Sidemount diving’s growing popularity can be seen at local dive sites, trade shows, and frequent coverage in the most dive magazines. Its peeked the interest of divers of all levels and backgrounds; from beginners who seems fascinated by its configuration to more advanced divers who realize the many logistical and exploratory benefits. Manufactures have followed suit and produced a number of different units, all specific to sidemount diving and each catering to the many different facets of diving that a sidemount configuration allows.
There is a new and growing group of divers who are taking notice to the continuing tech revolution. Sidemount is the perfect ‘bridge’ into the the tech world. Veteran Instructors and new divers will both learn that its safety aspects, exploratory benefits, logistical ease, and comfort all make it beneficial to any complete diver.
Sidemount originated with a need to replace the standard twin set with a configuration that was more suitable for cave or overhead diving situations. Although most caves are relatively shallow, the linear depth is quite extreme as a result of large horizontal distances that are covered . Single 12l tanks were insufficient in regards to gas allowances and also safety (redundancy) considerations. However, a standards twin set configuration wasn’t feasible as sure bulk hindered their ability to enter most caves or pass restrictions. A new configuration was required.
Mounting the tanks on either flank of the diver drastically decreases the profile of the diver, with both tanks tucked nicely under each arm. The ability to un-clip the rear of the tanks allows even further mobility of the tanks. With the tanks positioned in front of the diver it further decreases the horizontal profile. This makes the diver profile not much bigger then the diver themselves, enabling them to fit through restriction not allowed by twin sets. Some configurations even allow the diver to unclip the tank completely and push it through small holes to be retrieved on the other side. Many of the best caves and wrecks in the world require the use of the sidemount configuration.
Redundancy is a key concept involved in technical diving. Multiple cylinders not only enable the diver to carry the increased required amount of gas, but also to isolate any equipment malfunctions while saving reserves. Sidemount diving is no different. As tanks are used separately and not connected by a manifold, isolating the malfunction allows conservation of gas in the reserve tank. This requires a higher awareness in gas usage, but further increases the ease of isolating these problems because it can be seen visual because if their position on the flank rather then the back on the diver as tanks are used separately and not connected.
The placement of the first stages under the arm also help to easily recognize the problem and fix it accordingly. While worn on the back, the hardest part of a shutdown situation is finding and recognizing in the problem. With both first stages in plain view, find the problem while diving in a sidemount configuration becomes easier and fixing the problem then simply becomes shutting down the problem cylinder and switching to the reserve if needed.
Photographers (Team Blue Immersion Fx) and other who find themselves diving solo (if professionally educated and holding solo diver certification) find this reserve system vital. Speaking from experience as videographer for many years, occasions arise where you may find yourself by yourself. In normal recreational gear, this could be particular dangerous if problems were to arise. When properly trained with the knowledge of how to use a sidemount configuration. Dives to gather stock footage or video can not only last longer, but be carried out in a much safer manor, while still enjoying the comfort and freedom of a sidemount setup.
The SMS 100 unit used here at team blue immersion is a multi-purpose sidemount system. This means it is a combined harness, backplate, and wing all in one unit. This provides many advantages when traveling as a technical diver. For most, diving trip may include many different types of dives and profiles. Locations may provide divers with the ability to participate in cave diving, some deep ocean oceans, and fun recreational dives. If you are a fan of all types of technical diving or an instructor, then the SMS 100 or similar units have obvious benefits.If anyone has tried to travel with the abundance of gear that technical diving requires, then the reason behind the SMS 100 are apparent.
A single complete SMS 100, our Tek 3 sets, and 2 deco regs can now be altered or transformed to let the diver participant is any type of dive. The unit can accommodate your standard twinset diving and the ability to remove the wing allows a diver to use just the sidemount harness over a dry suit. Using the dry suit as a buoyancy compensator, ultimate freedom is achieved with virtually nothing on the back of the diver. If the sidemount harness is removed from the BC, The harness and wing can now act as a standard tech setup with a twin set bolted to the back. The deco regs that would normally be used are easily changed to accommodate your sidemount configuration. A complete system enable a diver to cut their gear in half and still be able to dive in most sites.
This versatility has benefits for diving in more remote locations also, where a twin set might be not be found. Unless you plan to travel with tank bands and manifolds then a sidemount configuration might be the only method of multiple tank diving in certain locations. People with back problems, long distances to dive sites, or tricky entries may make heavy twin tanks cumbersome. The ability to carry tanks individually or mount the tanks in the water might be a necessity.
Its simply fun. Everybody may appreciate the above mentioned advantages, but the comfort of sidemount diving is undeniable. With no tanks on your back, the feeling on weightlessness is like no other. The new streamlined profile lets divers glide through the water more streamlines and efficient then ever before. Its a must try for all divers.
there is no ‘GOING BACK”