Sidemount Diver Descending

Sidemount scuba diver descending

It happened to me a couple of times: wearing a sidemount harness I was walking to the beach carrying my single tank on my shoulder. A diver ask me if I was a technical diver. The question caused a smile on my face. No, I was not a technical diver. I was even not going for a proper recreational dive, my plan was to get to about 3m of water a spend good two hours watching those wonderful creatures of the shallow kelp covered reef.

The real reason why I started to use the sidemount rig has nothing to do with cave diving or wreck penetration. Years ago I saw a video of people wearing a harness with a backplate, a single aluminium cylinder hanging on their side using a scooter and having fun with warm waters of Red Sea. They called it monkey diving. It looked interesting, but not flexible/adjustable enough for all the diving conditions … and by the way, I did not own a scooter. Then I saw those youtube videos of sidemount divers diving in open water … they looked like freedivers with small buoyancy bladders on their butts and cylinders hovering on their sides. It seemed it could work with one cylinder too.

I checked the harness by Steve Bogaerts, went to my garage and realised I could make a similar one with the webbing and hardware pieces I found there. I got one MSR Dromedary 6L bladder with the hydration kit and went for a test dive. It all went well, the harness was easily adjustable, the buoyancy bladder position worked great for me, the oral inflation worked fine too (if I was properly weighted), I could reach the tank valve any time I needed … a very reassuring option in case the regulator free-flows.

I am still experimenting with the rig, however, it feels very comfortable already. It can be improved, of course … a bladder with a power inflator, a butt-mounted bag. For my particular purposes it would be probably ideal to use two 40 cuft cylinders.

By the way, if you read the article and find the rig interesting, get in touch with me I can let you try it. This is a non-commercial offer, I don’t promote any off-the-shelf solution or a particular brand.

Note: To provide the full picture I need to say, I still dive my the standard back-mounted rig as well. When I dive, I always dive with my camera. In case of shore diving it is simply too cumbersome to carry a tank on my shoulder and the camera in the other hand (plus the fins). Especially if the walk to the water is difficult (slippery rocks) or long. A backpack-like rig frees my hands.