You’ve got your licence, you’ve done some dives, and now you’re looking at what scuba gear to purchase. Buying a BCD is a big step in taking your diving seriously so it’s worth researching what is the best buoyancy control device for you. Read this guide to buying a BCD for scuba diving to help you make the right decision.
If you’ve been on scuba diving holidays, no doubt you’ll have used a few BCD brands already. So you’ll know there’s many models to choose from. To stop you drowning in information and ensure you stay afloat of the latest developments, here are some things to consider before you make that purchase.
Please note this article has Amazon affiliate marketing links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
A buoyancy control device (BCD) is also known as a buoyancy compensator (BC), stabilizer, stab jacket, wing or Adjustable Buoyancy Life Jacket (ABLJ). It is essentially an inflatable bladder divers use to establish neutral buoyancy underwater and positive buoyancy at the surface. Below you’ll find plenty of information about the factors to consider when you buy a BCD.
This is the big one really. If you’ve ever had a BCD that’s too big, too small or just wasn’t right, it takes all the pleasure out of diving. Try it on. Is it constricting or tight under the arms? Is it too big? If it’s too big it will move around under the water and cold ruin your dive.
Try inflating it. You will fully inflate your BCD at certain points, so you must be able to breath comfortably when its full of air.
And remember, ladies are built a little differently to guys, especially in the areas where you wear a BCD. If you are of the fairer sex and have tried rental BCD’s that just don’t leave enough room up top, then have a go with some specifically designed ladies BCD’s.
Does the BCD come with an integrated weight system? This means that rather than wearing a weight belt, the BCD has special pockets for the weights to sit in.
For safety they are designed so you can quickly drop the weights in an emergency. Integrated weight systems are far more comfortable than wearing a belt, and are well worth investing in when buying your BCD.
Lift determines how much buoyancy a BCD has. For the recreational warm water diver, any regular BCD will have enough lift. If you are planning on technical, wreck or cave diving and think you’ll need more gear or extra tanks then lift comes into play. If you may need that extra buoyancy make sure you factor it in.
The best buoyancy control device will have air dumps at both the top and bottom of the BCD. This allows you to release air whatever position you are in.
Try on a few BCD’s and ensure that the buckles are easy to use and in the right place for you.
If you are going to be doing more technical dives then you may need additional equipment. Extra pockets and rings allow you to attach all the diving gear you need. Check they are in the right place for your needs.
There are three styles of BCD: Jacket, back and hybrid. The jacket-style BCD is the most common and is the one that most people use during their scuba diving courses. The air bladders are spread around the body giving stable buoyancy and crucially allow the diver to easily float vertically on the surface.
Back-mounted or wing-style BCD’s have the air bladders on the back of the diver and the side of the tank. This style allows for greater freedom of movement. It also provides more lift for carrying extra equipment. The down side is they put the diver in a face-down position.
A hybrid BCD combines the benefits of back-inflate and jacket-style BCDs with features from both. There are air bladders at the back of the BCD and around the torso. Hybrid BCDs prove both horizontal stability underwater and vertical stability at the surface.
Do you plan to dive in Thailand? Or will be travelling abroad to discover more exotic dive sites? Then think about how your BCD is going to fit into your luggage along with the souvenirs and duty-free you’ll be bringing home with you!
Remember the best buoyancy control device isn’t always the one with all the bells and whistles. Sometimes simple is better particularly if you are going to travel with it.
A guide to buying a BCD for scuba diving would not be complete without some recommendations. Now it is not possible to choose the single best buoyancy control device as different people need different things (and have different opinions!). So we have put together five of the best BCDs for you to choose from.
If you are looking for a best jacket BCD that ticks all the traditional boxes then the Cressi Aquaride Pro is well worth considering. Cressi are one of the largest, oldest and most trusted scuba brands. Well known for high quality, durable and dependable scuba diving gear you can trust this BCD.
The Aquaride Pro (or similar models) is used by many dive centres around the world so it will feel familiar straight away. There is a good degree of adjustability, plenty of clips and pockets for all your extras. If it is your first time buying a BCD this is perfect for most recreational divers.
If you are looking for a back inflate BCD then the Zeagle Ranger sets the standard for rugged design, versatility and comfort. If you are an advanced diver looking for elite underwater performance this may be the best buoyancy control device for you.
With a fully customizable fit comfort is assured. The Ranger was the first BCD to combine high-quality, heavy-duty construction, weight integration and rear flotation into one package.
Not the lightest BCD on the market or the cheapest. However, for ease of transport it is tough to beat as this BCD is also a 42 litre backpack that most airlines accept as carry on luggage.
The Jetpack simply transforms from a bag that can fit your clothing, personal effects and scuba gear for a week long trip into a lightweight travel style BCD. It is one size fits all, but the Oceanic Jetback has plenty of adjustments to ensure a good fit. Probably not the best Buoyancy Control Device on the planet but a good shout for the best travel BCD.
While there is nothing wrong with unisex gear or women wearing a men’s BCD the simple fact is guys and gals are often very different shapes. With that in mind you might wish to buy a BCD that is specifically designed with the female shape in mind.
In which case check out the Scubapro Bella. It is not cheap but it’s very good. And when you are spending a fortune to go diving, comfort and having more control of your buoyancy are priceless. Plenty of pockets and rings make this a BCD all female divers will appreciate. In our opinion the many innovative features Scubapro have developed make Bella the best women’s BCD.
If money is tight then the Cressi Start is about as cheap as you can go without compromising too much on quality. Obviously it is not as durable, adjustable or feature heavy as more expensive BCDs out there. But if it fits, this is a great way to buy a BCD without breaking the bank.
Cressi have a great reputation and even this low cost option comes with their usual high standards. Possibly the best buoyancy control device for beginners as it is lightweight, simple to use and has enough pockets and D rings for standard diving. The Cressi Start is easily the best cheap BCD on the market right now.
We hope you found this guide to buying a BCD for scuba diving useful. Please let us know in the comments what you think is the best buoyancy control device. And check out our other scuba diving articles for more inspiration.