Whether you’re wondering “what does BCD stand for?” or you’re already deeply immersed in the scuba diving world, selecting the best BCD can be overwhelming.
From travel BCDs to weight integrated BCDs, there are many options for this important piece of scuba diving equipment. Choosing the best BCD is important for both safety and your enjoyment while diving.
BCD stands for the buoyancy compensator device. A BCD is something you wear while scuba diving to help you maintain positive buoyancy on the surface of the water, allowing you to float, and neutral buoyancy when under water.
Wetsuits are buoyant, but their buoyancy decreases as you descend deeper into the water, due to the compression of air bubbles. Adding air to your BCD as you descend allows you to compensate for this change in buoyancy.
Choosing the best BCD for your needs is more complicated than just selecting the top-rated BCD on the market. You should consider these different types to determine which is right for you.
Different Types of BCDs
- Jacket Style BCD: Also known as a wraparound style BCD, this common option is a vest that looks similar to a life jacket. It has an air bladder that wraps around your body and inflates in the front, sides, and back.
Jacket style BCDs often have storage pockets for gear and provide great stability when you’re on the surface, allowing you to stay upright. Some people find them comfortable while others find them constricting, so it’s beneficial to try one out and make sure you get the right size before purchasing if you can.
One downside to this type of BCD is that it can be bulky and cause drag, which slows you down when you’re swimming underwater.
Jacket style BCDs are perhaps the easiest type to learn how to use and are great for beginner divers, though many experienced divers use them as well.
- Back Inflation BCD: The air bladder in back inflation BCDs is located in the back, rather than wrapping around your whole torso. Picture more of a backpack than a life vest.
This can feel less constricting and is great for divers wishing to carry a large camera in the front.
Back Inflation BCDs have less drag when you’re swimming underwater, but do make it more difficult to stay upright when at the surface. They can also have a higher lift capacity and are often used by technical divers.
- Hybrid: Hybrid BCDs wrap around your torso, but carry most of the air in the back, combining the advantages of wraparounds and back inflation BCDs.
- Backplate and Wing BCD: Really a subset of back inflation BCDs, the backplate and wing option is much more streamlined and provides you with the greatest mobility and stability. This is a great choice if you plan to dive in narrow areas like caves or hate feeling constricted.
Many beginner and recreational divers, however, do not prefer this type of BCD as it has no storage pockets for gear and no weight integration pockets. You would need to use a separate weight belt.
Backplate and wing BCDs are a great option in terms of buoyancy but are better for advanced divers.
- Sidemount BCD: Designed for technical and cave diving, side mount BCDs let you carry dive tanks under your arms instead of on your back to get into narrow spots.
Lift capacity refers to how much weight a BCD can keep afloat.
The amount of lift you need depends in large part on how deep you’re diving, the type of wetsuit you wear, and how much weight you’re carrying. Wearing a full wetsuit in colder water will provide more buoyancy, thus requiring greater lift capacity in cold climate dives.
Your body composition also impacts the lift capacity you need in a BCD.
Basic Features of your BCD
These are key features to understand about your BCD:
- Air Bladder – This is what holds the air to make you buoyant.
- Valves – The dump valve lets you release the air from the air bladder, while the pressure release valve prevents the air bladder from bursting if overfilled; these two valves are sometimes combined.
- Cylinder Mount– Included in many BCDs, this is where you secure your tank.
- Weights – Wearing weights helps you to descend, reach greater depths, and stay under water. Wet suits increase your buoyancy and weights counteract that phenomenon.Some BCDs have integrated weight pockets while others require you to wear a separate weight belt.
Many people find integrated weight pockets to be more comfortable and convenient. Whichever type you use, make sure you know how to quickly release the weights to maintain safety.
While the best BCD for you will depend in part on personal preference these top rated BCDs will not steer you wrong.
Cressi Start BCD Scuba Gear BC Regulator Package
This unit is a good quality BCD which is reliable as well as durable enough to support all your diving expeditions and available at a very reasonable price.
Cressi is one brand that has accumulated its reputation over many decades and this product is another example of the great craftsmanship. This is a comfortable as well as solidly built BCD device that is available in five different sizes. This is a great entry level jacket ideal for beginners and available at a great price. The unit is definitely one of the Best Dive BCDs and the details about the features described in the next section will tell you why.
Robust Built – The unit is made up of 500 and 1000 Denier Cordura fabric which is very tough but light enough to give great buoyancy. In fact, some users often compare it to a bulletproof vest and it will surely provide you with years of reliable service.
Easy to Use: The dump valves that are used in this device are of very good quality and located within easy reach. Two are located on each shoulder and one is towards the rear right part of the unit. You do not need to worry about reaching the valves while under water as they have pull cords and a power inflator mechanism for easy dumping.
Adjustable Straps: The shoulder and waist straps are adjustable and the buckles are of very good quality ensuring easy release. Now, the waist strap is independently suspended from the air cell to prevent any discomfort to the diver. The whole unit is nicely padded for comfort and proper support. These features can match this BCD with any other device in this list of the Best Dive BCDs.
Multiple Storage Options: The BCD has enough pockets to hold all your accessories and then some more. The two large pockets have Velcro closures for easy access. In addition, there are two D rings and two spring clip holding rings that will be of great help to any diver.
- Weight: 6-8 pounds.
- Available Sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large.
- Rings: 4 Nos.
- Pockets: 2 Nos.
- Warranty: 1 Year Limited.
Pros and Cons:
Cressi has designed this BCD with a lot of thought and it definitely shows up in the various small but useful features. This is ideal for beginners but intermediate level divers will not at all be disappointed by this unit. Due to its durability, this unit has good resale value also. So keeping all the factors in mind, this affordable unit is definitely one of the Best Dive BCDs that you can buy.
Mares Hybrid Pro Tec Scuba Diving Buoyancy Compensator
This BCD device is a great blend of a comfortable fit and great utility, making it a perfect choice for your deep sea adventures
A BCD device needs to give the perfect fit so that you are not uncomfortable underwater and Mares has been able to do that with this device and delivered a great unit which excels in all areas. It has multiple rings and pockets which are evenly distributed on the adjustable straps making it a great companion for skilled divers and one of the Best Dive BCDs that you can buy. Let us take a closer look at the features of this unit.
This unit is designed in an innovative way where the air bladder is separate from the main harness and this also makes the front part of the unit more open. As a result, you get more comfort and freedom of movement underwater. The harness and air bladders are also completely detachable from the unit.
The main shoulder strap of this unit is very comfortably padded, pre-shaped and reinforced. Along with the lumbar suspension system this mechanism gives you more comfort. The chest straps and the waist straps are also easily adjustable so that you get perfect stability while wearing this unit.
One feature of this unit that marks it among the Best Dive BCDs is its versatility. Now, this is a modular BCD which means that the main vest can be detached, leaving you with a travel BCD which is light and compact.
The features in this unit include ten D rings, three of which can be customized. If that is not enough for you, it can be further customized by adding other pockets. The material used for this is Alutex which can withstand years of usage through tough conditions.
- Dimension: 22 inch x 17 inch x 6 inches.
- Weight: 5 pounds.
- Available Sizes: Small, Medium and Large.
- Rings: 10 Nos.
- Pockets: 2 Nos.
- System: Mechanical Weight System.
Pros and Cons:
It seems that Mares has thought of every possible advantage it can offer to a diver and implemented all of them into this BCD. Most experienced and professional drivers will find this unit a real pleasure to use and perfect for carrying all their types of equipment. This is a BCD that is worth a buy and definitely one of the Best Dive BCDs out there.
Aqua Lung Pro HD BCD i300 Dive Computer Titan / ABS Regulator Set
This is a complete package which delivers all your diving types of equipment including your BCD to give you an entire set of the best equipment
This unit comes with all the necessary items which include a dive computer and an ABS regulator set apart from the BCD. All the gears are of very good quality and if you want to invest in your scuba diving activities, this set can be a good choice. The BCD that comes with this unit is light and durable and will meet the needs of most divers. I have included this package in this list of the Best Dive BCDs as it is very comfortable and easy to use the unit.
The BCD available with this unit is made of a durable ResisteK material which will last long. The comfortable fitting and the multiple pockets and rings with this unit will be helpful to most divers to enjoy a comfortable dive. There is also a carrying handle attached for ease of use.
Perfect release system
The mechanical weight release system of this BCD is smooth and ensures that the release is effective with a single pull. The Surelock system ascertains the weights are secure inside the BC and inserting weights in this device is extremely simple. Without a doubt, this BCD will make diving easier for most newcomers and learners.
The shoulder, chest and waist straps ensure a comfortable fit and are easily adjustable to adjust to various sizes. The pull bobs on the shoulder straps are easy to locate so you need not to search for them underwater. The entire unit is designed to reduce drag while moving through the water making it a perfect choice and one of the Best Dive BCDs.
Top Quality Equipment
The other equipment that comes with this unit is also of high grade and will offer full satisfaction to the users. The i300 computer is easy to use the computer which will provide you with all the necessary data at a glance and It has air and Nitrox modes. This third generation regulators from Titan are among the best in the market and are more comfortable and lighter in weight, offering ease of breathing.
- Available Sizes: six sizes.
- Rings: 5 Nos.
- System: Mechanical Weight System.
Pros and Cons:
This all in one package provides a set of good equipment at a very reasonable price for beginners. The BCD is perfectly equipped to handle any kind of dives and is especially useful for learners. So if you need complete diving set apart for one of the Best Dive BCDs, this is one unit you can surely choose.
Scubapro Litehawk BC
This is a top quality dive gear that is perfect for experienced scuba divers and will exceed expectations with its superior performance.
This BCD is very well designed and its streamlined profile offers very less drag underwater. Light in weight and constructed with durable materials, this unit is very reliable for underwater usage. Most users have given positive feedback on this unit and one thing that I liked about the model is that it is very compact without any dangling loose ends. Let us explore some of its features to understand what makes this one of the Best Dive BCDs in the market.
Comfortable to Wear
All the supports are designed to make sure that this unit is very comfortable for the diver. The shoulder supports are well padded and are rightly so that the weight of the air tanks can be evenly distributed. Don’t forget that it also has a midsection clasp belt and the well-padded backrest which provides the ideal support and comfort.
The entire device is very evenly designed so even the new divers will fell well balanced under water. There are trim weights mounted at the side and the air bladder is at the back so the overall weights balance out nicely. There are three dump valves which can be easily reached so you need not to worry about searching for them underwater.
A Stable BCD
One reason that this unit stands out as one of the Best Dive BCDs is that there is a special buckle to hold the air tanks in place. This makes the overall arrangement very compact and with proper adjustment of the straps, you can get a good snug fit that will allow you to move underwater with perfect ease.
I am sure you would want your BCD to last through the years and this model is rightly designed for that. The shell is made up of 1000 Denier Nylon giving it a very robust built and durable life.
- Weight: 2 pounds.
- Available Sizes: Medium and Large.
- Integrated Weight System: No.
Pros and Cons:
This light unit is a great choice for advanced and intermediate level divers and offers good value. The durable build and the snug fit makes this a very user-friendly BCD that can make your dive a perfect one. This is a well recommended compact unit and stands out as one of the Best Dive BCDs that you can buy at present.
To provide you with a distinct idea of the various items that have been reviewed,
I am including a small chart comparing a few important features. This will surely help you to choose well when you are out to buy a BCD.
|S no.||Product name||Price ($)||Level|
|1||Cressi Start BCD Scuba Gear BC Regulator Package||425||Beginner|
|2||Mares Hybrid Pro Tec Scuba Diving Buoyancy Compensator||680||Advanced|
|3||Aqua Lung Pro HD BCD i300 Dive Computer Titan / ABS Regulator Set||969||Beginner/ Intermediate|
|4||The Scubapro Litehawk||571||Advanced/ Intermediate|