Back Inflate BCDs are taking the recreational diving community by storm, but it wasn’t always this way.
In fact, virtually everyone learns to dive using a jacket bcd, which is the more traditional make of buoyancy control device.
That’s because back inflate bcds require a little more experience to use.
However, there are a number of advantages to back inflate bcds such as the fact that they offer a better range of underwater motion, improved trim and being more air efficient.
In this guide, we’ll be first reviewing our top 6 picks of back inflate bcd – the very best models available, chosen among the dozens of makes we’ve checked out.
We also provide you with a buyers checklist to help make sure you know which model is right for you and next we’ll discuss the pros and cons of back inflate bcds in more detail. Let’s dive in:
Diving Squad Review: The Aqua Lung Dimension i3 is a special back inflation bcd for several reasons. First, let’s talk about the wrapture harness system. This bc uses patented swivel shoulder buckles as well as a proprietary, uber-thin backplate in order to achieve next level comfort and stability.
Furthemore, the design of this wrapture system limits how much the BC rides up when you’re on the surface – a well known downside of back inflation bcds. Honestly, we did find it to still ride up a little on the water’s surface – but considerably less than most other back inflate bcds.
Out of the water, the wrapture keeps the air cylinder close to one’s centre of gravity, transferring the weight to your hips. This makes the cylinder perfectly vertical, meaning it’s easy to stand upright!
Next, the patented i3 control system means you can inflate and deflate the BC with just one touch. This eliminates the need for the traditional inflator that dangles, sometimes annoyingly, at the end of a corrugated hose. It’s simple and easy to use – just lift up on the lever to inflate and push down to dump air.
Third, the patented Surelock II Mechanical Weight Release System, provides a single pull release for maximum safety. Inserting weights is easy and then they’re secure – only being released, when you pull the handle.
There’s also a bladder retraction system that’s used to pull in the sides of the bladder during deflation, keeping the unit steamlined and reducing drag considerably.
With 4 stainless steel D-rings, a security pocket attached to a larger drop down pocket and various knife attachment points, it’s easy to keep your additional gear safe, secure and organised whilst diving with this bcd.
All these features come together to form a truly awesome buoyancy control device which is why the Aqua Lung Dimension i3 is, in our opinion, the very best back inflation bcd trending the market right now.
Diving Squad Review: The Apeks Black ice, besides having the world’s coolest name, is a weight-integrated, back inflation hybrid bcd. Rugged and heavy duty, it “blends technical, military and public safety applications” according to Apeks. And we agree.
Despite being a fairly bulky bcd – which may not appeal to some divers from an aesthetic perspective, it provides stellar comfort, fit and stability all thanks to it’s Wrapture Harness System.
Yes, it’s a little on the heavy side but you won’t mind this when diving in cold water for which the Apeks Black ice is well designed. That’s because it’s exceptionally well padded, having been designed for wear over a thick wetsuit.
We found tis extra padding really comfortable and were pleased to find that no metal or plastic pieces dug into our sides even slightly, as can happen with more minimalist bc’s.
Due to it’s modular nature, a custom can fit can be. achieved through any of the three sizes. This customisability is only offset by the fact that the Apeks Black comes in just one colour. But it’s the coolest (and least surprising) colour of them all: black.
It features the Sure-Lock II mechanical weight release system for easy weight loading and release, plus it’s power line inflator is environmentally sealed for less maintenance. There’s also 2 large pockets, knife attachment points and 5 stainless steel D-rings. The Apeks Black Ice is our Second Top Pick for certain!
Diving Squad Review: The Oceanic Jetpack is a weight integrated bcd with a twist – it transforms into a day bag, complete with waterproof zippered pockets – perfect for carrying the rest of your scuba gear.
That’s because it’s a travel bcd; lightweight yet durable buoyancy control devices designed especially for taking with you on your world excavations.
There’s more to the Oceanic Jetpack than it’s ergonomic, travel friendly functionality though. It’s air cell has elastic bungee straps which keep the back inflation bladder low in profile and also assists with rapid deflation.
It’s a one size fits all with a custom fit for everyone: it features adjustable sternum, waist and padded shoulder straps. Furthermore, adjustable position weight pockets allow optimum balance in the water.
Thanks to the Oceanics versatile power inflator, which comes equipped with an internal pull dump cable attached to a dump valve, buoyancy control and trim are outstanding.
This is a great weight integrated bcd with a twist – and also one of our absolute favourite travel bcds. You can check out our main article about Travel bcds here. Many of them are back-inflation models.
Diving Squad Review: This may be one of the most expensive BCDs out there but wow, do you get your moneys worth. Much of this comes down to the unique manufacturing process that the Scubapro Hydros Pro undergoes.
Whereas most BCDs are created using a cut, trim and make process, Scubapro use an all new fluid-form 3d gel system, whereby the harness components are moulded in soft, resilient thermoplastic elastomer and then assembled using a modular process.
The result? A bcd that conforms around the body of it’s wearer in an ergonomic fit with highly efficient load distribution, totally free of any pressure points whatsoever. Excellent buoyancy control, manoeuvrability and comfort are achieved this way.
Plus, the monoprene harness retains virtually no water whatsoever meaning it dries almost instantly after each dive. The fabric free construction also provides superb resistance to UV and chemicals – and because this bcd is modular in design, it is both easy to repair and highly customisable.
In addition to coming in a wide colour range, the Scubapro Hydros Pro is available in a woman’s cut or a man’s. That’s because women and men have different torso proportions and whilst traditioanlly BCDs have been “unisex”, such cuts are more suited to men than women.
For maximum ease of fit, women should invest in a women’s cut bcd, which the Scubapro Hydros BCD offers (as well as offering a male cut for men). You can read about more Womens BCDs here.
We wanted to make the Scubapro Hydros Pro bcd our favourite but due to it’s price being a couple hundred dollars more expensive than any other back inflated bcd, it assumes third place from us.
However, if money is no option for you, this is a truly superb piece of kit and if you purchase it you will undoubtedly appreciate the massive benefits of such a well made model.
Diving Squad Review: The Zeagle Ranger can be used in an enormous range of scuba diving activities, due to being compatible with a variety of additional bladders, pockets and other accessories.
This allows divers to switch between tropical travel diving, cold water diving in wet or dry suits, single or twin cylinders and easily mounted back plates technical diving.
Other features include grommets for mounting twin cylinders, twin zippered utility pockets, 4 stainless steel D-rings on the shoulders and a further two D rings on the vest for accessory attachment.
It comes with the Zeagle Personal fit system, allowing heavy customisation of this bcd. Yet more adjustable features are the dual position adjustable sternum strap, torso adjustable shoulder straps and waist straps with an adjustable cummerbund. All of these are equipped with squeeze style side release buckles for quick and easy donning and doffing.
Made from highly durable 1050 denier ballistic nylon, the Zeagle Ranger was the very first bcd to combine heavy duty construction, weight integration and rear flotation. It is without a doubt the most imitated bcd in the world and widely used by dive schools everywhere due to it’s versatility, toughness and highly customisable comfort!
The only real annoyance we found with this bcd was that it’s a little heavier than most at 3.8kg (8.4lbs) dry weight which can make it a little cumbersome for some travellers.
However, this aside the Zeagle Ranger is without a doubt one of the most versatile back inflate bcds out there. It’s therefore little surprise that it’s been “the top of the charts” for years now.
Diving Squad Review: In addition to being the lowest cost of our best rated back inflation bcds, the Hollis HD 200 is also one of the sturdiest, being made from 1000-denier cordura with a polyurethane lamination outer shell and a 15mm urethane internal bladder.
Despite it’s rugged build, the Hollis HD 200 is surprisingly comfortable; with it’s contoured and lightweight moulded backplate & backpad, lumbar support and rolled neoprene neck. The crotch strap promotes good trim underwater as well as preventing it from riding up at the surface.
It’s easy to ensure a custom fit thanks to the fact that the chest, sternum, shoulder, crotch and torso straps are all adjustable. There’s also plenty of space for attachment of accessories thanks to 8 stainless steel D-rings, 2 mounted grommets and 2 large zippered pockets.
One problem we did find with this bcd is the placement of the upper dump/release valves – both are located on the shoulders, away from the bladder section of the wing. The inflator hose is on the left shoulder, whilst the emergency pull dump valve is on the right shoulder strap.
This makes them lower than the wing when a diver is in horizontal position. It does mean that when a diver is in optimal trim position and yet there’s not much air in the bcd, air release can be a tad juddering unless the diver raises upright to a slightly more vertical position.
We did find that carrying a little more weight than you normally would with this bcd or getting use to assuming an upright position to dump air when low: to be a sufficient compromise. So it’s no massive dealbreaker but still a slight annoyance.
However, considering it’s formidably low price as well as other great features like comfort, adjustability and durability, the HD 200 is a fantastic option for advanced divers looking to purchase a decent back inflation bcd but without breaking the bank.
Look, we reckon if you’ve survived this far into our best back-inflate bcd reviews, you already have a pretty good idea about what kind of model you wish to purchase. So we’ll make this brief. But here are some final specs to consider when choosing the right back inflate bcd for you:
One of the main reasons for this is because back inflate bcds can push a novice divers face down at the surface – which takes a little practice to avoid. Also, because back inflate bcds have many adjustable straps, you’ll want to know what you’re doing before playing around with makng adjustments.
But do realise, you don’t have to be a grizzled diving veteran to enjoy a back -inflate bcd. So long as your familiar with your kit and avoiding face plants at the surface, you’re good to go!
A back-inflate bcd is similar to a jacket bcd, but has its air bladders located on the back rather than around a divers torso. By relocating the air bladder, the chest area is less cluttered, allowing a more minimalist setup. This means divers are more stable with this type of bcd underwater, which improves their aquadynamics and air. consumption.
If you’re also wandering what a jacket bcd is, this is a sleeveless jacket with a built in air bladder that wraps around the diver. This bladder also inflates in front, behind and besides divers. Jacket bcds are less complicated to use than back-inflate bcds, but for divers with experience, back inflate bcds are a better option. Find out why below.
The main advantage of a back inflate bcd over a traditional jacket bcd is it’s ability to maintain better horizontal positioning / trim under water. Because the bladder is to the rear of the diver, air distribution is much more even than it is with a jacket style bcd.
It should still be noted however, that this design does not guarantee optimal trim. Uneven weight distribution and/or overweighting can pull a diver out of position irrespective of the style of bcd they are wearing. That said, back inflation bcds provide a much more level starting point.
Back-inflate bcds have less bulk around the chest area and sides, which serves several functions. Anything that reduces a diver’s profile in the water reduces drag and improves streamlining. This makes swimming easier which in turn equals improved air consumption.
Most divers feel that the harness is more comfortable to wear. Jacket bcds can feel very tight when fully inflated at the surface, meaning divers often adjust the buckles to reduces comfort – but this results in a harness that is too loose once the bcd is deflated.
This of course makes buoyancy control more difficult unless the harness is tightened – making it uncomfortable again. This never happens with a back inflated bcd.
Without a doubt, the most frustrating downside to back inflated bcds is their tendency to push a diver face forward at the surface. However, face-planting such as this is easy to avoid – it just take s a little practice and can be a tad frustrating for novice divers.
Some models of back inflate bcds are lacking in pockets but gear such as torches and reels can easily be relocated and mounted on D-rings and grommets. Plus, attachable accessory pockets are widely available.
Bada-bing, bada-splash. That’s the end of our epic guide on the very best back inflate bcds currently trending the market.
You can rest assured that we are constantly scourging the market for new and improved scuba gear, meaning that every review you’ve read today showcases the very latest and most cutting edge bcd diving technology.
Don’t forget this article is just one of a whole series of content we’ve written about bcds. We’ve also got separate pieces on travel bcds, womens bcds, bcds for beginners and more. You can check out our master article here.