Before I get going on this there are two things to bear in mind;
1. I know nothing about cave diving. I’ve never done a cave dive and I don’t intend doing one soon. In fact caves, to me, are just a quarry with a roof … with worse vis, and less to see.
2. Though the following harness looks superficially like Steve Bogarts Razor, it isn’t one. The Razor has been designed by someone who really knows what he is doing and has lots of experience. If you want a Razor, go buy a Razor. Go Side Mount - Steve Bogaerts
It’s taken a while to get around to writing this but finally I’ve put fingers to keyboard.
Last Christmas I was at my folks house, sitting in front of the computer with a beer and watching some diving videos on You-tube when I had a thought, which is a bit of a rare occurrence (having a thought, not watching You-tube
). Anyway, the thought went along the lines of, those side-mount harnesses look fun … I wonder if anyone’s done a side-mount harness with a one piece harness (OPH)? Why OPH, well I currently dive one on my backplate, so I’m familiar with it. In addition a OPH requires no stitching, fixing and is as simple as it can get.
Upon a bit of investigation it turned out that no-one had. Or at least none showed up from a bit of half-arsed searching on the web. That should have been it, end of interest and no further action. After all side-mount is primarily a cave thing and I’ve no real interest in caves. However there was a pencil and piece of paper to hand … which is always a bad thing for a draughtsman. It’s bad because they start to doodle, and draw, and then out comes a scale, and on it goes until a nice little drawing of a “widget” is produced.
Now any engineers out there will know that just because a draughtsman can draw something it does not mean that it can be produced, so the next step was a little scale model. Fortunately my mum is into her arts and crafts, she does nice little cards, and so with the aid of a scalpel, guillotine, scissors, card and bit of ribbon a scale model was produced. Well it looked pretty and it could actually be made, but would it work with proper webbing and steel?
The answer was, of course, to make it. Webbing, D-rings and tri-glides were easy to get, in fact I had most of it as spares at home. What I then needed was the metal plates. After some pondering the pencil drawings were converted into AutoCAD drawings at work and then I looked around for someone who could work with 3mm stainless steel … hmm, of course! The magician with metal, Mr Perrin of Kent Tooling fame!
Soon I had the plates, John had done his usual fantastic job, there were beautifully machined and finished. An evening with the assistance of Letz had it all put together in a rough fashion to see if it all fitted together as I hoped it would.
Further refinement on the fitting got it all nice and snug. A quick surface tryout at Vobbie showed that it could actually hold a cylinder and didn’t fall apart once in the water. With the OPH I found that you can adjust the harness so that the plates can be made to sit where they are comfortable for you, the D-rings can go almost anywhere you want them, and the harness can be adjusted to fit you exactly how you want it to fit.
The next step was to actually get it under the water, which was where I discovered one of the draw backs of this kind of system. Normally I use 3kg – 5kg (depending on undersuit) in fresh water with my normal rig, which is twin 12’s. With the side-mount harness and a single Ali 80 I needed 12kg!!! I don’t think that I’ve had that much on a weight belt ever before.
I managed to get Razza to jump into Vobster with me while I tried it out, and I have to say that it was amazing how much flexibility and manoeuvrability you get with a side-mount harness. You drop into horizontal trim almost without trying and you can twist, flip and whiz around with little effort. A couple of weeks later I tried it out with an Ali 80 on each side with Scribley as my buddy and discovered that you can get through some really small gaps as you can unhook the bottom clips and push the cylinders in front of you. Basically if you can get your shoulders through, you can get through.
So, what now? I’m experimenting with a MSR Dromedary MSR Dromedary Bags from Facewest.co.uk
hydration bladder as a buoyancy cell, but that will probably be it. However the plates are available from Kent Tooling [urlhttp://www.divingproducts.co.uk/index.html[/url] so if you want to try to develop this further, or just play with a cheap side-mount harness give John a call. If you don’t like the OPH and/or the D-ring locations that I’ve shown, just rig it how you want it and stick on as many or as few D-rings as you want.
Have fun and dive safe.
The top plate
The bottom plate
Plates with back strap/crotch strap
Harness with cylinders (front)
Harness with cylinders (back)