History of sidemount
Sidemount traces its roots to the UK, where cavers would strap small air bottles to their thighs, enabling them to traverse sumps — short, water-filled passageways that connected air-filled chambers, often far into a cave. Cave divers in the USA began adopting sidemount in the early 1980s, as a means of passing through bedding planes — cave passages that can be several feet wide, but only a few inches high.
The philosophy was expanded in Florida by cave divers, and most of the harness commercially available today was develop in Florida.
Interest in sidemount is growing, by recreational, technical, wreck, cave divers alike. In fact, there is a joke circulating in cave country about the veteran diver who shows up to dive with a much younger buddy. Looking over this elder’s highly Hogarthian doubles set up, the younger sidemounter remarks,
Basics of sidemount scuba diving
Sidemount diving configuration essentially means you take one or two cylinders and place them under your arm on either side of your body, instead of mounting them on your back. Sidemount scuba was initially developed as an approach to gear configuration for advanced cave diving in unusually tight passages where traditional back mounted twin cylinders were cumbersome. Due to the comfort, ease and simplicity of the system, Sidemount is now becoming very popular not only in caves and wrecks but also in open water recreational diving.
Benefits of sidemount configuration vs backmount
• Offers a greater comfort level as sidemount equipment and harness can be custom fit to each diver. The advantages in comfort, ease of movement, simplicity, minimize drag, all life support equipment reachable with both hands. Sidemount is the way to the future of diving.
• Enables superior buoyancy, balance and trim control resulting in a more streamlined profile making moving through the water easier and more efficient.
• Great for divers with physical limitations. You can put the tanks on in the water so no more walking to the dive site with all that load on your back under the blazing sun. Putting tanks on in the water makes entries and exits much easier.
• Safer option for air management as you have an easy access to your cylinder valve(s), first stage(s) and alternate regulator should there be any problem.
• One harness and BCD does it all. This is now true as the same sidemount equipment can be used for more advanced types of diving i.e wreck, cave and technical diving.
• Dive travel is easier. Take a lightweight sidemount harness instead of that bulky BCD jacket or backplate configuration. Most resorts provide rental cylinders so strap those on, use their regulators or take your own and enjoy a comfortable dive with an unsurpassed safety margin and spend more time diving.
• You can dive Sidemount even though your buddy would still be using the old standard scuba system, like jacket BCD or backplate and wing. All you need to do when conducting a buddy check is go over the differences of where your equipment is placed. Same inter-team-relation in regards to emergency procedures. Only difference, is that you won't be attach to an out of air diver through through stress ascent. This will give you more relax ascent for both divers, better communication, better team awareness and environmental awareness.