I like to butt mount my primary light for sidemount diving. Smaller lights can be mounted on the waist, but I want easy access to my light. All of our lights now come standard with a Quick Belt Mount. This gives a quick mounting solution by slipping the QB Mount through the crotch strap on the back of the Nomad. The light will have some movement, but not the same amount of play you get with quick links.
Now I can just reach back and remove the light if I get into something small and just move it to my waist. It’s a small thing, but a great solution. VIDEO: Sidemount Diving: Quick Belt Mount For Primary Lights
The JT is totally different from the other Nomads. We addressed some requests from cave divers. The over pressure valve with pull string dump (OPV) is not on the neck, but on the under side so it’s protected from the ceiling of caves. It can’t be ripped off going thru a restriction and locating it on the underside helps keep water out. It won’t stop it, if you pull on it and air doesn’t come out immediately then water is going in, it’s just physics. We also put an OPV on both sides of the bottom of the bladder to take advantage of the 360 flow thru on the bottom. Talking to some explorer buddies they got themselves into some situations where the ability to dump from either side was a good thing because of stage bottles or an awkward restriction.
The corrugated hose and inflator is positioned above the waist belt so it doesn’t interfere with the waist belt and d rings.
The problem with switching the OPV and inflator on a standard wing or Nomad is the inflator assembly has to come up from below the waist belt so there is some congestion at the belt area and by removing the OPV from the bottom of the bladder has created some stressful situations for divers in a head first vertical restriction. By locating the OPV on the bottom and top we can move the inflator assembly to a more convenient location on the under side of the wing.
The Nomad JT was designed for the cave diver and the features are designed for the overhead, sidemount environment. It doesn’t have the flexibility of diving alternate tank configurations, but it sure is fun to dive. VIDEO: Nomad JT Inflator Placement
When I am out diving I see all types of rigging on sidemount bottles. None are a surprise to me because they are all something I have done before: the clip and hose clamp or the carabineer and cam strap. Over the years my thoughts for rigging have changed. Basically every bottle I own could be a stage bottle or a sidemount bottle. I travel around the world and need to carry my bottle rigging with me so I wanted an easy way to do this. It all came together with the ring bungee system.
I need a standard stage strap, webbing or rope, doesn’t matter. The key is the neck clip has to be on the curve of bottle neck so the gate of the clip lays up against the neck of the cylinder and the choker goes around the valve and thru the gate to hold it up tight against the neck. This keeps the cylinder close to the body. The only way to mount the clip on the curve of the cylinder is to use a standard stage rig.
I rig my bottles with a stage strap with a 2″ cam strap for the mid bottle attachment so I can take the rig off a set of bottles at home when I travel. The stage strap set up ensures the mid bottle clip is in the same place every time I set it up. This can be everyday when I travel.
If your worried about the bulk on a webbing stage strap, just slide the plastic handle off the webbing. I prefer to keep it on the rig because people will offer to carry a bottle for you if it looks like it has a handle. VIDEO: Stage Strap Tank Mounting System
When I was in the Dominican Republic teaching rebreather this summer, I had to get creative and make some sidemount bungees for the guys I was diving with. They liked the way I sidemounted my bailout, but I didn’t have more bungees on hand for them. I improvised a solution only to find I like it better than what we had.
The new bungee is 5/16 diameter and makes a loop with the terminating end taking a quick link to attach to a backplate while the loop end can loop through a ring or go over a cylinder valve. One bungee works for both styles of carrying bottles and the smaller diameter cord has more stretch so it can pull the bottle a little tighter under the arm.
Necessity is the mother of invention. The new 5/16 D-ring Loop Bungee have detachable hardware so a spare is cheap and you can get creative. VIDEO: Sidemount Diving: 2012 Daisy Chain Loop Bungees
Over the years I have done numerous sidemount clinics. My first was in 1984. The number one issue always seems to be trimming out heavy legs. When you clip bottles to your hips, butt mount a primary light, add reels on the butt plate and then dive a wetsuit it becomes work to trim out. Adding weight to the shoulders seems like an easy solution, yet it requires a number of practice dives with a specific set up since cylinder size and exposure protection are a factor in determining the amount of lead needed. Change any of these and the amount of weight needed can change.
I wanted a more flexible solution to weight, one that can travel with you and adjust to changes in equipment configuration. After getting your rig trimmed out with steel cylinders and a drysuit you change to a wetsuit and aluminum cylinders and you once again need to trim out with a different set of shoulder weights. Divers want an easy first dive solution. After the JT launched I got many request for a solution to heavy legs so after a few prototypes I came up with a pillow that mounts under the buttplate with 10 pounds of lift. I was amazed at how well it worked. One of my concerns was control of the lift in the pillow; I found I could fully inflate it and forget about it. With only 10 pounds of lift it didn’t affect my buoyancy on ascents. The Trim Inflation Pillow comes standard with a 12″ hose and elbow with a 15″ inflator hose to come up on the right side opposite your BC but the OPV is on the left so you can flip them if you want. VIDEO: Sidemount & Rebreather Trim Inflation Pillow
It will do the job on the very first dive and give you flexibility to change your gear set up as well.
The interest in sidemount diving caught the industry by surprise, particularly in terms of open water applications. Cave diving, definitely, but the amount of interest for the open water diver was astounding! Questions at trade shows tech tours and just talking to people at club meetings have been dominated by the topic.
When Joe Porter of Wreck Diving Magazine expressed a personal interest in the technique and sought training I was impressed. We worked out a training schedule for Joe and his son, Philip, in Florida. Mike Hanna, Dive Rite’s SE Field Representative asked to join the group to expand his personal knowledge. It was a quite a surprise when Brian Carney of TDI asked to join the group.
Fully expecting to have this group of professionals plow through the program as quickly as possible. It was pleasant surprise as each individual diligently paid attention and completed every skill necessary. If you have ever taught Instructors, you’ll know how “some” try to bulldoze their way through a class. “Hey I am an Instructor!” is the general manta. Brian Carney actually commented on the dives, “You don’t spend a lot of time talking on the surface!” “No Brian it’s a diving class we stay until the skills are done, that’s why we have a lecture, pre and post dive briefings. If you have a question use your slate!” It’s the way I teach. My yellow slate has been nicked named. “The Yellow slate of death!” My students usually know another drill is on the way when the slate comes out. I had a blue one but I wore it out.
See ya in the water….Don’t talk, write!
Wreck Diver Magazine Sidemount Profile
Dive Rite National Field Sales Manager
I can’t believe how far sidemount diving has come. I was the first sidemount instructor in the USA starting back in the mid 80’s. I developed the sidemount program for the NSS-CDS and started teaching the craft to Florida cave divers.
What people learn today about sidemount diving was termed Florida-style sidemounting back then. The British had been sidemounting for years and brought their rigs over. The rigs were designed to go thru sumps (the water filled portion of the dry cave) but provided no trim, Florida cave divers were all about technique and trim so we developed the rigs for the style of sidemount diving that has become all the craze.
In the 80′s sidemount had become popular with a small group of North Florida cave divers, my dear friend Wes Skiles was the leader of the group. Outside Magazine called us “The Moles of Florida”. I never thought it would become so popular and with new sidemount celebrities appearing on the dive scene, most are former students or even students of students.
I still enjoy going into small caves (not as small as I use to) where I test the wear and tear on the Nomad. Rock Bluff used to require a shovel for us to enter. It is still a favorite and the opening gets smaller or maybe it’s the few pounds I have put on. Look for more innovations coming on the Nomad this spring.
Lamar sidemounting the Dive Rite Nomad
When sidemount diving the light canister sometimes needs alternative mounting solutions. The Nomad has 1-inch D-rings to butt mount canisters on the bottom of the rig, but I haven’t liked wearing my light there because the canister flops around due to play between the quick links and strap. I personally like to have the canister stay in one place, so I’ve continued to wear my light on the waist belt in front of the sidemount bottle. The drawback with this mounting is that you end up with excess light cord that you have to deal with.
Recently, while diving Telford I discovered our Quick Belt Mount (LT6090) is the best solution for butt mounting the canister. I attached it to the 2-inch crotch strap above the accessory D-ring. The light stays firmly in place, I have just the right amount of light cord and if I get into a tight spot I can release the canister.
After watching divers play with sidemount bungees I starting looking at a solution for what I felt to be of concern. Many divers simply place the bungee over the tank and reg and then deal with the bottles slipping out since they haven’t taken the time to run the bungee under the reg and around the tank neck. It’s understandable since it is difficult to route the bungee and I’ve watched seasoned professionals take several minutes just to hook up one tank.
I also see divers with the choker system bungee not using a safety. The safety is important if you happen to carry the bottles attached to you when entering or exiting the water. Instead of hooking your bottle into the bungee, you clip into a metal D-ring to avoid stressing and potentially breaking the bungee. Bungees aren’t intended to be load-bearing on land.
Another issue is slack in the bungee when changing tank size. Divers who wear the bottles up close and tight need a different bungees for varying tank sizes. This is a hassle.
My solution to all this was to find a way that divers could more easily adjust the sizing of the bungee, while including a safety and making sure the bungee is easy to don. The Nomad Sidemount Ring Bungee keeps the bottle under the arm where the bottles need to rest for sidemount. By using Quick Links, sizing can be adjusted for varying bottles or for divers of different sizes (just add or remove a Quick Link…there is one on either end of the bungee). For the safety, I had an additional Quick Link, but our National Field Manager, Pete Nawrocky, who mainly dives in cold water screamed “gloves!” So I added a 2-inch stainless ring instead. This proved to be the best set up because the ring is easy to put your thumb in and stretch the bungee when connecting bottles. Since the ring sits under your arm we can use lighter bungee to make it easier to stretch. The 2-inch ring is attached to the snap via a Quick Link so you have a hard connection safety as well.
This new sidemount bungee system was unveiled at the Beneath the Sea Scuba Show in New Jersey and was well received. Our team has been diving with prototypes for a couple of months and even our minimalist junkies like them.
Dive Rite Nomad Ring Bungees
The Nomad EXP is the benchmark for sidemount systems. Everything you read about a sidemount system is a comparison to the Nomad EXP. Its single piece construction and 60 pounds of lift make it the choice of cave divers for high volume steel cylinders and stage bottles. Since it is one piece divers can take it from box to water with just a few adjustments.
The Nomad XT is the sidemount expedition rig for guys like me who want to make sure they can adapt to anything regardless of where they travel. Since the SuperFabric wing, butt plate and harness are separate you can customize it anyway you want and even cannibalize it if needed and swap out parts.
Soon we’ll have a Nomad sidemount system with less lift for aluminum tanks. Ideal for warm water divers or those who travel. Stay tuned.