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Welcome to Sidemount Diving...

Discussion in 'Sidemount Diving' started by The Chairman, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. decompression

    decompression Instructor...seriously...

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
    Some of my favorite questions.....
    1. Yes
    2. No, single is fine, tanks depend on many factors
    3. No, depends on type of boat, generally it's one of the benefits of SM
    4. No real difference in bouyancy, stability is improved and weight placement is different
    5. Tons of benefits.....freedom, stability, travel, movement, back issues........got a week?
    6. Most agencies offer sidemount, here more than ever, choose your instructor first! A bad SM course is a horrible experience. There are a lot of newly certified SM instructors that shouldn't even be diving, research, research, research.
    7. Main issues, spending too much time explaining SM to divers when you could be diving! Happens all the time. But, a good instructor or mentor is worth everything, mistakes can be frustrating at best, fatal at worst.

    SM is just a tool in the tool box.......a really good one though.
    mockney likes this.
  2. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    I put a lot of information into my course supplement notes, which have been public online for a few years. Sidemount Diving Course Notes.

    But to answer your specific questions;

    1. Is sidemount used in tech diving (always thought it was mainly for cave diving)

    Yes, sidemount is becoming as popular in open-water technical diving as it is in recreational diving. PADI even released a 'Tec Sidemount' course in 2012 (not an overhead environment course).

    2. Do you always have to use 2 tanks when diving in sidemount config (presume steel or alloy tanks are both fine)

    Steel and aluminum tanks have different buoyancy properties, which necessitate very slight differences in approach mostly with bungee methods and/or attachment points. It's quite possible to dive single-cylinder sidemount. Some people do this. However, most people like the extra safety inherent with a redundant gas supply.

    3. Do you always pass off the cylinders when you return to the boat

    Passing down/up cylinders is a popular approach for water entry/exit. However, sometimes that's not possible from certain boats (high sided) or in strong currents etc. It's relatively easy to enter with the tanks in place. It's best to add a 'hard attachment' for the load bearing - a simple tank neck 'choker' with bolt snap provides this.

    4. Does it affect your buoyancy compared to standard set up, do you have weight yourself differently

    You'll be more negative initially, and (if using aluminum tanks) more buoyant at the end of the dive. I find that most of my students use less lead compared to diving a single cylinder jacket BCD. With most sidemount rigs... certainly the minimalist ones.... there's less padding and fluff to be weighted down. You've also got two regulators providing negative buoyancy. The location of weighting is also quite important - as enjoyable, effortless sidemount diving heavily relies on proper horizontal trim.

    5. What are the main benefits of using this config

    Redundant gas supply, easier on the back/knees etc, more gas supply for longer dives (great if combined with nitrox), very streamlined and efficient (if properly trained and configured), can access smaller restrictions (caves and wrecks), more flexibility of approach and ability to conduct technical dives using standard rental cylinders anywhere. It's also relatively lightweight and low bulk for travel.

    6. What's the recommended training needed for sidemount (I'm PADI trained, do they offer a course or is there something better).

    PADI have two courses:
    PADI Sidemount Diver - recreational diving/2 cylinders/4 dives min
    TecRec Tec Sidemount- technical diving 4+ cylinders/5 dives min

    Most agencies have sidemount courses now, except GUE.

    7. What's the main issues diving with sidemount (if any)

    The need for attention to detail with your diving, the need for more complex gas management (cylinders have to be balanced in consumption, so you switch between tanks regularly), no manifold, some need for consideration to hose routing and equipment configuration options
    MrBlenny, CTW76, EFX and 4 others like this.
  3. Maxpcf

    Maxpcf DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Stuart, FL
    First off, thanks for the great info Andy.

    I've been diving SM with LP 120s in caves, rigging hasn't been a problem. However I'm going to be doing some boat diving soon and am a little worried about something snapping if I gear up w/ those heavy tanks on the boat/out of the water.

    Could you elaborate a little on quotation above? Do you mean to affix something like this to the tank neck ( Dive Rite Sidemount Chokers For Neck Clip Set ) run it thru a bolt snap and then clip that to the harness?

  4. Razorista

    Razorista Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Germany
    It is easy @Max Frenkel :
    Both tank necks get a small tight loop of string. Then you use a double ender to clip that to the shoulder D-rings.
    Alternatively a bungee loop with a boltsnap on it to do the same.
    You do not strictly need that, but can help, especially with loop bungees and heavy tanks.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
  5. mockney

    mockney Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Sydney
    Thanks Jay and Andy, really appreciate you taking time to respond.
  6. decompression

    decompression Instructor...seriously...

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
    No worries, Andy always goes into more detail than me, I should just wait for him to post and say "ditto". His posts are always spot on.
    The pic is an attatchment point, both for the Harness Dring and then for the tag line from the boat. There are several ways of mounting, this is just one.

    Attached Files:

    mockney likes this.
  7. Sidemount_c

    Sidemount_c Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Del Mar, CA
    Haha, photo pleeeeeeze!
  8. Aanderson81

    Aanderson81 Contributor

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Connecticut
    I figured rather than starting a new thread I would add to this one as it seems like a good place for someone getting started.

    I am just looking to get started with sidemount. Largely due to trying to be a bit easier on my knees and back. Last winter in particular I did a cold dive in rougher water and boy was my knees and back hating me for quite a bit after so I started looking into sidemount after that experience. Also I have been interested in possibly doing some diving from a kayak and this seems like a great setup for this.

    With that said, for Christmas I was gifted a Scubapro X-Tek sidemount harness with a 45lb wing. I was wondering if anyone had any good pointers on getting started with this setup. I am going to be ordering a drysuit in the spring so I will be looking to do drysuit and sidemount classes together but i would love to try to get as much adjusted and setup before then. One question I had with this setup is that unless i am mistaken on how the tank clips, it only has one clip point for the bottom of the tank. A lot of what I've read into mentioned 2 d rings so that you can pull the tank down as the tank becomes more buoyant. Is this something you add to the harness if you want to do this, or is it not needed with this design?

    Also I enjoy the simple design of the harness and i think it would make a nice travel BC, but I was wondering how dive boats tend to react to this setup. especially I assume the extra time / effort on their part getting you in and out of the water with handing the tanks in rather than just having you roll and jump in. Also I was wondering about using both tanks in this situation. I am a larger guy so although my air use is getting much better, I would not pass up the extra couple hundred PSI you can get out of using 2 tanks and still reaching the boat with the standard reserve. If you think this is a better stand alone thread let me know.

    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
  9. Scott

    Scott Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
    The lower attachments are called rails or handles and are designed for using steel cylinders. While they can be used with aluminum (not ideal) you will have to add an additional d-ring in front as AL cylinders go tail light and take the cylinder out of trim. The 2 d-rings you mentioned are just for that. At the beginning of the dive you attach the AL cylinder to the back d-ring, as the dive progresses the cylinder becomes lighter and you move the attachment to the front d-ring.
    Should all be covered in your SM course with a knowledgeable instructor. There are a couple good texts out there that you can read in the mean time. Look at the one from Rob Neto.

    I travel a fair amount and don't see a lot of SM divers on boats, not saying they are not there, I just don't see that many. I've used SM on a few vacations and haven't had any issues with operators. Years ago it was a different story. Just know that warm water diving, you'll have aluminum cylinders and very rarely will they have left/right valves unless the operator is geared for tech. Meaning you'll have to configure your rig for AL cylinders.

    When I have used two cylinders on vacation and the operators have let me know that it is a two tank dive, not a four tank. You can use them both for the two dives or use them one cylinder at a time.
    Coztick likes this.
  10. Aanderson81

    Aanderson81 Contributor

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Connecticut
    I was figuring to use them as a 2 tank dive. My understanding, and correct me if i am wrong, the advantages of diving both tanks its that its easier to keep in trim with the 2 tanks. Also say you are planning on turning the dive at 1000 psi and being back at 500 psi this means you can turn at 1875 per tank and return at 1625 for the first dive and 500 / 225 essentially getting an extra couple hundred psi per dive while maintaining the reserve. If you dive with one tank, how much does it throw you off trim? I would assume a pair of pockets with a couple of 2lb weights would work well for this and just swapping pockets as the tank empties.

    In addition you also get the safety factor of redundant equipment as well (I do enjoy the self reliant part of this, especially with that I dont have a regular buddy and 90% of the time end up with an instabuddy) Am I correct in all of these assumptions?

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