What is Sidemount and why do you need it?
Sidemount is an equipment configuration which places your tanks along the side of your body, with the valves close to your armpits. it was originally created by cave divers to reduce their profile allowing access to small spaces and restrictions. Sidemount has found its way into Tec and now recreational diving because of the added benefits it provides divers.
Traditionally divers have worn tanks on back mounted BCD or back plates, while still used by most divers it does present a few problems.
Sidemount is safer
For one, with back mounted tanks, most of your life supporting equipment is out of sight behind your head, should it develop a leak it can take a while to react resulting in a lot of lost gas, also valves may be difficult to reach. Sidemount places your valves in front of you making it easy to see, and much easier to access, if there is a leak you will know the instant it occurs, you will see it, hear it and feel it, the valves are perfectly placed to deal with the problem.
There are added safety aspects which appeal to recreational divers. Recreational divers typically carry a single tank, recreational Sidemount divers typically carry two (although one is still completely possible with the proper weight placement). This provides more breathing gas, easing concerns for big breathers, and provides a redundant alternative if you experience an equipment failure. Added benefits include easier equipment transportation out of the water, reduced back strain and more freedom of movement. Technical divers, accustomed to two tanks, may question the benefit of Sidemount, the answer is true redundancy.
Redundant gas supply
Typically twin tank divers connect their tanks by an isolator manifold which joins the two tanks for a normal dive, and can isolate them from each other in an emergency. Doing this in an emergency steals valuable seconds from a diver, and potentially lots of breathing gas, not a good situation if you have a deco schedule ahead of you. As with recreational Sidemount the valves are in front of the diver, you will see hear and feel a leak the instant it occurs. Unlike twin tanks, with an isolator valve, the gas in your second Sidemount cylinder is unaffected during the leak, and resolved quicker with less effort, simply put its safer and easier.
Carrying bulky equipment around on your back can easily result in injury, especially on moving platforms such as a boat, it can also make diving inaccessible for people with back problems. With Sidemount you may enter the water fully geared up, have your tanks handed to you and clip them on. Simple, easy and relaxed. In addition to these factors, Sidemount still provides all of the same benefits it did to the cave divers that pioneered it such as access to tight rescrictions found in caves, caverns and wrecks, expect to see more and more divers diving Sidemount as this catches on.
Tec dive anywhere you can find tanks
Tec divers renting equipment can find it challenging to locate a dive center with the required kit available. Sidemount divers can prepare recreational scuba tanks for use with the simple addition of tank bands. Sidemount gear is also typically much smaller, our kit of choice, the Razor 2, rolls up into a small package that will easily fit into hand luggage.
What training is available?
The PADI Tec Sidemount course is designed as an equipment orientation, it is a five dive course that focuses on enabling you to combine the configuration with your current experience and certification level. There is some simulated decompression stops making it a great introduction to tec decompression diving, or a refresher for those already certified, once complete you are able to use Sidemount on any of the Tec Rec courses.
For divers who have not yet caught the Tec bug PADI offers a 4 dive recreational Sidemount specialty allowing you to combine this equipment configuration and use it within the confines of your current certification level.
Book your course
The Tec sidemount course, or the Tec Sidemount instructor program is available year round, contact us now to confirm your program.
Tec Sidemount $490 USD, Recreational Sidemount $295 USD.