A Buoyancy Compensator Device—BCD for short—is an integral part of a scuba diver’s kit and most recreational divers start out with a jacket-style BCD, but it’s not the only choice. As divers gain experience or specialize in certain types of diving, their needs change and they may decide it’s time for some new equipment. To help ensure you make the right choice, here are some things to consider.
First a quick reminder about the purpose of a BCD. As its name implies, it helps the diver regulate his or her buoyancy. It does that by using air supplied from either the tank or the diver, who can manually inflate it. To that end, all BCDs have air bladders. How those bladders are positioned is the big difference between the three main styles—Jacket, wing, or back-inflate jacket style BCDs.
Jacket-style BCDs are comfortable, come in loads of sizes and are made specifically to fit men AND women. Bonus! They have pockets! Most recreational divers start in this style of BCD and it was probably the style you rented when you obtained your certification. They are great BCDs.
How they work
The air bladders in a jacket-style wrap around the diver’s waist and up the chest. Because little air wraps around the diver’s back, it is easy to stay upright on the surface, but a tad more difficult to achieve a true trim position in the water—an issue often combated by stashing a light weight in the two trim pockets located on the back of many BCDs.
Two things in particular stand out: Integrated weights and pockets. Integrated weights are easier to ditch in an emergency, and often more comfortable than a weight belt. Pockets are pretty self-explanatory. They carry gear (although, they can be hard to get things in and out of if the BCD is fully inflated.
Jacket-style BCDs work best when they fit, so if you go up or down in size, buoyancy control may become harder to achieve (especially if the BCD is too large). The other drawback is the size of the BCD—especially if you travel and want to take your own gear.
The Scubapro glide was created to deliver absolute comfort. Its wrap-around bladder retains its cradle-like shape even when fully inflated and the new Y-Fit should design delivers exceptional fit and range of motion for the arms. It is full adjustable, with an integrated weight system and features galore.
The BCD of choice for tech divers, it is becoming more popular for recreational divers as well. This is the most versatile style of BCD and many can be configured piece by piece with individual components. At it’s simplest, the BCD is a harness that attaches to a steel or aluminum back-plate. The inflatable bladder is attached to back-plate and pillows the tank against the diver’s back.
How they work
You may have heard this style of BCD referred to as a donut or horseshoe BCD and that’s because of the shape of the bladder. Doughnuts are the most common.
The BCD can be configured specifically to the dive and number of tanks the diver is using. Also, because all the air is behind the diver, at depth, it is easier to stay horizontal. Most wing-style BCDs have integrated weights with quick releases. Back plates come in different thickness—allowing you to go light for vacation or heavier to reduce the amount of weight you put in your weight pouches.
There is a slight learning curve when you first use this style. The same bladder that helps you stay horizontal at depth, pitches you forward on the surface. The easy fix is to pull your legs up slightly while leaning your head back.
The X-TEK Series
Scubapro’s X-TEK series offers the ultimate in customization and technical performance. This modular system is just as comfortable on warm-water, recreational reef dives as it is on sidemounted multi-tank dives in shipwrecks or caves. As your skills and needs change, the X-TEK line can change and expand with you.
Back-Inflate Jacket-Style BCDs
This style is often simply referred to as a hybrid BCD, because really, who wants to rattle off such a long name? That said, this style combines the best of both jacket and wing-style BCDs and many manufacturers offer their own models.
How they work
Beefier than a simple harness, this style fits like a jacket around the shoulders and waist, but the air bladder is still on the back.
Because of the air bladder placement, it is easy to stay horizontal in the water. They also have pockets. Because it is not a full jacket, it tends to be lighter and packs smaller than a regular jacket-style BCD, making it a popular travel choice.
Again, the placement of the air bladder tends to pitch the diver forward while at the surface.
A true breakthrough in design, dive comfort, and convenience, the Hydros is Scubapro’s premiere back flotation BCD. Its 2-BCDs-in-1 design makes it the perfect BCD for any destination and any dive. It comes in men’s and women’s sizes and is fully customizable.
Jupiter Dive Center Gear
Choosing the right dive equipment is an important decision. We’re here to help. We carry the full line of Scubapro BCDs and our staff is happy to help you find the one that best fits your needs.