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BASE Jumping: Articles: Gear: Protective Clothing

Protective Clothing updated

by BASEwiki

Non jumpers often wonder why BASE jumpers wear helmets. After all, if the parachute doesn’t open is a helmet really going to save you? Once you realize that the biggest danger in BASE is offheadings and see some of the landing areas that BASE jumpers aim for, protective gear suddenly makes a lot more sense.

All BASE jumpers agree that protective gear is a good idea. However, different people have different comfort levels. There is no denying that protective gear can be restrictive and uncomfortable at times. Depending on the difficulty of the jump, the nature of the objects, surrounding obstacles and the available landing areas, more or less protective gear is needed.

On rare occasions the restrictions coming from having to sneak onto an object prevent the use of protective gear. Examples include getting into an office building during the day, wearing a business suit, dress shoes, and an attache-case that fits just a rig. Fortunately, these situations are rare, and it is up to the jumper to decide if the jump is worth the risk of not wearing protection.

Don’t ever be embarrassed because you are wearing more protective gear than the other people on the load. Don’t be the jumper that broke his ankle because he was wearing sneakers, or the guy that shattered his jaw because he wasn’t wearing a full face helmet.

Also, don’t mistake an easy primary landing area for a jump where no protection is necessary. You never know where your improvised backup plan tells you to land. Even the famous beginners bridge with its massive grass field has huge boulders on both sides just below the bridge. More than one person has broken bones here because they didn’t think beyond the primary landing area.

Helmets and Body Armor

These are topics big enough to warrant entire pages dedicated to helmets and body armor


After a helmet, shoes can be considered the most important protection you wear. Your ankles and feet are easily damaged when landing in a field of boulders, some bushes, or even on asphalt. Furthermore, hikes to certain cliffs can be very remote and through rough terrain.

Invest in a pair of sturdy boots with good ankle support and possibly reinforced toes. Most mountaineering stores carry suitable shoes. Prepare to spend some money, but know they’ll last you a life time. Also spend sufficient time in the store to make sure they fit well.

Most mountaineering boots have lace hooks. These are potential snag point in case you go completely unstable. It is not very likely, but you can consider to put tape over them. Even better, get a pair of boots that don’t have hooks. Hanwag makes a sturdy shoe for paragliders that doesn’t have any hooks. Many BASE jumpers wear them. Crispi Shoes also have some models that many BASE jumpers wear.


Kneepads are simple, lightweight, cheap and hardly restrict your movement. As such, they are highly recommended, especially considering knee fractures are some of the trickiest injuries to heal. Once you break your kneecap, or bones nearby, it is likely you’ll be in pain the rest of your life. All it takes is a poorly executed PLF over some small boulders, and your knee can be in pieces.

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Kneepads don’t have to be expensive, but there are several things to consider.
  • Is there snag-potential? Some kneepads have room between the hard pads and the liner below it behind which a line or a bridle can easily snag.
  • If there is snag potential, can you wear them underneath your pants to cover them up? This can also be a benefit on jumps where you don’t want to be seen wearing protection. How comfortable are they?
  • Can you take them off over your shoes or not?

Another advantage of having a pair of kneepads is that if you ever find yourself packing on hard ground, you can wear them to save your knees.

Some people wear shinguards as well. The benefit is substantially less than kneepads, but it doesn’t hurt to have them. Some pieces are combined kneepads and shinguards, especially the mountainbiking type. One area where they might help is when you decided to land in the trees.

Hip and Ass

Another relatively cheap and comfortable piece of protection can be provided by hip and ass shorts. These are usually worn by freestyle snowboarders, mountainbikers or motocrossers. Look in those areas when you’re shopping around. They usually have some soft padding on the butt cheeks, and hard shells to cover the tailbone, as well as the hips.

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The protection offered by these shorts can save you from having to sit on an inflatable tube for three weeks because you bruised your tailbone. These shorts are not going to save your life, but the disadvantages are minimal. They are very comfortable, and the only noticable difference is that you’ll have a bigger ass. That means that it’s not suitable for fashion aware BASE jumpers.

Some body armor comes in a full suit style as opposed to just a top. These are an awesome replacement for the hip and ass shorts.

Submitted by BASEwiki on 2007-06-11 | Last Modified by sangiro on 2010-04-16

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