Traditionally, Tec diving was always taught using backmounted doubles but sidemount configuration has become more and more “standard” and nowadays you’re just as likely to see Tec courses being taught in sidemount as you are in backmount, perhaps even more. This leaves entry-level Tec divers wondering which configuration is better and how should they begin their Tec diving?
Both have advantages and disadvantages and are not necessarily the best configuration for every situation. You may find that you want to dive sidemount in some situations, but backmount is more appropriate for others. It also comes down to personal preference as well.
With sidemount by far the biggest advantage is the ability to move around more freely – having the tanks on your side keeps you balanced and more stable and streamlined, so you don’t have to keep adjusting yourself to be balanced. You will need to switch regulators though to ensure your gas consumption is even and the tank weights remain similar on each side of you. Sidemount also allows you to remove and replace tanks or shift them around, thus making it easier to manoeuvre through tighter spaces and adapt to the environment around you. Having your tanks at your side also means that you can see and attend to any issues quickly and effectively. Another benefit that a lot of sidemount divers mention is the ability to clip tanks on in the water.
This means that they don’t have to struggle down to the water with a tonne of weight on their back, they can carry the tanks separately and then clip them on in the water. This can be an issue when you’re boat diving though, as some boats are difficult to lower and raise the tanks in and out of. The biggest disadvantage of the sidemount configuration is the initial set-up which needs to be done carefully and precisely to ensure that you have the required performance and balance underwater.
Backmount configuration has been around for a long time and is widely used and popular all over the World with all kinds of diving. For this reason there is a lot of equipment and training that is readily available and easily accessible for everyone, with advances being made regularly due to its popularity. One of the advantages of backmount is the ability to utilise the unused space on your back, especially when deep diving when the tanks don’t need to be moved around and can be fixed. This can make walking and moving around topside and below quite difficult though as the tanks can be heavy and make you a lot less flexible in the water.
As the tanks are being used at the same time, it can also make gas management easier and removes the need to have to alternate tanks in order to remain balanced. It can also be easier to remove backmount when the water is choppy, removing the need to clip and unclip tanks in order to remove the equipment. If there is a problem with any cylinder, you have to render the remaining gas in it since you can’t remove it and fix the problem.
Having weighed up the pros and cons, there is a lot of personal preference involved in the decision as well. There are plenty of Dive Centers offering try dives in the pool with sidemount equipment, this is a great opportunity to see what you think before committing to a course. You will still find plenty of Tec Divers that switch between the two configurations as well.