A BCD or buoyancy compensating devices makes all the difference in how flexible and stable you are underwater. However, depending on the type of diver you are you will also have different underwater needs which is why there is a variety of different types of BCDs available.
In the following post, we will look into the different types of BCD available on the market. This BCD buying guide will help you when you’re looking for the best BCD to add to your scuba dive gear.
What are the Different Types of BCD?
Before investing in the best BCD for yourself, it’s a good idea to understand how a BCD works and also know the different types of buoyancy compensating devices available to suit your style of diving.
Knowing the basic parts of a BCD will also help you choose the right one for me. The biggest difference between BCD design is seen between recreational divers and occupational divers. This is because professional divers or technical divers carry different equipment to perform specific underwater tasks.
But even as a recreational diver it is worth knowing what kind of BCDs are available. Perhaps changing your BCD will make your dives more comfortable and safe or even help to improve your buoyancy control. Here’s a quick overview of the different types of BCD.
1. Jacket BCD – The Standard Recreational Dive BCD
The jacket BCD is the type of BCD with the most options in design because how it is worn is somewhat similar to wearing clothing. Since everybody has a different body type, there are also many varieties of jacket-style BCD to accommodate for this. This BCD type is also known as a vest BCD or front-adjustable BCD for obvious reasons. The shape is more like a vest than a jacket (no sleeves) and the adjustable closings are placed in the front of the BCD.
Characteristic of a jacket BCD is that the air bladder, or where the air moves through, is concentrated in the front. The air moves through the pockets around the waist and throughout the shoulder padding.
How the air moves through the BCD makes it easier for the diver to remain vertical. This is especially true for new divers that spend a lot of time practicing diving and following the example of an instructor.
Most jacket BCD also have pockets in the front for easy carrying of dive equipment. Some designs even incorporate an integrated weight system in the waist pockets so that the diver does not need a separate weight belt.
This BCD design is very popular because they are versatile and attaching it to the air tank is simple. However, more advanced divers might complain about the bulkiness and some restriction in movement.
2. Semi Wing BCD – the More Advanced Diver BCD
Advanced divers might prefer a back-inflate or Semi wing BCD because it allows for more freedom of movement and creates a natural push to remain horizontal underwater. This is because the weight of the air bladder is placed fully on the back.
Like a jacket BCD, its general shape is still like a vest with pockets around the waist but the front is more streamlined and of course, there is no air bladder in the front. Instead, there are two air bladder pockets on either side of the pressurized air tank, somewhat similar to a winged BCD.
More advanced divers appreciate that their underwater form is more streamlined with a back-inflate BCD. These divers are also more capable of staying vertical at the surface using a back-inflate BCD despite the extra push from the air bladder weight to pitch forward.
3. Backplate and Wing BCD – The Preferred Technical Dive BCD
This final basic BCD design is generally only used by technical divers. The design includes a metal backplate, harness and detachable air bladders surrounding the back plate.
There are two main types of air bladder wings namely the horseshoe shape or the donut shape. Both types attach to the back plate and sit between the back plate and the air tank.
The difference between a horseshoe and a donut style wing is how the air travels through it. With a donut, it is a completely enclosed tube so the air travels 360° around the back plate while with a horseshoe wing there is a gap.
The backplate and wing BCD is probably the most stable BCD design because the buoyancy is concentrated around the heaviest part of the dive equipment; the pressurized air tank. This makes the diver even more streamlined than with a back inflate BCD.
Another reason why technical divers prefer this design is because they can customize it at any time. Different kinds of BC and air tank can be attached to the back plate which lets the diver create a BCD that is specific for the task at hand.
The disadvantage associated with a wing and backplate BCD is the same as with a back inflate BCD; vertical positions are more difficult to hold. Again, more experienced divers will have the skill to compensate for this forward push.
Are you looking for a new scuba BCD? Here are the 3 most popular Scuba BCD picks:
- Lightweight Travel BCD
- Weight Integrated System
- Easy to Use Power Inflator
- Ergonomic Harness Design
- Easily Customizable
- Single Tank Band System
- Ultra Durable
- Dual-Compound Backplate
Summary of the Different Types of BCD
Overall, there are three main types of BCDs available. What makes the greatest difference in BCD type is the placement of the air bladder.
The most popular BCD design is the jacket BCD with the air bladder placed in the front but more advanced divers tend to prefer a BCD with the air bladder in the back to create a more streamlined horizontal position during dives.