Let’s face it, some of you are skinny lightweights. Some of us aren’t. That alone is enough to make drastically different fall rates, but when you start incorporating different types of jumpsuits, from the very slick designed to go fast to the ZP-lined ones designed to slow you down, it becomes even more problematic. The fact of the matter is, if you find that you float a lot on your skydives or that you have to keep your arms and legs in the majority of the time just to stay with the group, you may want to start thinking about weights.
Wearing a weight belt or vest seems to be a matter of pride for people, and I’ve never understood why. Some are so adamantly against it they’ll defend their ability to arch until they’re blue in the face. But sometimes, you just can’t arch that much, and besides, who would want to try? You don’t want to be spending every skydive at the edge of your range. You want to spend it focusing on the things you’ve set out to do. If your only goal on a skydive is to be near the other group, you might want to set some tougher goals.
Personally, I find that with my first suit (Tony Suit Space Suit with 4 ply cotton fabric on the front) I tend to float more than I’d like. With my newer suit (Tony Suit Pit Special) I tend to fall faster given the nylon front to the suit. However, in the tunnel (for whatever reason) weights are a necessity for me, even with the faster suit. It can be hell on my back after arching for a 30 minute session if I don’t have weights on. I know they can be a pain in the butt to carry around, but it’s a small price to pay so that you can enjoy your skydive with your friends.
Your gear store may not carry one, but they can easily be snagged online. Paragear offers their own version, as well as the Parasport version. Paragear includes the weights with their belts, which increases shipping a bit, but not nearly as much as you might think. However, if you want to save some money or maybe you just have some weights of your own at home (scuba weights? sock full of nickels? if you get them from ankle weights, never admit it), you can get the Parasport belt from Chutingstar without weights in it. You can buy weights from Chutingstar separately if you’d like, which come in at 1.5 lbs as opposed to Paragear’s 1.1 lbs per weight. Chutingstar also offers a Deepseed weight belt as well.
If you’re wondering about size, I’m somewhere between a 31 and a 34 waist/hips (depending on where you measure), and the medium Parasport weight belt fits me a little loose cinched all the way down. I’m guessing a small would have been a bit better, though I didn’t get to try one on so I can’t be sure. Ask people around the drop zone if they have weights and what they wear. You may notice that I haven’t supplied links to weight vests. The reason I did that is because if you find yourself in a situation where a water landing is imminent, having a single buckle to drop your weight belt is ideal. Wearing a weight vest under your jumpsuit means that thing is staying on for the ride, so I hope you’re a good swimmer. Another alternative is to have weights inserted into the backpad of your rig. I know someone who does this because she’s incredibly light, and it works well for her. Discuss this with your rigger if you’re curious. Also, pro tip: if you’re traveling with weights, I’d recommend bringing them in your carry-on to avoid baggage weight fees. Just make sure to take them out and put them in their own bin while going through security, otherwise you will get stopped every single time for a bag check. Believe me.
If you’ve been told before that you need weights and you’re still thinking “I don’t need weights, I can hack it,” then you’re wrong. That’s all there is to it. If anything, it’s a compliment that you need weights. It means you’ve managed to maintain a slim figure in the face of KFC’s Double Down Sandwich and Domino’s Pasta Bowls. Just keep in mind that you’re effectively downsizing by throwing on weights. At the time of this writing, I’m on a Spectre 150 putting my wing loading at 1.3. When I’ve added weights in the past, it’s not such a significant change that it’s scary, though it is noticeable on light wind days. As always, be heads up, discuss with other (knowledgeable) skydivers, and be safe.