Sopras Sub Sidemount Release at DEMA 2015
Czech company Sopras Sub are releasing two sidemount systems at DEMA 2015. The first is a dual-purpose ‘universal’ sidemount/backmount system, the second is a dedicated recreational sidemount rig.
Universal Sidemount System
The dual-purpose system allows the user to switch between single-tank backmount and sidemount configuration by adding a set of cam-bands to the rear. The design is very familiar if you have look at the Hollis SMS100.
The universal sidemount system incorporates a donut style bladder onto a soft/padded backplate and comfort-style adjustable harness. The LPI hose can be inter-changed between the top of the wing and the lower-left side. The hose looks very lengthy, and I suspect many veteran sidemount divers would be tempted to replace it with a shorter version.
I’ve seen a few sidemount systems recently, such as the Scubapro X-Tek sidmount, that are designed with copious padding on the back. I have been mystified why sidemount diving requires such padding… as there’s no weight or hard objects located behind the diver. In this case, maybe it is a compromise towards the back-mount capability of the system.
The donut wing is prevented from ‘tacoing’ by the addition of a cover that reinforces the vulnerable top of the wing and extends vertically to end with a generously sized butt-plate. The butt-plate has rails for mounting steel sidemount cylinders. Warm-water divers who use aluminum tanks might struggle with trimming their cylinders when switching from the butt-plate to front waist D-rings. It is not clear from Sopras Sub’s publicity photographs whether they include waist D-rings as standard, or not.
The bungees are supplied pre-cut and heat-sealed, which is also how Hollis supply their bungees. I find this a little inefficient, as the first sidemount equipment lesson that many divers learn is the need to size and trim their bungees to attain an optimum personal fit. Properly sized bungees are critical for attaining cylinder trim in line with the torso.
The Sopras Sub Universal sidemount comes with independent bungees, presumably clipped onto small D-rings on the back by quick links. The publicity photos only show a zip-tie securing the bungees…. I am sure that is not how they are intended to be dived. With the small D-rings as the only bungee attachment points, the option to use continuous, classic or loop bungee methods seems to be excluded unless the diver makes some personal modifications to the rig.
The wing is a regular donut shape, held in place by the nylon covering and kept snug at the bottom by attachments to the waist belt. The top of the wing isn’t triangle or diamond shaped like many modern sidemount rigs, so there may be issues with gas distribution in the wing. Many modern sidemount rigs opt to retain the majority of buoyancy lower on the diver’s torso, which enables optimal inherent trim with sidemount cylinders.
I’ve not yet seen any details about the materials used, buoyancy capacity, redundant bladder options or price.
Recreational Sidemount System
The Sopras Sub recreational sidemount also seems very reminiscent of Hollis sidemount; in this case, the SMS50. It features a triangle buoyancy wing with integral buttplate, mounted onto a webbing harness. It is available in black and red colors.
The bungees are, again, single piece and pre-cut/heat-sealed. They are mounted onto some thin (1″) webbing tabs underneath the top of the wing. There seems little opportunity to elect for continous, classic or looped bungees. The diver will also have to re-size the bungees to get the appropriate fit; making the work of heat-sealing the bungees in the factor superfluous.
There are three weight pockets sewn into the underside of the wing, which gives the diver some opportunity to distribute weights and perfect their trim. The upper-most weight pocket looks like a better option than the small zipped pocket used on the SMS50; which cannot fit a substantial (2lbs+) cast lead weight.
The triangle wing design is proving effective in many current sidemount systems, such as the SMS50, UTD Z-Trim, Aquamundo and others. Once inflated, it preserves most of the buoyancy lower on the diver’s torso, which helps promote good horizontal trim position and keeps the legs up.
As with the Hollis SMS50, the inclusion of a butt-plate and rails shows that this system favors cold-water diving with steel cylinders. Warm water divers using aluminum cylinders will suffer cylinder trim issues when switching cylinders from the low-mounted butt-plate attachments onto waist D-rings. Again, as per the SMS50; the Sopras Sub doesn’t seem to retail with front waist D-rings at all. It’s an over-sight that necessitates a trip to the local dive shop with a spare $20 to rectify.
The Sopras Sub sidemount also features a padded spine protector on the inside of the wing. In this instance, my assumption is that it protects against the weights held on the underside of the wing.
The LPI routes from the lower left, as is standard on most sidemount rigs, but there is an option to inter-change it with the OPV on the opposite side. Again, Sopras Sub have opted for a very long LPI corrugated hose, that may prove too long for many divers.
The final publicity photograph shows a pair of optional 5kg weight pockets that can be fitted onto the waist belt over the kidneys. This would provide a huge capacity to carry lead, but the drawback is that the pockets also cover the rear OPV and push upon the LPI connection into the wing. This might interfere with operating the OPV pull-dump. These weight pockets are also not shielded by the padded spine protector.
Lastly, the system seems to be supplied with an extremely long LPI hose. I am not sure what regulator configuration Sopras Sub envision most sidemount divers to be using, in order to demand such a long inflation hose. Most sidemount rigs ship with a 9-12″ hose. The hose pictured looks like a 1 meter hose?!
I will update this blog post when I receive more details about the two sidemount systems.
The systems do not yet feature on the Sopras Sub website.