Side mount diving originated in the UK resulting from early wet cave exploration beginning in the 1930’s. Using scuba was a natural progression although there wasn’t any real intent to develop a side mount diving system and kit, it just came about out of practical necessity and good old fashioned innovation as divers discovered caves with tighter restrictions with the need to have your tank and breathing apparatus streamlined and easily accessible. Maybe that’s why we have quite a few variations of harnesses and wings with myriads of attachment systems and features in today’s modern side mount systems. Most of the dive equipment manufacturers have developed a dedicated side mount system, some have even built a hybrid to accommodate both back mount and side mount.
There are three main parts to side mounts. The harness, the wing [inflation] and the rigging of tanks and regulators. The Harness is composed of 50 mm webbing with varied snaps, keepers, D-rings and attachment points either naked or a solid or soft back plate.
The wing or the buoyancy device is usually modular and adaptable to most harness systems via webbing or bungee attachments. Buoyancy wings are manufactured in various shapes and sizes for individual application and requirements.
The rigging of the tanks and routing of regulators is where it all comes together. This is where it gets personal for the diver as components and equipment are arranged and attached to a specific configuration pertinent to the type of diving.
Some like gauges up in sight, others like them running down the tank. Hose routing always goes down the tank first and bungee’s neatly with 7′ long hose on the right tank and wing inflation hose on the left tank. Both second stage regulators with 90-120 deg elbows. Some adapt the twin rear mount concept of routing hoses around the neck and the left regulator on a neck bungee. 1st stage up or down, left and right tank valves are also preferences for each diver.
Cylinder attachment to harness and bungee retaining the top or neck are commonly via cam-band and single end bolt-snaps with top connections loop bungee or hard connections of many variations.
The next step is practical application with some in-water tips and instruction from a good side mount or tec side mount instructor. While the internet and forums have lots of ideas and alternative concepts for side mount diving, some time with a solid and reputable instructor will be invaluable . Choose an instructor who actually dives in a side mount system and has done plenty of in-water time developing and honing their own skills and delivering quality courses.
Dedicated side mount divers are popping up in most diving locations but more specifically cave divers and deep technical divers are trending towards the associated benefits of side mount systems for penetration dives with tight restrictions. The E-CCR market has even developed a side mount Rebreather using the left tank as diluent.
With most instructional agencies and dive shops getting on board your transition to side mount scuba diving will have you trained and kitted up for longer and even deeper diving expeditions exploring beyond the gas limits of a single tank. Visit your local dive store and discover side mount scuba diving.