Connecting the reserve parachute

The emergency reserve parachute system may be connected to the harness, the main harness/wing connectors—usually involving a reserve outer container—or the tandem spreaders, depending on the particular whole equipment setup. To help correctly connect the reserve parachute, this article outlines the main considerations for this, and gives a ‘connectors shopping list’ to help you ensure you have everything you need.

When you buy a reserve parachute it usually terminates in a short webbing loop, known as the reserve strop. This needs to be connected to the harness using maillons (or soft links) and a reserve bridle, each of which you may have to purchase separately. Within some harnesses, the reserve bridle is included and is attached to the top of the shoulder straps, then routed through concealed channels to the reserve container, if it is integral to the harness.

Reserve Bridles - Connecting the reserve parachute

Which reserve bridles?

See our range of reserve bridles

These come in various lengths, usually an inverted Y shape. Sometimes they are sewn in as part of the harness, in which case the existing webbing to webbing connections on the shoulder points are suitable. If you only have the attachment points but no bridle on your harness, you need to choose one.

Reserve bridles come in different lengths, which affects the pendular stability of the reserve, so it’s best to match the brand of your bridle with the reserve or choose one of similar specifications. It should also be compatible with your harness. The bridle should be attached to both harness shoulder strap loops, not just one of them.

Most reserves come with a short webbing strop connecting the lines together. Steerable reserves have two long bridles; some older non-steerable designs have long Y bridles sewn in. Do not attach them to a harness reserve bridle as the total length will be too long – connect directly to the shoulder points or main hang points. Steerable reserves also require short extenders (for optimal steering) when connected on the main hang points.

No shoulder points - Connecting the reserve parachute

No shoulder points?

Some harnesses (usually the ultralight ones) don’t come with shoulder attachment points for the reserve bridles. It is unsafe to connect a reserve onto the shoulders if the harness doesn’t have specially reinforced support loops there! Use the main hang points instead. You could simply loop the bridles onto the main karabiners, but this offers no safety should your karabiner fail. Dedicated soft links can be run through the main attachment points to connect the reserve bridle instead.

Webbing to webbing?

If you connect the reserve bridle without using a maillon (by passing it through the loop and itself, then pulling tight) you have a webbing-to-webbing connection, and there is a risk of shearing due to heat from friction during shock deployments. This can be mitigated if the attachment points are designed to withstand heat shear, if the same material is used on both sides, and if the connection is secured in position, but most manufacturers recommend connecting reserves using only maillons or soft links.

Gin Gliders recommend reserve maillon connection

Which maillons (or soft links)?

See our range of maillons

You will need to decide which shape and size of maillon you require, to suit your equipment and the intended use.

Maillon shape - Connecting the reserve parachute

Which shape of maillon?

Measure the width of the webbing on both sides of each connection to ensure you get the right style of maillon. For normal wide webbing to wide webbing: square maillon. Wide to narrow: delta maillon. Narrow to narrow: standard (oval) maillons. Extra wide to wide: trapeze. We have stock of all of these maillons so that the most suitable maillon can be used.

Maillon measurements - Connecting the reserve parachute

Which size of maillon?

For the single connection point at the base of the reserve riser, we recommend a Peguet Maillon Rapide Square Stainless Steel 7.0mm (or one of the appropriate shape, see below). Please be careful of cheap copy products which have questionable strength.

For the two attachment points on the harness, use Peguet Maillon Rapide Square Stainless Steel 6.0mm (or one of the appropriate shape, see below).

This is based on recommended industry standards and allows for manufacturing variations and ageing. For tandem flying or more peace of mind, increase maillon size by 1mm.

Soft links

Alternatively, if saving every gram is of primary importance to you, suitable soft links can be used at all points. 

Soft shackle connectors for reserve parachutes

The FFVL recommends there should be protection between the individual parts of the set up. It’s things like this that push the use of soft links into more experienced pilot territory.

Securing the maillons (or soft links)

Using 40mm O rings, a maillon cover or rubber bands, fix the maillons so that they cannot rotate from their strongest position (lengthwise loading).

The maillon should be properly screwed shut to avoid any possibility of it opening accidentally. Finger tight is generally not enough to be sure they won’t open over time. Tighten a little using pliers but be careful not to over-tighten as this could damage the thread and greatly weaken the maillon!

Reserve parachute connectors shopping list

Reserve is:

Steerable

Non-steerable

Bridle connector

None needed

1 maillon 7mm +

2 O-rings or 1 maillon cover, or

1 soft link

Bridle

Has integrated bridle

Y bridle suited to harness (if harness  doesn’t have integrated bridles)

Harness has:

Shoulder loops

Main loops only

Shoulder loops

Main loops only

Harness connectors

2 maillons 6mm
4 O-rings 

2 bridle extenders
2 soft links*

2 maillons 6mm
4 O-rings

2 soft links*

* soft links not strictly necessary, but provides safety in case of main karabiner failure.

Connectors shopping list - Connecting the reserve parachute

Related reading

Choose The Right Reserve Parachute series:

Choose The Right Reserve Parachute — Flybubble

Fitting the reserve parachute — Flybubble

Reserve parachute care & repacking — Flybubble

How To Deploy Your Reserve Parachute — Flybubble

Urs Haari and the Modern Reserve Parachute — Flybubble

Choose The Right Connectors series:

Choose The Right Connectors — Flybubble

Connecting the wing — Flybubble

Connecting the speed system — Flybubble

Choose The Right Equipment series:

Choose The Right Paraglider — Flybubble

Choose The Right Paragliding Harness — Flybubble

Choose The Right Flight Instrument — Flybubble

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