Selection of Scuba Diving BCD’s to buy in 2023
The most commonly used BCD (for buoyancy control device) on the market is the jacket-style BCDs, but you may see more and more wings or peanuts BCDs.
In this article, we will look at the differences and what might be good for you if you are considering buying your first BCD or want to get a different model.
If you are an occasional diver, you will most likely rent your equipment from dive centers, which mainly use jacket-style BCDs, as we use at Dragon Dive Komodo.
This type of BCD is by far the most common one. You will find them in all colors, sizes, and shapes.
With these BCDs, air circulates around the waist and chest with little to no air in the back. This system allows the diver to remain vertical at the surface and easily lie on their back.
There are pockets to carry accessories such as torches, masks, a knife or to collect rubbish found underwater, without hanging everything directly on the BCD and look like a Christmas tree.
Finally, these jackets usually have a built-in weight system with lead pockets around the waist or weight pockets on the back to correct the position during the dive.
The main issue with these BCDs is that it is more difficult to achieve a purely horizontal position, also called trim, with the shoulders level with the legs and gives a seahorse-like position in the water, which affects the diver’s hydrodynamics and increases air consumption.
Wing-style BCDs allow you to have a perfect hydrodynamic position, like a skydiver. Having the air in your back will allow you to have a pleasant and horizontal diving position.
There are several types of wings:
– Wing BCDs aimed toward recreational diving (also called hybrid BCDs) combine the comfort of a traditional BCD and the position of a wing.
-The harness, backplate, and wing BCDs where each part is removable, can be customized as desired. They consist of three main parts: the harness, the backplate, and the wing. These BCDs are most used for technical dives, i.e., longer, deeper dives and involving decompression stops.
The wings have two main shapes, the doughnut which has a circular shape where air can freely circulate and the horseshoe, closed at the bottom of the wing. There is also a third shape with the peanuts which has the inflator located higher above the left-hand shoulder than normal, but this is not a very common design.
The backplates are used to strap the harness and wing. They can be fitted to your needs by changing the shape or material. They can be made of aluminium, steel, or carbon to suit different diving conditions. A steel plate will be more suitable for cold water as it is heavier, while an aluminium plate will be more suitable for warm water or travel. Carbon plates are very light, but it comes with a heftier price.
You can also choose the backplate’s shape to decrease the weight such as X-shaped plates or plates with extrudes parts, rather than the traditional rectangular shape.
The weight system will also be adjustable on these BCDs. You can add hip weight pockets on your harness, trim pockets on the backplate to improve your position, or even pockets on the tank straps.
Backpacks offer greater freedom of movement and are a more versatile system as they can be easily adapted to all types of diving (tek, twin tank (for large volumes), rebreather, etc…).
There is a third kind of BCD, less used and more specific, the sidemount BCD, which is only designed for this setup with tanks strapped on one or both sides of your body and a dorsal weight system for better trim. However, it does not allow you to strap a tank to your back.
Backplate and harness systems generally all have the same style, unlike the more recreational BCDs which come in many colors, sizes, and shapes, with more or less padding for comfort, etc. They offer a very wide range of choices to suit all kinds of divers.
Now that you know the differences, let’s see how you can choose the BCD best suited for your needs.
The first criteria will be your gender. Manufacturers are making more and more models dedicated to each gender, as opposed to the old unisex models made for men.
Nowadays, there are models for women, shorter and narrower, better suited to the female anatomy, and with better weight support. The chest clip can also be moved higher or removed for greater comfort.
The next step is to determine what types of dives you want to do with your jacket.
If you are a cold-water diver, you will need to be particularly careful about the lifting capacity of your BCD. With a thick wetsuit and neoprene accessories or even with a dry suit, you will have to put more weight on. The BCD must have enough lift capacity to keep you safe at the surface.
You will not encounter this problem in warm waters where smaller models are favored because they can be handled easily and are lighter.
It is also important to plan for trips.
If you are only diving on holiday, it may be wise to choose a travel model. These BCDs are lighter, some can have their parts unclipped for easy storage in suitcases but can also be more fragile than more traditional BCDs and have a smaller internal volume to limit size.
Jacket BCDs are heavier and bulkier but more comfortable, with more pockets for storage and may have an integrated weight system. These BCDs are great if you don’t fly often with your gear and are more suitable for cold water.
Wing+harness BCDs are a good compromise as they can be quite light depending on the materials chosen and take up little space in the luggage.
Finally, you must choose the weight system.
Depending on the price, the BCDs have integrated weight pockets with a quick-release system in case of emergency and trim pockets in the back to fine-tune your position, or there is nothing for this purpose and you will have to wear a weight belt around your waist.
These pockets can usually hold between 8 and 10kg of lead, which may not be enough for cold water diving and so you will need to use a belt.
With all this information, you should be able to choose the right BCD for you and get the most out of your dives.
At Dragon Dive Komodo we have different BCDs for you to try out. Feel free to contact us to come diving and try the BCDs and choose the one that suits you best.
See you soon