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Sidemount or Backmount?

Discussion in 'Cave Diving' started by Tickler, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. SanDiegoSidemount

    SanDiegoSidemount DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: San Diego, CA
    382
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    The added complexity of sidemount gear can be a plus or a minus, depending on your perspective. If you enjoy "lots of fiddling", then sidemount setups give you a ton to fiddle with. Over time, you can end up with an extremely personalized rig. On the minus side, all the adjustments, including the need to reposition your lower cylinder attachments as your tanks become more buoyant during a dive -- could be viewed as needless task loading, or a distraction.

    Certain sidemount setups (like mine) avoid the "no manifold" and "OOA from dormant reg" minuses. However my LP manifold and QC6 connectors add complexity and points of failure too.

    Another plus of sidemount is the streamlining. I've never glided so far with my frog kicks.

    Finally, "open water" doesn't mean unrestricted. Here in California, there are plenty of tight quarters to navigate, and entanglement hazards (kelp), even on open water dives. I find sidemount exceedingly enjoyable in open water.
     
    Doppler and Tickler like this.
  2. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    55,932
    23,333
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    Dude, I've never called you an Easter Bunny!

    There's been a lot said in here. I tried BM in a cave once after I converted to SM. It wasn't my choice as I was auditing a class and they were in BM. I was miserable. In the open ocean, I am fine in BM, but I don't like it in an overhead environment. You owe it to yourself to try both. You can always change if you don't like it.
     
    Doppler likes this.
  3. Ragnar

    Ragnar Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Guam Via CT
    315
    24
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    Well, we're at the point where part of one of my sentences is being stringed together with another, completely out of context so I'll take my exit. There is no way now or ever that side-mount will be the optimum configuration for open water from an equipment standpoint for the reasons I've given, yet many refuse to even concede that. If a person has issues reaching valves or just wants to dive SM in OW, by all means, but it's still not the optimum set-up for that environment.

    This octopus has lots of tenticles now, but my main point being that the craze to SM now as the next step in diving, something superior to BM in all cases, is completely flawed and driven by market forces and not logic. In a very few it's better.....A FEW. Like certain caves, I'll leave you guys to talk about that, back to the DIR forum I go.......dive safe. Later!!!
     
    Pullmyfinger likes this.
  4. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    15,396
    8,160
    113
    This is something to be considered. The world is full of items that are common-place and beneficial, but actually evolved from a completely different and less common-place usage.

    The current 'trend' seems to be for sidemount critics to describe the popularity of sidemount as a "craze". Fair enough - it is a craze. Within the space of two years, virtually every scuba agency has rushed to adopt sidemount within their recreational and technical curriculum. Even an agency like PADI, which has traditionally been quite circumspect about rushing into new and untested areas (think 'nitrox'); and they've done so at such speed that the production of training materials (their major profit line) still hasn't caught up.

    Likewise, the scuba manufacturers are rushing to supply that demand. A cynic (and I am one, normally...you know that's true!) would level their finger at manufacturers and blame them for engineering this demand. Except this isn't a manufacturer driven phenomenon. The major scuba manufacturers are only now sprinting after the market with their pants round their ankles trying to catch up with demand. The demand arose from divers... and was originally supplied by some very small, very specialist manufacturers.. There were no six-figure marketing budgets or clever 'ad-man' gimmickry to blame for the exponential demand for their equipment...

    There's huge, undeniable, consumer demand for sidemount - unlike anything else we've ever seen emerging from a specialist niche into the mainstream with the exception, perhaps, of nitrox - which itself was the target of similar criticism and naysayers when it went 'mainstream' ("it's more dangerous"; "it's a fad"; "it has no real use for the majority of scuba divers" etc etc).

    So, how do we explain such a 'craze'? How do we explain why the mainstream scuba community is so eager and appreciative to learn sidemount? A community that, for the most part, has been reluctant to spend time considering any intricacy to their configuration beyond which day-glo color schemes are available or how many 'go-faster' spilts could be added to their fins...

    Is this really the result of the most genius inter-agency scuba marketing campaign ever devised? Is it some form of mass hysteria, the like of which the scuba industry has never seen before? ...... Or is it simply a case that people are trying sidemount and loving it?

    How do we explain sky-rocketing demand for something new in a traditionally inertia-ridden market? Really?

    It never happened with back-mount doubles... did it? That never 'caught on' in the mainstream recreational community... why not? PADI never rushed out to write a 'Backmount Doubles Diver' course available at OW/AOW levels... There were no 'Recreational Backmount Double Diving' user-groups on Facebook... The major scuba manufacturers didn't fall over themselves to design and release back-mount doubles options in months - it took them years, and most still don't bother.....

    If people are trying sidemount and loving it... then it's hard to rationalize sidemount as a "silly craze". People.... many people... must be seeing advantages in it. Sufficiently so that they're willing to seek training, buy new equipment, join social-media groups, trawl the internet for information.... Wow... a humble equipment configuration that's promoting mainstream recreational divers to think?... to get involved?...to learn?... to discuss?... to adapt? A bad, terrible, pointless thing - some would have us believe...

    There is.

    Whilst realistically, this is a small niche in technical diving, I do think that sidemount becomes much less efficient beyond 6-8 tanks. You do need to utilize that real-estate.

    When I did the ANDI Advanced Sidemount course (prerequisites: Full Cave/Technical Wreck), we covered options for wearing back-mount doubles over a sidemount rig, where those cylinders were used as stages/travel. They were dispensed for penetration and re-donned upon return, along with deco cylinders. That left only sidemount primaries/stages (4 cylinders) for the overhead portions of the dive (was done on wrecks, not cave). It was taught as an option, not the option - a tool in the toolbox, one of many solutions taught. It also depended on the sidemount rig used. I wasn't smitten with that particular idea - but it did raise the issue of 'real-estate' usage - whilst still permitting the benefits of sidemount to be realized on the penetration phase of the dive. I've done a little head-scratching with this, but little practical testing (6-8 cylinder dives are quite rare for me) and sidemount does provide the flexibility for alternative approaches. I've looked at additional soft-mountings on the back for accessible individual stage tanks, amongst other things.

    That said, for the types of dives we're talking about here; I think the practicalities of open-circuit in general start to become highly questionable. Do we need to debate 8-tank sidemount versus backmount? Or rather, shouldn't 8-tank open-circuit versus CCR be the real issue of debate?

    ---------- Post added December 21st, 2013 at 11:18 AM ----------

    You are a very sick, sick puppy :wink:
     
    SanDiegoSidemount and FM1520 like this.
  5. FM1520

    FM1520 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Coronado, CA
    428
    119
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    This is a great thread. I dive a single DSS BP/W which I'm pretty happy with. However, I take classes from and dive with UTD so its just a matter of time.
     
    SanDiegoSidemount likes this.
  6. SanDiegoSidemount

    SanDiegoSidemount DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: San Diego, CA
    382
    208
    43
    Yeah, it didn't take me long with UTD before I went over to the dark "side". I didn't get any sales pitches from them during the classes I did in my BP/W. But after I tried a Z-system at a Demo Day, I had to get one.
     
  7. karstdvr

    karstdvr Solo Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: South GA
    1,853
    624
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    This has the same analogies to nitrox back in the 90s. When I was nitrox trained it was needed as a tool for cave diving,but the recreational community turned their backs on it,and if fact one DEMA banned any reference to it etc. The scuba industry was fairly dead as far as equipment sales,and instruction wasn't generating a lot more students. Nitrox then didn't seem so bad,and it was accepted by the OW dive industry,and then it became a huge marketing explosion. Over night..... Agencies had new materials they could sell with new classes,and have their instructors get a new cert ($$$ for them).....instructors had students that were OW certified but didn't want classes,suddenly seeking classes ($$$ for them)....students were hearing wonderous claims about nitrox and their friends were doing it (spent $$$)...equipment manufactures started making nitrox regs etc ($$$ for them).....The bottom line market forces took over. See some similarites? In what has been a bad economy and the only real new thing has been CCR,which most people can't afford,sidemount has been the gold vein that everyone has been looking for. I am not knocking sidemount,it is a necessary tool for the diving I do,and have been using it for 10 years. Ironically many of the people who are responsible for the sidemount rig that is being used currently are somewhat amused on what has happened,and given hindsight is 20/20,they should have patented it. Which has me thinking,many people have missed out of the true sidemount innovation period,and not aware of the advantages of side attachment vs butt plate,so I need to patent a piece I created for carrabiners,that way I can rake in the $$$ when someone stumbles on to it :)
     
    Ragnar likes this.
  8. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    15,396
    8,160
    113
    But nonetheless, Nitrox had uses... benefits.... for the diving community?

    Or are you saying is was a 'fad' and died out soon thereafter? :wink:

    Some innovations are popular... that doesn't make them a gimmick.
     
    FM1520 likes this.
  9. karstdvr

    karstdvr Solo Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: South GA
    1,853
    624
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    Not saying sidemount is a fad,but saying the same analogies still apply. Regardless if we like to admit it,but scuba diving is an industry,and whether we are the consumer or the provider,the same business principles apply. You promote sidemount,sell classes etc,so that makes you part of the market that is driving this-nothing wrong with that. What I find that is wrong are things that the consumer needs to be aware of-instructors that don't have adequate experience to teach this course (sidemount class one weekend with a CD,teaching the next weekend) and manufacturers quickly making a shoddy product to capture part of the market share. Of course Caveat Emptor.
     
    victorzamora and DevonDiver like this.
  10. FM1520

    FM1520 DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Coronado, CA
    428
    119
    43
    This makes no sense, especially for OW. Many of my buddies dive SM, I dive a DSS BP/W with a LP95 tank - we both use a 7' hose and donate the primary and use a bungied backup. Other than my tank is on my back and his is on his side I don't see any difference.

    There are differences outside the actual dive:
    - he can hook up his tank in the water or whenever/whereever he wants
    - if he wants more air he simply hooks a second tank to the other side, I have to either get a bigger tank or go doubles which uses a different rig.
    - most boats around here have AL80s he just brings his strap things and uses the boat's tanks, I have to lug my LP95 (not that big a deal but a difference) - especially nice when we go down to MX or Catalina where most tank rentals are AL80s.

    however, when we go to shores to do two beach entry dives, I bring my two LP-95s and swap during the SI. He has to bring three tanks, dives doubles and swaps one out during the SI and manages the air between the three to get two (lets say 100') dives - or he could bring 4 tanks.

    I don't think one is more optimal than the other but SM does seem to offer some flexibility over BM but probably more personal preference than anything else.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
    SanDiegoSidemount likes this.

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