When you’re a kite lover like me, there will come the day when a family member, or friend, or even a random stranger will come up to you and start asking you questions about kites. One of the most widely-asked questions is the reason for this article.
There are 4 types of kites that are easy to fly ranked:
- Delta kites
- Diamond kites
- Parafoils / Sled kites
- Novelty kites
These 4 were chosen based on how easy they are for beginners. We will look at single-line kites, rather than dual- or quad-line kites, which are for advanced kite fliers.
In this article, we will take a look at the pros and cons of these 4 types of kites. Each of them are easy to launch and fly, but we have found that Delta kites are the easiest for beginners.
The Delta kite is currently the most popular type of kite. It is a modern, typically single-line kite that is designed to fly well, and out-perform most other flat kites in light wind. Deltas are easy to handle and can be very eye-catching, which has led to their popularity.
Delta kites are shaped like a triangle, with a keel – a triangular flap that you attach your kite line to – rather than a bridle line. A tail can be attached for added drag. To help maintain the overall triangular shape of the delta kite, a spreader is used, usually across the length of the kite. Delta kites are easily set up and can fold down to fit into a narrow tube for ease of transport.
Pros of flying a Delta Kite
- Delta kites are easy to set up: If you buy a Delta kite, you would usually receive 2 rods to insert into the pockets of the sail to create the ‘frame’ of the kite. After inserting these rods into their respective pockets, you would then need to attach your kite line to the keel. You can immediately launch your kite after.
- Delta kites are easier to launch: The sail of a Delta kite forms a billow and easily catches the wind. A Delta also tends to be pushed up easily due to its design, lending to an easy launch.
- Delta kites are great for light winds: While the design of a Delta kite allows it to be launched easily, it is also easy for a Delta kite to stay in the air even in light winds. This allows for longer periods of kite flying when other types of kites can’t stay in the air due to a lack of wind.
- Delta kites are stable and don’t pull on the kite line as much: Delta kites tend to fly nearly parallel to the flow of the wind, resulting in a low angle of attack. This means that they fly much more stable in high winds, with lesser pull on the kite line, making it ideal for beginners or even children to handle.
- Delta kites are eye-catching: The basic outline of a Delta kite can vary, with some looking more like a giant bat than a triangle. Due to a wide wingspan, a Delta kite can have a bold design on its sail. As the size of a Delta kite increases, the amount of lift generated also increases. As such, these larger Deltas can also show off long tails, or fancy flying objects from the kite line.
Cons of flying a Delta Kite
- Delta kites can be expensive: Depending on the size and materials used, a Delta kite can be quite expensive for a beginner kite. We recommend speaking with your local kite flying club or kite store to get recommendations.
- Delta kites can vary in sizes: While Deltas are usually stable in the air, an overly large Delta kite can pull very strongly in a fresh wind. This can make it difficult for beginners to handle, especially if they are not expecting the pull. For beginners, we recommend that you keep to 3 to 6 feet wingspan Delta kites.
Diamond-shaped kites are the next most-popular and next-easiest kite to fly. This design was made popular in 1893 by William A. Eddy, an American journalist with an interest in meteorology and kite aerial photography.
The diamond kite is one of the most recognized types of kite designs. A diamond kite is usually characterized by four sides with two pairs of sides of equal length.
Most diamond kites now are made of ripstop nylon or Mylar sheets to give it more durability. However, diamond kites can be a great craft activity to introduce children to the world of kite flying. Homemade diamond kites can be made out of lightweight material including plastic sheets, freezer bags, or even light fabric.
Pros of flying a Diamond Kite
- A diamond kite is easily made or put together: If you want to make your own diamond kite, there are numerous tutorials and plans online. At the same time, you do not need to purchase expensive materials and often can find suitable materials at home to make a diamond kite. If you do choose to buy a diamond kite instead, they are easy to set up and you will be flying one in no time.
- Diamond kites are eye-catching: For the same reason as a Delta kite, a diamond kite’s sail affords the artist a large enough space for decoration. If you are making your own, you can also join different-coloured strips of material together before cutting the outline. Another technique called the appliqué technique sticking light but colorful cut-out patterns or shapes onto the sail material.
- Majority of diamond kites are small: With a smaller kite, there is lesser pull which is excellent for young children or beginners as they learn how to handle their kite in the air.
- Diamond kites are generally well-balanced: This makes diamond kites easy to fly without spinning or crashing.
- Diamond kites are easily fixed: Should there be an issue with your kite i.e. it keeps spinning or veering to one side, or crashing, it usually is easily fixed. We list a number of ways to check and fix your kite here.
Cons of flying a Diamond Kite
- Diamond kites require a tail: All diamond kites are generally flat, as their spars lay flat instead of being bowed. As such, a tail is recommended to ensure that the bottom of the kite points downwards to face the maximum surface of the sail into the wind to keep the kite afloat. Tails must be checked for tangles and be carefully packed away to prevent them from damage. If the tail(s) of a Diamond kite is not attached correctly or if multiple tails are not identical in length, weight, or size, it can cause the kite to constantly spin or crash.
Parafoils / Sled Kites
Parafoils are also known as soft kites. These kites have no rigid spars and maintain their shape in flight by the wind filling the chambers or cells. A parachute is a great example of a parafoil. These are easy to fold down for transport, and are much less likely to break on impact.
As you can imagine, foil kites require wind to keep them open and afloat. Parafoil kites have an upper and a lower surface, which are further divided by vertical ribs into smaller cells. When air fills up these pockets, the kite becomes semi-rigid and begins to fly.
Sled kites are similar to parafoils as they are soft kites, and rely on the wind to hold it open. It has several spines running the length of the kite, but no cross-spars. Sleds often have vents cut in the sail, near the bottom of the kite, instead of using a tail.
Sled kites are also surprisingly proficient when it comes to being in the air. While not competition-worthy, they are simple to use, hence their popularity.
Sled kites are also stable enough to lift an fisherman’s line and take it further out to sea, allowing the fisherman to achieve greater distances. Photographers are able to obtain amazing overhead shots of landscapes, scenery, and events with sled kites – this is known as kite aerial photography.
Pros of flying a Parafoil or Sled Kite
- Parafoils and sleds are easy to transport: These kites have little to no spars, which means they can be easily folded down or rolled into a compact size for transport.
- Parafoils and sleds are easy to set up: As they have little to no spars, parafoils and sleds are easy and quick to set up. Make sure to check the lines for any tangles, knots, or twists before launching your parafoil or sled kite.
- Parafoils and sleds can be challenging for more advanced beginners: These kites generate a lot more lift and can pull hard, which can be a stepping stone for advanced beginners if they want to explore kite surfing or power kites.
- Parafoils and sled kites are less likely to break on impact: These kites have little to no spars, which means if they crash, there is usually no breakage of spars. You should, however, still check the sail for any holes, and ensure that the lines are untangled before attempting to relaunch the kite.
Cons of flying a Parafoil or Sled Kite
- Parafoils and sleds can pull very hard: Due to their sail size, these 2 types of kites can pull very hard and take a beginner by surprise. The kite line can snap if the beginner chooses to reel in the line instead of letting it out.
- Parafoils and sleds require more wind than kites with a frame: As parafoils and sleds require that their chambers/cells be filled with air to stay afloat, a stronger wind is usually required to launch and keep it afloat as compared to either a diamond or delta kite.
- Parafoils are complex to hand-make: A small number of the parafoils that you see is home-made, as even a simple one is relatively complex to put together, compared to say, a simple diamond or sled kite. Sled kites are easier to make at home.
These kites are usually ideal choices for younger children who typically prefer an eye-catching kite to a kite that flies or performs well. Novelty kites are characterized by a good deal of effort put into their physical appearance.
The design of a novelty kite ranges from animals and insects (e.g. octopus, eagle, butterfly, bats) to man-made items (e.g. aeroplane, ships with sails) to abstract designs such as the shape of a star.
If you look at a novelty kite closely, you can see that most are made out of the basic diamond, delta, or even parafoil kite shapes, thus enabling them to fly easily. There are even 3-d novelty designs such as a dolphin or octopus, which are based on soft kites.
Pros of flying a Novelty Kite
- Novelty kites are extremely eye-catching: Novelty kites generally come in bold designs and colours, making one easy to spot in a sea of kites.
- Novelty kites can be fun to fly: As children prefer eye-catching colours and designs that they can relate to, they may prefer to try their hand at flying a novelty kite than a simple diamond kite.
- Novelty kites can be easy to fly: Depending on its basic shape outline (i.e. diamond, delta, parafoil), a beginner can usually easily launch and fly a novelty kite.
Cons of flying a Novelty Kite
- Novelty kites can be extremely large: Depending on the design, a novelty kite can be very large with sizes exceeding 8 feet. This can make it pull hard, and take a beginner or an inexperienced person by surprise.
- Novelty kites can be difficult to set up or pack: Again, depending on the design of the kite, it can be difficult to set up if you have to insert many spars. Conversely, it can be difficult to pack back up since you’ll have to remove the spars and then try to roll it up or fold it down into a compact roll. This can be frustrating especially when you want to have a quick and easy flight.
- Novelty kites can be difficult to troubleshoot: If your novelty kite is constantly spinning, veering to one side, or crashing, you would need to check each part of the kite to try and figure out where the problem lies. This can be frustrating especially if the kite has many small parts or lines that need checking.
Whichever of these kites you choose will be easy to fly. However, by considering which factors matter to you when choosing a kite, you should be able to find one that will allow you to enjoy many hours of flight.