Technical Sidemount Diver course

Since the beginning of the century, one of the most significant changes in the equipment cave divers use has been the shift from backmounted doubles to sidemount. Not only do a substantial number of cave divers now sidemount, it’s possible that there are more open-circuit sidemount cave divers than backmount cave divers.

Sidemount can provide a number of benefits for any diver, but is especially well suited for cave diving. (It was, after all, cave divers who invented sidemount.) Among these benefits:

  • Sidemount provides total gas redundancy. Even should you lose the use of an entire sidemount bottle, you should be able to exit the cave on the remaining cylinder and not have to share gas with a buddy.
  • With sidemount, you don’t need eyes in the back of your head. You can check to make sure cylinders, valves and regulators aren’t leaking just by looking down at them. Similarly, you don’t have to remember how an isolation manifold operates or reach behind you to shut down a leaky valve or regulator.
  • Go where others can’t. Many Florida caves have low, wide areas known as bedding planes. Many of these are too tight for backmount. Sidemount, however, can give you access to areas backmount divers can’t go.

Tech Sidemount vs. “normal” Sidemount…what’s the difference?

International Training, the parent organization for Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Technical Diving International (TDI) offers both SDI and TDI versions of their Sidemount Diver course. Both courses are very similar. Both use the same learning materials (which, by the way, we wrote). So what’s the difference?

  • The SDI Sidemount Diver course is aimed specifically at recreational divers who will not be using sidemount in caves or wrecks, or going beyond sport diving depth and time limits.
  • The TDI Sidemount Diver course, on the other hand, specifically targets those who will use sidemount in caves or wrecks, and possibly with the addition of stage or deco cylinders. It covers everything in the SDI course, plus additional tech skills, such as SMB deployment from depth.

Although we can teach the SDI course if specifically requested, by default we offer the TDI one. It is possible to take this as a standalone program; however, our students generally combine this with our Apprentice Cave Diver course.

If you will not be using sidemount during your cave diver training, what you should be looking at is our CDS Basics Orientation course.


  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be certified to the Advanced Open Water Diver level or equivalent
  • Possess Nitrox Diver certification

Time frames

  • The Technical Sidemount Diver course generally takes two days and approximately four dives.
  • If your goal in taking this course is to get ready for cave diver training, your best value is to take this course in combination with our Apprentice Cave Diver course. Doing so will save you both time and money.
  • With sufficient notice, we can usually accommodate requests for specific course dates.

Required equipment

As your goal in taking this course is to learn the basic set up and operation of the equipment you will use as part of your cave and/or tech diver training, you will need that same equipment for this course. This includes:

  • Mask and flat-bladed scuba fins with adjustable or spring heel straps
  • Adequate thermal protection for prolonged exposure to 21° C/72° F water
  • Sidemount harness and air cell
  • Two sidemount cylinders
  • Two separate regulator first and second stages
  • At least one mission-capable dive computer
  • Slate or wet notes
  • Two Z-knives or comparable cutting tools
  • One primary light
  • Two backup lights
  • Two safety reels/spools with a total of at least 50 m/150 ft of line
  • Stage bottle and regulator

Be aware than any equipment you use must meet very specific requirements. Learn more…

Items such as cylinders and primary lights, which my be difficult to travel with, are available for rental. Be sure to alert us if you will need any of these.

 Choose your price

Know what you’re getting: Prices include instruction and eLearning fees. Bear in mind, the cost of eLearning, by itself, can be worth anywhere from $140 to $280 or more. Thus, a $640 course from us may actually cost the same as a $500 course from someone else if you have to pay for elearning separately.

Certification cards: We issue these only when earned. Simply taking part in a course does not guarantee certification. For cave courses, certification cards from multiple training agencies may be available. C-cards generally cost around $30 each, depending on agency. Your instructor can tell you more.

Technical Sidemount Course

Get a little on the side…
$ 600 Single student price
  • Two days
  • Four or more dives

Technical Sidemount Course

Get a little on the side…
$ 500 Per student for two or more
  • Two days
  • Four or more dives
Best value

eLearning included at no extra charge

Computer-aided instruction is an integral part of nearly every course we teach. The Why? is simple: eLearning helps get our students in the water sooner and spend more time there. It’s why we include the cost of any applicable eLearning programs — usually a $140 value — in our courses at no extra charge. This translates directly into an extra day of in-water training. The value of that? Priceless.

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