Whether you are floating on the surface, doing a safety stop, or just maintaining a constant float mid-ocean, it is important to do so with ease. That is the job of your scuba BCD. A buoyancy control device, commonly shortened to BCD, is a device that gives you control underwater. Negative buoyancy on the descent, Neutralizing your buoyancy when underwater and giving you a positive buoyancy when on the surface, the point of a BCD is to keep you in your desired position while in the water.
Your properly fitting BCD combined with your weight system will give you the control you desire. This is also where your tank will attach to. This is an important piece of equipment, that’s why it is highly recommended that you get the best scuba BCD on the market for you.
To help with your search we have constructed a list of the best scuba BCDs to make sure you enjoy your time in the water. We recommend doing your research and getting one that properly fits you and your needs.
- The best way to buy your BCD is to try it on before purchase. Online purchases make it hard to know if there’s a property of the BCD you don’t like or if it just doesn’t fit you well.
- Integrated weights should be quickly identifiable, easily removed and replaced, and positioned out of the way of any other important equipment.
- Hard plastic clips and straps on your BCD can create an uncomfortable experience. It’s best to look at straps and clips positioned in padded areas and made with flexible yet strong materials.
Scuba Diving Expert
How To Choose The Best Scuba BCD – Buying Guide
BCD Type definitions
This is the best choice for those who dive primarily in cold water and technical divers. For those who dive in dry suits or thick wetsuits this type of BCD provides enough lift and has integrated weight systems to keep you diving with ease. While this is the heaviest option, it has tons of storage and areas where you can attach more gear.
This type of BCD allows you to wear the thickest wetsuit possible, which is great when you need to dive in cold water. You are probably going to have extra gear such as a dive computer or pressure gauges, so the extra storage space and D-rings are a welcome addition to add some functionality to your diving kit.
This will give you a tight feeling, similar to wearing a big winter jacket. When you inflate this type of BCD the front and side will inflate engulfing your body. For beginners, it is often recommended to opt for this style as it creates a good buoyancy for all diving conditions and environments. This style also provides the most control most easily during your dive. Traditionally these were the least expensive, however, the price gap is closing.
This type of BCD gives the most balance when you are on the surface of the water and is one of the safest options out there.
This style is also referred to as wings as it only inflates the back portion of your device. It is often a more comfortable feeling because it will feel as if you’re not wearing a BCD. This style is recommended for experienced divers as it often puts you in a face-down stance when floating on the surface.
Back inflation jackets are smaller than traditional BCD jackets and can be packed easier in your gear bag, but they are harder to get used to. They are not as balanced as jackets, but for the experienced user, they are comfortable and offer all the buoyancy you need.
The lightest of the BCDs on the market, these are great for those who like to travel with their gear. A low profile design allows you to fold the best scuba BCDs to fit easily in your luggage. This style typically doesn’t allow for as much lift capacity as other models, but it does offer enough buoyancy to keep you afloat at the surface of the water.
Travel BCDs are also great for, well, traveling. If you have to take your dive gear with you on a trip, the smaller the gear is, the better. This is especially true when you are traveling by air. Heavy or oversized baggage can mean having to pay more money to fly. A travel BCD is so small and light that you can even pick it in your carry-on luggage.
A mix of the jacket and wing style, this BCD will inflate ¾ in the back and ¼ in the front. This style reduces the amount of air in the front part of the rig. It will keep you in a more vertical position which most divers will appreciate. On the surface of the water, they can often push you down into a more vertical position than a traditional jacket (though not as much as with a back inflation BCD). The hybrid is becoming more popular as it also allows the trim benefits and comfort of a back inflate style while overcoming the negative feelings of the back inflate.
Type of water
The temperature of the water you are diving in will affect the type of BCD you should buy. The first thing that gets affected is the lift capacity. This is a measurement of the weight which the BCD can hold when on the surface of the water and when fully inflated. Depending on your experience, you may opt for a lift capacity that is high so that when you are on the surface of the water, you can rest and relax more.
While diving in colder water you will likely have more equipment, you will need a BCD with a higher lift capacity to counteract the higher weight. This is important as it will ensure you can navigate through the water with ease. You should also look at the type of material and style of the BCD. Many BCDs will offer you additional warmth when in the water. If you are diving in colder waters, then we would recommend that you choose a BCD that offers maximum coverage and maximum warmth.
This is always an important feature when considering scuba equipment but is even more important when considering a BCD. You will want to find one that fits comfortably and fits snug to your body. We recommend, especially if buying online that you invest in a BCD with adjustable straps that allow the device to adjust to the perfect fit for you. Take into consideration the thickness of your wetsuit or drysuit you plan to wear on your dive.
Before purchasing your BCD, rent a few different models and styles to see what feels the most comfortable to you. Once you know which style you like, you can pinpoint your exact size. If you get a BCD that is the wrong size, then you can run into problems. A BCD that is too small may be constructive and will put a lot of strain on the fasteners. A BCD that is too big will run the risk of moving away from the body causing uneven lift.
A weight belt is just another accessory to bring along on your dive. Being able to ditch this accessory and simply add your weights into the pockets of your BCD will relieve the bulk on your body. This is especially desirable when diving in cold water and you are already wearing a thick wetsuit. When you do have a thick wetsuit on, your buoyancy is changed completely. A BCD with good weight integration will help you to control your buoyancy in the water.
The other advantage of having weight integration is that you do not have to worry about fastening something else to you. You have less to worry about when you are preparing your equipment, and you do not have to worry about fitting one around the other.
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When buying your BCD most models will specifically state if it is made for men or women. This is important because of the length of the BCD. Men’s styles are made with a longer length to allow for men’s longer torsos while women BCDs, in turn, have shorter back lengths. In the women’s style, your tank will not rest on the base of your spine. During dives, this will make your tank feel lighter and less strenuous.
The best scuba BCDs designed for women also have a unique design for the chest straps and the width and shape of the shoulder straps. This will fit much more comfortably as it compensates for women’s unique shape. Look for straps that are made of comfortable materials and ones that are in positions that will not rub or chafe. You should also look for straps that are easy to fasten and unfasten, especially when you are in the water.
A BCD should feel like an extension of your body. When you have your BCD on, you should not have to worry about it, and it should not feel as if you are wearing anything at all.
Q: What Is A BCD?
A buoyancy control device is an item of dive equipment that is worn to create a neutral buoyancy in the water and a positive buoyancy on the surface of the water.
When you have put on all of your diving equipment, you will notice that it is very heavy. When you get into the water, the equipment will feel lighter than on dry land, but it will still weigh you down. Without any additional buoyancy, you would sink towards the bottom of the body of water and would have to swim upwards with a lot of force to get back to the surface. BCDs give extra buoyancy when needed, and more weight when needed to give neutral buoyancy in the water. This means that you will neither float to the surface nor sink to the bottom.
When you are wearing your BCD, you will be able to swim in all directions with ease, making your time in the water more enjoyable.
Q: What Are The Parts Of The BCD I Should Know About?
The key elements in a BCD are the harness, bladder, and backplate. The harness system is what connects you to the BCD, and to make fit adjustments. The bladder will hold the air you need to adjust your buoyancy. The backplate is where the tank will strap to, it is also the center point of the BCD which everything attaches to.
Some BCDs use an integrated weight system. Pockets specially designed to hold weights slide into holders on the BCD. The pockets are held securely in place, however, are easy to release when necessary.
Rings are a welcome addition to a BCD. They allow you to store equipment while you are diving, such as dive computers and cameras and leave your hands free. You can never have too many rings, but we would recommend choosing a jacket that you go for one with four or five rings. You should also look for metal rings over nylon rings. They will last longer and will hold up better to having equipment clipped and unclipped over and over.
Pockets are always a welcome addition, and they offer you extra storage options for your smaller pieces of equipment. They are great for storing flashlights or strobes for your camera. It is always beneficial to find a BCD that has sealable pockets. Zips will give your items the best protection, but velcro is easier to get opened and closed.
Pay careful attention to the fasteners on your BCD too. You should look for fasteners that are easy to open and close, but also ones that are made from durable materials. You are going to be using the fasteners a lot so they should be able to cope with the stress and strain. They will also have some strain from being worn under the water. Look for a material that is not going to be broken down by the saltwater.
Q: How Do I Take Care Of My BCD?
It is important to take care of your BCD when you are in and out of the water. When you are putting your jacket on, take care not to force the fasteners. If you treat them with care, they will last a lot longer. You should also make sure to store your jacket in a cool and dry place when it is not in use. If possible, store with some air in the bladders. Avoid folding it or placing it in storage with items on top of it.
After using your BCD in the water, especially when it has been used in salt water, you should take the time to clean it. To do this, rinse the BCD with fresh water. Make sure to rinse the jacket inside and out. Once it has been rinsed, store the jacket on a hanger and allow it to dry fully before putting it into storage.
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Ensuring you get the right BCD for you is a crucial first step of scuba diving. Once you complete your first dive lesson, you will want to think about getting your gear. Understanding and being comfortable with this piece of equipment goes a long way in giving you confidence and peace of mind while under the water’s surface.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to diving, and while many items are more crucial and protective than this one, it is almost impossible to dive without a BCD. A great BCD will keep you neutrally buoyant in the water. Your equipment will not weigh you down when you are in the water. You will feel more free and limitless when you are wearing a BCD, and your underwater adventure will be enhanced.
There is a lot to learn about the best BCDs, but if you are reading this, then you have probably read our guide. Once you have taken in all of the information, you are on your way to choosing the BCD which will make your dive all the better. Choose one from our list and be reassured that you are getting the best equipment on offer.
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Do you dive with on of the best scuba BCD on our list? Let us know the features that you love about it in the comment section below.