is the reduced drag and lighter pressure over a chest-mount chute worthwhile for 90+% of HG pilots… probably not!

The side mount makes the harness imbalanced, adding weight on one side and not the other.  This is one reason many race harnesses utilize duel parachutes, but only fitting a smaller chute.  There is some debate whether it is a good/bad idea to throw a second chute if the first one opens… which means you might be forced to descend under one SMALL reserve… and you’re going to hit pretty hard if you do!  Side mounted reserves also make deploying with the other arm much more difficult (or even impossible on some harnesses!)  Add that front mount parachutes have saved a great number of pilots in hard landings, acting as a bit of padding between the body and the ground.  Impacting on a side-mount chute can and has resulted in broken ribs (which is a really sucky injury to have, not much they can do for it and a pretty long recovery… and long chance of re-injury).

It’s a personal choice whether to fly a harness with a front mounted or side mounted reserve parachute.  It is nice that we have the option between different harnesses (or some harnesses are even available in either configuration like the Wills Wing Z5).  We say to each his or her own, as long as it’s an educated and calculated conscious decision

Instinct Addition:  Harnesses with front-mounted chutes are less than ideal for mounting our 2-stage release we use - you have longer loops so there is more movement of the release while step-towing.  Also, if you do have to deploy your reserve, you will have to lift your 2-stage release with one hand while you grab your deployment handle with the other.