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Sidemount Diving FAQs: Everything You Want to Know About This Dive Setup

Sidemount diving is like oat milk in old neighborhood cafes.

What can I get you?” the bartender asked a few years ago.

Coffee with oat milk and saccharin, please,” replied a trendy young girl who was clearly not from there.

We don’t have oat milk.”

Soy milk?”


Skimmed milk?”

Neither. We have regular milk, the one everyone uses.”

Well then, just tea.” And the girl was left with a feeling that it wasn’t enough for her. But after her, more people came.

Oat milk is to coffee, as side mount is to diving. What starts slowly becomes an avalanche.

It’s not about discarding the old, the traditional, or what we’ve been taught about diving. However, if you want to stay alive, you have to renew yourself and keep learning always, because if you stubbornly cling to ‘it has always been done this way,’ you’ll know everything about a world that no longer exists.

By the way, I’m writing this article about side mount diving while enjoying a little coffee with soy milk.

1. What is Sidemount Diving?

Sidemount is a highly popular tank configuration used in various diving applications, including recreational, technical, and cave diving. Instead of the traditional back-mounted tank, divers using a Side-mount configuration typically carry two tanks on each side of their body, although they can carry more or just one.

Side mount tanks should be parallel to the body, below the shoulders, and alongside the hips.


2. ¿Who are the Sidemount divers?

There are many types of divers who use sidemount, including:

  • Recreational divers
  • Technical divers
  • Cave divers
  • Military divers
  • Scientific divers

3. What Is the History of Sidemount Diving?

Did you know that double-tank diving is actually older than single-tank diving? In 1944, the legendary Jacques Cousteau was already diving with a triple 6-liter tank at 150 bars. Initially, diving was mainly intended for professionals and military purposes, and the use of double tanks provided them with enough gas to carry out their underwater tasks.

With the introduction of dive tables and decompression control, recreational divers found that a single tank was sufficient for their needs.

However, there are different configurations for diving with two separate tanks, such as the classic twin tanks and the Side-mount scuba configuration. While these setups are commonly used in technical diving, even recreational divers can benefit from the versatility of Sidemount diving!

Diving Sidemount is a contemporary diving technique that traces its origins back to the early days of cave diving. In the 1960s, Cave divers in the United Kingdom began experimenting with side mount configurations to explore caves that had submerged passages along the way.

One of the pioneers of side mount diving was Mike Boone, a British cave diver who devised the “English System.” This innovative approach involved mounting two small cylinders on the sides of the body, secured with a harness.

As word spread, the “English System” gained popularity among cave divers worldwide. However, some divers, like those in Florida, couldn’t use the exact same configuration because their explorations took place in caves with constantly submerged passages. So, they adapted the setup by adding a buoyancy system and repositioning the cylinders to be closer to the body. This allowed them to navigate through narrow passages.

Over time, the configuration became increasingly popular among cave divers worldwide, and nowadays, it is a highly favored setup for both technical and recreational divers.

Its versatility and comfort make it suitable for various diving environments. With the convenience of Side-mount BCDs and specialized scuba Sidemount gear, divers can set up their Sidemount scuba configuration to suit their preferences and maximize their underwater experience.

4. What Are the Advantages of Sidemount?


Enhanced Safety

Although a single tank with a side mount configuration is possible, it is more common to use 2 tanks, 2 first stages, 2 second stages, and 2 pressure gauges: in other words, twice the equipment, making it a redundant system.

Another point is that the air sources are visible and accessible to the diver, and gas shut-offs are simple even with limited mobility. Any failure or leakage can be easily detected and resolved.

Balance and Stability

Firstly, the side mount configuration provides better balance and stability than when the diver carries the cylinders mounted on their back because it involves two tanks with the same weight, one on each side, which keeps the diver leveled.

The tanks are better distributed around the diver’s center of buoyancy, allowing them to adopt a horizontal position with less effort.

With side mount, it is easier to achieve a horizontal and hydrodynamic position, leading to better buoyancy control, reduced drag, and lower air consumption.

Flexibility and Configurability

  • The tanks are mounted on the sides of the body. This allows the diver to move more freely and access narrower spaces. It offers a significant advantage when facing diving situations in tight spaces, such as caves or sunken ships. In such cases, by unclipping one or two bottles from the waist and placing them in front, the diver can significantly reduce their profile and safely pass through narrow spaces.
  • The side mount configuration is easier to adjust. This can be advantageous for divers who change sizes or need to adjust their equipment to suit different diving conditions.
  • The side mount configuration is more versatile. It can be used by a variety of divers, including recreational, technical, and cave divers.
sidemount diving - montaje lateral (12)

5. What are the disadvantages of sidemount diving?


Complexity in Gas Management

One of the main differences lies in gas management. With a single tank in a simple side mount configuration, there is little difference compared to traditional back-mounted diving. The regulator with a long hose is placed in the mouth, and there is no need to switch regulators during the dive. However, in a standard Sidemount configuration with two tanks, divers must alternate between the tanks they breathe from to maintain a roughly equal gas supply. This involves constantly monitoring and adjusting the tank pressure difference, typically around 30 bars. While this task is not excessively complicated, it requires vigilance to avoid the risk of ending up with one tank empty and the other completely full, compromising redundancy and safety.

More Complicated Water Entry

The optimal entry involves getting into the water first and then placing the tanks in the water. This can be more challenging in rough sea conditions or strong surface currents.

Entering from the shore is less comfortable with the side mount configuration, especially if it’s necessary to walk with the equipment to reach the water.

Entry from a boat is also complicated on vessels with higher edges, as the impact with the water can hit the diver’s back instead of the tanks.

Lack of Standardization

Unlike recreational and technical back-mounted diving, where standard configurations like Hogarthian setups are common, side mount diving lacks standardized practices. There are various ways to configure the equipment, and a universal standard has not yet been established. However, the use of long hose configurations is gaining popularity as they are compatible with both back-mounted and Sidemount diving equipment.

More Complex to Set Up

Side mount requires more careful adjustment and greater attention to detail.

  • It requires specialized equipment, such as side mount tanks, side mount harnesses, special rigging, wing-type buoyancy devices, two regulators per bottle, etc.
  • It is more challenging to set up compared to back-mounted diving, where in many setups, you simply have to insert the bottle and tighten the harness.
  • Requires more attention to detail, as the tanks must be properly balanced, and the harnesses must be correctly adjusted for comfortable water movement.
  • Requires training to learn how to dive with comfort and safety.
sidemount diving - montaje lateral (15)

6. Where can I learn to scuba sidemount?

There are various agencies that offer the side mount diving course for recreational divers as a specialty.

During the course, you will enhance your gas management skills, learning to use your tanks more efficiently and optimizing your air consumption to extend your dives to the maximum.

Additionally, you will learn some basic technical diving techniques and how to set up and configure the side mount equipment.

The key to a successful diving experience is finding the perfect balance, and you will also learn that during the course. You will adjust your weights optimally to achieve ideal buoyancy with the new configuration.

What about moving with the side mounting configuration? Don’t worry, the agency you choose will also teach you frog-kick techniques that will allow you to move with agility.