Mastering the BCD, buoyancy control device, is the first step to becoming an expert diver. If the BCD has weight integration, it is the platform that will carry your weights so you are neutrally buoyant at the end of the dive. It is also used to allow you to float at the end of the dive and to sink at the beginning. How those weights are distributed around your body as well as your diving position impacts your trim.
Your BCD will have dump valves, which allow you to remove air if you start floating. A BCD will have places for you to carry or clip accessories. Many divers find the purchase of their BCD allows them to improve their diving and reduce stress. If you rent a BCD for a dive, it may be a different model each time, which means the different locations for controls and different places for your accessories. When I dive with my BCD, muscle memory guides me directly to the dump valve I need or the accessory I want to use.
What is a beginner’s BCD? There is no hard and fast rule for that question. Let’s just say that it is a durable device that meets all safety standards and will meet the diving needs of a new diver. If a diver does not go into a specialty such as tech diving, this initial BCD may never need to be upgraded.
To help you in your search for beginner scuba gear, we have made a list of the seven best BCDs for beginners and included a comprehensive buying guide so you can stay safe, and have a great time scuba diving.
- Some BCDs can be pre-ordered with various sizes for different pieces. For instance, if you’re tall with a wide waist, you can specifically order a larger backplate and pair it with a larger waist belt to make for a more comfortable fit.
- Before buying your first BCD, think about where you’ll be diving. If you plan to travel by airplane, the lightweight BCDs will save you money on every trip you take.
- Integrated weight pockets offer you the ability to drop the weight belt and move to a more comfortable setup. While you’ll need to re-learn your emergency scenarios involving weights, most divers prefer the integrated system.
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How To Choose A Beginner BCD – Buying Guide
There are three or maybe four types or styles of BCD. The most common is the jacket style. This is often called a vest style as well. It looks like a vest that you close in the front and the air bladders wrapping around you. You will feel the changes in the size of the air bladders as they fill with the air around your waist and rib cage. When floating at the surface, these are easy to lay back on and rest.
The back inflate BCD has air bladders that wrap around the backplate and tank. This design allows more freedom of movement around the arms and chest. It also disperses the buoyancy more evenly while moving horizontally in the water. However, some divers have trouble adapting to this style on the surface as they will push you a little face forward.
You will also hear of a Wing and Plate (W/P) design. These are similar to the back inflate and many consider them a part of that design. The major difference is the W/P’s air bladders can be changed. This is a major factor for technical diving.
A more recent style is known as the hybrid. A hybrid has most of the air bladder volume as a back inflate, with some inflation around you. This gives you the benefits of both styles.
It is also important the top-rated beginner BCD you choose fits your body well. BCD’s come in many sizes so finding the right fit will not be difficult. Also, most BCDs have straps that adjust to fine-tune the fitting. If a BCD is too small it may hinder your movement in the arms and even hamper your breathing. A BCD that is too large will not stay in place.
The most important thing to remember about the concern of how much your BCD weighs is that it only matters when the BCD is out of the water. In the water, the amount of air in the bladder will determine if your BCD has any weight. The weight of a BCD comes into play mostly for travel. Most BCDs will weigh under 10 pounds, but you may find an ultra-lightweight design that weighs only 5 pounds.
Valves are a part of the system to control your buoyancy in the water. The best beginner BCD would have 2-3 valves, which would allow you to dump or release air from the device as needed. All BCD has a dump valve attached to the inflator hose. This is the one used mostly during ascent and descent. A lower rear dump valve is used when horizontal and a head-down descent.
The lift of a BCD will tell you how much negative buoyancy you can undergo. If at the end of the dive, you and all of your equipment are 5 pounds negative buoyant, then your BCD must provide at least 5 pounds of lift to keep you floating.
All BCD will provide enough lift to keep a diver safe if they are not adding additional equipment or are very much overweight.
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Extra features, like pockets, are always nice to have on a BCD because it allows you to carry smaller gear items and keep them close by for safety. The best BCD for beginners will feature multiple pockets and D-rings, which you can use to store and organize your extra scuba equipment.
Q: Is It Better To Rent Or Buy A BCD If You Are A Beginner?
It will depend on your scuba diving needs. If you are only looking to go scuba diving once or twice, or you only go on dives when you’re on vacation, it may not be worth the investment to purchase your BCD. But if you happen to love scuba diving, it can be worth it to eliminate the hassle of rentals and invest in your scuba diving gear. There is also the benefit of muscle memory if you use the same design for each dive. The best beginner BCD will be an investment, but for frequent divers, it is often more beneficial to own rather than rent a BCD.
Q: What Is A Hybrid BCD?
A hybrid BCD is normally a jacket-style BCD that uses ¾ back inflation and ¼ front inflation to control your buoyancy in the water. By splitting the location of the inflation, divers stay more comfortable and have more control in the water. With a hybrid BCD, it is also easier to maintain position horizontally or vertically for extended periods.
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For scuba divers, nothing beats the experience of seeing a whole new world under the waves. But you can’t have a good dive without the proper beginner scuba gear. For those who are just testing out the water, the best BCD for beginners should be durable, reliable, and functional to ensure your safety during the dive. We hope that our guide has given you all the information you need to find quality scuba equipment and the best beginner BCD.
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