Originally designed for cave diving, sidemount is an equipment configuration that enables the diver to wear the cylinders on the side of the body instead of on the back. It typically involves two cylinders, although the configuration is possible (and increasingly popular) with a single cylinder or rebreather. One of the main benefits of a sidemount configuration is the significant reduction in a diver’s vertical profile, helping establish and maintain proper horizontal trim.
Advantages to diving in sidemount
Streamlining: The entire sidemount system is designed to be completely streamlined. Diving a sidemoutnt configuration requires a minimalist approach, so BCDs and harnesses have smaller profiles then the standard backmount equipment.
Comfort: Your back is more flexible in sidemount equipment since there is nothing rigid (tank or backplate) held against it. Cylinders can be easily donned in-water, eliminating the need to walk around with heavy equipment on. Sidemount has made diving for those with disabilities or injuries much easier because heavy equipment can be donned in the water.
Safety: With two completely independent cylinders and regulators, sidemount provides a redundant system and safer gas management. All valves and regulators are directly in front of the diver, resulting in easier management of gear and gas supply. A faulty regulator or cylinder becomes a minor problem instead of a major emergency.
Versatility: Alongside further training and additional equipment, the same BCD and harness system can be used in other scuba applications, such as technical, wreck, and cave diving.
Lightweight: Gear is typically lighter and less bulky, making it ideal for travel. It also makes shore diving and diving from small boats with limited space easier.