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The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Scuba Diving BCD for Your Needs

Are you looking for a Scuba Diving BCD? You are in luck! This article provides a comprehensive buying guide to help you choose the ideal Scuba BCD based on your requirements, by highlighting the essential features and key considerations.

I remember the day I went to buy my first SCUBA BCD. I was completely excited and energized. I already pictured myself wearing my accurate, ideal, and comfortable diving BCD: the perfect buoyancy compensator. The visions of me diving over the most beautiful Cozumel reefs, impressing my group with my enhanced diving skills thanks to my scuba diving BCD, faded away when I arrived at the store. There were lots of different models, with different looks, different sizes, and different prices.

When you rent a Scuba Diving BCD there aren’t many options. Usually, they have one model, you pay and dive, That’s all. But when you go to buy one, what the hell should you buy? Don’t worry. It won’t happen to you because that’s why we are writing this article.

Take a look at the table of contents and discover what you should consider.

1. What Is a Buoyancy Compensator?

SCUBA BCD, diving BCD, dive BCD, buoyancy compensator, buoyancy control device, or whatever you want to call it. It is one of the most essential pieces of diving equipment that can significantly increase your comfort and safety underwater.

Not only does it help you control your buoyancy, allowing you to easily float on the surface and maintain neutral buoyancy while diving, but it also holds the air tank you need to breathe underwater. But we will see this point later.

It also keeps all of our gear organized with handy clips and pockets.

Speaking of pockets, many diving BCDs have them, making it super easy to store any tools we might need during our dive. And forget about weight belts, because some scuba BCDs even have built-in weight pockets, called integrated weights, that make for a much more comfortable dive.

So, if you’re looking to up your diving performance and make the most out of your time underwater, a good scuba diving BCD is a total must-have. It’s like having your own underwater butler, keeping you organized and comfortable all at the same time!


2. Short Divers BCD History

Life BCDs from Air Force war surplus was adopted by US Navy divers as early as the 1950s for their underwater operations.

However, the first buoyancy control device designed specifically for divers was the Sea Quest, which was introduced by the French company Fenzy in 1961.

Unlike modern BCDs, this device did not have an inner bladder and was instead made of rubberized fabric with glue-sealed seams.

It included a compressed air bottle that was filled from the main tank and passed into the collar, making it a small reserve of extra air. The device had to be deflated manually.


3. Diving BCD Parts

The different parts of a SCUBA diving BCD include:

  • The bladder, which inflates and holds gas.
  • Harnesses and straps to keep the scuba diving BC attached to the diver and to hold the tank
  • The inflator, which has a hose connected to the diving bottle and another hose connected to the BCD. It typically has a red button to add air and a gray or black button to release air. Some modern dive BCDs have a built-in vent hole.
  • The low-pressure hose, which connects the regulator to the buoyancy compensator so you can inflate it with air from the bottle.
  • The trachea, which connects the inflator and the bladder.
  • Overpressure valves to prevent the BCD from bursting. They have a dumping system to quickly deflate the BCD in case of emergency.
  • Pockets to store things or place weights, with or without zippers. Alternatively, some scuba BCDs have integrated weights.
  • The supportive backplate.
  • Rings to hang accessories or attach the diving console with gauges and a compass.

So, there you have it. A scuba diving BCD may look simply, but it’s actually a complex and well-designed piece of equipment that helps keep divers safe and comfortable underwater.


4. Types Of Scuba BCDs

1. The first type is the traditional Scuba diving BCD, which is the most commonly used in recreational diving. It’s an inflatable buoyancy control device with air bladders on the sides and back. These types of scuba BCDs typically have pockets on the sides for weights.

Within the traditional buoyancy compensator category, there are travel BCDs. These are perfect if you’re looking for a lightweight and portable option. Travel ones are made with fewer weight materials, making them smaller and easier to pack in a suitcase. Some even have soft backplates that can be folded down. However, they often eliminate features such as weight pockets and rings to save space and tend to have less buoyancy capacity.


2. The second type of scuba diving BCD is the wing design. It is mainly used for technical diving but not only. Every day more recreational divers prefer them.

Know more about them in the article “A Scuba Backplate Isn’t Just for Technical Divers.”

The wing-style BCD configuration has a plate that holds the tank, bladder, and harness. One of its advantages is that each module can be purchased separately, allowing you to customize your setup according to your specific needs. The wing model is ideal for diving with a side mount or other mount types, but setting it up for the first time can be challenging.


3. Another type of scuba diving BCD is the hybrid or back inflation BCD. This type of buoyancy control device only has a bladder on the back that inflates and surrounds the diving tank, and the front part only has pockets and harnesses.

Although it looks very similar to a traditional buoyancy compensator, it has better hydrodynamics and is easier to move through the water. However, staying afloat on the surface could be less comfortable because all the buoyancy is just at the back. This type of scuba BCD is relatively new but becoming more popular among divers.


5. What Should I Consider to Buy the Best Scuba BCD?

Buoyancy compensator size and comfort

When selecting your scuba diving BCD, it is important to prioritize size and comfort.

It’s crucial to find a scuba BCD that allows for movement freedom. So, it should not be too tight, as this could make it difficult to breathe when inflated.

When choosing between two sizes, consider the thickness of the suit you will be wearing, and opt for the larger size if necessary. Don’t worry, because adjustable straps on the chest, abdomen, and sides can help you achieve an optimal fit. Additionally, a comfortable ventral belt and easy-to-release buckles are important features to look for. Make sure also the part of the jacket that will be in contact with your back is padded to prevent any discomfort or pain.

Choose the BCD that best suits your shape. For example, Women’s BCD models are designed to prevent discomfort, particularly in the chest and lower back.


Diving BCD buoyancy capacity

When you’re looking for your perfect BCD, it’s important to consider the air volume it can hold.

Traditional buoyancy compensator gas capacity is closely linked with size.

Usually, buoyancy control devices designed for kids and teenagers are capable of holding 12-14 liters / 3.2-3.7 gal whereas those for individuals of medium stature (both women and men) have a capacity of 14-18 liters / 3.7-4.7 gal. On the other hand, larger-sized BCDs, such as those categorized as large and extra-large, are capable of containing 18-26 liters / 4.7-6.9 gal.

This is another reason why choosing the right size is essential. Since the bigger your buoyancy control device is, the more resistance it will oppose into the water, and the more difficulties you will have to move. The upward thrust will also be greater.

When we talk about recreational diving with standard equipment, the sizes of the diving BCDs are enough to provide the necessary lift. But what about technical diving loaded with cylinders and heavy equipment? What solution do we offer to those who dive in icy waters with dry suits? They will need a larger capacity scuba diving BC. They will need a wing BCD.

Technical divers must make elaborate calculations to decide the wing BCD size they need.

Usually, in recreational scuba diving, it is enough to use a positive buoyancy of 22-28lbs / 11-14kg.

If one is using a large single tank or light twin tanks, then medium wings weighing 30-32lbs / 15-16kg are suitable.

Finally, when double-cylinder diving, wing BCDs with a positive buoyancy ranging from 40-50lbs / 20-25kg are required to provide greater lift.


Diving BCD manufacturing materials

Diving BCDs are typically made from two different types of synthetic fabrics: nylon and Cordura.

Nylon scuba BCDs are usually lighter and cheaper, making them great for recreational diving.

On the other hand, Cordura dive BCDs are more durable and long-lasting, although they’re generally heavier and more expensive. These are ideal for instructors or professional divers who use them frequently.

Some models combine both materials. They are the most expensive ones because they are lightweight yet resistant.

To determine how much abrasion a dive BCD can withstand, check its “sanity rating.” The higher the number, the stronger the scuba diving BCD will be. So, if you’re looking for a BCD that can handle lots of wear and tear, choose one with a high sanity rating.


Additional buoyancy control device features

When choosing your perfect scuba diving BC, there are some additional features to keep in mind. Firstly, if you don’t want to use a weight belt, consider the integrated weight system and look for a BCD with pockets to store weights. Some classic models can carry up to 4.5 kg / 14. 7 lb. in each pocket.

Another useful feature is D-rings, which allow you to attach accessories. If you carry a lot of gear and want easy access to it, look for a multi-ring scuba BCD. Stainless steel rings are the best, as they’re more durable.

Pockets for small accessories like flashlights, knives, or spare masks can come in handy. Though, If you prefer to have the front of your buoyancy compensator clear, avoid models with large pockets.

In addition to the two main ones and the upper safety strap, some diving jackets have an extra fixing strap. It is particularly useful if you’re diving with longer aluminum tanks.

Another feature to consider is an integrated trachea. This option makes it easier and more comfortable to control the air inlet and outlet of the jacket, although it may come at a slightly higher price. Check that the trachea has inflation and deflation buttons that are easy to operate with your left hand, and consider its length for maximum convenience.

Lastly, a scuba diving BC with multiple relief valves is great because it allows you to adjust buoyancy without changing your swimming position.

By keeping these features pros and cons in mind, you’ll be able to find the perfect diving BCD for you!


6. Scuba Diving BCD Maintenance

Check before diving

It’s vital to check your scuba BCD inflator works and keeps air pressure properly. Check the straps, tank band, and closures for any signs of excessive wear or corrosion, especially those made of metal. If you find slightly corroded zippers, clean them with vinegar and use food-grade silicone spray to prevent future oxidation.


After the dive procedure

After your dive, rinse your scuba BCD thoroughly with water. Make sure to clean the valves, buttons, and surface of the material. Sand and salt can get inside the buoyancy compensator underwater, so clean the inside too.

Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach or alcohol-based mouthwashes, as they can damage the diving BC and make it brittle. Instead, use tap water or commercial dive BCD cleaning products. To clean the interior, press the deflation button hold the hose against the mechanism, then shake the SCUBA BC to distribute the water and repeat as needed. After cleaning, empty all the water by inflating the scuba diving BC and turning it inside out while holding the letdown button to force the water out.

Always check your scuba BCD for any tears, broken stitches, cracks, or other issues before your next dive. Dry it in a cool, dry place by inflating it slightly and hanging it on a hanger or railing.

Your diving BCD must be completely dry before storing it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and any vapors, solvents, or chemicals. Remove all weights from the compartments before storing them, and apply silicone lubricant to the rubber parts to help prolong their life. Finally, to maintain the manufacturer’s warranty, ask for a technical check for your diving BCD.

Contact us if you have any other questions about your scuba diving BCD.