Do you know why side mount diving is so popular?
The origins of side mount diving can be traced back to cave exploration, where divers found twin sets cumbersome in confined spaces. Seeking greater flexibility, they experimented with mounting tanks in a more adaptable manner. After years of testing and adjustments, a standardized side mount configuration evolved, featuring a DIR-style long hose setup and a specialized two-side BCD.
Initially confined to cave exploration, side mount diving transitioned into the recreational realm due to its undeniable merits. While the need to fit through cave confinements was no longer the primary driver, side mount diving offered various advantages that attracted divers even in open water environments.
One of the primary reasons for the popularity of side mount diving is its ability to navigate through awkward gaps in caves. With cylinders attached on either side, divers can easily remove and replace them during a dive. This flexibility is particularly useful for complex dives requiring multiple gases, as staged cylinders can be left at specific points and connected as needed.
One appealing feature of side mount diving is the ease of handling cylinders. Unlike traditional twin sets that require lifting both tanks simultaneously, side mount allows divers to enter the water leisurely without the burden of heavy cylinders. Getting out of the water is equally effortless, as cylinders can be pulled up with a line.
Modularity is another advantage of side mount gear. Since cylinders aren't bolted onto the back, divers can customize their kit on the go. Staged tanks can be disconnected and left behind, or even donated to a buddy in need. The absence of a hose tethering divers together provides additional safety, allowing one to deal with entanglements independently.
The streamlined design of side mount setups contributes to better buoyancy control. The weight distribution and the ability to place lead weights strategically result in a horizontal position in the water. This feature is particularly beneficial in overhead environments, preventing collisions with obstacles.
Furthermore, the arrangement of valves and hoses in side mount setups enhances safety. Everything is conveniently located in front of the diver, making it easier to identify and address issues. Redundancy is built into side mount tanks – if one fails, there's a complete separate copy on the other side for added safety.
Despite its merits, side mount diving is not as widely adopted as traditional configurations. The complexity of the setup, the need for specialized equipment, and the initial intimidation factor contribute to its limited popularity among recreational divers. However, for those willing to invest time in mastering the technique, side mount diving offers unparalleled flexibility, safety, and convenience, making it a valuable choice for exploration beyond cave environments.