- June 2014
Wingsuit technology has been evolving like crazy in the last several years, but as with everything there are always tradeoffs. I like a suit to be agile and responsive, but of course I want it to start fast and have a lot of loft. Up until now it has always been a choice of one or the other with my past suits. The Squirrel Aura doesn’t make you compromise: you get agility combined with a fast start and good glide. The Aura is the 8th wingsuit I’ve owned, and I’m planning to stay in this one for a while. I got the Cloudlite option because I’m in a constant quest to lighten my pack for the hikes. For me weight is a really really really big deal 🙂 It also helps with travel: I never check my base rig or wingsuit when flying due to my personal rule never to bag check anything that I will lose my trip without or that I ever want to see again, and with an ultralight suit and ultralight rig it’s easy to carry on my complete rig as well as my computer and cameras.
Though the Cloudlite fabric is thinner (and awesomely translucent!), it feels rigid and slightly stiff. It definitely has durability despite the light weight, and it keeps the air from coming through which allows it to perform in flight when the suit is inflated. I do think if you know you are hard on your suits and you don’t plan to replace the suit for several years you’d probably want to go with the regular fabric. If weight is a major issue and you are pretty careful with your wingsuit (and don’t skydive it a ton), you should go with Cloudlite.
Obviously flight performance is the most important thing, but the really most important thing is ease of pull. I’ve had wingsuits where I’m semi-stressed through most of the flight because I know pulltime will not be easy. The shape of the wings and the back of the Aura makes the pull very easy with no interference from the suit or the fabric. For me, there have been no stability issues at pull time either, so the Aura has been ultra low stress from the getgo. Again, it doesn’t get much more important than this with a wingsuit!
There are a few other elements in this suit that I really like–the elastic pull cord inside the tail, so you can keep the suit cinched up at a drop zone and save the tail from abrasion, but then drop it down permanently for base use. The inner mesh pocket, “the nut sack,” is a brilliant addition to a wingsuit. I used to have a really hard time stowing all the stuff I needed to jump down (hat, gloves, wind jacket, water bottle, food, radio, cell phone, compact camera) around my suit. I’ve put a full liter of water in there, along with all the other items, and though at first it made me feel nervous on the exit to feel some heavy-ish stuff between my legs, I quickly realized that once you leave the edge you don’t feel it at all.
I like the zip innovation for attaching the suit to your rig–it’s simple, works really well and is fast and easy. The zippers are bomber.
The Aura comes with optional arm stiffeners. When I first skydived the suit, I put them in because I was told they make the suit more stable and easier to fly. In the past I’ve experimented with really stiffening the leading edge on big suits, and have always found that it makes the suit easier to fly and generally perform better, so I didn’t even consider not putting them in. But just to see, after I felt comfortable in the suit (surprisingly fast for a big suit–it was only 2 skydives before I was ready to start flocking with people), I took them out to check the difference. It is noticeably easier to fly with the stiffeners, but it does make the arms feel more confined for the punch-out option. I ended up cutting the stiffeners so they only extend from shoulder to elbow. This makes my wrist and forearm feel looser and easier to punch out of the arms, but still seems to maintain the bit of extra shape in the leading edge and keeps the suit easier to fly. If you do this, you will need to hand tack a small seam in the spandex tube inside the arms, or the shortened stiffener tube will keep falling down to your wrist instead of staying up at your shoulder, but it’s super simple to do that.
I’ve still never completely found my groove with the arm punch out technology in general, though I’ve had a few suits with that feature. Cutting down the stiffener tubes helps, as does wearing a slippery, light windbreaker for base. I still unzip my wings about 70% of the time, but there have been times when I really wanted to punch the arms out, and I did. So it does work.
To sum it up, the Aura is an amazing suit! I’m so happy to have finally gotten into a suit I love without any “if onlys” and that I want to keep flying for more than one season. I do think that changing suits makes you become a better pilot, but I also think that finding a suit you love and staying with it for multiple seasons is the way to get truly tuned in on a suit, so I’m looking forward to my time to come with the Aura. If you’re ready for a big suit and you’re wondering if you should get the Aura, I’d say yes.