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Although often mistaken for one another, hang gliding vs paragliding are two totally different sports. Let’s compare them and see which is better.
If you want to take to the skies and glide around to your heart’s content, then hang gliding and paragliding are two of the best options you have. Sure, you could always go skydiving, but that’s not really the same thing! Gliding is meant to be much more relaxing than free falling and pulling your parachute. So if gliding sounds more up your alley, then this is the hang gliding vs paragliding guide for you.
Hang gliding and paragliding are two of the more relaxing extreme air sports that are similar, but not quite the same. The biggest differences are that hang gliding uses a rigid frame, paragliding can fly with less wind, paragliding is a bit more dangerous, and hang gliding costs a little more.
If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, then you may be wondering whether hang gliding or paragliding is the better choice. Both of these sports can give you an amazing experience, but they are quite different from each other. In this article, we will compare and contrast these two sports so that you can decide which one is right for you!
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Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: A Complete Guide
Hang gliding and paragliding often end up getting confused with one another, but they’re actually very different sports that use entirely different types of aircraft. Just because they’re both gliding sports, doesn't mean that they’re exactly the same thing!
Hang gliding is a sport where the pilot is wrapped in a harness and suspended from the bottom of a big fabric wing that’s wrapped around a rigid frame, with the pilot lying prone like Superman. By running down a hill and generating lift or being launched via aerotowing, the big wing generates lift and keeps the hang glider (and pilot) afloat using air movement, wing, and thermal updrafts.
Paragliding, on the other hand, does not have a rigid frame. Instead, the aircraft consists of a loose section of fabric that’s connected to the pilot through guide cables and ropes. It’s similar to a narrow section of a parachute, but the design enables the pilot to generate lift rather than simply allow them to slowly descend towards the Earth.
As far as extreme air sports go, hang gliding and paragliding are both considered to be on the more relaxing end of the spectrum. This is opposed to the insane adrenaline-inducing end of the spectrum where you’ll find things like BASE jumping and wingsuit diving. Both of these gliding sports are more focused on soaring through the air like a bird and taking in the incredible views that this beautiful planet has to offer.
Now that you have a bit better of an idea of what each of these sports are, let’s compare them side-by-side and try to determine which one is right for you.
Safety & Risks
While both of these sports offer exhilarating experiences and are both something that you should absolutely experience during your lifetime, they are not without risk. Some risks are worse than others, and in catastrophic events, some of these risks can even lead to death.
So it's important that you understand the risks associated with both hang gliding and paragliding before you decide which one to do. The main risks associated with hang gliding include:
- Collisions with other aircraft or obstacles in the air
- Losing control of the glider and crashing into the ground
- Getting lost while flying
- Poor weather conditions
- Equipment failure
Due to how similar the two sports are, with the biggest difference really being the design of the aircraft, the risks for paragliding are similar to those associated with hang gliding. Bad weather, collisions, losing control, and equipment failure are all still present when you go from hang gliding to paragliding.
There’s also one additional risk of hang gliding that has to do with the way the canopy is designed. Since it’s not rigid, a paragliding canopy runs the risk of getting tangled up with itself and the guide ropes, which can lead to a rapid decline in altitude. If this happens, it’s essential to remain calm and do everything you can to get the canopy opened back up so it can begin regaining altitude.
While the risks of the two sports are fairly similar, let’s take a quick look at the fatality statistics. Thankfully both sports are overseen by the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA), so the statistics are easily comparable. That said, we have a full, in-depth article comparing the safety of hang gliding vs paragliding in which we really dissect the stats.
Since that article goes into great detail, I’ll just touch on the final findings here. In total, there is an average of about 1 fatality for every 1,000 hang gliding members of USHPA, and roughly 1 death for every 760 paragliders. So if both types of pilots fly roughly the same number of flights per year, there’s a greater chance of a fatal accident while paragliding.
So which sport is safer?
Both sports have their dangers, and it ultimately depends on the individual pilot's skill level and experience. However, we would say that paragliding has a higher risk of fatal accidents because there is typically more that can go wrong. So in a close race, we’d have to say that hang gliding is just a bit safer than paragliding.
Hang gliding and paragliding are both relatively affordable sports, but there is a bit of variation in terms of how much they each cost. Hang gliding typically costs more than paragliding because it requires a higher-quality wing. However, the equipment requirements for each sport are fairly similar. In addition to the cost of equipment, you will also need to pay for lessons and/or training.
The good news is that most locations where these sports can be enjoyed offer lessons and training programs. To start either sport, you'll want to get all the equipment you need. For both sports, this includes: the necessary aircraft (i.e. hang glider vs paraglider), a harness, helmet, reserve parachute, and variometer.
The cost of lessons will vary depending on your location and the provider. However, expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 for an introductory course in either sport. Once you have some basic training under your belt, you can start exploring the world of hang gliding or paragliding in more depth.
Which One Is Harder To Learn?
Sure, you could do a tandem hang gliding adventure or take a guided paragliding flight on vacation somewhere, but I'm talking about really learning how to do these sports on your own. As in to go from never doing either one to being able to perform solo flights and enjoy it anytime you want. When it comes to learning how to hang glide, it typically takes a little bit longer than learning how to paraglide.
Paragliding is easier because the training process is a lot less time-consuming and doesn't require as much technical knowledge or physical strength/stamina. Hang gliding requires more upper-body control but also allows the pilot to go farther distances and gives them more visibility. Paragliding has better maneuverability but can be tricky in strong winds since there's not much weight pulling down on the wing.
If you want something quick that doesn't require too much work, paragliding might be better for now. But if you want something more challenging and potentially more rewarding in the long-term (I know I know, this is subjective, but I am a bit biased towards hang gliding!), hang gliding is the way to go. It’s worth the extra effort to learn.
Hang Gliding Vs Paragliding: Which Is Better?
Both hang gliding and paragliding are thrilling sports that offer a lot of excitement and fun. And while there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all answer to this question (since fun is so subjective), we can help you get an idea of which one you’ll think is more fun based on your preferences.
Hang gliding is typically considered to be a slightly more extreme sport than paragliding. After all, where else do you get to fly through the air like a kite-wearing Superman? You need to have good balance and strength to control the hang glider, as well as nerves of steel (Man of Steel?) — because it can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing! However, when done correctly, hang gliding is an incredibly exhilarating experience that provides a lot of excitement and thrills.
Paragliding, on the other hand, is less extreme than hang gliding. It involves flying through the air using a small parachute-like device at lower speeds than hang gliders. You don’t need to have as great of balance or strength to control a paraglider, nor does the wind have to be nearly as strong to be able to fly. However, it can still be quite exciting and fun, and I love every second of it when I go paragliding!
So, which sport is better?
That depends on your preferences. If you're looking for an affordable sport that offers a lot of excitement and adventure, then paragliding may be the better option for you. Hang gliding is definitely more challenging and can be a bit more expensive at times, but it provides a unique and exhilarating experience that you won't find with paragliding.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and cost really shouldn't be the only driving factor behind it!