It's a question that springs to most peoples minds when they start to consider taking on the Icarus. There is a fair amount of conflicting information floating about and since this is a whole new form of air race, there's not a clear answer yet. So we figured lets stick together peoples experiences by asking what they took, what was shit and what worked a treat. So I asked myself the question to kick things off...
The Flying Machine
I chose the Volution 3 because I’m not the world’s greatest pilot and I wanted something that would survive me landing on it fairly regularly. It was tough, totally reliable, easy to throw together and it has a big fuel tank which is obviously very important. I didn’t land on my arse quite as much as I expected, so next time I would go for a Parajet Zenith. They're a bit slower to put together (not really an issue as I didn't disassemble mine down at any point in the race) but they pack down really small and it shaves a bit of weight off. More importantly though for the Icarus they have a really handy space under the fuel tank that would have been perfect for attaching a small bag for my kit. I was lashing my baggage to the side of the fuel tank, my lap, the side of my harness and it was a pain in the balls. It also unbalanced me in flight, particularly the kit I had on the side of my harness. It was a pretty small bag but it made me fly off on in one direction all the time. Having it all stored in one bag in the centre of gravity would have been way easier. The upside also of a Zenith is having a detachable fuel tank. Walking to find fuel would have been less painful. The downside of the fuel tank is that it’s a bit smaller. But you could rig up a reserve system attached to the rigging at the bottom easily enough and then you are sitting on an Icarus dominating machine I think.
I know nothing about other brands so you'll have to wait for the other guys to tell you about their stuff.
The Moster was an unstoppable beast. I didn’t fiddle with any of the factory settings and aside from running it in fairly carefully I treated it like a bag of shite. I threw any old fuel in, spent most of the time guessing the mixtures and put in a variety of nasty non-synthetic oils and she stormed on without a single splutter. It didn’t fail at any point or need any adjustment for altitude. I wasn't super high but hit about 8000ft a few times. There's tonnes of power so getting up high fast is quick and easy. The power was also handy when doing fully loaded launches at altitude. Others were running their tits off for miles before leaving the ground but I got up pretty easily.
I fitted a tachometer and temp gauge to the engine to try and get an early warning about it exploding, but didn’t need them.
Personally I can’t see why you would go for any other engine unless you want to shave a few kg’s off. On the Icarus reliability is king.
I had an Ozone Roadster 2 at 26m. Perhaps not the wing of a pro but I found it awesome. I don't think having a really small wing will help anyone win the Icarus. You won't be able to carry as much stuff and you will be forever running out of fuel. I've only ever really flown on this wing so I can't make any useful comparisons for you. I feel like I had an advantage over smaller wings when taking off loaded at altitude. It was stable and easy to fly and it didn't seem that much slower than other similar wings the guys were flying. I had a partial collapse twice in quick succession when cresting a ridge in some weird weather. I obviously soiled myself but it did what it was supposed to and I was jolted back into flight quickly.
I went for what seemed to be a reasonable and broadly accepted kit, the PM100 by Microavionics. My opinion is that it’s overpriced and a bit shite. It worked well enough but it is all vintage technology. It cost £249 and I opened it up to see what was inside. It’s a 3m peltor optime iii ear defender (total cost £16) with a pretty low quality set of speakers and electronics that can’t have cost more than £5. Half of the sound deadening foam gets taken out to fit the oversized electronics in one ear so the muffling effect isn’t incredible. The noise cancellation in the microphone is not particularly clever. I would go and look at some of the kit available for motorbikes. For that price you can get some proper equipment that uses electronics invented after 1980. They’ll often have proper noise cancellation. The only thing to look out for is battery life as some of the bike stuff has a short life and the upside of Microavionics is the long life. I’m about to start fiddling around with a set of UClear which are boomless and draw your voice from your jaw like military radios. I’ll let you know how it goes.
You’ll have a few things (tracking device, navigation/charts, radio) that need to stay charged. I bought a big old LiPo backup battery from a shop the day before the launch that could charge up my stuff for about 4 days. Worked a treat.
I used the Foreflight app and just got a trial subscription just before the race. It worked well and was easy to use by a dumbass like me. Simon Walker has just fitted another bit of software (XC Soar) into a Kobo e-reader which gives great battery life and a screen that can be seen in daylight. He'll be writing up how he finds it on here shortly.
In terms of sleeping I had nothing lightweight or un-broken in my cupboard so I started from scratch. I ended up getting all my kit from AlpKit and it really worked bloody well. They’re also reasonably priced which is rare in the outdoors universe.
They can make custom bags to fit any frame if you give them enough advance warning. I had a couple of standard Airlok tapered bags. I then bought a cheapo bumbag from Wallmart for the stuff I forgot I needed.
I went for a Rig 7 tarp instead of a tent for weight and squashability reasons. You can then tie one end to the top of the paramotor frame and peg out the other.
I asked them to recommend the lightest sleeping mat they had, expecting one of those slightly uncomfortable half length self inflating things. But the geniuses have got this fully inflatable beast that is way more comfy. Just don’t pop it. It was a Lumo and at £45 it’s pretty incredible sleeping value.
I then stuck myself in an XL Bivvy which was big enough for me and my wing if needed.
And finally had the smallest sleeping bag I’d ever seen. It’s not enough for really low temps but it was awesome for the Icarus. It was a Pipedream 250, and while there are cheaper bags on the market there isn’t much that can touch it if you go for a down bag and there is nothing artificial that can match its warmy lightyness.
All in these guys had really solid shit that wasn’t price for London dog walking mugs. Plus the customs bags could be awesome (I was too disorganised to get one ordered in time.)
Basically by luck more than judgment I think I wasn't a million miles off having the right kit for me.