Light, lighter, lightest

The paragliders athletes use are about to get even lighter

Aaron Durogati (ITA1) performs during the Red Bull X-Alps at Turnpoint 7, Switzerland on June 21, 2019

The Red Bull X-Alps can safely claim to have inspired a whole new direction for the sport of paragliding. With its emphasis on hiking and flying, the race has focused the sport’s attention on how to make the paraglider wings lighter – and then lighter still.

A typical recreational paraglider weighs about 5-6kg – but the specialist gliders in the Red Bull X-Alps weigh almost half that, at about 3kg. 

How has that happened? One important factor is the material that the paraglider is made of. The company behind it is called Porcher, and they make most of the fabric used in all paragliders today.

The material is called Skytex 27 – the 27 being shorthand for 27 grams per square metre. That’s how much the material weighs. A typical glider is about 26 square metres – about 700g of cloth. Consider that a paraglider has a top and a bottom surface, and an internal structure, and you can see that about 2kg of cloth is used in each lightweight wing.

Amazingly, this lightweight flying machine is about to get even lighter. At the start of the Red Bull X-Alps Porcher announced they will release even a new material next year – Skytex 21. And yes, you guessed it, it will weigh 21 grams per square metre. A near-25% weight-saving over Skytex 27.

The result will be even lighter gliders, which will allow athletes to hike for longer and carry their gliders more easily. A true technological revolution in the sport.

Want to see the gliders in action? Follow the athletes on their adventure across the Alps on Live Tracking

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