Sidemount Open-Water and Overhead Environment Diving

Open-water sidemount diving... steve lewis sidemount diving in Key West

Sidemount is a useful option… 

For a cave diver, sidemount is a comfortable and effective way to carry a set of doubles. While a back-mounted twinset with two cylinders joined by an isolation manifold, a backplate, harness and wing is the more traditional configuration, especially for North American cave divers, sidemount has several advantages.

According to Lamar Hires, president and founder of the Dive Right company — and an early influence on sidemount diving in the US and Canada — the choice to dive sidemount may be mission specific (exploring a small passage or the tight confines of a wreck) or may be driven by what he terms a “lifestyle choice.”

Steve Cave SMThe advantages of having nothing on one’s back to become tangled in dangling line or to scrape against delicate cave furniture are pretty obvious. Sidemount allows easier access to some particularly pretty caves and removes one huge headache from wreck penetration.

Less obvious perhaps is having handwheels, valves, hoses, and first stages within easy reach and in-sight. For some, this option alone means sidemount diving is their prefered gear configuration, even though they may never venture into anything smaller and tighter than a tropical reef. This “lifestyle choice” means that many divers who want the reassurance that comes with carrying a redundant gas source, choose sidemount over back-mount.

Steve wreck diving GrenadaI have been diving open-circuit sidemount almost exclusively for more than 12 years, and although some say that there is no benefit to taking a sidemount class because there is nothing to learn, I disagree. There is always something to learn or a skill to refine.

A formal class and sidemount workshop can be invaluable in both regards even though you may have logged many dives using sidemount gear.

A class can show you shortcuts and “fixes” that are not obvious but that can make a real difference and result in your kit being squared away and streamlined. You’ll better understand the techniques that make sidemount a safer option in terms of gas management. Your harness will be adjusted and made to fit properly, you’ll learn how to rig primary and stage bottles (aluminium and steel) so they behave and stay close to your body. You’ll diving will improve and sidemount will be more fun.

I offer two levels of sidemount (two cylinders and multistage), and a sidemount tune-up clinic for divers who already dive sidemount and have their own gear but are still struggling to get it right.

Contact me for details about scheduled courses and workshops or more details about course contents using the email.