Which BCD Should I choose?
This is a common question we get asked by people looking to purchase their first BCD. The BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) allows you to adjust your buoyancy underwater to help you become neutrally buoyant, allows you to adjust your trim to make you streamlined and keeps the tank on your back (or sides for the ever more popular sidemount diving).
The main questions you need to answer are:
- Do you need one that is lightweight for travel
- Do you want integrated weight pockets
- Do you want a women’s specific BCD
- Do you want a wing or jacket style BCD
- What type of inflation system would you prefer
- How many pockets and D-rings you need to hang things from
- How much lift you need
- How much do you want to spend
The most important thing in choosing a BCD is that it fits properly. You can ensure this in a few different ways:
- Use the sizing chart under each of the BCD’s listed on our shop website
- You can exchange it if you need a different size – some people order 2 sizes and then just return the one that doesn’t fit properly
- You can come to our shop in Brighton or one of our pool locations in London, Surrey/Berkshire, Oxford and Kent to try it on
Some BCD’s are designed specifically to be lightweight and compact for travel. You normally trade a bit of comfort and durability but for the holiday diver with limited luggage allowance this can be well worth it. Our favourite travel BCD is the Aqua Lung Zuma as it offers good levels of comfort, is light-weight and can easily be packed in to a small space. We generally wouldn’t recommend these for wreck & cavern diving, regular divers who need a BCD to last as the material tends to be thinner than standard BCD’s.
Integrated Weight Pockets
Most people learn to dive using a weight-belt. They can sometimes be heavy on the hips and can be prone to slip down and even fall off. Having weight pockets integrated in to the jacket often means you are more comfortable, especially if you use lots of weights. You can also have trim weight pockets to help you swim more horizontal and streamlined in the water.
If you are wearing lots of weights then you could always combine a few weights in your BCD and also on a weight-belt.
The biggest downside to integrated weights is that it makes your scuba unit much heavier when you are moving it on the surface. This is easily resolved by asking your buddy to help place the weight pockets in to your BCD once you have put it on.
Women’s specific BCD’s
Standard BCD’s are unisex but most BCD manufacturer’s offer a BCD designed to fit the female shape. This gives much greater comfort in and out of the water as well as stability and the ability to be streamlined.
Many women’s BCD’s have the straps in different places to avoid crushing of the bust or weights digging in the hips.
Our favourite womens BCD’s are the Aqua Lung Pearl (mid-range) and Soul (top-of-the-range).
Jacket or Wing?
We teach our open water students to dive using a jacket style BCD. The reason for this is that they wrap around giving the new diver more reassurance. On the surface it helps you to sit upright while waiting for the boat and it’s also very easy to swim on your back while you make your way out of the water.
Wing BCD’s tend to be preferred by technical and more experienced divers. They make you more streamlined in the water and generally have less drag. They tend to be light-weight and you can customise them to your exact requirements. They don’t tend to be as comfortable on the surface but don’t restrict your movement as much when you are in the water.
Our favourite jacket style BCD’s are the Aqua Lung Axiom, Pro HD, Soul and Pearl. Our favourite Wings are any of the Apeks range but especially the Black Ice. You can also buy Hybrid’s such as many in the Mares range.
Most BCD’s have a standard corrugated inflator that comes over the right hand shoulder. You simply hold this above your head to deflate or press the inflator button to add air. You can now buy BCD’s such as Aqua Lung’s i3 range that allows you to deflate in any position by a system built in to the side pocket of the BCD system. You can read more about the features and benefits on our Blog post on the i3 system.
Pockets and D-rings
Some divers like to be kitted out for every eventuality and dress themselves like Christmas trees! D-rings allow you to easily clip things like cameras, slates, lights and reels helping you to find them and keep them safe and tangle free.
BCD pockets are useful for keeping an SMB and things like a spare mask.
The more D-rings you have and the bigger the pockets, the more your BCD tends to weigh and the bigger it gets.
How much lift do you need?
Most manufacturer’s boast how much ‘lift’ a BCD has. Most BCD’s these days have enough lift for everyday use. If you use large 15 litre cylinders, lots of lead weights and have lots of heavy accessories then ‘lift’ becomes more of an issue. Technical divers tend to need more lift their BCD as they are often required to carry multiple cylinders.
How much should I spend?
A bit like cars there are expensive ones and cheap ones. Like most things you tend to get what you pay for. The more expensive BCD’s tend to be better built, are more comfortable and more practical. There are some good mid-range BCD’s such as the Aqua Lung Pro and Pro HD that are good for general purpose. Travel BCD’s like the Zuma are also more affordable. For those who like the best then the Aqua Lung Axiom and Apeks Black Ice are a great choice. For ladies the Aqua Lung Pearl is a fantastically stylish choice and for the more discerning woman then the Soul and Soul i3 should give you all of the comfort and control you need.
For more information and a full range of diving BCD's visit our online dive store.