I went to a presentation at The Dive Shop by visiting instructor Jeff Loflin on Cave diving and the path to Full Cave (and beyond) last night.
It was interesting enough to me, so I bought his new sidemount training video and watched it last night waiting for a chance to try out a sidemount rig today.
Today Jeff gave another 1.5 hour presentation on the changes he's seen to sidemount over the last 6 years, he traced its evolution from Europe a few decades ago, to where it is today - the new big thing™.
After the talk, a bunch of us got a chance to try out the Hollis sidemount gear - I tried out the Hollis SMS 100 - the "technical" level sidemount rig.
What I liked and thought was interesting:
- 2 completely independent life-support systems.
- 12 lbs - which means I don't need any additional weight in warm water diving.
- Full visibility of all life-support failure points.
- Visibility of both of the pressure gauges - right in front of my face at all times. No reaching way down to unclip, plus move bottles, and bring up as high as possible.
- Streamlining would help in restrictions and tighter wreck situations.
- Valve drills for first two tanks would be very easy - ludicrously easy.
- If you're travelling you don't need to bring your tanks and manifolds if you want to do more advanced diving - just use whatever tanks are available - would potentially be very handy.
- Easy on/off of tanks in the water - no need to move around massive tanks in pairs.
- A very versatile BC with tons of options and ways to set it up. One tank. Two tanks. Sidemount. Back mount.
What I didn't totally like (mostly about sidemount, less about the Hollis rig itself):
- 2 completely independent life-support systems - I'm still partial to having my primary back gas manifolded at this time.
- Having to swap regulators every 500 psi - just another thing to do.
- Not being able to instinctively donate the reg that's in my mouth to an out-of-air diver - if I'm breathing from the left tank, then I need to donate the long hose on my right. Another thing to think about in a possible emergency.
- There's a lot of pieces that come in front of my chest - I'm used to this from the tech diving gear, but it seemed much more tangled up.
- Seems way less stable than my twinset - way more little pieces and flexing.
Some of my concerns are likely because they're new and different to what I'm used to - not sure if they're all legit at this point without dropping another $1k and trying it out for a while. (Not this year.)
Am I gonna switch over? Not likely at this point - unless I:
- Sold my rEvo and wanted to do more Open Circuit. (Ummmmm - nope.)
- Was doing really tight caves and restriction penetrations. (Yeah - that's still terrifying for me.)
But it was interesting to see - and food for thought at least.