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A BCD is often a relatively new diver’s first major scuba diving equipment purchase, after the initial investment of a wetsuit, fins, weight-belt, mask and snorkel.
The acronym BCD stands for Buoyancy Control Device or Buoyancy Compensator Device.
Most backpackers opt for travel BCDs for their weight saving technology, while those looking to take diving seriously may look to invest in a technical BCD.
Although this is a lot to think about, and you wouldn’t want to get such a long-term purchase wrong, you need not worry.
We are here to guide you, having broken down the benefits and suitability of each style of BCD, and reviewing some of the best beginner BCDs on the market in 2019.
|Best For||Make||Check it Out!|
|Best Jacket BCD||Cressi Aquaride Pro BCD||Get Best Price|
|Best Back Inflated BCD||Zeagle Ranger BCD||Get Best Price|
|Best Hybrid BCD||Mares Hybrid BCD||Get Best Price|
|Best Travel BCD||Oceanic Biolite Buoyancy Compensator BCD||Get Best Price|
|Best Woman’s BCD||ScubaPro Bella BCD||Get Best Price|
|Best Cheap BCD||Cressi Start BCD||Get Best Price|
When it comes to the best jacket-style BCD for beginners, we recommend looking no further than the Cressi Aquaride. This relatively affordable option combines all the optional extras you need with ultimate comfort, durability and practicality.
The Cressi brand has a rather bulletproof reputation. It was started in the and remains one of the biggest underwater sport brands around. Furthermore, this specific model is commonly used by dive centers around the world without issue.
This is because the BCD is made from an incredibly tough material, specially designed to withstand daily professional use. On top of impressive durability, you are protected by a warranty that covers problems within a year of purchase.
Impressive comfort is achieved through adjustable shoulder straps, as well as an integrated weight system. The integrated weight system can hold up to 9 kgs (20lbs), which are stored in two large pouches on either side of the diver – so far rather standard stuff really.
However, this is no standard integrated weight system, and includes everything you need. Each weight pouch uses the Cressi pocket lock system to secure the weights and includes a quick-release for emergency situations.
Furthermore, back trim pockets to help with weight distribution, while a variety of extra pockets and clips make the BCD a rather practical option. You should never run out of space for various accessories such as your dive light.
Much like the previously reviewed Cressi Aqualine, the Zeagle Ranger is a performs on all fronts with its integrated weight system. The main difference is the position of the BCDs air bladders behind the diver.
For ultimate comfort and fit, Zeagle has included their Personal Fit System (PFS). This is a set of adjustable straps that allow you to adjust the BCDs size to perfectly fit your body shape. While the shoulder straps are nothing special, and seen and many modern BCDs, the sternum strap and stretchy cumberband set this BCD apart.
Made from the toughest materials, and tested in dive schools around the world, this setup is built to last. Furthermore, its customizable setup means that your BCD can evolve with your expertise and experience, eliminating the need to upgrade. Want to dive with a second tank or improve your BCDs lift capacity with a second bladder? No problem!
With regards to storage, Zeagle has provided 2 zip pockets, large enough for nifty dive accessories such as your dive light. If this isn’t sufficient, you can clip your accessories onto one of the BCDs 6 D-rings. For me these clips are perfect, keeping my gear accessible at all times.
The only real downside of the Zeagle Ranger is its weight. At 3.8 kg (8.4 lbs) it becomes a little cumbersome for travelers, who often opt for lighter models that fold or compress more easily.
As far as hybrid BCDs go, we recommend going with Mares Hybrid BCD. Like all hybrid BCDs, it combines a jacket-style BCD’s surface stability with a back-inflate BCD’s aquadynamic trim.
However, this model goes one step further, making it the perfect all-rounder.
Its lightweight design and foldable backplate make it ideal for traveling too. Sure, it’s not as light as dedicated travel BCDs, but you get so much more.
Mares quality guarantees that all the basics are covered, ensuring comfort, practicality, durability, and sufficient storage space.
With travel in mind, this model is incredibly tough, using materials strong enough to stand the test of time.
And to guarantee comfort, the straps are adjustable from 3 points, meaning that you can mould the BCD to your body, nice and snug.
Underwater, the BCD does not constrict your movements whatsoever. This is because the air bladder is not part of the harness, and the modular integrated weight system is extremely comfortable, giving you sensational freedom of movement.
At just 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs), and with a compact design that is able to fold for easy storage, Oceanic has created a fantastic BCD for traveling divers. However, this BCD provides comfort and performance as well as practicality.
Comfort comes from the Oceanic’s stretchy Bioflex material, as well as the shoulder and torso adjustment systems, which help the BCD conform to the shape of your body. These features help achieve a snug fit, a real necessity for comfort.
This same flexible technology is used with the air bladders, allowing smaller compartments to be used. These less-bulky bladders stretch when inflated, reducing drag and improving aquadynamics.
Moreover, the bladders are located at the back of the BCD, making the Oceanic Biolite BCD a back-inflate style BCD and further improving your aquadynamics.
Keeping up with the latest technology, this BCD includes a 6.5 kg (14.3 lbs) integrated weight system. This comes with an instant quick release system, as well as a 2.3 kg trim weight pocket.
Ultimately, this travel BCD provides ultimate practicality, with almost no sacrifice. At just 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs), and including all the latest bells and whistles, the only sacrifice is an integrated weight system that can hold slightly less weight.
As a BCD designed specifically for women, this should fit better than unisex models, aiding comfort. This effect is compounded by the self-adjusting buckle and stretchy cumberband that further helps this BCD morph to the shape of your body.
It is a jacket-style BCD, meaning stability at the surface, as well as familiarity for most divers. However, this means that those who feel constricted by air bladders around their torso may prefer a different option.
Although jacket-style BCDs are associated with an instability at the surface, this is combated with an integrated weight system that includes space for trim weights.
In total, the integrated weight system can accommodate just under 10 kg (22 lbs) and includes a quick release system for emergency situations.
And with regards to storage, large zipper pockets and D-rings create space for your dive light and any other small accessories. Ultimately this is a solid BCD that will serve you for many years, providing performance and tailored comfort.
Cressi, founded in 1946, is one of the biggest names in underwater sports, equipping scuba divers, freedivers, snorkelers, spearfishermen and swimmers. With such a brand, quality is guaranteed, even with their entry level BCDs such as the Cressi Start.
The idea behind this BCD is simplicity, which translates into affordability, making this the perfect BCD for beginners. New divers will love how straightforward this model is, as well as the fact that it doesn’t require you to fork out an arm and a leg.
Although this model is more affordable than most other options, it will still stand the test of time. This is due to its tough 1000 denier Cordura fabric, which has proved itself much stronger than its nylon counterparts.
With regards to practicality, there are large, velcro storage pockets as well as D-rings to store everything you need. Furthermore, the air pockets are extremely easy to clean because of the inflator twin air filter.
The only downside to this BCD is a lack of integrated weights, but you can’t expect all the bells and whistles at such a low price. Furthermore, a weight-belt easily makes up for this deficiency. Ultimately, this BCD punches above its weight, providing quality at an extremely competitive price point.
Very simply, a BCD is an inflatable device that provides divers with increasing buoyancy as its air bladders are filled with air. It is a vital piece of diving equipment that allows scuba divers to ascend, descend, or maintain their depth.
While one button causes a sudden burst of air from a diver’s tank to inflate the BCD, another releases bubbles, deflating it.
A correctly weighted diver will have a slightly negative buoyancy, and therefore needs a BCD to prevent himself/herself from sinking like the Titanic.
At the surface, one’s BCDs are inflated, keeping divers positively buoyant. Then, in order to achieve negative buoyancy and descend, they are deflated.
Once divers reach their desired depth, a short burst of air is needed to ever-so-slightly inflate their BCD and achieve neutral buoyancy.
Constant adjustment is then required underwater because as divers venture deeper below the surface, underwater pressure increases. This pressure compresses your wetsuit, as well as the air in your BCD’s bladders, ultimately reducing buoyancy.
At the end of a dive, when it’s finally time to resurface, divers will carefully add air to their BCD until they begin to inch towards the surface. This is done in an extremely controlled manner to avoid decompression sickness.
Your first challenge will be to decide on a style of BCD. This is a personal choice, that comes down to your specific diving needs.
Which are determined by where you dive, what type of diving you do, and any equipment you already own. Fortunately, the suitability of each BCD style is analyzed throughout this article in the previous sections.
If you already have a regulator setup or have one you are planning to acquire, bear in mind that you’ll need to choose from BCDs that are compatible with it. Otherwise, you are ready to go shopping.
When looking for BCDs, how the item fits is the main consideration. This comes down to how comfortable your BCD is, and if it is the right size. Remember to account for the thickness of your suit when deciding on a size. Furthermore, divers who wear gloves will benefit from bulkier clips, buttons, straps, and releases.
Otherwise, your choice will come down to extra features, affordability, brand preferences, color, and aesthetics. As long as you remember to prioritize comfort and suitability, you should end up a happy customer.
This is the most common type of BCD, the type that almost all divers learn to dive with. It’s shaped like a sleeveless vest, with built-in air bladders surrounding the diver, usually from the front, back, and sides.
This style of Buoyancy Control Device is known for excellent stability, especially in a vertical position. This, along with its ease-of-use and general familiarity makes jacket style BCDs extremely popular amongst hobbyist divers.
While this style is objectively comfortable, some divers do not like the way it compresses one’s torso upon inflation, and prefer less bulky options such as back-inflate BCDs.
A back-inflate BCD is similar to a BCD jacket, but has its air bladders located on the back rather than around a divers torso. For divers who feel squished when inflating jacket style BCDs, this is a welcome relief.
By relocating the air bladder, the chest area is decluttered, resulting in a more minimalist setup. This is especially popular amongst freedivers and spearfishing enthusiasts who are accustomed to diving without the burden of so much gear.
However, the main advantage of this type of BCD is the diving position it facilitates underwater. By relocating the air bladders, divers are more stable, floating in a horizontal position, which is often referred to as trim.
By improving trim, you become more comfortable and will improve your aquadynamics. While this comfort comes from a lower center of gravity, your new streamlined diving position will require less energy and oxygen while diving, ultimately allowing you to dive for longer.
The only downside of such a setup is the floating position above water. While an inflated jacket-style BCDs keep you in a stable horizontal position on the surface, back-inflate versions tend to keep pushing you into a horizontal position, often submerging your face.
This issue can, however, be avoided by slightly deflating your BCD, or shifting your center of gravity backward. With a bit of practice, this is usually not a major problem, but is something to consider. If you are doing many shore dives requiring long swim outs, maybe this isn’t the best option for you.
This type of BCD aims to combine the benefits of back-inflate and jacket-style BCDs by combining features from both of these styles.
By making use of air bladders at the back of the BCD, as well as around the torso, hybrid BCDs achieve horizontal stability underwater, as well as vertical stability at the surface.
This means maintaining your aquadynamic trim, while not having to deal with your face being pushed towards the water when you are at the surface.
Furthermore, because the air bladders are spread around the back and torso, you will not feel squeezed once the BCD is inflated.
Otherwise, this style of BCD is much like your regular jacket-style or back-inflate BCD, with a variety of different options depending on the model and brand you choose. While some have an integrated weight system, others require weight belts.
The travel BCD niche is relatively new, but has exploded with increased amounts of travelers looking to bring diving equipment with them.
They are regular BCDs, with small adjustments that make them ideal for the globetrotting diver.
This style of BCD is lighter than its counterparts, losing precious kilograms by substituting steel for plastic wherever possible, and removing the backplate.
The lack of a backplate also makes the BCD much easier to pack, as it is no longer rigid.
However, serious divers using their equipment on a daily basis, such as dive instructors, should steer clear of travel BCDs. Rather invest in more heavy-duty equipment designed to withstand everyday use and abuse.
Many BCDs are created as unisex products, and can work well for men and female.
However, a BCD’s comfort is, to a large degree, determined by its fit. That is why we strongly suggest that female divers stick to Buoyancy Control Devices specifically designed for their body shape.
A women’s cut is narrower around the shoulders and has a little extra and hip chest space, while the back plates usually have heavier padding.
The result, a BCD that will mould around a female body, helping achieve maximum comfort.
Otherwise, female BCD’s are much the same as their male counterparts, with a variety of options and styles available.
When it comes to beginner scuba gear, while you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on the latest hi-tech equipment, you want to stay well clear of cheap off-brand knockoffs. Ultimately, you will keep this gear for years to come and should purchase with a long-term outlook.
We would suggest you slowly accumulate quality dive equipment, building towards a full set. This would serve you better than investing in a more-affordable full-set of diving gear that will need replacement in a couple years.
Furthermore, you will need to have confidence in your gear, as faulty equipment is dangerous, potentially leading to disaster. Ultimately, this is why we suggest sticking to reputable brands known for long-lasting quality.
Technical divers are highly qualified and involved in advanced dives such as cave dives, wreck dives, night dives, and solo dives. These divers require specialized equipment, usually more robust and expensive than regular BCDs.
A hard backplate and inflatable are permanent fixtures of technical BCD rigs, however, the other components are optional extras. Each piece of a technical BCD is detachable, allowing divers to customize their setup to suit every dive’s specific needs.
This type of BCD is generally used by rescue personnel, cave divers, professional underwater cave welders and the-like. It provides ultimate versatility, but requires foresight before each dive, and is therefore not suited to beginner divers.
Don’t worry yourself with such a complex piece of equipment to start off. Rather just enjoy becoming comfortable in the ocean, to begin with.
A sidemount BCD is a type of technical BCD, first used by cave divers. By attaching a tank either side of the diver, they remove the need for two cumbersome tanks to sit on a diver’s back.
By making a diver smaller underwater, the exploration of tight spaces was made easier. Furthermore, this design improves aerodynamics, effectively allowing you to dive for longer.
Again, it would better for beginners to stick with jacket, back-inflate, or hybrid style BCDs.
Most entry-level jacket-style BCDs require one to wear a weight belt. However, others include compartments for diving weights.
This is an optional feature called weight integration, and replace your weight belt.
The benefit of integrated weights is increased comfort and better weight distribution.
Weight belts can be uncomfortable, with large chunks of lead cutting into your side, while an integrated system’s weights sit ergonomically in dedicated pouches.
This is especially pertinent for larger divers, as weight belts tend to slip off certain body shapes.
Furthermore, these weights are spread around a diver’s upper body, rather than concentrated on a belt around the waist.
This provides better weight distribution, helping divers maintain their balance underwater.
The major downside of a jacket-style BCD with an integrated weight system is its cost, with this optional extra generally driving up the cost.
However, you should offset this with the cost of a weight belt, as you will no longer have to purchase one.
Most integrated weight systems can carry around 10 kgs (22 lbs), but this varies so you will have to check your model’s specs.
Ultimately, if you require more weight than your integrated weight system can accommodate, you will need to wear a weight belt.
However, this will just take a few extra weights, making it more comfortable and preventing it from putting your weight distribution out of whack.
Two other vital features every integrated weight systems should include are a quick release for your integrated weights, as well as weight pouches at the back of the BCD.
While a quick release allows you to drop your weights in an emergency ascent, weight pouches at the back of the BCD allow you to adjust your weight distribution and achieve a comfortable floating position.
Ok Squad! Here’s the deal. Scuba Diving requires a ton of gear. This should come as no real surprise, considering that the very nature of this sport is to breathe underwater – the exact opposite of what us humans are evolved to do!
In this article, we’ve covered, just one of the types of gear available. Below is a list of the other gear types you should familiarise yourself with:
Below is a full listing and description of the entire inventory required to scuba dive. Let’s jump right in:
BCD – A BCD is the jacket divers wear to maintain optimum buoyancy, which they can adjust by operating the inflate and deflate buttons. This makes sure they neither sink to the bottom nor rise to the top of the water! As well as this, the BCD holds the divers regulator(s), dive gauge and air tank.
Regulator / Octopus – The regulator reduces pressurised breathing oxygen to ambient pressure and delivers it to the diver through a mouth piece. Remember, you need two – one for you and a spare for a buddy in case of emergencies!
Scuba Weight Belt – A diving weight belt assists with maintaining optimum buoyancy, by stopping divers from floating to the top of the water. How much weight you take will depend on your build, weight and diving ability.
Dive Gauge – Essential for keeping track of your air consumption and the depth at which you are diving. The best ones also feature compasses and can read the water temperature (useful for bragging rights when you go on extremely cold dives!).
Ultimate Combo Package – Whew! That’s a lot of gear we’ve covered. If you don’t yet have any scuba gear and want to bulk buy at great quality and value, this is the number one scuba starter pack out there.
After trying and testing an ocean of backpacks, we’ve come to the coralusion that the Dometool Waterproof Dry Backpack is the number one backpack for divers! Why? Well:
SPLASH! It’s important to remember that scuba diving is an extreme sport. Accidents can happen. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble.
What’s more, because diving can take you all around the world, it’s absolutely essential you make sure you are properly covered by the best scuba diving insurance before leaving your home country.
We recommend going with Dive Assure. Why?
You should be ready to pull the trigger and invest in your first BCD. There is no outright best BCD for beginners, as each type of diver has specifics need. However, we have summarised the best BCD for any occasion.
While travelers will opt for a lightweight design, women should go for something specifically designed for their body shape. On the other hand, those looking for surface stability should stick with hybrid BCD’s, while others looking for the perfect underwater trim would be better off with a back inflate BCD.
Ultimately, as long as you stick to reputable brands, avoiding the temptation to go with lower-quality, cheaper BCDs you will be alright. Remember that your BCD is a long-term purchase, something you will use for many years to come.
To Diving Squad, the grizzly stats above are appalling, tragic and completely UNACCEPTABLE. That’s why we are working hard towards combating plastic pollution in the ocean.
How do we do this? Through spreading awareness, providing informative guides on eco friendly diving and donating 10% of all profits that we make towards combating plastic pollution in the Ocean.
So, how does Diving Squad make money? Through You! Every time you click on one of our painstakingly, yet lovingly researched liveaboard, gear or insurance links and spend money – we earn a % commission thanks to affiliate partnerships.
We then donate 10% of this towards Marine Conservation Schemes that target plastic pollution.
What does this mean? It means that if you book a Liveaboard through a Diving Squad link – some of that money goes directly towards Marine Conservation. Buy a piece of Gear through a Diving Squad link? Nice! You’ve just contributed money towards Marine Conservation. Booked yourself Diving Insurance through Diving Squad? Go, go Marine Conservation!
So help us…help you…help the Ocean. Together, we can do this.
To which Marine Conservation charity do we donate, you might ask? Our squad is already hard at work selecting the ideal candidate. The winner will be announced at the end of 2019. Have a suggestion? We’d love to hear… If we pick your suggestion, there just might be something in it for you…
Contact us at: Alex Hatton: [email protected] (Grand Admiral at Diving Squad).