Paragliding vs hang gliding? Choosing which one to focus on is more complicated than it sounds.
Both are absolutely fantastic if you want a cheap way to fly.
But they have a catalogue of differences, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Paragliding vs Hang Gliding
The major difference between paragliding and hang gliding is the shape, size, and weight of the wing structure. The pilot position and steering system are highly noticeable too. Plus prices, portability, speeds, safety, aerobatics, and how long it takes you to learn different.
Paraglider vs Hang Glider
Paragliders and hang gliders both come with a large wing and pilots are attached to them through a harness, but that is where the similarities end. Let’s look at the major differences between each wing so you’ll know exactly how they work:
- Hang Glider
Paraglider – A paraglider wing looks similar to a parachute and has an elliptical shape. The soft and wide surface allows air to be trapped below it. The harness is attached to the wing using lines, which the pilot can use to control the paraglider from meters below the canopy.
Hang Glider – A hang glider wing is a solid triangular shaped structure. It’s composed of heavy tarpaulin stretched over a metal frame. The harness is attached to a strap that’s connected to the wing frame. Pilots lie just below the wing and use body movements to control the glider.
Even though paraglider and hang glider wings are different shapes, sizes, and weights they both use the same basic principle to fly. In simple terms, airflow creates lower pressure above the wing pulling it up, while positive pressure below the wing pushes it up to create lift.
6 Benefits Of Paragliding vs Hang Gliding
Some people prefer paragliding vs hang gliding because it’s packed with positives they can’t get from the latter. Before you choose which sport to focus on you’ll want to know what those benefits are. Here is a main list of the biggest advantages when it comes to paragliding:
- Paragliding Cost Less Money
- Learning To Paraglide Is Easier
- Paragliders Are More Portable
- Paragliding Weather Conditions
- More Paragliding Schools
- Paragliding Landings Are Easier
1 Paragliding Cost Less Money
Paragliding is cheaper than hang gliding even though the difference isn’t too big. There are actually a couple of reasons why paragliding is cheaper, so we’ll break things down into two main areas:
- Paraglider cost
- Paragliding training cost
Paraglider cost – Brand new paragliders cost around $3,000 to $7,000 on average, which is a wide price range. The exact price you’ll pay will depend on the brand name and quality of the equipment. It will include all the important things you need which includes:
- Paragliding wing
- Paragliding harness
- Paragliding helmet
- Reserve parachute
You can find much cheaper second hand paragliders, but bare in mind it’s a dangerous sport. You’ll really need to know what you’re looking at when you check out the equipment to make sure it’s not damaged or wearing down. Paraglider wings last around 300 hours of flying time.
Hang gliders cost around $1,000 to $2,000 more on average, but again it’s going to depend on the exact model you choose. If you want to keep costs down there is nothing wrong with using an entry level hang glider to start out. You’ll get the following in your hang gliding kit:
- Hang glider harness
- Hang glider helmet
- Reserve parachute
Pro Tip: If you plan on buying a second hand paraglider or hang glider you should get one from an accredited school or instructor. You’ll be able to save lots of money while ensuring the equipment is in good condition. They’ll even be able to tell you how long it should last.
Paragliding training cost – It’s really hard to talk about paragliding and hang gliding lesson costs because it’s going to depend on a few things:
Paragliding lessons in expensive countries going through a highly reputable brand might be more expensive than hang gliding lessons in a cheaper country with an average school. But all other things being equal, paragliding lessons are less expensive than hang gliding lessons.
The biggest difference is the fact you’ll need more hang gliding lessons to complete your training. Before you have the ability to fly on your own safely you’ll need to stump up more money. You’ll need at least 10+ hang gliding lessons before you can maneuver around properly.
2 Learning To Paraglide Is Easier
Learning paragliding is a lot easier than learning hang gliding. During a paragliding course it might only take you a few lessons to get the basics down to the point where you’re able to fly safely on your own. We’ve already mentioned it can take at least 10 hang gliding lessons.
We’re going to go into much more detail about these things later on, but here are a few reasons why paragliding is easier than hang gliding:
- Take Offs
- Flying style
Paragliding is one of the most amazing sports in the world and once you get into aerobatics it’s very extreme, but it’s just not that hard to control a paraglider at a basic level. To start with, you’re essentially just hanging there strapped into a harness moving slowly through the air.
Lines connect the wing to the harness, which you use to control the paraglider. Risers connect lines to the harness and you can maneuver using these too. Plus brake controls you’ll have in each hand can be used to control your speed and the direction you’re moving in.
Learning how to paraglide is still tough. It’s just not as difficult as learning how to hang glide. There are extras other than the equipment you’ll need to master before flying on your own. Failure to understand these two things thoroughly could result in a disaster:
- Weather conditions
- Your limitations
3 Paragliders Are More Portable
Paragliders can be carried around in a backpack because the wing isn’t solid, so it can be bundled up really easily. All paragliders will be a different weight depending on which one you buy, but the average is roughly 10 kilos (22 pounds) and light enough for anyone to carry.
Hang gliders have a rigid structure that can be around 5 meters wide, plus they weigh around 30 kilos (66 pounds) so they can’t be carried around easily. Even though they’re three times heavier it might not seem like a lot to strong people, but think about a few key things:
Transportation – Assembling and disassembling your paraglider won’t take very long and you’ll be able to throw it inside your car. It’s simple to transport to the destination where you’ll be paragliding. Even if you don’t have a car you’ll be able to transport your paraglider using:
When you want to transport your hang glider you’ll need to own a car, plus you’ll need to own a good roof rack. 30 kilos might not make much difference in regards to handling extra weight, but driving around with a 5 meter wide hang glider on the top of your car is annoying.
Traveling on a plane with a hang glider is almost impossible and only a few airlines allow it. That means you won’t be able to use your own hang glider is exotic locations around the world. And don’t even think about trying to take your hang glider on a bus or train journey.
Please Note: Hang glider and paraglider harnesses, helmets, and reserve parachutes will weigh a little extra, but they’re not going to make much difference.
Landings – Once you take off from the mountain you’ll cover lots of distance soaring through the air. We’ll get into exactly how far you’ll be able to glide later, but what will you do once you land? You’ll need to carry your equipment once you land and a paraglider will be easier.
In fact, a paraglider might give you the confidence to travel further away because you won’t be inconvenienced once you touch down. Although if you decide to start hang gliding I’m sure you’ll find a way to get around this even though it’s going to be more physically taxing.
Storage – Storage ties in with transportation. You’ll need lots of storage space to keep a hang glider because it’s bigger and more rigid. You’ll hardly need any storage space for a paraglider. If you paraglide regularly you won’t even need to take it out of your car at night.
4 Paragliding Weather Conditions
Paragliding and hang gliding have their pros and cons when it comes to wind conditions, but paragliding is better for beginners. You’ll be able to take off without any hassle when there is almost zero wind. Plus you’ll have better maneuverability when it’s not windy outside.
At some point while paragliding you’re going to hit turbulence like you’ve experienced in a plane. Paragliders can handle air turbulence pretty well because they’re not rigid. A paraglider can adjust quickly to give you a smooth and less complicated ride at slower speeds.
In ideal weather conditions you’ll also be able to climb higher on a paraglider. A larger surface area on paragliders means catching more updrafts and gliding on thermals. Remember it gets more volatile when you climb up to those high heights, so it’s not for the fainthearted.
That being said, it’s possible to hang glide in faster winds moving up to 30 miles per hour. You can also take off when there is almost zero wind so they’re almost equal in terms of performance .
5 More Paragliding Schools
Hang gliding has been around for a lot longer than paragliding. The first hang gliders started taking to the sky in the 1890s, whereas paragliding didn’t become a thing until the 1950s. It basically started foot launched aviation and it’s only improved thanks to technology over the years.
But paragliding is a lot more popular than hang gliding these days. That’s not to say hang gliding is a dying sport because it’s still huge and won’t go away, but a decline in popularity will have an effect on you. Hang gliding schools are one area where you’ll see a difference.
There will be less hang gliding schools vs paragliding schools, so you’ve got a better chance of finding the latter no matter where you live. The instructors might be able to teach paragliding at a more advanced level too, because it’s what most will spend all their free time practicing.
It’s only a slight advantage although you will find things like:
- More paraglider deals
- More instructors
- More fellow enthusiasts
- Bigger product range
6 Paragliding Landings Are Easier
Paragliding takeoffs are easy because there are only a couple of ways to do it. But hang gliding takeoffs aren’t much harder. With enough practice anyone can learn to become great at takeoffs. Landings are where paragliding is going to be much easier than hang gliding.
There are a few important things required when you want to land a hang glider:
- Larger landing area
- Longer approach
Larger landing area – An experienced hang glider will be able to land inside an area approximately 50 by 200 feet, provided it’s free of any obstructions and relatively flat. But less advanced hang gliders will need a larger landing area and there might not be many around.
Longer approach – Another big problem due to the speed hang gliders move at is the fact they’ll need a longer approach. It does make a difference although it shouldn’t be too big an issue. Hang gliders might need to use a drogue parachute to slow down which means more hassle.
Portability – We’ve already talked about portability so there is no point in dwelling on it. Unless you land pretty close to your car it’s going to be tougher for hang gliders once they’ve landed. The size of a hang glider means it’s going to be harder to get back to your starting point.
Paragliding reigns supreme when it comes to landings. They don’t require much space, you’ll be traveling at slower speeds, and it’s easy to pick everything up and walk. There are less things a paraglider has to worry about when they finally want to land somewhere random.
Remember: Surrounding terrain and wind conditions come into play when you’re landing too, so the area might need to be bigger whether you’re using a paraglider or hang glider.
6 Benefits Of Hang Gliding vs Paragliding
Paragliding might be taking over in terms of popularity, but there are still a large number of benefits that will draw a certain kind of person to hang gliding. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest benefits you’ll receive once you start undertaking hang gliding lessons:
- Hang Gliding Speeds
- Active Style Of Flying
- More Takeoff Styles
- Outrunning Bad Weather
- Equipment Lasts Longer
- Flying Like Superman
1 Hang Gliding Speeds
The speeds you can reach on a hang glider are frightening. You’ll be able to travel at speeds over a hundred miles per hour. Can you imagine traveling at such high speeds while you’re flying through the air? In the beginning I would expect more reasonable speeds like:
15 mph to almost 40 mph
Paragliders should be able to start at 15 mph to around 25 mph. Once someone has been paragliding for a while they’ll be able to travel at speeds up to 35 mph. It’s actually pretty unsafe to go above this speed thanks to the wing design, so hang gliding is a million times faster.
Think about how much this means in terms of distances you can travel. As long as the weather conditions are right you can take off when the sun starts to come up and come down when the sun starts to set. You’ll be able to travel much further distances when hang gliding due to speed.
It’s possible to fly hundreds of miles either hang gliding and paragliding.
When you’re at hang gliding and paragliding schools it’s obviously different. You might only stay in the air for 10 to 15 minutes. But just remember, when the conditions are right you’ll be able to cover enormous distances flying all day on your own.
You’ll be able to do it at much faster speeds while hang gliding.
2 Active Style Of Flying
We talked about the fact you’ll be positioned in a seated position pulling some lines while paragliding. Although that’s a slight exaggeration it’s a tiny bit true. Hang gliding is an active style of flying which requires you to move your body in order to change your direction and speed.
Hang gliding pilots are basically hanging from a strap which is attached to the wing frame, which is where the name comes from. While you’re dangling at the end of the strap you’ll be able to move in a few ways to alter your center of gravity to pitch and roll:
- Side to side
Lying horizontally under the hang glider A-frame using your body to turn, or sitting upright in a harness using your hands to control the paraglider. Although they’re both pretty good the active style of flying definitely makes you feel like you have more power and control in the air.
3 More Takeoff Styles
There are a lot more takeoff styles in hang gliding vs paragliding. We’ve already talked about the fact there are two different paragliding takeoff styles, which aren’t very interesting and won’t take long to learn. Here is a brief explanation of each one before we move on:
- Forward launch
- Reverse launch
Forwards launch – During a forward launch you should be running forwards while leaning forward as much as possible within reason. While running you should keep your arms back and hold them up as far as possible. Running into the rising airflow equals lift off.
Reverse launch – A reverse launch is basically the exact opposite except you’re running backwards. A large number of paragliders prefer this option. Before you hit the air currents you’ll have a last chance to make sure the paraglider lines aren’t tangled and messed up.
Both options are pretty easy, but hang gliding edges takeoffs because there are so many cool options available. You don’t need to perform them all the time but it’s possible. Here is a small sample of the takeoff options you’ll have available once you start hang gliding:
- Foot launching from hills (dunes, mountains, and cliffs)
- Tow launching from tow system
- Aerotowing from a boat
- Hot air balloon drops
- Pulled up by aircrafts
4 Outrunning Bad Weather
Hang gliders have the ability to hold up better in bad weather conditions because they’re ridgid, but a glider can only handle so much. There will eventually come a time where you’ll need to move out the way or land your hang glider before something terrible happens.
Thanks to your ability to fly at great speeds while hang gliding you’ll be able to outrun bad weather, which is a pretty impressive feat considering how quickly it can change. With experience you’ll begin to realize what to avoid when the weather takes a turn for the worst.
It’s important to remember a couple of things before you start to take unnecessary risks:
- Read weather reports
- Don’t take any chances
Read weather reports – Every hang glider and paraglider should check the local weather reports before they go out for the day. Even though things can change fast you should have some idea of what to expect. This won’t help much when you plan on flying a hundred miles.
Don’t take any chances – The moment you think there is a risk you should look for somewhere to land asap. Hang gliding is a sport you can do almost all the time. It’s not worth risking your life gliding in bad weather because you like to take chances.
5 Equipment Lasts Longer
In the beginning, hang gliding equipment is going to cost you a bit more money. Thankfully it’s possible to make that back over time because a rigid hang gliding frame is going to last a lot longer than paragliding wings. In the long run hang gliding tends to work out a lot cheaper.
As long as you take care of your hang glider it could last between 8 to 10 years, whereas a paraglider might only last 3 years. There are actually three big ways to protect your hand glider to ensure it lasts a long time, which we’ll look at now so you’ll know what to do:
- UV rays
- Basic damage
UV rays – Due to harsh UV rays hang gliders can eventually succumb to wear and tear after 8 to 10 years. There is nothing you can do about the sun while you’re flying, but keep it covered when you’re not hang gliding. Plus it should always be stored somewhere safe indoors.
Crashes – One crash can drastically reduce the amount of time your hang glider lasts. Maybe one crash is all it takes. Definitely don’t make a habit of crashing your hang glider on a regular basis. Avoid taking risks and don’t attempt anything too hard until you’re more experienced.
Basic damage – Treat your hang glider like it’s worth thousands of dollars, so don’t throw it around. Be very careful when you’re driving with the glider on the roof rack. Don’t trip over a rock and fall on it. Basically just use your common sense and don’t damage it.
Even though a paraglider only lasts around 3 years or 300 hours of flying time, you might be able to pick up a cheaper second hand one next time around. Surprisingly lines last longer than wings, except in the case of competition lines as they’ll only last 150 to 200 flying hours.
6 Flying Like Superman
Hang gliding is as close as you’ll ever get to flying through the sky like Superman, which is definitely something everyone would consider a huge benefit. Especially if you have the experience to fly at over a hundred mph, a few thousand feet higher than parachuters jump from.
Paragliding And Hang Gliding Similarities
We’ve covered a huge list of differences so far, but paragliding and hang gliding have a few things in common too. They might not be identical in each sport but it’s close. Here are some of the big ones you’ll start to notice once you get into either discipline:
- Tandem gliding
- Powered gliding
- Rescue parachutes
- Extra site fees
Tandem gliding – When you attend paragliding and hang gliding schools you’ll be able to do tandem jumps with an instructor. But once you’ve learned to glide on your own you’ll be able to take others up with you. It’s pretty cool experiencing the sights with someone you care about.
Powered gliding – If you want to take things to the next level you can strap a motor to your back. Powered paragliding and hang gliding has become popular in recent years. Although the motors in each sport are slightly different the technology has come on leaps and bounds.
Relaxing – Hang gliding and paragliding are both pretty relaxing sports almost anyone can do. Hang gliders need to be able to jog with 30 kilos (66 pounds) sitting on their shoulders, so you need to be slightly fitter. Once in the air anyone can relax and enjoy the stunning views below.
Please Note: It does get much tougher physically when you throw rougher weather conditions and higher speeds into the equation, in which case hang gliding becomes more demanding. Paragliding is generally considered a more calming sport overall.
Aerobatics – Hang gliders can perform a huge number of aerobatic tricks once they’re experts. Paragliders can use pendular momentum to do a few extra ones, but you always need to think about tangling wing lines. Unless you’re a top professional either sport will satisfy your needs.
Rescue parachutes – Paragliders and hang gliders should always fly with a rescue parachute in case something goes wrong. A rescue parachute will slow down your descent in the event you begin to plummet. Pulled-down apex (PDA) and square-round (SQR) are great designs.
Please note: The efficiency, design, and quality of construction are not the same across all rescue parachutes. It’s important to choose a reputable brand when getting your parachute. In life or death situations, you always want to stick with a company you can trust.
Extra site fees – You can take off from pretty much anywhere when paragliding and hang gliding depending on where you’re from. But some popular places where other people take off might come with additional site fees. The exact prices will depend on the exact location.
Paragliding vs Hang Gliding: Safety
Is paragliding safe? Paragliding is safer than hang gliding, but the latter is much safer than in the past. If you don’t fly too high and stick to slower speeds it's less dangerous. But once you start pushing your luck there is always a chance of something going wrong up there.
Paragliders might try to go too high where the weather is extremely volatile, plus the wind could kick up at any moment.
Hang gliders might try to go so fast they lose control, plus it’s more difficult to land unless you find a great landing zone.
At the end of the day, paragliding and hang gliding over 10,000 feet in the air at high speed isn’t going to come without risks. It’s why pilots should always have a backup parachute ready. Here are a few of the main things that could cause someone to end up getting injured:
- Collision risks
- Weather risks
- Pilot error
- Gear failure
Collision risks – If you get distracted for a few seconds you could crash into someone. Even letting yourself get too close is dangerous in bad weather. Always assume everyone else is a complete beginner because you’ll be cautious of every pilot around you in busy locations.
Weather risks – Every paragliding and hang gliding pilot will know how risky the weather can be after a few lessons. Study air pressure, wind speed, visibility, and everything else related to the weather. Plus know what the conditions are before you take off every single time.
Pilot error – After a certain number of successful glides the basics will become second nature to you. That doesn’t mean you should lose focus once you’re more experienced. The easiest way to get hurt is by becoming too comfortable and taking your eye off the ball.
Gear failure – The chances of gear failure causing you serious harm is pretty low. Even if your primary equipment fails you’ve always got a reserve parachute. Remember that only works if you take care of your equipment. Don’t attempt to fly if you notice any suspect equipment.
Paragliding vs Hang Gliding: Final Thoughts
Paragliding is the perfect choice for those more interested in experiencing beautiful scenery as they fly through the air. You will be able to focus on the stunning sights around you, because you’ll be going slower and won’t need to concentrate as much while flying.
Plus it’s also a bonus when it comes to things like costs, portability, and how quick you can learn the sport.
Hang gliding is the best choice for extreme thrill seekers desperate to scare themselves more than ever before. People who want to fly through the air like Superman instead of feeling like you’re sitting down and enjoying the ride. If you don’t mind danger you’ll love hang gliding.
Maybe you should test out both sports at gliding schools before you decide which one you want to pursue on your own. You never really know how you’ll feel until you’ve tested out paragliding and hang gliding.