What is sidemount and why should you give it a try?
Sidemount diving is a diving configuration where divers wear one, two (recreational sidemount) or more (technical sidemount) tanks on their sides instead of mounted on the back (backmount). Sidemount tanks lie parallel to the body, below the shoulders and along the hips.
Since the tanks are not connected to each other (manifold) and the valves are now in front of you, you have a double advantage of redundant air sources and easy access to your regulators and tank valves. If you dive sidemount with two tanks, you breathe alternatively from one then the other (roughly every 30 bar) to keep your balance and trim, and constant supply of air in both tanks. If you have access to smaller tanks (6-9 litres), you can choose to dive with two smaller tanks depending on your air consumption and dive plan.
First for cavern and tec divers, now for recreational divers too… A unique way of buoyancy control resulting in a more streamlined profile, giving you a freedom that will reduce drag, making fining and moving through the water easier and more efficient.
A sidemount configuration gives a diver easier access to tank valves and regulators in an emergency. Some divers carry sidemount “bailout bottles” specifically for this purpose. The position of the tanks also gives the diver’s head greater range of motion for enhanced vision and comfort. The balance is easier to learn and maintain.
So why might you be persuaded to give it a go? Well, the system has many advantages: First on the list would have to be safety. Diving with a side-mount system means that you can have two completely separate life-support systems, so in the unlikely event of a failure on one you always have an adequate back-up even if you lose sight of your buddy during the dive. Second would probably be buoyancy control. Using the side-mount system, buoyancy and trim control is, quite frankly, a doddle and you will be looking good in no time. Also, as mentioned above, you are able to look around a lot more without bumping your head against your first stage which makes side mount every photographer/videographer’s dream come true!
Do not think of equipment overload when you think sidemount. When you are in warm water, using a wetsuit, diving sidemount with one aluminium cylinder on the side is in fact a great way to dive and a good way to get used to sidemount equipment and training. And for multiple tank sidemount, it is in fact easy as you can put on the heavy gear in the water.
Backmounted equipment is not as hydrodynamic as sidemount equipment, meaning that when using side mount you can achieve better buoyancy control, more comfort of your spine, more efficiency propulsion and gliding, and having more flexibility underwater with custom fit harnesses and the possibility to put your tanks on in the water.
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