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Sidemount versus Backmount – a constant debate



An increasing proportion of divers are making the transition from recreational to technical diving for a variety of reasons, whether it be to go deeper, to stay down longer, to enter caves, or to dive bucket list wrecks. We all have our own individual diving aspirations and reasons why we love being underwater, so when it comes to choosing equipment, why should it be any different? It is all about personal preference.

People often ask me, what is the secret to relaxed and comfortable scuba diving? My answer is always the same – it has to be using the most suitable equipment for your specific dive that meets your individual needs and requirements. This is especially true when it comes to technical diving, as with increasing equipment load and task loading it becomes all the more important to ensure that you are only carrying necessary equipment which is streamlined and you are confident in using.

I dive backmount, sidemount, multistage and CCR configurations; of course, I make it no secret that sidemount is my preference, whether I’m in caves or open water. For me, it’s about taking the weight off my back in any environment. For some, having the weight on their back causes no issues, so then you have to decide what works for you, both in and out of the water in different environments.

This is where training comes in. At the end of the day there’s no substitute for experience – both an instructor’s and your own. By all means talk to people, follow forums, but ultimately there’s no vetting process for who can make comment, so whose opinion can you really trust? The obvious answer is you have to make your own opinion and the best way to do this is to give the equipment a try, but under the supervision of an experienced and reputable instructor. Most full-time technical instructors will have spent 1000s of hours underwater and many of these will have been spent perfecting their equipment, so why not make use of that experience? Skip the awkward errors and time spent analysing how the harness should fit, where the weights should go, what length regulator hoses, which D-rings to use and where – Just skip to the good bit of diving and deciding if you like how something feels. Ultimately, diving is all about feeling relaxed, not stressful or uncomfortable.

So, what’s the right equipment for the right situation? Carrying excess equipment for a dive, eg. 6 cylinders for a 1 hr dive at 10m, is just adding extra stress and strain for no reason. However, the big debate comes in when discussing sidemount outside of cave diving. People still view sidemount as just a tool to squeeze through restrictions by removing cylinders, but sidemount has a lot more to offer than this. When it comes to diving safely in open water, especially  at depths or overhead environments, it’s important to access your valves easily in the event of a gas problem. Some people struggle to access their valves in a twinset, whereas in sidemount, valves are always easily accessible and visible. Taking weight off your back and carrying cylinders separately on the surface is an advantage for those who suffer with back pain or struggle to carry weight. Conversely, if you have no physical issues, then backmount could be right for you. Ultimately, it’s about approaching the decision with an open-mind and recognising that both configurations will give you redundancy – it’s just about what you feel best and most confident in.

There has been much discussion around the difficulties of using sidemount on a boat or effectively staging multiple cylinders for deep dives, but it has to be said that these issues apply equally to backmount and ultimately it just comes down to training from an experienced instructor. Open water sidemount is the relatively new kid on the block in comparison to twinset diving, so unfortunately people are still experimenting, and as a result, getting it wrong. My experience has been that although most boats are fitted out with backmount divers in mind, a well-trained sidemount diver has much greater flexibility towards kitting up, i.e. sitting on a bench, standing up, kneeling on the dive deck, straddling the tube of a RHIB or donning/doffing in the water. There’s no denying the fact that there are pros and cons for each configuration, but it really comes down to how you feel in the water, and with adequate training you’ll learn how to make your life easier and overcome any issues. It’s all about technique, and with the right technique even the smaller, more petite divers, can readily handle multiple cylinders in a variety of situations.

Overall, if you are considering that transition from single cylinder to dual cylinders and perhaps beyond, my ultimate piece of advice would be, don’t listen to all of the talk and the hype about different configurations, but instead go out and give them a try yourself. Spend your time/research finding a reputable instructor who can give you the best taste of the different equipment – you’ll soon know what suits you best and you’ll love your diving all the more for it!

If you are interested in further training or you want to know more about RAID don’t hesitate to contact me.

RAID logoGarry is the owner of Simply Sidemount ( and a Director of training agency RAID UK & Malta ( To contact Garry email or visit his Facebook page: Simply Sidemount & Simply Tec



Crazy haired and passionate diver, teacher, author and photographer. Life-long adventurer, keen to explore new environments including caves and wrecks whilst enjoying the tranquillity and surreal places below the surface. Protecting the ocean and wildlife, but also dedicated to improving diver safety. Still dreaming about that boat on the ocean, love on the seven seas, pirates, treasure and rum.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Veronica Cowley, a contestant in the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-large, chats to Veronica Cowley, a contestant in the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition. The See you at the Sea Festival was an online film festival created by young people, for young people.

Veronica’s film – Worse things Happen at Sea – can be seen here:

Sixth and final in a series of six videos about the competition. Watch the first video HERE with Jenn Sandiford – Youth Engagement Officer with the Your Shore Beach Rangers Project and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust – to find out more about the Competition. Each day this week will be sharing one video in which Jeff talks with the young contestants about their films and what inspired them.

For more information please visit:

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Peli proud to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution



We know Peli from its popular camera cases, but from discovery to distribution, Peli’s temperature-controlled packaging is now delivering COVID-19 vaccines all over Europe and the Middle East

With the pandemic recovery just underway, COVID-19 vaccines and therapies are rapidly becoming available for use and they must be safely distributed worldwide, within their required temperature range. Peli’s BioThermal™ division is providing temperature-controlled packaging to meet this critical moment, protecting these crucial payloads.

Peli’s innovative cold chain packaging has been trusted for nearly 20 years by pharmaceutical manufacturers to safely ship their life-saving products around the world. To meet the current challenge, they have adapted their existing products to provide deep frozen temperatures when required for the newly developed life sciences materials. Current and new offerings will ensure the cold chain is maintained throughout the vaccine or therapy’s journey, maximising efficacy and patient health.

“We know that pharmaceutical companies are in all phases of the development process for vaccines and therapeutics and working tirelessly to bring safe and effective drug products to market quickly,” said Greg Wheatley, Vice President of Worldwide New Product Development and Engineering at Peli BioThermal. “Our engineering team matched this urgency to ensure they have the correct temperature-controlled packaging to meet them where they’re at in drug development for the pandemic recovery, from discovery to distribution.”

Peli BioThermal’s deep frozen products use phase change material (PCM) and dry ice systems to provide frozen payload protection with durations from 72 hours to 144+ hours. Payload capacities range from 1 to 96 litres for parcel shippers and 140 to 1,686 litres for pallet shippers.

New deep-frozen solutions are ideal for short-term vaccine storage, redirect courier transport of vaccines from freezer farm hubs to immunisation locations and daily vaccine replenishment to remote and rural areas.

Peli BioThermal temperature-controlled packaging is currently being used to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, either directly or through global transportation providers, in Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the UK as well as in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, with more countries set to join the list as the pandemic recovery process rolls out.

To learn more about the wide range of deep frozen Peli BioThermal shippers, visit and for more information.

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This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email to book your spot!

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