Sidemount Diving Guide

Last Updated: February 8, 2023

There are numerous reasons why scuba diving is a fantastic pastime for everyone. After all, this activity can be both intense and peaceful. With multiple ways to dive, many newcomers wonder what exactly is sidemount diving?

Sidemount diving is a common, popular way to dive.

This diving style involves placing one air cylinder on each of the diver’s sides. This aligns the tank with their body giving divers more stability and balance than when diving with a single or even two back-mounted cylinders. In comparison to a single cylinder on the back, this gives the diver a more stable and streamlined position in the water.

Continue reading to learn more about sidemount diving, what equipment you need, the pros and cons, sidemount diving courses, and more.

What is Sidemount Diving?

diving with sidemounts

Exploring the undersea realm doesn’t have to involve carrying scuba tanks on your back. Mounting cylinders on your sides is a fun technique that many scuba divers have learned to enjoy. This technique is known as sidemount diving. Scuba diving with sidemounts means that you carry your tanks on your side rather than your back.

Sidemount diving not only provides you with more freedom underwater, but this method can also provide divers with excellent streamlining alternatives. In addition, you won’t need to carry any hefty cylinders.

How Do You Sidemount Dive?

Simply put, you sidemount dive when you carry your tanks by your sides rather than on your back. For many divers, this is more comfortable and helps lessen drag.

Overall, to dive with one or two tanks on your side, you must use a specific harness called a “sidemount” harness. These harnesses vastly increase the ability to adapt to a wide range of diving environments, including boat, beach, cave, and wreck diving.

Sidemount Diving Setup

Both the best and most challenging aspects of diving in a sidemount setup is that all of the equipment is adjustable. This means that every modification, from the harness itself to the tank rigging and weight placement, can and will make a difference to the dive. As a result, a diver’s buoyancy, trim, and comfort underwater are impacted by every change.

Nonetheless, in a typical sidemount arrangement, two cylinders are fastened to a combined harness and BC system. Instead of being put on the rear as they would normally be in an open water design, the cylinders are attached separately, one to each side of the body.

These cylinders are then adjusted within the harness to fit the diver’s body.

Sidemount Diving Equipment

Sidemount Harness

Numerous manufacturers have been able to create buoyancy compensator and harness systems specifically for sidemount diving. These rigs frequently feature a bladder centrally located in the lower back region, followed by rigging points and bungee loops for harnessing cylinders.

These rigs are also designed to be compact and easy to use.

Overall, these sidemount rigs and harnesses have evolved over time based on feedback from active sidemount divers.

If searching for some of the best sidemount harnesses available, look no further than the Dive Rite Nomad XT or the Hollis SMS 75.


Overall, all cylinders have different buoyancy characteristics, which will change as you dive and consume gas. As divers, we understand that these changes need modifications and planning to maintain enjoyable and safe diving activities. So, once you’ve found what works for you, you should go out and practise utilizing these sorts of cylinders.

For example, while sidemount diving, you want to pick a compact steel cylinder that is simple to handle. Aluminum 80s are also an option because they are widely used and accessible wherever you go. On the other hand, you can also get high-volume steel cylinders solely for gas availability.

sidemount setup

Sidemount Diving Pros and Cons


  • More comfortable diving – One of the main advantages of sidemount diving is that this method allows the diver to stand more comfortably and erect when treading water and exploring the depths of the seas.
  • Simple to use – Another benefit is that side-mounted cylinders are simple to clip and unclip in the water, letting the divers enter and depart the water with less weight.
  • Smaller cylinders – Additionally, this style of diving allows the diver to move around with a smaller single or double cylinder rather than a clunky, uncomfortable double set.


Like practically everything in life, sidemount diving also has some disadvantages.

  • More difficult setup – The preparation takes more time, especially when learning how to set yourself up before getting in the water. After all, your cylinders must be correctly set up, which can take more time than the conventional setup.
  • More skills needed – It also takes more time and skill to remember to clip the tanks to your harness while you’re in the water or right before you get in. When diving with others who have different setups, you may move more slowly than them to get set up. The same is true while exiting the water. Take note that when diving in a current or when the surface is really rough, it can also be much more difficult to remove your tanks before exiting the water. Usually, assistance from the boat’s crew is needed in these situations.

Sidemount Diver Course


In order to obtain a sidemount diving certification, you first, simply need to complete an Open Water Diver course. In order to complete this course, it is imperative that you have adequate buoyancy and can also set up and operate your equipment easily on your own.

Skills to be Learned

Divers are introduced to a variety of different ways to attach their tanks when diving with sidemounts, which enhances underwater balance, stability, and flexibility. This is where the TDI Sidemount Diver course comes into play.

With the majority of agencies, you can choose between a technical Sidemount course (TDI) or a recreational Sidemount course (SDI). While both qualifications are equivalent, the TDI course offers the opportunity to learn additional sidemount abilities. It will also demand more of you in terms of learning the skills required to be a good sidemount diver, increasing your skill level and flawless trim.

How Many Dives is a Sidemount Course?

A typical technical sidemount diving course takes place over 2-3 days of pool or confined water sessions and includes 3 open water dives as well.

How Long Will the Course Take?

Overall, the length of your sidemount diving training will be determined by the organization with which you undertake it. Generally, TDI diving training will, however, take anywhere from three days to three weeks to finish.

Should You Sidemount Dive With Two Tanks or One?

A sidemount harness allows the diver to wear tanks on the side of the body rather than the back. This implies that a diver can be outfitted with as little as one tank for a leisure dive or many tanks for a deep, technical dive.

In recreational diving, twin tank diving is done to enhance safety. You will also have access to two or more regulators if you practise it. Considering that each tank has its own regulator, more air, and a longer reaction time than the others, they are not connected to one another.

Take note, that you will go from one to two cylinders to finally at least four or perhaps six tanks throughout a Sidemount Diver training. In addition to extending your dive duration, these extra tanks provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re provided with plenty of oxygen while diving.

Final Thoughts

The practice of sidemount diving is both widespread and well-liked by divers worldwide. Since one air cylinder is placed on each of the diver’s sides, divers are more stable and balanced.

One of the main benefits of sidemount diving is that it enables the diver to tread water and explore the ocean’s depths while standing more upright and comfortably. Side-mounted cylinders also have the additional advantage of being easy to clip and unclip in the water, which allows divers to enter and exit the water with minimal weight.

So go ahead and make some unforgettable experiences while scuba diving with sidemounts.

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