This has been bothering me for quite some time so finally I come around writing something on this.
In the past 4 years we had 2 confirmed GoPro fatalities (BFL #158 and BFL #206). What troubles me the most with those is that everyone seems to shrug and continue business as usual. I was surprised by the fuzz that I caused, and the amount of feedback I got for the pinlock video and post, however, I’m not aware of any fatalities that were caused by this. Imagine we had 2 confirmed fatalities because of a problem/failure of a certain piece of BASE gear, be it a harness, container or canopy, there would be a massive uproar from the jumping community and pressure on the manufacturer to fix the issue.
So why the heck is the majority of GoPro mounts you see in the field the snag prone version that comes with the camera, after we already had 2 fatalities? Anti-snag mounts are readily available from multiple manufacturers, also it’s not a hard task to build something yourself to reduce the snag hazard (see gallery here).
Safety wise there is NO downside of a snag proof mount, some of them are maybe less comfortable to put the camera in or out, or change the angle, but this is for once an improvement you can add to your jumping gear that has virtually no safety trade off.
Although both fatalities were slider down, I don’t see this problem isolated to those kind of jumps, nor to the location of the camera mount on your body. Even for tracking or wingsuiting its not hard to think of scenarios that would have some potential for an entanglement to happen (see here, or here), and what harm is done by using a better mount? If the shit hits the fan I would not count on the mount to break early enough to save your ass (see here) and since we won’t stop using GoPros, which is fine, I like them, we should at least invest a minimal amount of money and/or time to make them fitter for the environment were using them in, thus enhancing our safety by quite a bit.
And yet another thing kind of related to this, in the same time frame there were 2 fatalities in which the stashbag seems to have played some role (BFL #192, see also here, and BFL #231). I don’t really have s lot to say about this, it’s pretty straight forward, just use your brain and stow that thing in a place where no part of it can come out during free fall or opening to cause trouble.
All of this is actually pretty basic stuff that we all learned during our parachute license, from our mentor, during first jump course. To recap this: You don’t want to wear something that could snag a line, bridle, or something else, be it shoes with hooks, uncovered elbow pads, or similar stuff. And you don’t want to wear something that could in any way interfere with the opening like straps, strings, or any other stuff attached to you. But at a certain point in our career we seem to let this slide a bit and think it’s going to be fine because were more experienced.
I hope this whole rant doesn’t sound too preachy, I’m fully aware that any incident or fatality is a chain of things going wrong, but whether it was the main cause or just a little contributing factor it should alarm us. Don’t give any piece of equipment the chance to easily get you into trouble, no matter what your experience level is, don’t let this slide. To be noted, I do not say that you should start jumping a GoPro earlier in your career just because you have a nice snag proof mount, there’s quite a few more problems with cameras than being a snag point.
To finally add a bit of value to this rant, heres some links to manufacturers that sell anti-snag mounts, a few pictures of homemade ones, as well as some ideas how to make your own: GoPro anti-snag mounts
Thanks a lot to Trond, jpforget, and Berni for the pictures, as well as Michi and Shane for letting me use their videos.