Public Lab Research note

Balloon Kit 1.5 changes

by mathew | October 19, 2012 23:52 19 Oct 23:52 | #4516 | #4516

As of today, we've changed up the balloon kit parts to address concerns and improvements. Its a better kit with more stuff for the same price!

new parts:


There was debate between rubber gloves and leather gloves in the kit. I'm a fan of rubber gloves for pulling in string quickly in an emergency, others are fans of leather gloves as more durable/less likely to fray while letting line out.

The feedback on kit v1.0 was clear-- people prefer leather gloves, so we've switched to leather.


an entirely new part, we threw in two mini-carabiners. We used to recommend tying a loop off in the flight line, but Michele Tobias pushed us to switch to a line-wrapping technique on mini-carabiners, which works flawlessly and should do better at preserving the strength of the flight line. These instructions are integrated into the kit instructions.


the metal ring in v1.0 was overkill and we knew it, but it was easy to use. Several folks pointed this out. The rubber O-ring saves a little weight and provides an extra stretchy cushion against sudden wind. As a point on safety, the metal ring also was more likely to cause damage to a jet engine in the unlikely event of a balloon braking lose and being hit directly by a plane.

Reusable Cable-ties:

the side-tab were faulted for:

  • accidentally opening when being touched around the release tab

  • being too long and potentially poking the balloon (although this has never happened)

So we switched to a shorter "top-tab" reusable cable tie. The release tab has to be pulled upwards, and more difficult to accidentally release.


Our 170lb stainless steel snap swivels have been changed out for 270lb swivels. The stainless steel swivels were a last-minute change to our kit design, because we couldn't get lead free brass. Turns out, stainless steel swivels are much smaller than brass ones, making them difficult to open. We got numerous complaints about painful fingers opening these swivels. So we switched to 270lb. Total overkill, but larger and easier to work with.

Line Winder

We're shipping the same great custom-wound in the USA 1000ft of 110lb string from Shanti Kites, only now the line is tied onto the winder differently-- although tightly attached at the end of the line, it is a loop that can be loosened and released from the winder in order to attach another winder full of line, allowing easy daisy chaining for higher altitudes.


We printed out a bunch of different instructions we'd made as separate sheets. People found this messy, so we compiled the various guides into an 11x17 fold-over booklet and had them bulk printed. Also included: better links to our internet resources, minor changes (like carabiner line attachement), a full kit inventory, and notes pages.


The first kit was the first item we'd ever had assembled by a fulfillment service. It turned out fairly crude-- just everything thrown in a box. This time, the rubber bands and hardware are in their own resealable (zip-loc style) bags. Also, we got a new recloseable tabbed box that has a handle, so the kit can be stored and carried in the box it ships in. We also added a snazzy sticker.


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