Jeff Loflin was talking about Sidemount Diving at The Dive Shop today

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:

  1. Sold my rEvo and wanted to do more Open Circuit. (Ummmmm - nope.)
  2. 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.