Advance LIGHTNESS 3 review

The Lightness 3 is a lightweight pod harness for everyday XC. It builds on the success of the Lightness 2, with improved roll stability and back protection. The characteristic sleek shape with a taut speedbag has been retained and small elements have been refined to produce an outstanding package for regular pilots.

Advance LIGHTNESS 3: complete system

Advance Lightness 3 harness review: complete pack

The Lightness 3 comes with very comfortable rucksack, the Lightpack 3: the 83 litre (best for the Lightness 3 S and M) and the 91 litre (for Lightness 3 L). This is optimised for what you’d want to carry so it works really well with the harness because it’s a more compact rucksack than most so fits in the back pocket really nicely when rolled up.

The Lightness 3 is also supplied with an Advance Compressbag which ensures that your wing stays in a compact shape to assist you with packing everything away. If you have a semi-lightweight modern wing you should have no problems packing everything away, but the correct technique is important.

Advance Lightness 3 harness review: windshield

An additional (optional) windshield gives you about the best aerodynamics that can be achieved in this style of pod harness without adding a tail fin. The windshield is a flat sheet of clear plastic that you bend into shape and clip on. It comes in a protective bag. Before I flew with this I was quite skeptical about the need for a windscreen. But having flown with it, I noticed that it takes the wind off your face a bit, and removes a lot of wind chill from your body. It’s not a huge difference, but it does work nicely, as well as providing a useful space to stuff my gloves into and also protecting my instruments from the risers. I thought it might be a bit fragile but it’s actually pretty tough.

Pilots who fly long flights in very cold conditions, or fly on the speed bar a lot, will notice the benefit most.

The standard speed bag feels the same as the Lightness 2, and it’s what we’d recommend for most pilots because it’s more durable, and it gives you the option of attaching the windshield. The light speedbag is for pilots who are really concerned about weight.

Advance LIGHTNESS 3: protection and storage

Advance Lightness 3 harness review: SAS-tec

With the standard speed bag the medium size is 3.25kg. The harness doesn’t fold quite as small as the Lightness 2 because of the extra SAS-tec protector in the back, but it’s pretty compact. It’s optimised for pilots who prioritise light weight kit: if you carry a lot of junk with you, it might be hard to cram it all into the back, but then you’d most probably be better suited to a less minimalist style of harness in the first place, for example the Supair Delight 3.

It has a similar protector to the Lightness 2 with a good size that passes the certification but it’s not as comprehensive as you’d find in a heavier class of harness, like the Supair Skypper 2. It compresses a bit but is quite firm enough to absorb an impact. New to the Lightness 3 is a SAS-tec panel which improves the back protection and support. It’s apparently a very high-tech protector that’s made for impact and penetration protection. When combined with the thick ‘comfort foam’ it makes a very effective crash cushion.

The ballast area is a similar size to the Lightness 2 at about 5 litres, enough space for your helmet bag, concertina bag and soft things. It contributes to the support so should be filled with something but not over-rammed.

Advance LIGHTNESS 3: reserve

Advance Lightness 3 harness review: reserve pouch

The reserve container easily fits a Beamer 3 size L (approximately 5 litres packed volume), my chosen reserve. The reserve handle sits neatly inside a pocket on the right hand side. If your reserve is deployed there is no longer any gap in the back protection: the SAS-tec protector and comfort foam spans the void and both extend up to your shoulders.

There has been one safety note issued regarding the reserve, which relates to one flying school that found an awkward angle for reserve deployment: down and backwards. This is a peculiar angle to try and deploy a reserve and is not recommended in any case as this would delay the reserve from opening and delay the reserve from suspending your weight. When you throw outwards, backwards or slightly upwards, the reserve pulls free easily. Learn more on How to Deploy Your Reserve Parachute. Any harness purchased in 2019 has the improved reserve deployment system which tolerates all angles. Kudos to Advance for responding so swiftly to a minor criticism. This kind of professionalism is evident throughout the design. For instance, in the back pocket of the harness is a little connector for attaching your water bag, that comes with a clip and lanyard so you can leave half the clip attached to your bag, which makes it just that little bit easier to use.

Advance LIGHTNESS 3: clipping in

Advance Lightness 3 harness review: clipping in

The leg straps are the same as the Lightness 2 and the setup is very similar if not the same. It uses the ‘get up’ geometry which means you don’t have to tie each leg in separately, the two legstraps link directly into the chest strap. Practically, it’s comfortable and easy to use.

Although some pilots might prefer quick buckles over the pass-through buckles used on the Lightness 3, I think there are pros and cons to both. Quick-release buckles are convenient to do up and undo, and quicker and easier to open in case of an emergency, but it is possible for them to fail. They are also designed with an in-built safety mechanism to not open when under pressure. Pass-through buckles have no mechanical parts to fail, and pretty much nothing to jam up. I slightly prefer pass-through buckles since as the ‘pilot in command’ I can actively reduce my risk of an emergency landing, and have no risk of a legstrap suddenly pinging open. As long as the components are high quality, either system works. I would choose a harness based on more important aspects.

The pod closes with a safety system that saves your butt if you forget your legstraps. Once you’ve learned the sequence, it’s simple and quick.

Advance Lightness 3: in the air

Advance Lightness 3 harness review: in the air

For me the Lightness 2 was already one of the most comfortable harnesses around. The Lightness 3 is even more comfortable on the back because of the stiffness. It’s not rigid, just supportive.

Carlo: “The new strap geometry and higher hang point reduces roll without interfering with control. It has just smoothened things out.”

Nancy: “I felt a good flow with this harness, it connects beautifully with the movements of the wing and allows me to feel the air, move with it, but keep my balance.”

Advance Lightness 3: Refinements

Webbing straps on the speedbar line help you to engage the ‘bar’

Elastic cord set in the middle keeps the loop nicely centralised

The speedbag adjustments are a little easier with sliding balls instead of knots

Longer channels for the speedbag lines, to reduce the chances of entanglement

New clip to secure the detachable cockpit panel to the chest strap, to help support the weight of instruments

Standard or light speedbag options

Slightly larger rucksack, for easier packing (Lightpack 3)

Advance Lightness 3: Who is it for?

Advance Lightness 3 harness review: following shot

It’s a well-built cross-country harness that is very comfortable. For pilots looking for an all-round recreational XC harness for hike and fly, volbiv and travelling, the Advance Lightness 3 provides a compact and lightweight solution based on a hammock-style harness (no seat plate). Although you can do a bit of wagga (mild aerobatics) with the Lightness 3 that is not its forte. If your primary focus is on XC flying then this is a fantastic option.

Find out more about the Advance Lightness 3

Advance Lightness 3: video reviews

Carlo tests out the harness in the UK

Nancy shares more insight after flying in Tenerife