Woody Valley GTO LIGHT paragliding harness review

The Woody Valley GTO LIGHT is a sleek pod harness with an aerodynamic tail fin, designed to be a comfortable ride for cross country pilots despite being lightweight. At only 3kg it takes a whopping 2kg off the weight of its predecessor, the X-ALPS GTO. We test the stability, agility and piloting features and analyze the strengths and weaknesses to help you make an informed decision. Is this the right paragliding harness for you?

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT: Construction

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT review: construction

Watch one of the many professional product videos to get an idea of the quality and sophistication of the design. There’s no denying the attention to detail and sleek looks. In the hand, the mix of materials is impressive. The tailfin is made of a high grade ripstop fabric. The pod is rubberised and reinforced, especially where the back of the boot would cause friction. The straps are all solid webbing that is locked off in buckles, so they won’t slip in flight. (This means you need to set up the harness before going to the hill. If you need help, we offer a complete fitting and setting service as part of our sales process.)

The back protector is made of a clever modular system, with four little cushions slipped into a zipped bag, then topped with four layers of high density foam before being slipped into a second zipped bag. This maximises the air cushioning effect and feels very effective.

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT review: impact absorber

Volbiv enthusiasts will notice that this bag is perfect for packing sleeping bags, tents and soft materials into. You can choose how much of the protective elements you retain in the bag. As an experiment, you might even consider sliding in a carbon fibre seatplate to top it off.

The rear packing space is very large and easily accessed. I’d hazard a guess that it’s the largest volume of any cross country harness currently on the market, and when you consider the flexibility of the protector bag plus deep side pockets and flight deck pocket, it seems that the harness has been made with adventurers in mind.

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT review: protection

The back protector does not compress easily, so I found the packing volume of the GTO LIGHT large by comparison to the lighter Supair Strike I usually fly with, but it is similar to the Supair Delight 3. With an Advance Sigma 10, my Kortel Kolibri bag (a large 80L) was straining at the seams. It’s designed to go with the optional Woody Valley light backpack and light concertina bag. With a normal 100L+ backpack you’d have no problems.

The flight deck offers a small area to place a phone or lightweight instrument, and this is quite adequate for my needs, but the lack of reinforcing means that if you press buttons on your instruments it will flex a lot. The larger removable top panel attaches onto this base, but I found the position not ideal due to the chest strap interfering with instruments. I felt that it needed to be lifted over the chest strap and raised a little. It’s useable, and easily modified. Woody Valley says they will use pilot feedback to inform improvements to the harness if this is a common experience.

The reserve came out fine if you pull outwards (correct) or slightly backwards. Upwards or forwards felt slightly restricted, but the harness is fully certified, so you can rest assured that the homologation test was passed, which requires that the reserve extraction works properly, including during the G-force test.

Clipping in is simple, with two soft-edged pass-through buckles on the legs and two plastic hook clips securing the pod skirt. I would have preferred a ball system here, but Woody Valley chose this as the best way to produce a short and stable three point connection. This closure system forces the pilot to grasp the leg strap which reminds you to close it.  

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT: In the air

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT review: in the air

Due to the elasticity in the pod, getting into the skirt requires some care, I think it would benefit from a short cord-and-ball for your shoelaces. The tail fin fills remarkably fast, and sits quietly in your lee, doing its job of cleaning up the airflow and reducing drag.

It’s not comfortable dangling in the legstraps, so it’s best to get back into your pod and push back on the footplate. This means that although the skirt is removable (for repairs/replacement), this harness isn’t really useable without it, or at least, without a stirrup.

The frontal area is very small, great for reduced drag but it does mean the footplate area is tiny. My boots (EU size 43, UK size 9) are at the limit, any larger and they deform the skirt. The pod itself is beautifully taut and clean.

The deep side pockets are in the perfect position and easy to access. I used them for my camera poles. Bananas and gloves would be happy there too, but because they are unzippered anything valuable is at risk of falling out, although when you consider the angle (when flying and standing) and how deep they are, you would have to do some gymnastics to lose your car keys.

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT review: top view

It feels comfortable and secure in the air, and the harness hugs your hips nicely and provides good leg support. It feels great on speedbar, the curved semi-rigid back support stays in contact with your body and the good yaw stability seems to get even better.

There is very little filtering of the air currents. It transmits a lot of small roll movements, which experienced pilots might appreciate but could be unwelcome for a first-time pod pilot. In this case I’d recommend pairing the GTO LIGHT with a low feedback wing. Although the air rolled me around, I didn’t feel unnerved by the movement. I felt as if I could take on any turbulence due to the built in yaw and pitch stability.

When trying to thermal tightly, you hit a ‘soft limit’ where your weightshift input stops having any effect (at around 35 degrees). The shoulder straps can slip off when you lean hard over; a retaining strap across the chest (easy to add) would fix this. I might have had more turn authority in the Small size. It’s calm and balanced in this position, it’s just not as responsive as a seatboard harness would be. 

I asked Woody Valley about the roll behaviour. “The sensations in flight are personal and vary greatly. The GTO-Light default settings and consequent harness reactions in flight are as close as possible to our XR7. We also compared the GTO-Light reactions in flight with other products and tried to achieve better results.”

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT: Pros and cons

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT review: under the seat

Pros:

  • Beautiful clean aerodynamic shape
  • Great mix of durable lightweight materials
  • Good comfort and support in the air
  • Yaw stable, pitch stable
  • Back protection is beefy, solid and light
  • Packing space is enormous and easy to access

Cons:

  • Transmits all roll movements in choppy air
  • Limited roll beyond 35 degrees 
  • Flight deck can be improved

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT: Who is it for?

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT review: side view

The Woody Valley GTO LIGHT is best for experienced XC pilots who want a durable lightweight harness with top level performance, hike and fly enthusiasts who mostly do XC flying and Volbiv adventurers who need to store large amounts of gear for back country epics. Minor improvements can be made, depending on your needs.

Great aerodynamics, construction and design combine in a winning concept. 

Woody Valley GTO LIGHT: Review video

Find out more about the Woody Valley GTO LIGHT 

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