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Skydiving FAQ:
Why do skydivers wear fancy jumpsuits?


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Making a skydive with my brother (in the doorway) at a Florida drop zone/skydive center, circa early 1990's. 

Why wear the fancy skydive jumpsuits?

Well, it isn't just to look cool (although some California skydivers might take exception to that statement).  Skydive jumpsuits serve some very real functions.  

For one, the padded, fluorescent strips you see sewn to my jumpsuit are called "grips".  They provide a grip for other skydivers to hang onto when forming up in freefall. 

Jumpsuits also aid in controlling your fall rate.  Skydivers, being human beings of differing weights and proportions, tend to drop at very different fall rates (or "terminal velocities") -- typically anywhere from 110mph to 125mph.  

A skinny, long fellow like me (6', 165 lbs.) tends to fall slower, while a short chubby person, or tall heavy person will tend to fall faster.  (how fast you fall through the air is basically a matter of how much surface area you present in proportion to your weight.  Consider that, regardless of the distance fallen, an ant cannot fall fast enough for the fall to be fatal, whereas lethal altitude for us humans can potentially be the distance from the top of just about any household ladder)

In order to stay together in freefall, jumpers must somehow match their fall rates.  Some of this can be accomplished simply by adjusting your body position (reducing or increasing the surface area you present by crouching up or spreading out).   The rest is accomplished with weights and tailor-made jumpsuits.

The type of fabric, how baggy or tight the suit is, where it is tight or baggy, and other features such as booties that extend over your shoes, or the zippered flares you see at my ankles, increase, decrease and direct drag where needed for a particular jumper & style of jumping.

Ultimately I favored wearing no jumpsuit at all; I simply jumped in blue jeans and shirt. Thanks to my lean build and informal style of parachuting, this was sufficient. And, frankly, I think it looks cooler than jumping with an overpriced (over $200) custom skydive jumpsuit -- especially one that has pink grips (what ever possessed me to order those?!!)