Best Hang Glider Design | FlightNotch

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Knowing what the best hang glider design is means knowing what makes up a good hang glider design. Learn everything about hang glider design in this guide.

No matter if you’re a novice pilot or you’ve been hang gliding for years, you may or may not know the nitty-gritty details of hang glider design. They’re just roughly triangular fabric wings attached to a rigid frame, right? Well, not exactly. If it were that easy to make a hang glider, then we could just whittle them up in our garage. But I wouldn’t recommend you do that! So what is the best design for a hang glider?

There are a lot of different factors that go into hang glider design. Some of these factors include the single surface vs double surface, rigid wings vs flexible wings, glide ratios, glide bar pressure, and safety. The best hang glider design is the one that incorporates these in the best way.

In this article, we will discuss five of the most important factors: single surface vs double surface, rigid wings vs flexible wings, glide ratios, glide bar pressure, and safety. For each factor, we will describe what it is and how it affects the design of a hang glider. After going over all of those factors, we will describe the best hang glider design.

FlightNotch has become one of the top hang gliding sites on the web by providing our readers with interesting, engaging content that they can rely on. Not only are we enthusiasts just like you, but we make sure to research every topic and only put out the most accurate information we can. So while any topic that includes “best” has a bit of subjectivity built in, we’re confident that you’ll know what the best hang glider design is when you’re done reading this.

Table of contents


What to Consider in Hang Glider Design

The best way to eventually reach the point where we can dive into the best hang glider design is to go through the most important things that go into hang glider design. After all, how can we know what the best is if we do not know what goes into making a hang glider?

Let me preface this by saying that there is a lot more that goes into hang glider design than what we're going to talk about here. Things like pitch, angle of attack, lift, drag, and other aerodynamic forces are important, but they are beyond the scope of this article.  For a bit more information about how hang gliding works, check out some of the other great articles on the site.

We're going to focus on five of the main design factors that will have the biggest impact on your hang gliding experience: single surface vs double surface, rigid wings vs flexible wings, glide ratios, glide bar pressure, and safety. These are also many of the same things you must take into account when choosing the right hang glider for yourself.

So let's dive in.

Single Surface vs Double Surface

One of the biggest design decisions that you will have to make is whether to go with a single surface or double surface wing.  A single surface wing is exactly what it sounds like: it is one piece of material that makes up the entire wing.  A double surface wing, on the other hand, has two pieces of material: an upper and lower skin that come together at an angle to change the performance of the hang glider.

This is an important design feature because it changes the way that air flows over the wing.  With a single surface wing, air flows more smoothly over the top of the wing.  This gives you better lift and a higher glide ratio, while simultaneously making for a glider that's easier to control. The flip side to this is a double surface wing, which gives you much more performance capabilities.

Basically, this means that you can fly in stronger winds and more turbulent air, but it comes at the cost of increased drag and a lower glide ratio.  So which one is better? It really depends on what you want to use your hang glider for.  If you're just getting started, or if you plan on doing mostly cross-country flying, then a single surface wing is probably the way to go.  But if you're looking to do more acrobatic flying or compete in races, then a double surface wing might be a better choice.

Rigid Wings vs Flexible Wings

Another important design decision is whether to go with a rigid wing or a flexible wing. When hang gliders were first produced, flexible wings were much more common. This type of design is the same general idea that you can see in modern-day paragliders, where the wings are made of a fabric material that can flex and change shape in the air.

On the other hand, modern-day hang gliders are almost all made with rigid wings. This design is much stronger and can handle more wind and turbulence than a flexible wing. It also allows for a better glide ratio, meaning that you can stay in the air longer before needing to land. Since the rigid wing can stand up against stronger winds, you don't have to worry about it potentially getting wrapped up in itself like you could possibly see happen with a parachute or paraglider.

There are some trade-offs with a rigid wing, though. They tend to be more expensive than flexible wings, and they can be more difficult to transport and set up. They also require a bit more skill to fly, since you need to be able to control the wing in order to keep it flying straight.

In general, though, a rigid wing is going to be the better choice for someone who wants the best performance out of their hang glider. If you want to fly something with a flexible wing, you should definitely check out paragliding!

Glide Ratios

One of the key performance factors of any hang glider is its glide ratio, which is typically represented with a ratio like 16:1. This is the ratio of how far the glider will travel horizontally compared to how much it will sink in a given time period. In this case, a glider with a 16:1 glide ratio would go 16 feet forward for every 1 foot it loses in altitude. A higher glide ratio means that the glider can travel further before it needs to find another thermal updraft to keep it aloft.

There are two main factors that affect a hang glider's glide ratio: wing shape and airfoil. The wing shape is the overall three-dimensional shape of the wing, and the airfoil is the cross-sectional shape of the wing. Both of these affect how much lift the wing produces and how much drag it creates, which is then reflected in the glider's overall glide ratio.

A hang glider with a higher aspect ratio (the ratio of the wing's span to its chord) will have a higher glide ratio. This is because a long, narrow wing produces more lift and less drag than a short, wide wing. The airfoil also affects the glide ratio. A thinner airfoil (one with a lower camber) will produce more lift and less drag than a thicker airfoil.

We have a full article that goes into detail about glide ratios, so I won't bore you with the same information here. In short, the best glide ratios for hang gliding are between 15:1 and 20:1.

Glide Bar Pressure

One of the most important aspects of hang glider design that many people don't even know about, including veteran pilots, is glide bar pressure. While flying, this refers to how much force, or pressure, you must apply to the various glide bars that control the glider in order for the glider to respond. This is indicative of how easy or difficult it is to control the glider.

A lower glide bar pressure means that the glider is much more responsive to your inputs, and is therefore much easier to get a reaction out of it with less force. This is great if you're experienced and really know what you're doing since you can get more out of the glider. But for beginners, it can be a bit too much since it's easy to overcorrect and lose control.

A higher glide bar pressure means that the glider is less responsive to your inputs, so you'll have to use more force in order to get it to do what you want. This may seem counterintuitive, but it actually makes the glider much easier to fly since it's more stable and less likely to overreact to your inputs. So if you're a beginner, look for a glider with higher glide bar pressure.


Last, but certainly not least, is safety. This is often the most important factor for people when choosing any type of flying device, and rightfully so. Hang gliders are generally very safe, but there are still some risks involved. The biggest risk is probably from turbulence, which can cause the hang glider to move unexpectedly, especially with newer pilots. That's why it's important to have a well-designed hang glider that is strong and can withstand turbulence.

One of the most important things to do when you're hang gliding is to make sure the glider you use has enough room in the harness for you to wear a parachute. I've seen people over the years go up in a glider without a parachute, and I cannot imagine why. If for any reason you cannot get strapped into your glider while wearing a parachute, you need to switch to a different glider!

It's also important to have a good understanding of how to fly the hang glider and to always be aware of your surroundings. If you do those things, then you should be able to enjoy many hours of safe flying. Hang gliding is not nearly as dangerous as many people think it is, but that's only true as long as you follow all safety tips and advice.

What is the Best Design For a Hang Glider?

Now that we've gone over the most important aspects of hang glider design, let's sum it up and talk about what the best design for a hang glider is. The best design is one that takes all of the factors we've talked about into account and balances them out to create a glider that is easy to fly, has good performance, and is safe.

There are many different types of hang gliders on the market, so it's important to do your research and find one that fits your needs. If you're a beginner, you'll want a glider that is easy to fly and control. If you're more experienced, you might want a glider with better performance. And no matter what you're looking for, make sure to get a hang glider that is made with high-quality materials and has a good safety record.

No matter what your needs are, there is a hang glider out there that is perfect for you. Just make sure to do your research and find the one that best meets your needs and flying style. And always remember to fly safely!