Erik Brown – SM50 Review #2

Surface shot before the initial test divere her in Egypt
As a sidemount instructor here at Team Blue Immersion and Dahab Divers Technical I have been lucky to try pretty much every sidemount unit on the market. Each of them has their own advantages but even more disadvantages…until now. Hollis has obviously done their research and without a doubt listened to the divers when designing the new SM50. The team has always been very happy with the SMS100, which – in our opinion – is the nicest and most versatile sidemount unit on the market. With the arrival of the SM50 Hollis has outdone itself again…

Sidemount is continuing to grow, evident by the constant courses (both recretional and trchncial) started almost daily here at Dahab Divers Technical. The idea of it interests people and once they see it almost certainly need to see what all the talk is about. Personally, the arrival of the new SM50 was much anticipated as a sidemount enthusiast and instructor here in Dahab. The sidemount commmunity has been talking about the SM50 for months now, eagerly awaiting its world wide release. I had to fight to be the first to dive the unit. Robert (review #1) put up a valiant fight, with little success. I had waited months to even see the new unit and was only hours away from being one of the first in the world to test the currently still unreleased model.

Most system on the market today were similar to each other, with only minor differences. The SM50 comes pre-assembled, with only minor changes required for personal preference. I replaced the standard bungee with a continuous thinner SM bungee which is better suited to attach the top of the aluminum tanks with opposite valves that we use here at Team Blue Immersion. Additional clips were added to account for the tanks’ buoyancy change and hence to ensure that the tanks sit streamlined throughout the dive. Only minor alterations need to be made to fit the size and shape of individual divers.

The SM50 has broken new ground regarding design, minimizing drag for a profile not offered by other units. When it’s on your back, you honestly can’t feel a thing. The configuration of the LPI is perfectly in conjunction with a 5th port first stage setup and the dump valve is positioned perfectly on the back of the unit, allowing for easy buoyancy control. The wing wraps tightly over the interior structure of the unit and remains ‘fitted’ to the diver, unlike other systems such as the Razor or Equis, which tend to be bulkier and ‘loose’ when inflated at depth. The weight pocket located on the top of the unit makes trim pretty automatic and balance underwater is unmatched by any other unit available. It looks just as good as it is to dive on, and for myself, there is not really a going back to any other sidemount-only unit on the market.

Erik Brown
Rec/Tech Sidemount Instructor
Team Blue Immersion
Dahab Divers Technical

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