Sidemount Diving is a kind of scuba diving equipment that has scuba set mounted alongside the diver, below the shoulders and along the hips, instead the back of the diver.
Was born as an advanced cave diving configuration to facilitate penetration in restricted passageways, allows easy access to the cylinder valves, give a very good gas redundancy when needed and has the benefit to be able to remove tanks when necessary, it is very recognized for wreck diving penetration too.
Sidemount Diving – A little bit of history
Sidemount concept was born in UK during the 1960s, the necessity to pass sumps during explorations of dry caves like Wookey Hole and other dry system, those submerged passages will stop the explorers to go further at that point they developed a very basic equipment, minimizing any bulk, allowing the cylinders to be easily removed and to squeeze in very tight restrictions with no problem.
At that time a need to good buoyancy and proper propulsion was not important, anyway they needed a very secure cylinders attachment points.
We can refer at that early sidemount rigging as English System.
Early 1970s in Florida the ‘English system’ began to be used by American cave divers.
The cave system difference was involving predominantly flooded caves and prolonged swimming with SCUBA.
At that point they needed a system with more performance, in particular buoyancy and trim, divers start to move their cylinders along the body and up to the armpit, these Explores cave divers began by making their own equipment based on personal changes to a normal scuba BCD and creating some equipment for they needs.
In the middle of 1990s Lamar Hires designed the first sidemount commercial system, produced by Dive Rite with the name of Transpac harness. At this time sidemount configuration was only restricted to a small number of exploration cave divers.
In 2000s cave diving reached great popularity, Sidemount Diving has a major evolution since then.
2001 was the year when Brett Hemphill designed the Armadillo sidemount harness that has a lot of improvement respect the previous “handmade” equipment. It has cylinder bungee attachment under the wing, butt anchoring rear attachment pad and BCD inflation located in the lower part of the wing instead the top.
Since than a lot of out of the shelf sidemount systems are born and being developed by the major diving brand, most known are Dive Rite, X-Deep, Razor and Apeks.
Want to get in the new century and avoid the heavy back mounted doubles?
Why Sidemount Diving so Popular?
A correct approach to sidemount is essential, if you get with the wrong instructor you will hate all the system and the advantages it offers.
Is possible to do Recreational sidemount with only one cylinder and you will love it, in one of my next blog I will explain how to set up a recreational diving sidemount system with 1 tank only.
Sidemount can be done with 2 cylinders in all the world and you can dive redundancy even in places where the double cylinders are not available.
It is more easy to carry and if you are properly trained is more easy to do on and off, even on diving boats or rough seas.
If you have back problem try Sidemount Diving and you will feel the difference.