I purchased an Armadillo sidemount rig in 2010 and had been diving it for about six months when I wrote this review. My thoughts on it have remained virtually unchanged in the 5 years since. I found a pretty good deal on a used model and jumped on it mainly out of curiosity. The rig I bought is an original Armadillo, not the A2, so this review is on that model. I haven’t been in the water with an A2 but I do carry and sell them now and they are very similar.
The original Armadillo sidemount rig, in my opinion, is the best commercial sidemount rig available. It is simple, low profiled, streamlined, and robust. It is also the only sidemount rig I’ve seen that has not, or would not, require any modifications for it to work for me.
The Armadillo comes with the inflator hose already coming off the bottom of the wing and the dump on the top. It was like that when they were first introduced to the market in 2002 and continue to be sold that way today. The Armadillo also comes with adjustable shoulder straps. They can be located anywhere on the waist strap that works for the diver. They are a simple, single piece webbing with no padding. The material used is heavy duty and robust. The rig is reinforced with heavy duty 2-inch webbing along the center and butt plate. The bars used on the butt plate are curved rather than squared. I thought this might be an issue when I first got it because I was in the habit of “locking” my snap bolts along the top of the bars. This hasn’t been an issue with the Armadillo. I still pull my cylinders up toward my shoulders and they stay where I want them just fine.
Even though the rig I bought was used there were no modifications made to it by the previous owners. I have made a total of three modifications to my Armadillo. I added a chest strap, which I only need when I’m carrying stages (most dives), I added screening to the exhaust valve, and I fixed the pull dump to the shoulder harness a little more permanently than how it’s shown in the owner’s manual.
The Armadillo does have some drawbacks. The lift is only 33 pounds. So I’m still using my Nomad for my trimix dives because my trimix cylinders are Worthington 108s and 121s. My Nomad barely has enough lift for those. The Armadillo definitely doesn’t have the lift for those. That being said, I have been able to dive my Armadillo with 2 Faber LP120s and 5 AL80 stage cylinders. The other drawback is I can’t use it as a backmount rig so when I’m teaching students in backmount I have to use my Nomad. I suppose I could drill some holes in the center of the back to accommodate backmount but I don’t really see a need for it. Other than that I haven’t found any other drawbacks with the Armadillo for me. And even those two drawbacks aren’t a big deal because I have another rig I can use with larger cylinders and when diving backmount.
And the Armadillo runs a little less than most of the other sidemount rigs on the market. The Armadillo isn’t for everyone, but I do encourage anyone in the market for a sidemount rig to try it out before making a commitment.