Technical Divers have many different equipment platforms available at their disposal. Back mount twinset is the traditional and most common style, utilizing two cylinders on the back and any additional tanks on the side. Rebreathers have been around for a long time and in recent years the technology has improved drastically, thus the popularity and safety as well. But one equipment configuration getting more and more popular in Technical diving is the Sidemount setup. Sidemount differs from back mount diving, with the cylinders usually tucked under the armpits and secured to the hips, this allows more freedom of movement and a much more streamlined profile in the water.
First born in the muddy cave systems of UK in the early 1960’s, sidemount equipment was quite primitive. No one was manufacturing equipment for sidemount, so the gear was always home made out of various other diving gear to suit their needs. Rather than having the bulky tanks strapped to their backs, the early sidemount divers would have the tanks on their side against the thighs, thus allowing them to squeeze through much tighter restrictions in the caves that were once thought impassable. Often they would not even have a buoyancy device or even fins.
In the 1970’s the cave divers of Florida adopted a new approach adding buoyancy in the form of a hydration pack (camel pack) strapped to the back, which they would orally inflate for buoyancy. The tanks were shifted higher to under the arms and by the hips. This suited the Florida cave diver better than the no mount system from the UK.
It wasn’t until the 1990’s when the first Sidemount harness was manufactured for sale. The Dive Rite “Transpack” harness. However most people continued to make their own DIY setups as sidemount was still only used by a small number of extreme, exploration cave divers.
In the 2000’s sidemount became very popular in the Technical Diving world and has even migrated to the Recreation diving world. Now used in all types of diving; open water, wrecks, caves, no-mount and decompression diving. Sidemount is here to stay, and some even say it’s the future of recreational diving.
Big Blue Tech has been training sidemount for some time now using the extremely bulky and cumbersome Dive Rite “Nomad” system. However we have recently upgraded to the incredibly advanced and streamlined X-Deep “Stealth 2.0”. Created in conjunction with cave diver Patrick Widmann, the X-Deep has a minimalist approach to design, every last piece of this system was well thought out and engineered. There is nothing on the unit you do not need and everything is in the right place, creating the most streamlined, well thought out, sidemount unit on the market.
Big Blue Tech Instructor Donny took the new X-Deep Stealth 2.0 on a few dives to test it out and came back grinning from ear to ear. With the unit naturally forcing you into the perfect trim position, and the tanks sitting exactly where you want them, the X-Deep takes almost no effort to dive in. The X-Deep has 16kg of lift, so is more than capable of taking multiple steel tanks for deep decompression diving or just one or two aluminium tanks for a relaxing shallow dive. The unit has intuitive rubber waist D-rings instead of steel with a floating adjustment on the waist strap allowing for perfect positioning of the aluminium tank as it starts to get positively buoyant. With this simple yet incredibly smart design feature it means with correct use your tanks will always be completely horizontal and parallel with your body. This creates little drag and makes movement through the water effortless.
Another great feature is the detachable bladder. This serves 3 purposes. #1. For extremely tight cave restrictions you can remove the bladder creating a “no-mount” system making it possible to squeeze through restrictions no bigger than you body. #2. Being detachable means you have a greater range of adjustment for the placement of the bladder. For leg heavy people you have bladder lower on the body. For head heavy the opposite, move the bladder higher. This means perfect trim is easily achieved. #3. For redundancy of buoyancy you simply attach a second bladder over the top of the first, creating backup buoyancy in the event of punctures or failures.
Another incredibly smart design feature of the bladder is the centred dump valve located at the bottom of the bladder. Allowing easy deflation with the option of either hand. Also meaning no need to roll to deflate.
With all these unique features, the X-Deep is by far the most advanced, versatile and intuitive sidemount unit on the market. It’s not hard to see that this unit has a lot of thought put into the design, and that’s why Big Blue Tech have lashed out and bought five brand new units for use during the TDI sidemount training we provide.
Prerequisites for the course are minimum age 18 years and an Open Water certification. The course can be taught on any level from recreational to Trimix. Sidemount can be taught in conjunction with a range of courses like Nitrox, Cave, Wreck and Advance Wreck courses.
So if you think sidemount is the way forward then drop us an email and lets get diving!