Sidemount: How to choose your harness and BCD?
Sidemount. How to choose your harness and BCD?
There is a large selection of manufacturers and models of side harnesses and BCD available today on the market. Sidemount is gaining more and more popularity and entering the world of recreational diving. Let’s leave the long history of sidemount evolution for another article and talk about the criteria for choosing a sidemount BCD and harness and what features it should have.
Brands such as RAZOR, X-DEEP, DIVE RITE, HOLLIS, UTD, HALCYON and many other equipment manufacturers have long focused solely on cave and technical divers. It must be assumed that this moment was closely connected with the development of methods for teaching the use of Sidemount. However, nowadays situation has been changed and new Sidemount models that have come out in the last few years are quite satisfying to the mass demand. They are universal and can be used in cave, technical and recreational diving, light, wear-resistant, maintainable, reliable, with maximum comfort and a minimum set of adjustments. Today, very few modifications are required to adjust such sidemount harnesses to perfection.
As a cave and technical diving instructor, I had to deal with almost all the manufacturers and many models that my students brought for courses. I will say more, I personally know many sidemount harnesses designers. It can definitely be said for sure that each sidemount model is an expression of the designer’s personality, his character, his experience and his vision of the sidemount diving. I will not write about what I liked or disliked in any specific models from a particular manufacturer as I am trying to state my purely subjective general opinion here and share my experience and conclusions with the reader.
So, let’s discuss Sidemount: How to choose your harness and BCD?
Let’s start from the opposite, what points I would like to avoid when buying and choosing a sidemount:
– excessive complexity of the harness and wing design,
– some types of wing geometry,
– the impossibility of quick adjustments and easy fitting,
– constant tension in the groin from the crotch strap (in many models it must be tightened tightly),
– the impossibility of using steel tanks,
– the impossibility of placing a sufficient amount of weights,
– the inability to rearrange the inflator from the left side to the right,
– the use of additional ties and devices to reach streamlining,
– inability to use sliders,
– the lack of the possibility of tracing hoses according to the same principle with doubles,
– lack of suspension ergonomics,
– lack of maintainability.
Such a list, and sometimes a combination of shortcomings, causes a lot of inconvenience, such as: the complexity of use, the inability to achieve comfort under water and on the surface, the necessity of complex modernization and / or design changes. When buying such equipment, a reasonable question arises: why should I buy all the difficulties for my own money?
Once upon a time, while conducting sidemount course in the Car Wash cenote, after the following dive, I tried to improve and modernize very famous brandname harness, since it was originally created universal for use in the sidemount and backmount configuration, and the student could not reach good trim position exactly because of the geometry wing peculiarity. A good friend of mine, one of the highly respected instructors in the cave community, said as he walked by, that the best upgrade for this brand is eBay. Probably at that time I did not yet have sufficient experience and the gift of persuasion in this area, but the phrase that the seasoned cave guru dropped had a truly magical effect on my student. And he, who had stubbornly insisted on helping to upgrade the kit for the previous three days, almost instantly agreed to rent and try a sidemount set from another manufacturer!
At my dive center in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, that days I had three options to choose from: TDE, X-DEEP TEC model and Halcyon Zero Gravity model. The student’s choice fell on a brand new Halcyon harness. The next day was full of positive emotions and impressions. The results didn’t take too long. Fitting the sidemount to the body of the student took literally about five minutes. Underwater testing of the new equipment met all the expectations of both the student and the instructor! Turns out the damn trim isn’t that hard to maintain with the right equipment, and the correct weight distribution and the ability to adjust the cylinders with the sliders enhanced the student’s stabilization in the water. Despite the fact that the harness is available in one size, it fits well both on the body of a fragile girl and on the courageous torso of the Atlantean.
A years have passed since that course. During my time in Mexico, I have tried various configurations and brands. I would like to share my opinion with you and say that it is the Halcyon Zero Gravity harness that has the maximum advantages today and can be used in cave, technical and recreational diving. Contact your instructor, and he will help you quickly and comfortably understand all the nuances. It is the sidemount course that allows the diver to understand and determine the required length of hoses, harness and bungees, prepare the suspension configuration for your goals and objectives, achieve maximum safety, comfort and harmony underwater.
Hopefully this short article will give you some expression your sidemount harness selection criteria and help you avoid buying equipment that doesn’t meet your expectations.
Have fun and safe diving!
Co-owner CENOTE XPLORE DIVE CENTER MEXICO
IANTD Technical Cave Instructor
IANTD Tec Sidemount Instructor
Andy Stanishewskiy, IANTD Central America
Sidemount. How to choose your harness and BCD? How to choose your harness. How to choose your BCD.