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Why we should all use Sidemount Diving Equipment



Many say “I don’t want to sidemount because I don’t want to carry two cylinders”!!

Steve Martin 1That is a very good point. For many divers, they see equipment overload and it does initially put them off, but why do you have to carry two cylinders I say… when you are in a warm water location (using a wetsuit) diving sidemount with one aluminium cylinder “at your side” is in fact a great way to dive, and a good way to start learning sidemount diving.

The divers I have trained in sidemount single cylinder really enjoy the freedom that having a cylinder off your back provides, and they quickly find that adding an additional 2nd cylinder after a few dives using a single cylinder is not much of a problem at all.

After a few dives more using two sidemounted cylinders correctly they then start to see the many added benefits of carrying x2 cylinders underwater. All this then results in a changed perspective from each of the divers and the problem of carrying two cylinders is no more (especially if you have someone else bring them to the water’s edge for you!).

So why do we have our cylinders on are back anyway?

My explanation for both guys and girls: picture yourself at home and the washing machine has just finished its wash cycle, you don’t have the spin dry function so your full load is still soaking wet… you look outside and it’s a sunny day, so you decide to use your washing line.

I bet you generally empty the wet washing into a basket, then pick up the basket using the two handles on either side and carry this approx 100 to 200 yards to your washing line. Not too much of a problem carrying that weight for such a short distance, right?

Now I want you to imagine that same heavy wash basket, the weather is not suitable for drying outside, and your partner has the car, so your only option is to walk to your local laundrette… which is 10 minutes from your house. Do you still fancy carrying that wash basket?

No, me neither! It is too heavy for just our arms to carry, so what we do is find either a rucksack or bag with wheels and put the washing in there for transport. This is because it is much easier to carry the heavy load on our backs.

This is the exact same problem we are all faced with when using our even heavier scuba diving equipment. Again, picture yourself – you have your normal cylinder, bcd, regulators and lead weights, you’re  at the dive site and the walk to the water is a good few hundred yards away. It makes sense our BCD’s are designed like a backmounted rucksac, it makes carrying are SCUBA gear to the water possible.

Once you make it to the water, what a relief to get that weight of your back, right? 🙂

Underwater we can feel weightlessness by adding air to our BCD which allows us to become neutrally buoyant, but what we still can notice is when we move and especially change orientation by turning onto our side, upside down we feel the weight of our backmounted equipment shift. This is due to our centre of gravity changing due to placement of equipment on our back.

When using sidemount equipment our centre of gravity shift is not like backmount as the sidemount cylinders balance each other out all the time, and the positioning of the cylinder(s) gives you a much more streamlined profile. This creates real underwater freedom, comparable to that of a freediver!

I think backmount BCDs were originally designed like a rucksack, as an easy way to carry our equipment from land into the water while keeping our hands free… not because backmounted equipment actually performs better underwater.

Another huge advantage to sidemount diving, if you think back about that few hundred metres walk to the water I mentioned earlier, is the walk can be made much easier by setting up the regulators on the cylinders and then leaving them at the dive site entrance point prior to the dive. You then get changed into your exposure suit and sidemount BCD and walk relatively weight free to the water’s edge; once there, you can then put on your sidemounted cylinders (in the water) and go diving, without all the stress and strain of the walk with equipment normally on your back!

Thinking back to the story, you could say that diving in sidemount is just like doing your washing at the laundrette in the first place!! 😀

Is sidemount really that much better than backmount under the water?

Yes. Let me explain – backmounted equipment is not as hydrodynamic as sidemount equipment, meaning that when using sidemount you can achieve:

  • More buoyancy control through better streamlining of your equipment.
  • More comfort as your spine can flex as it is supposed to do.
  • More propulsion and glide efficiency from every kick you make.
  • More tasks like operating your BCD inflator and deflator become easier.
  • More comfort knowing you have extra redundancy in case of equipment failures.
  • More available air supply, for you and your buddy.
  • Complete redundancy if a regulator fails for any reason.

All this results in you having more time and less stress underwater.

Top 5 benefits for why you should choose sidemount
  1. Generally most sidemount harnesses are custom fit, which adds comfort and allows correct fitting for all body shapes & sizes.
  2. Having the option to put on the heavy bits (cylinders) in water first, makes scuba diving far easier and gives you more energy for swimming underwater.
  3. Being more streamlined underwater makes more dive sites accessible, as many sites have challenging conditions like currents, long swims, etc…
  4. For many people sidemount makes technical diving possible (no twinsets to carry).
  5. Using sidemount diving just looks way cooler and much more fun!!!

So when you really think about it, Sidemount equipment is better than backmounted equipment in nearly every way you can imagine…

I thank you for taking the time to read this article and hope you have enjoyed its contents. You may have lots of questions after reading this – don’t worry, I am expecting them; after all, I designed the article this way 🙂

I have been diving for over a decade now; my only wish is that I had discovered Sidemount diving from the beginning. Most of you have the chance to do what I could not! Sidemount scuba diving really is the future!

Sidemount Experience with Steve Martin YouTube Video:

Find out more about Steve Martin through his Facebook Page:


Steve Martin is a Sidemount Diving Specialist, PADI Course Director and Technical Instructor Trainer, and can be found all over the world diving and offering training to others. Steve is one of the key people leading the field in the development of sidemount diving. Find out more about Steve at his website: and his Facebook page:

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