Category Archives: Sidemount Diving

Donning and Doffing Sidemount tanks

Everything has an order

Keep it consistent and you will never forget anything, plus, you’ll be doing it right each time!
Donning and doffing sidemount tanks, as I was thought and now how I have perfected it, made me want to share with ALL of you this little secret. OK, it has nothing of a secret because it should be taught at Basic Sidemount class but it is not always and for the self taught, well, here is a way to look better at doing it.

Remember, because we are scuba diving in sidemount, everybody watches us – yes, they do! In fact I would say they envy us 😀

In the idea of trying to keep as close as possible from the DIR concept (comments here are welcome), my configuration, the one I teach, comes with the long hose on the right cylinder and the neck-lace shorter hose (with a 90° fixed elbow) comes to the left cylinder. This latter, is called the primary cylinder, as for us, lucky warm water divers, is the one with the LPI wing/BCD inflator.

If you read this and you are not so lucky and dive cold water in a drysuit, you could have the order reversed. For example those diving a certain brand of sidemount harness (interchangeable dump/inflator) will have the dry suit connection off the left tank and the wing off the right one. Does that change the order of primary to secondary? It depends how you see it really. As far as I would go, my dry bag is NOT a buoyancy device but… Another debate for another interesting article. 🙂

So here we are, it is going to come as a succession of photos with explanation and a little summary. Enjoy 🙂

Thanks to my private model for the photo-shoot 🙂 Thanks Richard 🙂


sidemount tanks

First of all, set the tanks to have the right and the left one in the correct position.

left tank first

Left tank first. Get hold of the tank by the first stage, with the right hand and the left hand finds the piston clip and attach the cylinder to the harness.

Bubble check

Once left tank is clipped, it is time to open the valve and do a first self-bubble check. Once done, deploy bungee from around the valve and fully deploy short hose from retaining band. Giving a forward rotation to the turret of the first stage will help keep the hose away when securing the sidemount bungee.

opening tank

Same view but from underwater – switch valve ON prior to deploying hose.

Dry test

After securing the cylinder with the bungee, time to connect your LPI and get some buoyancy. Then, rotating towards the shoulder the turret of the first stage, pass the short hose behind the head and orientate the second stage properly. Bite into the mouth piece then, pull on the necklace bungee around the head/helmet. Time now to test the second stage, face in the water.

Right tank ON

Now that the left tank is on and fully checked, time to do the same but with opposite hand for the right tank. So, left hand gets hold of the first stage while the right hand finds the piston clip and secure the tank to the harness.










right tank open

Just after clipping tank to right hip rear D-ring, while cylinder still submerged, crank open the valve and do your self-bubble check. Then, it is time to secure it with the sidemount bungee.
NOTE: the long hose stays in place until the tank is secured on both attachment points.

Dry breath regulator

Once deployed, the long hose crosses in front of the chest, clockwise and the second stage goes in the mouth to be tested, underwater.



So here we are now, with our tanks (or cylinder, which ever you prefer!) ON and ready to go sidemount scuba diving. It is done the same way for open water diver and/or for sidemount cave and/or technical divers. The long hose needs to always be on top during the ‘exploration’ part of the dive. Once doing deco dives, the deco cylinder, righ or left, takes the ride over the others but it is a good idea to cross the long hose and pass it over. In case of a TOXIC switch, back gas, is always better than the pure O2!!

Long hose deploy

To end this sequence, it is a good habit to get into, is deploy the long hose and switch to necklace to ensure that long hose is free. It is called a ‘modified S-Drill’. So that is ALL I had to say about #DonningDoffingSidemountTanks 🙂 Hope you liked it and see you in the comment section 😉

Sidemount Diver’s Pouch

…aka Sidemount Diver’s man purse


We all need little bits and pieces of junk (understand back ups and fix it now tools) to make sure the dive goes on well and each part of our gear is kinda fixable on site, or even, underwater…


Sidemount pouch

Sidemount pouch

The DIR diver uses thigh pockets to keep his/her spare and back-ups but for the sidemount diver, thigh pockets are not ideal as positioned where the tanks are resting. On top of that, getting to what’s in there is not easy. All the divers using pockets, is used to clip any piece of equipment to not loose the precious content and go fishing blind when the need for what’s in the pocket arises.

When a diver is in need of his pocket content, would it be for a regular task of in an emergency, being able to act in an fast yet smooth manner, makes the difference between a successful dive and a dive we’ll talk about for a long time…at the bar! 😉

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Cave Diving Helmet

So, with or without a helmet?

cave diving helmet

To helmet or not to helmet?

Have you already noticed that some cave divers are wearing a helmet and others aren’t?

Some are wearing their tanks on the side and others on the back. Here we say they use a different tank configuration. But why a helmet? Is it because they swim faster? 🙂 Or maybe that they can be subject to fallen rocks/debris that could hurt them? To carry their lights? To look cool?

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Sidemount Diving Systems

Modular or Sidemount only rig

It is not a fad! It is here to stay! Sidemount diving has been used for decades already and in the harshest environment imaginable. So NO, it is not just a fad.

For the last two years now there’s been a surge with manufacturers to introduce sidemount compatible wings or other BCDs. No blame, just to say that everybody is jumping on the bandwagon, that’s it!

Diver using Sidemount configuration

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Delayed Surface Marker Buoys

surface marker for ocean diving

Deep sea diving or should I say open water diving? In any cases divers will need to be able to signal their position and communicate with the surface by using a surface marker buoy aka SMB, DSMB, sausage or even  a bolb!!
At a beginner’s level, surface suport is just the boat captain and maybe his crew, just waitng in the drift to see ‘where’ the client-divers are going to surface from their dive. Pretty basic you’d say…
It should be, as long as it is agreed before the dive, that an SMB must be used and the boat crew know the type and eventualy color of the surface markers in use within that group of recreational divers.

But on the other hand, we’d have the more experienced diver, possibly a technical diver, even a sidemount technical diver 😉 who absolutely need surface support for his or her safety. During your technical diving class with Essential Scuba Training, you will learn how to deploy safely an SMB.

Surface Marker

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Maximum Operating Death (Part 1)

Cylinder labels – Where and what to write

Scuba diving is still claiming victims. Sometimes, reading newspapers, it is possible to hear about the diver’s oxygen cylinder that ran out. If you read this blog, you are probably a diver and therefore know exactly what I am talking about!
With today’s demand for advanced diver training these journalist could never be so far from the truth. Oxygen cylinders are dangerous, a bit like a loaded weapon. If mishandled, it is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ will it kill!? Unless…

As soon as divers enter in the Technical diving realm, they will carry along a variety of gasses either to extend their bottom time or to help during the decompression or ascent phase of the dive.

All you need is this!

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Mix Gas Sidemount Scuba Diving

Nitrox or Helium, either way, in sidemount!

For a while now, Nitrox (oxygen enriched mix) and or helium based mixes, aka trimix, have been the sole toys of technical divers. It is true in a way, and thanks God to these different mixes, man (ok, women as well!) are pushing the limits of scuba diving and helping understand the intricacies of deep, very deep diving as well as decompression models. If Nitrox is not new, nor is helium, they are still seen as ‘voodoo’ mixes.

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Technical Diving with Razor Sidemount System

Adventure in Technical Diving with RSM

Since my last post, lots of things have happened. I’ve been out of Mexico for the last month and a half and been training and teaching in tech diving Techwise Malta. Continue reading

Basic Sidemount Cave Diver


Last week was full of celebrations! First, I logged my 100th cave dive and then I took the Basic Cave Sidemount course with Steve Bogaerts. This is the start of a new era of diving for me and for you, joining Essential Scuba Training.
I started teaching myself cave sidemount with the help of my good friend, Alan Formstone, who I actively work with surveying and preparing a map of the Tajma Ha cave system. Alan took his Basic Sidemount Course with Steve Bogaerts early 2010 and was of huge help to improve my techniques. It’s been a series of tweaks and changes since then, adjustments, replacements and a few headaches. After completing some 50 dives or so, in what my own view of cave sidemount is, I decided it was time to take training from the best sidemount instructor I know. Steve Bogaerts is the owner of Go Sidemount, and inventor of the famous sidemount Razor harness.

Basic Sidemount Cave Diver with Steve Bogaerts

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Sidemount diving vs Backmounted doubles

Fun dives vs established rules?!?

Let me tell you this, I am not a big fan of established rules and on one side it is good that not everybody think like me and on the other side it helps me put my point across!

As you may have realised, if you follow the scuba diving industry news, that sidemount scuba diving is becoming very popular. More than a trend who is called to fade out in time, I think it is a way of life or should I say, a way of diving.

Better redundancy in sidemount!

Couple of PADI courses are out there already and whoever tries it claim it is a revelation. More fun, more practical, easier to get to, as doubles are not as available as would be a pair of singles and also offers real redundancy.

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