The Harness

The Harness, Container, Risers and Deployment Bag are the key components of the Rig. They do not change. The Container, Harness and Reserve Risers are one construction whereas the Deployment Bag and Main Risers are separate items however they must remain with the Rig as they may not be compatible with another manufacturer as they are designed for that Rig and Rig Size. Mismatched components can lead to serious injuries, premature deployment or no deployment at all.

This article is the biggest in our series looking at gear and there’s a lot to say about the all important harness and it’s many variations and configurations. Many thanks to Tom Hill for writing this article and for taking the pics.

The Harness

The Harness is one of the key components of the Rig; it must be comfortable for the wearer and fit properly. If it does not fit properly, it can result in poor performance or worst case death.

Many years ago, the Harness and Container used to be 2 separate pieces of equipment. On modern equipment, the Container and Harness is one complete piece although they still perform 2 different functions. If you are measured, the measurements dictate the Harness size which the Container is attached to. It is possible to have the same measurements and an array of Container sizes however if you change the Container size, you will need a completely new Container and Harness set up. While it is possible to alter a Harness, this can only be done by a BPA Advanced Rigger and the price can vary considerably. In some cases, it is more cost effective to buy a new rig. This section explains the options available on harnesses with the options on the container explained in a different section.

Standard Harness

This is the most basic version available using stitching to create the joins at the Leg Straps and Chest Strap. However if the Harness becomes damaged, it could result in the replacement of the entire Harness.

Figure 7: Standard Harness with stitching at the Chest Strap and Leg Straps.

Hip Rings

A Harness where metal rings are used for the junction between the vertical part of the Harness and the Leg Straps. Some manufacturers use the same ring as the Harness Ring on the 3 Ring Release System, others use a circular ring. When combined with Chest Rings, this created a Fully Articulated Harness, sometimes known as Full Rings.

Figure 8: Harness with Hip Rings Only. Note the wrapped Chest Strap join and Stainless Steel ring at the Leg Straps.

Chest Rings

 A Harness where metal rings are used for the junction between the vertical part of the Harness and the Chest Strap. When combined with Leg Rings, this creates a Fully Articulated Harness, sometimes known as Full Rings.

Figure 9: Chest Rings on a Harness.

Fully Articulated Harness/Full Rings

Where metal rings are used at joins with the Leg Straps and Chest Strap instead of a stitched webbing join. Fully Articulated Harnesses can make the Harness more comfortable and compliant with the wearers’ body which can be useful for Free Flying. In addition, if part of the Harness becomes damaged, it may mean that only that component needs to be replaced which can result in a cheaper repair compared to replacing an entire harness.

Figure 10: Fully Articulated Harness with Hip and Chest Rings.

Stainless Steel Hardware

An option which uses Stainless Steel for the construction of metal hardware on the Harness like Chest Rings, Hip Rings, Reserve Static Line connector and the 3 Ring Release System. Stainless Steel does not lose its shine over time.

Figure 11: Stainless Steel Hardware on the left compared to Standard/Cadmium Plated on the right. Note the dull colour of the Standard Hardware compared to the Stainless Steel Hardware.

Standard Hardware/Cadmium Plated

The standard construction of metal hardware on a Harness. This uses Cadmium plated metal and does not retain its shine unlike Stainless Steel.

Black Hardware

An option offered by some manufacturers which creates a black finish on metal hardware. A black finish does not mean the component is immune to rust damage. Rust has been reported on black finished hardware because of the underlying metal used. As with any hardware, check for rust in all areas.

Cut In Laterals

An option on equipment which allows the Harness to wrap around the waist of the wearer similar to a back. As a result, the Rig is less likely to move on the wearer and is preferred for disciplines like Free Flying. The Laterals start towards the middle of the Rig as opposed to from the edges hence the name Cut In.

Figure 12: Cut in Lateral on the left compared to Standard Laterals on the right. Note the Cut in Laterals are attached closer to the centre of the Container compared to Standard Laterals on the edge of the Container.

Spacer Foam

An optional extra for foam padding on the Leg Straps and Back Pad to make the Rig more comfortable to wear.

Figure 13: Rig with spacer foam on the back pad, laterals and leg straps. It is preferred by some skydivers due to the comfort.

Reserve Handle

A metal handle for the Reserve Ripcord that will initiate the deployment of the Reserve when pulled.

Figure 14: Metal Reserve Handle on the left and Soft Reserve Handle on the right. The blue cable is the Spectra® Reserve Rip Cord.

Soft Reserve Handle

Preferred by some freeflyers due to the lower snag risk, the Soft Reserve Handle replaces the Metal Reserve Handle as a method to initiate the deployment of the Reserve.

Chest Strap

There are 2 choices of Chest Strap – Type 8 wide style and Type 17 narrow style. Both are rated to the same strength due to the metal hardware used for the buckle.

In the next instalment, we will be talking about the container. Keep an eye out for our blog and we will release the next article soon!


Skydiving equipment must be certified for use in a country however there are some international standards which equipment can be certified by. This shows the equipment has passed the required tests to meet the certification. A certification being granted does not mean the equipment is immune from manufacturing errors nor does the absence of a certification mean it is dangerous. You can speak with a Rigger if you have any questions about how your equipment is built.

Many thanks to Tom Hill for writing this article and for taking the pics.

Technical Standard Order C23 (TSO C23)

This is likely in the context ‘Fully certified under TSO C23’ or ‘Fully TSO’ed’. Technical Standard Order C23 is a Federal Aviation Authority standard that skydiving Harnesses, Containers and Reserves must meet in order to be sold in the United States. Not all equipment is certified to TSO C23. If your equipment is not certified to TSO C23, you can jump it in the United States for personal use only. In addition, some skydiving federations will not allow you to jump non TSO C23 certified equipment beyond a certain timeframe from arrival for example 3 months. In any case, the foreign federation will require the equipment you jump to be certified in your home nation. Make sure you check the requirements with the country you are visiting. The letter after the TSO is a subsection, for example TSO C23 (d).

Removal of any TSO label will void the certification so ensure it is intact and present.

Figure 6: An example of a TSO C23 on a Skydiving Container (Left). The TSO label may be in other places. If this label is present on the Container, the Harness and Container information may be behind it. Others have the TSO C23 label in the Reserve Pin Cover Flap (right).