Kiting Accessories, Materials

From The Hi-Tech To The Mundane!

We use a variety of kiting accessories to enhance our enjoyment of the hobby. Everything from sun-screen to the latest digital wind meter.

Not wearing a hat? Tsk tsk! At least my son was...

In fact, I've made a list in reverse order of excitement! From my 'most precious toy' :-) right down to the utterly mundane.

I understand that if you were born after about 1985, you must be incredulous that something like a simple wind meter could possibly be 'exciting'. As in, 'how could it compare to the latest X-Box, Wii or 3D HD TV?

Some of us kiters just appreciate the simple things in life.

Whether you like making your own kites, or just buy them online, it doesn't make much difference to the accessories you need.

Some additional background info on the materials used in this hobby can be found near the bottom of this page.

Anyway, that list...

  • Wind Meter. Not absolutely vital, strictly speaking. But it definitely adds to the fun, and I never go out without it!
  • Digital Camera. Occasionally, some beautiful photo opportunities come up. More often, catching some movement against a cloudy background makes for a nice kiting record which tends to get more interesting with age.
  • Length-marked Line. It's interesting, and sometimes useful, knowing how much line you have out. Really!
  • Winder or Reel. Essential of course, but there is much choice available. Or make your own, as we do.
  • Broad-brimmed Hat. With the addition of a Legionnaire-style curtain around the sides and back of your head, this is just the ultimate in protection from the sun's rays.
  • Sun-screen. Essential in some climates.

Some of the sections below contain links to pages which contain all sorts of extra detail on the topics. Get a cup of coffee, you might be a while!

Wind Meter

It's most practical to use a wind gauge at rather close to ground level, since this just requires one of those short mini-tripods for cameras.

Kiting wind meter - the Kaindl Windtronic 2 on a grass lawnOur Windtronic meter
Kiting wind meter - the Kaindl Windtronic 2 on a grass lawnOur Windtronic meter

Of course, for a quick check, you can just hold it up at shoulder height for half a minute or so. Getting a rough reading like this allows you to accurately assess launching conditions. That's assuming you have done this enough times to figure out what wind strength suits you best! The reading for max gust strength might also affect your decision on which bundle to pull from your kite bag!

Although it's not always the case, the ground-level wind strength will often be somewhat lighter than the wind strength higher up. So by taking a reading at just above ground level, or at shoulder height, you can have a guess at what the wind is doing at 200 or 400 feet.

The difference between the average wind speed and the maximum gust strength is a measure of 'gustiness'. Around Adelaide, it's not unusual for winds to gust to more than 2 1/2 times the average, near ground level!

I'm recording wind speeds during every decent flight these days, with my Windtronic 2 omni-directional meter. Hence, this should eventually build up an intriguing year-round picture of local wind conditions.

One day I hope to take the meter up high, to compare winds aloft with ground level! This will be done by launching on a full line length, allowing the meter to get to the desired recording height quickly. For the sake of accuracy, the descent would also need to be quite quick. That could be achieved by a short jog underneath the line while letting it slip through a gloved hand.

A 10 minute flight would probably be enough to keep the wind strength average from changing too much due to the ascent and descent.

Finally, if you have ever had the urge to design or make your very own wind speed meter, follow that link for some more ideas!

Digital Camera

Obviously the perfect companion for someone with a kiting website! But modern cameras make it easy for anyone with a photogenic kite or 2 to snap some great images. Flying contraptions don't last forever, and occasionally get lost, but images tend to hang around a lot longer - particularly if posted on the Web! Not mentioning any website in particular.

Flying action is easily captured with a compact digital camera, such as this Canon model

Video is easy to take too, these days. I usually end up zooming in quite a bit to get everything, including the tail, to fill the viewfinder. Panning around to follow the motion gets pretty automatic after a while. Most of this video would only be of interest to the owner. However, on this site, I have short clips to illustrate every kite design for which I publish instructions. Visitors tell me they appreciate actually seeing the finished craft in action. It would have to be more motivating than just seeing a still shot!

Again, one day I hope to take the camera up under some of my best lifters. For both still photos and video. Stay tuned!

A Length-Marked Line

Such a simple thing, attaching squares of insulation tape to a flying line. Little number-coded, or color-coded flags. A good compromise between weight and usefulness seems to be spacing the flags at 30 meter (100 feet) intervals.

A flying line marked at intervals with little yellow flags of insulation tape.
A flying line marked at intervals with little yellow flags of insulation tape.

I've done this for ages, for my 20 pound, 50 pound and 100 pound Dacron lines. After some practice, it gets easier to estimate lengths that lie between the flags. The main reason for doing this is to keep clear of the legal altitude limit. Of course, you have to also take into account the angle of the flying line!

A rule of thumb is that the altitude of something at 60 degrees-ish is about 90% of the line-length. Similarly, 45 degrees corresponds to 3/4 of the line length. Roughly! Of course, it gets easy if a thermal takes your kite right overhead! 300 feet of line out then means almost exactly 300 feet of altitude.

After many flights using marked lines, you get a feel for the ideal line length for each kite. For example, our tiny 1-Skewer designs tend to struggle a bit with more than 60 meters (200 feet) of line out. I guess the insulation tape markers don't help! If you wanted to, you could make them very small though, to save weight.

Winder or Reel

If you are only half-serious about getting out and flying single-liners, you soon realize that just winding line onto a piece of stick just won't do!

A decent size winder lets you gather line in at a fairly fast rate, so it doesn't take forever to bring a kite down or pack the line away. 

This seems like a good spot to summarize the types of reels and winders used by single-line fliers...

A circular plastic reel for storing line
A circular plastic reel for storing line
  • Wind-on, wind-off reels. Simple reels that do a good job of storing the line, but require you to take-in or let-out line 1 loop at a time. Line is often sold on such a reel.
  • Flat winders. Simple rectangular winders that function just like those simple reels. Often sold with small simple children's kites.
  • Spinnable reels. Same principle as traditional Asian reels, where a spindle allows the flier to rapidly let out line. Without too much tension in the line, it can be reeled in quickly too by spinning the spindle.
  • Crankable, braked reels. These cost a bit more, particularly those that run on bearings! A crank allows rapid and positive winding of line in or out. The brake can slow the letting-out speed or even lock the line completely. Top of the range models even feature a bell and a whistle. Just kidding!

A note about those simplest reels and winders. Some of these are designed for quick letting-out of line. For example, even our 2-Skewer designs are relatively small, and hence it's practical to let line out quickly by just letting it come off the winder as fast as the wind carries the kite away. The winder is designed to let the loops of line slip straight off, when the winder is held a particular way. Some circular reels operate in a similar way.

I just have to include this - a very handy idea emailed to me by a site visitor...

"Tim, I was looking at where I might get some material to make a winder like yours. Scrounging through my rubbish bin I found an empty (smelly) 2l plastic milk bottle. Suddenly it hit me, why make something that looks good when for free I could use the plastic bottle (after washing it out).

I tied the line onto the bottle handle, wound the line around the bottle, anchored the kite end of the line under the cap, and best of all filled the bottle with water. Now when I  drop it I can catch up with it because the kite doesn't fly away as fast as with an ordinary winder. As I'm an oldie I need that sort of advantage.

Thought some other oldies might appreciate the idea. Thanks for getting me back into kites! I'm trying some of the ideas on kids after church.

 -Bill C."

Regarding the fancier reels, here's some info on some kite reels manufactured in China.

"Love the easy to understand step by step instructions, made from next to nothing materials and above all so much fun to fly... cheers Tim for sharing your well thought out pdf kite designs with the whole world. Very satisfying making your own and watching them get air-born for the first time."

"I decided to run kite making as an elective again on this camp in the past week - so I bought all your e-books, a bunch of materials, and then took a group of 10 high school students through making the kites over 4 days. We built a diamond, a Barn Door, a Delta, and two skew delta kites. Again - every single kite flew."

Broad-Brimmed Hat

A broad brimmed hat is recommended by the Cancer Council of Australia to protect your face, neck and ears from harmful UV (Ultra-Violet) radiation from the sun. For almost complete protection, you can add a flap which flops over your ears and neck like a Legionnaire-style cap.

Kite flying is safer using a broad-brimmed hat with a curtain protecting your ears and neck from UV rays
Kite flying is safer using a broad-brimmed hat with a curtain protecting your ears and neck from UV rays

My son and I bought hats from a local Cancer Council stall, specifically for our kiting activities. A wide-brim with flap for me, and a suitably small Legionnaire Cap for my young son. There's mine up there in the photo. It's nice going out to fly without the ... ahem ... burning question of 'wonder if I'll get burnt today?' in the back of your head.

If the look is somewhat un-fashionable, what the heck - we're serious fliers aren't we! There's no point in suffering for your art.

An update: An even better solution to the sun-burn problem is the Kalahari hat. This design has a front visor like a cap, but also a curtain which completely covers ears, throat and neck, when secured with a Velcro strip.


Sun screen is handy for those areas not protected by a wide-brimmed hat
Sun screen is handy for those areas not protected by a wide-brimmed hat

Actually, I often get away without using this measure by just dressing appropriately.

If the weather isn't very hot, then shoes, long trousers and long sleeves protects just about everything not covered by the broad-brimmed hat. An exception can be a tiny spot at the bottom of the V-neck of your shirt. I used to often come home completely unscathed except for a small pink patch right there! Solution: button-up or rub in a bit of sun-screen.

With the head covered, and wearing clothes that are shorter over the legs and arms, use sun-screen where-ever you have ever got burnt. Just common sense.

For me, the straps on my sandals act like a stencil for extreme UV to make an art-work out of my feet! Again, sunscreen is the solution.

Severe sun-burn can really spoil your kiting experiences.

Kiting Materials

This info isn't so practical, but read on if you really want to fill out your knowledge of the things that kites or lines are made of...

Most designs these days use fiberglass rods for spars and spreaders, and ripstop nylon for their sails. However, kites made from tissue or paper and bamboo for spars used to be much more common around the middle of the 1900s and before.

For single-liners, most fliers agree that Dacron line is best when taking cost into account.

Our own designs use cheap and widely-available materials. The material lists are slightly different, to suit either the dowel sparred or bamboo skewer sparred designs.

Finding material for kite tails is easy with so many types of plastic bags around!

Other Miscellaneous Stuff...

Curious about bags used in the hobby? Even if you're not, you might find the humble kite bag is not always so humble these days!

Finally, here's a general ramble on the topic of accessories! It covers a few different things that aren't part of our family's outings.

FREE E-Book!

I'm referring to Simplest Dowel Kites, my popular kite-making download. It's a printable PDF file. Make a diamond, delta or sled. Each kite is capable of flying hundreds of feet up for hours on end.

Could you do me just a small favor though?

Please sign up for my free monthly publication, "Tethered Flying". No other emails will be sent, and your details are safe with me. You need to be at least 16 years old. There's...

  • 3 "tips of the month" (for beginners, parents & experienced)
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  • A fresh "flight report of the month" (my personal flying)
  • News section on the MBK kiting board game. (download!)

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P.S. Keep an eye out for books by kite author Glenn Davison, a prominent kite person in the USA.

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Wind Speeds

Light Air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2

Gentle ...
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3

Moderate ...
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4

Fresh ...
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5

Strong ...
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7

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