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What is the Best Scuba Diving Vest for You? Buying Guide

scuba diving vest

I confess I’m very bad at many things.

For example, I’m a complete disaster at DIY, any task, even just nailing a nail, is impossible for me.

I’m also terrible at telling jokes, not to mention that I never remember any.

Additionally, I’m terrible at buying electronic devices. There’s no processor, GB number, or pixels that make me understand why they cost so much. With diving vests, I feel something similar, and it’s that I don’t know how to distinguish a good one from a regular one.

The questions we receive make me suspect that I’m not the only one.

But there’s something I do well. Very well. It’s asking experts and telling you about my findings.

I’ve searched for information about BCD vests, I’ve asked our Dive Instructors about the types of diving vests, and I’ve talked to our Course Directors about what features the perfect diving jacket should have for you. This is what I’ve found.

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1. What Is a Diving Vest?

The diving vest, also known as a ‘jacket’ or BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), is an essential piece of diving equipment that greatly enhances safety. It allows you to control your buoyancy, allowing you to easily float on the surface and maintain neutral buoyancy while submerged.

The scuba vest also holds the air tank you need to breathe underwater unless you use side-mount.

In addition to BCDs, there are other types of diving vests made of neoprene that can be worn under a wet suit or in place of one. These are designed to conserve your body heat while diving in cold water.

 

2. Diving Jacket Parts

As its name suggests, the diving vest is worn like any other piece of clothing with that name. However, it does not have buttons or zippers for a fitted look but rather relies on shoulder straps, a waistband, and a chest strap or buckle. The dive bottle with a regulator connected to it can be attached to the back of the dive vest with an adjustable strap. In addition to straps, the various parts of the diving vest include:

  • the bladder, which is the part that inflates and holds the gas;
  • the inflator, which consists of a hose connected to the regulator and another hose connected to the diving jacket. It has a button (usually red) to add air and another button (usually gray or black) to release air. Some modern scuba diving jackets have a built-in vent hole in the inflator.
  • the low-pressure hose, which connects the regulator to the scuba vest so you can inflate it with air from the bottle.
  • the trachea, which connects the inflator and the bladder;
  • overpressure valves to prevent the scuba diving vest from getting too full and bursting. They have a dumping system to quickly deflate the dive jacket in case of emergency.
  • pockets (with or without zippers) to store things or place weights. Alternatively, there may be integrated weights.
  • the backplate, which serves as a frame;
  • rings to hang accessories or attach the diving console with gauges and a compass.
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3. Types of Scuba Diving Vests or BCD Buoyancy Control Devices

Did you know that the pioneers of autonomous diving did not wear diving jackets? The first diving vest was marketed by Frenzy in 1961. Today, however, there are hundreds of different models with different features. In general, we can divide them into three different types based on their shape.

  1. The first type is the traditional diving vest or jacket, which is the most common for recreational diving.

It is an inflatable vest with several air bladders on the sides and in the back. This type of BCD usually has pockets on the sides where you can put the weights. They are ideal for beginner divers because they are very safe. However, as with everything when it comes to diving, it is essential to check that each of the parts is working and there are no air leaks.

Within the traditional diving jacket, we find travel vests. These are great if you’re looking for the lightest, most portable piece of equipment. These diving vests are made with lighter materials and are smaller in size so that they fit in a suitcase. Some even have soft backplates that can be folded down. However, there is always a catch. To save space, they eliminate features such as weight pockets, rings, etc., and being lighter, they tend to have less buoyancy capacity.

  1. The second type of scuba diving vest is the wing type, which is most commonly used for technical diving, but not only. We already talked about this in the article `A Scuba Backplate Isn’t Just for Technical Divers’

The configuration of the wing-type scuba vest is based on the plate, which holds the tank, bladder, and harnesses. Among its advantages, we find that each module is independent and can be purchased separately, so you can change the wing, the plate, or the harness according to your needs. It is also highly customizable. The wing model is well suited for diving with a side mount or other type of mount. However, they can be difficult to set up the first time.

  1. The third type of diving jacket is the hybrid or back inflation. It is a type of scuba diving vest in which only a bladder located on the back inflates and surrounds the diving tank. However, this dive vest has a design very similar to the traditional BCD vest, but in the front, there are only pockets and harnesses.

This type of scuba vest is relatively new, but it improves hydrodynamics and has less resistance in the water than a traditional jacket. The only drawback is that divers may have problems on the surface due to all the buoyancy being at the rear.

If we do not base our classification on other qualities, we can make other classifications of dive vests. For example:

  • Scuba vests with or without integrated weight.
  • Diving vests with integrated inflators (you always know where the inflator is) or with the inflator connected to the tank with a hose.
  • Scuba Diving vests with a single or double bladder.
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4. What Should I Look For When Buying a Scuba Diving Vest That Meets My Needs?

4.1 Size and comfort: These are key factors when choosing your diving vest.

You don’t want one that is too big and prevents you from moving freely, or one that is too tight and uncomfortable.

The best thing is for the diving jacket to not be overtight and to not make it difficult for you to breathe when fully inflated.

Most of the vest models have adjustable straps on the chest, abdomen, and sides, so that you can adapt it to your body optimally. Make sure the abdominal strap closes securely and without difficulty.

The specific models for women have a special design to avoid discomfort, especially on the chest and lower back.

If you are undecided between two sizes of a vest model, you must also take into account the type of wetsuit you will be diving in.

If it is thick, it is better to choose the larger size. Remember that you will be spending a lot of time in your BC, both in and out of the water, so it is essential that you feel comfortable.

In addition to size and comfort, there are other features to consider when choosing your scuba diving vest.

 

4.2. Diving vest buoyancy capacity

When you’re looking for your perfect vest, it’s important to consider the ability to hold air.

Typically, vests for children and adolescents have a capacity of 12-14 liters – 3.17-3.70 gallons, while those of medium size (for women and men of average size) have a capacity of 14-18 liters – 3.70-4.75 gallons. The large and extra-large vests, meanwhile, have a capacity of 18-26 liters – 4.75-6.87 gallons.

Why is this important? Well, because the bigger your BCD vest is, the more resistance it will oppose to movement underwater, which will make it more difficult to control with precision and it will take more effort to move. In addition, it will cause you more instability when changing position.

But be careful, you also have to take into account the type of water in which you are going to dive. If it’s warm water, you can wear a thin wetsuit and you won’t need as much ballast to sink, so you won’t need as much air in your BC to come up and stay afloat on the surface.

However, if you are diving in cold water and you are wearing a thicker suit, especially a dry suit, you will need more weight and therefore a larger capacity BC.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the buoyancy capacity of the BC determines the maximum size of the bottle or bottles that you can use in a dive.

If you are a technical diver and plan to dive with more than one cylinder, carry heavy equipment, or wear a thick neoprene or dry suit, you will need a larger capacity scuba jacket.

However, for recreational single tank diving, any BCD model will give you enough flotation as long as it is your correct size.

 

4.3. Diving jacket manufacturing materials

Diving vests, are commonly made from two synthetic fabrics: nylon and Cordura. Nylon scuba vests are lighter and often cheaper, making them ideal for recreational diving. On the other hand, Cordura dive vests are more resistant and durable, although they are also usually more expensive and heavier. They are perfect for instructors or people who are dedicated to professional diving and use them daily or very frequently. There are also models that combine both materials, preserving the lightness of nylon and providing greater resistance to the diving vest.

Do you want to measure how much a dive vest resists abrasion? In that case, you can look at the “sanity rating,” which will indicate the degree of resistance. The higher the number, the stronger the scuba vest will be.

Additional features that your diving vest must have to make it the perfect one for you:

The integrated weight. If you prefer to have weights inside the jacket instead of using a weight belt, make sure your new scuba diving jacket has pockets for integrating the weight. Some classic models can carry up to 4.5 kg/ 9.92 pounds. in each pocket.

D-rings are also a very useful feature for attaching your accessories. If you typically carry a lot of connectors and want to keep everything within reach, look for a multi-ring scuba vest of this type. The best thing is that they are made of stainless steel, as they are more durable!

Finally, pockets for storing small diving accessories, such as flashlights, knives, or spare masks, can be a helpful feature. If you prefer to have the front of your scuba buoyancy vest free, it is best to avoid models with large pockets.

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5. Scuba Diving Jacket Maintenance

 

5.1. Before diving:

Make sure your scuba vest inflator is functioning properly and that your diving jacket is maintaining air pressure. Check the belt, waist strap, shoulder straps, tank band, and all closures for excessive wear, especially if they are metal and may be corroded. Clean slightly corroded zippers with vinegar and spray them with food grade silicone to prevent future corrosion.

 

5.2. After the dive:

Rinse the scuba vest with water. Don’t forget to rinse the valves, buttons, and the surface of the material. Be sure to clean the inside of your scuba jacket as well. Sand and salt can get inside while we are underwater. Do not use harsh chemicals like bleach or alcohol mouthwashes when cleaning. They can damage the vest and leave it brittle. Instead, use only tap water or special commercial dive vest cleaning products. To clean the interior, press the deflation button while aiming the water from the hose at the mechanism. Shake the jacket a bit to distribute the water and repeat the process as many times as necessary. Then, empty all the water inside your BCD vest. To do this, inflate your vest and turn it inside out. Hold the letdown button as you squeeze the jacket against your body, forcing the water out through the inflation hose.

Always check your scuba jacket for tears, broken stitches, cracks, or other issues. This will only take a few seconds, but it will help you prepare for your next dive, especially if something needs to be fixed. Dry your diving jacket in a cool, dry place. You can inflate it slightly and then hang it on a railing or hanger. Make sure your scuba vest is completely dry before storing it away. When storing it, make sure it doesn’t get direct sunlight or come into contact with vapors, solvents, or chemicals. Instead, store it in a cool, dry place and remove all weights from the compartments before storing. You can also apply some silicone lubricant to the rubber parts to help it last longer. And don’t forget to have your diving jacket checked annually by a certified technician to keep the manufacturer’s warranty. Enjoy and stay safe! Do you have any other questions about your scuba diving vest? If so, feel free to ask here or on Facebook.

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