The Best BCD for Beginners in 2020

LAST UPDATED:

February 1, 2020

When choosing the best bcd for you, there are two considerations to make:

  1. What type of bcd will suit you best? We’ll be covering travel bcds, women’s bcds, beginners bcds, back-inflate bcds and cheap bcds.

  2. Whichever type of bcd you’re going for, what’s the very best model of it’s kind? We’ve tried out dozens of bcds so you don’t have to and summed them up in brutally honest reviews. 
best bcd for sale

What you’re reading now is the parent page to a series of 5 sub articles on the best bcds. Each sub article explains a different type of bcd and reviews the very best models of that type currently trending markets.

In this article, we present the very best bcd from each of the sub articles. Just before we get into that, below are brief descriptions of the 5 types of bcd we’ll be reviewing. Click on the green buttons to get more info and multiple reviews of that type of bcd or keep scrolling down for a summary of our all time favourite models.

Travel bcds

  • Lightweight and compact bcds that are easy to transport and sometimes have additional travel-friendly features.

Women's bcds

  • Specially moulded to a female physique, these bcds are the most comfortable option for women.

Beginners' bcds

  • The most simple bcds to use, these are jacket style bcds, which are easy to setup and do not interfere with a divers balance on the surface, unlike back-inflation models. 

Back Inflate BCDs

  • A little trickier to use, but offering improved trim and buoyancy control resulting in better aqua-dynamics. An ideal option for slightly more experienced divers.

Cheap BCDs

  • Bcds that are safe, reliable and durable but not much else; an ideal budget option.

Best BCDs - Quick Compare Chart:

Or Click Here for more detailed reviews. 

Check Latest PriceTypeModelDefining Feature:Other Specs:
Click HereTravel BCD (back-inflate)Oceanic JetpackTurns into day pack. – Light & Compact.
– Rapid drying
– Durable
Click HereWomen’s BCD (back-inflate)ScubaPro Hydros Pro for WomenMoulded to female physique– Modular Design
– Injection harness
– Extreme comfort
Click HereBeginner’s BCD (jacket bcd)Cressi Aquaride ProEasy to use and setup– Cressi = bomb proof
– Affordable
– Adjustable
Click HereBack Inflate BCDAqualung Dimension I3Integrated wrapture harness for comofort– 1 Touch inflation/deflation
– Great aqua-dynamics
– Adjustable
Click HereCheap BCD (jacket bcd)Cressi Sub StartCheapest bcd– Durable
– Adjustable
– Reliable

Best Travel BCD

Oceanic Jetpack

  • Converts into 42 litre travel bag

  • Insanely lightweight and compact

  • Exceptionally durable

  • Style: Back Inflate

  • Adjustable harness, cummerbund and lumbar support

The Oceanic Jetpack is both a bcd and a semi-dry day pack that clip together. Despite the fact that it has two functions in one, there is no sacrifice of quality:

The day bag section features ergonomic compartmentalisation including a laptop sleeve, a main compartment plus two external, easy access pockets as well as water resistant zippers and hideaway backpack straps.

The bcd itself is highly adjustable to allow a custom fit. It also features adjustable position weight pockets as well as a versatile power inflator that allows you to achieve optimum buoyancy control and trim when diving. Plus, it’s air cells feature elastic bungee straps that keep the back inflation low in profile to aid with rapid deflation. 

This is our absolute favourite travel bcd. It has many other cool features, which we cover along with reviews of other top lightweight bcds in our main article on the Best Travel BCDS

Best Women's BCD

Scubapro Hydros Pro for Women

  • Specially crafted to female physique

  • Injection moulded harness for extreme comfort

  • Modular design for heavy customisation

  • Large range of colours

  • Back inflate bcd

The ScubaPro Hydros Pro is the most comfortable option for women because it’s been designed by the scuba diving ladies for the scuba diving ladies; by being moulded specifically to female proportions.

But on top of that, it’s revolutionary 3D gel manufacturing process, generous padding and dual compound backplate add even further comfort. Seriously – if you’re a woman and your main priority for selecting a bcd is comfort – this is the absolute best choice. 

Made of tough material that’s resistant to UV, chemicals, abrasion and knocks this bcd will last you for life. Furthermore, it’s modular design means that virtually every component can be replaced and changed resulting in an insanely customisable bcd.

This is our favourite women’s bcd as it offers the best overall quality and it’s modular setup means it suits petite girls equally well as it will well as it does larger ones, unlike some of the other female bcds we’ve reviewed, which were designed specially for smaller or larger gals. 

Best BCD for Beginners

Cressi Aquaride Pro

  • Jacket bcd = easy setup

  • Durable

  • Lots of padding for comfort

  • Adjustable shoulder straps

  • Affordable

The Cressi Aquaride Pro is issued to first time divers, by dive schools around the world. It’s made by Cressi, the most bulletproof brand in underwater sports gear today. 

This is a jacket bcd, which is without a doubt the most simple style of bcd to use. That’s because jacket bcds require minimal adjustment and also do not push divers faces forwards in the water at the surface, an issue experienced with back-inflation bcds.  

The Cressi Aquaride Pro is a highly durable bcd so will easily endure any nooby knocks and dings it sustains,. Furthermore, it is generously padded lending to formidable comfort, meaning you can pool all your attention towards diving, instead of fiddling around with adjustments. Theres also loads of space for easy reach accessory attachment. 

Without a doubt, our favourite beginners bcd and also relatively low in price meaning you don’t have to fork out an arm and a leg on what might be only your first bcd. 

Best Back-Inflate BCD

Aqua Lung Dimension i3

  • Integrated wrapture harness for awesome comfort

  • One touch i3 inflation/deflation system

  • Bladder retraction system to reduce drag

  • Durable, fade resistant materials

  • Swivel shoulder buckles for easy fit

The Aqua Lung Dimension I3 features several superb, patented features. Our favourite of these is the next level wrapture harness system which uses swivel shoulder buckles and an ultra thin backplate to achieve stellar comfort and stability. 

The design of the wrapture harness also limits how much this bcd pushes your face forward at the surface, an inconvenience caused by many back inflation bcds.

Out of the water, the wrapture keeps the air cylinder close to one’s centre of gravity transferring the weight to your hips – meaning it’s easy to stand upright. 

The i3 control system let’s you inflate and deflate the bc with just one touch. There’s also a bladder retraction system that’s used to pull in the sides of the bladder during deflation, keeping the unit streamlined and reducing drag considerably. 

Guess what? We’re still not done with the awesome patented features of this bcd! You can read more about it and other inflation bcds on our main inflate bcds article.

In short though, this is a superb option for divers with a little more experience who are looking to achieve optimum trim underwater in order to master their aqua-dynamics. 

Best Cheap BCD

Cressi Sub Start BCD

  • Cheapest safety approved and up to date bcd on the market

  • Durable

  • Adjustable

  • Padded for comfort

  • Jacket bcd 

At just under $200, this is the cheapest reliable bcd you’re going to find anywhere. Period. Despite this, the Cressi Sub Start BC offers great value for money being a safe, comfortable and durable piece of kit. 

It is made by Cressi, arguably the most respected underwater sporting gear brand of all time. This is a jacket style bcd meaning that it’s easy to setup and use: what this results in is a bcd that is extremely beginner friendly. 

You can adjust the sternum straps and torso to get the perfect fit plus the waist straps are equipped with squeeze style release for quick and easy donning and doffing. 

On top of that, the waist strap/cummerbund is independently suspended from the air cell which allows it to inflate away from the diver and thus prevent the squeezing effect sometimes found with other jacket bcd when they inflate. 

With full padding and a rigid back support it’s also surprisingly comfortable for something so dang affordable!

(For info on other types of BCD, check out our main page: Best BCD Reviews).

Squad! At ease for your mission briefing on how to choose the best BCD for beginners.

Get a shitload of this: In addition to different makes of bcd, there’s a load of different types as well!

For example, there’s women’s bcd’s, back inflate bcd’s, travel bcd’s…the list goes on!

In our best bcds for beginners guide we’re going to cover the different types of bcd , with a review of which model we consider to be the best version for beginners of each bcd type.

If you’re a total doob (dive noob), don’t even trip. We’ve also covered the bcd basics like what the hell is it as well as how to set it up and actually use the damn thing.

Best BCD for Beginners

Jacket BCD's

  • $$

  • Cressi are of the biggest underwater sport brands in the world.

  • Great Comfort

  • Insanely Durable.

  • Adjustable Shoulder straps & Integrated Weight System
  •  

Cressi have a bulletproof reputation. As a brand, they started very early in the days of underwater sports and remain one of the biggest there today. The Cressi Aquaride Pro reviewed here, is used by most dive centres around the world which is testimony to it’s reliability.

That’s because it’s 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.

Amazing 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.

Each weight pouch uses the Cressi pocket lock system to secure the weights and includes a quick-release for emergency situations. On top of that, 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.

As Beginner BCD’s go, this is one of our favourite BCD’s out there. Rating: 4.9 / 5

What is a Jacket BCD?

Because nearly all divers learn to dive with them, Jacket BCD’s are actully one of the most common BCD types. They’re 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. Click here for a review of the best jacket BCD for beginners in 2019. 

  • $$$

  • Personal Fit System for Ultimate Comfort

  • Made from tough material

  • Integrated Weight System

  • 2 Zip pockets for Storage

  • Heavy

Like the previously reviewed Cressi Aqualine, the Zeagle Ranger performs well 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 adjustable shoulder straps are seen on 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 customisable setup means that your BCD can evolve with your expertise and experience, eliminating the need to upgrade. Want to dive with a second tank? Easy! Need to 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 travellers, who often opt for lighter models that fold or compress more easily.

Our Rating: 4.7 / 5

What is a Back Inflate BCD?

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 centre 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.

Hybrid BCD's

  • $$

  • Lightweight design & foldable backplates = ideal for travel.

  • Durable.

  • Freedom of movement

  • Modular integrated weight system


For the Ultimate Hybrid BCD, we simply love the Mares Hybrid BCD. Like all hybrid BCDs, it combines a jacket-style BCD’s surface stability with a back-inflate BCD’s aquadynamic trim.

Its lightweight design and foldable backplate make it great for traveling. It’s also incredibly tough, using materials strong enough to stand the test of time and then some.

Mares quality guarantees that all the basics are covered, ensuring comfort, practicality, durability, and sufficient storage space.

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.

Our Rating: 4.8 / 5

What is a Hyrbid BCD?

This type of BCD aims to combine the benefits of back-inflate and jacket-style BCDs by combining features from the styles of both.

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.

Travel BCD's

  • $$

  • Lightweight and easy to pack

  • Shoulder and torso adjustment conforms this BCD to the shape of your body.

  • Less bulky air bladders = reduced drag under water.

  • Integrated weight system. 

  • Less Durable than other BCD’s

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. 

Insane 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.

Our Rating: 4.7 / 5

What is a Travel BCD?

The travel BCD niche is relatively new, but has recently exploded with increased amounts of travellers 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.

Women's BCD's

  • $$$

     

  • Maximum fit and comfort for the ladies!

     

  • Jacket Style BCD = stability at the surface

  • Integrated weight system

  • Large zipper pockets for storage

As a BCD designed specifically for women, the ScubaPro Bella guarantees a better fit than unisex models, thus maximising 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.

Our Rating: 4.9 / 5

What is a Woman's BCD?

Most 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.

This 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. Read more about womens’ bcds. 

Cheap BCD's

  • $ – As cheap as a BCD get’s whilst still offering high quality.

  • Made by Cressi – the biggest name in underwater sports.

  • Exceptionally durable

  • Large velcro pockets and D-rings for storage.

  • Simple Setup


In 1946 Cressi founded what remains one of the biggest names in underwater sports today. 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. On top of all that, 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.

Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

What's a Cheap BCD?

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. Read more about Cheap BCDs. 

BCD Setup and Buyers Guide

Happy dude Picking the Best BCD for Beginners

Stellar Buy!

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.

These needs 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, colour, and aesthetics. As long as you remember to prioritise comfort and suitability, you should end up a happy customer.

What the hell is a BCD and how does it work?

What is a diving bcd

"Nurrgh! I'm Dr. ScubyMCDupers and I'm hear to give YOU some much needed Scuba Schooling"!

Very simply dear reader, 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.

Other Types of BCD

Best BCD for Beginners Colour

Types of Scuba BCD - More than just Different Colours

Technical BCD's

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.

Sidemount BCD

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.

Diving Squad Debriefing

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. Choose Wisely! Diving Squad Out.

Written by:

Alex

Alex

Scuba fanatic. Travel ecstatic. Erratic. The name's Alex.