Buoyancy is considered by many the cornerstone of good diving.
But then why, you may ask, do so many divers in the water seem pretty far from mastering it? Without a good, reliable BCD it’s hard to do.
Your BCD is a critical piece of gear that allows you to fine tune your buoyancy and stay off the reef, hovering at a comfortable level without floating to the surface.
Yet many divers don’t own a well-fitting, reliable BCD, and have never considered doing so.
Do not settle for being that diver, constantly fidgeting with your gear and missing all the cool stuff.
You have better things to be doing with your precious time underwater.
Check out our list of best BCD’s and pick one to take on your next adventure!
The Top 9
Best Men’s BCD
#1 Best Men’s BCD: Scubapro Hydros Men BCD w/Balanced Inflator
The Scubapro Hydros Pro BCD with Balanced Inflator is a truly game changing BCD, hence its place at the top of our list. This new, ultra durable take on a classic design is nearly indestructible and sure to take you on diving adventures for years to come.
Plenty of color options allow each BCD to be high customizable, and Scubapro’s unique “BC-4 Life” module design means that every single component can easily be replaced without stitching. That’s huge for a BCD, immensely simplifying repairs and going a long way towards increasing the lifespan of your purchase.
A dual compound backplate and injection molded harness work together to increase comfort and stability in the water.
#2 Scubapro Hydros Gen Air 2
You may look at this BCD and think, “wait, didn’t I just look at this one?” You did! Featuring the same feature packed Scubapro Hydros BCD, this model ups the ante by incorporating an incorporated secondary air system, or “air 2”.
By incorporating a backup regulator into the power inflator hose, you are essentially removing the need for a separate external secondary regulator. Great for travel and divers looking to save on weight, this design is an awesome, self contained system. Strap on a tank and you’re ready to go!
#3 Cressi Travelight Ultra BCD
Working hard to bring the best available in the smallest package, the Cressi Travelight Ultra takes Cressi’s popular travelight design and “beefs it up” a bit.
With 201 denier nylon, a soft, padded backplate, and a double strap for attaching your tank, the Travelight has a lot to be desired for such a compact package. The specialized “FAST” system allows you to quickly pack and store your BCD, making it ready to go from boat to car and back again in seconds.
Best Women’s BCD
#1 Cressi Travelight BCD
Extraordinarily practical, easy to use, and amazingly compact, this BCD is a great option for women looking to dive the world. Folding down into a compact, lightweight package, this BCD is easy to add to an existing gear bag, and it won’t make your luggage heavy or bulky.
With 3 relief valves, 2 deep bodied storage pockets, 2 rear trim pockets, and additional side gussets, there is still plenty of room to store extra gear if need be.
Updated Direct system inflator 2011 is stylish and durable, with the “anti-sand” design ensuring that your gear works clog free for years to come.
#2 Scubapro Hydros Pro Air Women’s
This model of Scubapro’s awesome Hydros BCD is on our list, because of course it is! Still offering all the awesome features of the above two Hydros models in a remarkably attractive package, this one comes in a variety of colors to allow for even further customization.
Form-fitting, moldable Monprene and a variety of attachment points and adjustable components ensure this is the best fitting BCD you have even tried. The moldable gel harness is extra resistant to UV, chemicals, and abrasions, making this the last BCD you will ever need to purchase.
#3 Oceanic Biolite Ladies Travel BCD
For those of you who want to hit the road and dive, this is the BCD for you. Taking away many of the extravagant features found on other models, the Oceanic Biolite heads back to basics for a great travel BCD that is years in the making.
Streamlined and comfortable, the entire package weighs in at only 2.5 kgs, making it one of the lightest BCDs on the list. Able to accommodate around 7 kgs of weight in the integrated pouches, this jacket features a quick release system, making ditching your weight a breeze if the situation calls for it.
Best Unisex BCD
#1 Best Overall Unisex BCD: Hollis Weight Integrated BCD
If you want to have room to take everything you own underwater with you, then the Hollis Weight Integrated BCD is the perfect choice for you! This back-inflate BCD allows for optimal horizontal positioning underwater, increasing comfort and decreasing effort.
Featuring highly customizable straps, clips, and pads, this BCD can handle everything from simple recreational dives to hardcore tec adventures.
With spacious pockets and an almost absurd number of D-rings, this heavy duty BCD is the ultimate in comfort, performance, and style.
#2 Best BCD for Travel - Cressi R1 Weight Integrated BCD
This easy to use, extremely versatile BCD from Cressi is a great all around piece for both beginning and expert divers. Lightweight, compact, and durable, this travel-ready BCD will keep performing at high levels all around the world.
An ergonomic, comfortable design brings together everything you want out of your next BCD. A form-fitting harness and integrated weighting system ensure that your buoyancy stays in peak form from start to finish.
#3 Best BCD for Beginners - Scubapro Litehawk BCD
This solid back-inflate BCD from Scubapro focuses air on your back, ensuring your streamlining is perfect on each and every dive. Featuring a variety of dump valves and a compact design, this is a great option for individuals who may have never used a back-inflate before.
Durable and well constructed, the Litehawk will last you for years to come!
Choosing Your BCD
Most BCD’s are sized by 3 factors: gender, height, and weight. While some models are deemed “unisex,” purchasers generally find a better fit by going with a BCD specific for their gender, although that is not always the case. Many BCD’s also feature gender-oriented coloration, such as pink, turquoise and purple for women, and red, orange, and green for men.
The other two factors are generally more related to one another than gender alone. Since all BCD’s, despite the styling, fit to a users torso, height and weight are important metrics to know before finding a good fit. While often adjustable in the horizontal plane, purchasing a BCD that is too long or short for your torso can heavily impact dive performance.
Generally, BCD’s run the gauntlet of standard clothing sizes we’re familiar with. They’ll range from XS in women’s to an XL and sometimes even XXL in men’s.
While there are plenty of different BCD styles, the most popular are the “Jacket,” “Back Inflate,” and “Hybrid.” Why does it matter? Besides a matter of personal comfort, each style allows you to control buoyancy in unique ways.
If you’ve ever rented gear from a dive operator before, chances are you’re familiar with jacket type BCDs. Fitting like a vest, this style hugs the body, distributing it’s bladder both along your back and around your hips. This ensures stability on your dive regardless of body position, and allows buoyancy to be adjusted without drastically changing diver orientation. On most jacket-stlye BCD’s you’ll find an integrated weight system, deep-bodied pockets, and plenty of D-rings for holding all that extra gear. Ranging from simple and travel-minded to complex and feature-packed this is the style that the vast majority of divers end up diving with for most of their career.
The next most popular style of BCD is the “Back-Inflate” option. Just as it sounds, Back Inflate BCD’s place the bladder on your back. This allows you to easily streamline your body position in the water, since all the air is above you, not shifting around your body as is possible with a jacket style BCD. In a well streamlined position, water resistance is decreased, concurrently reducing effort require to swim and often improving air consumption. Some back inflate models do feature an integrated weighting system, but many are more minimalistic than their jacket style counterparts. However, due to bladder placement on the back, some divers find these BCDs are harder to manage on long surface swims, forcing you into a face down position.
Hybrid BCDs are pretty much exactly what you would expect. They feature the benefits of a jacket style BCD and a back-inflate BCD all wrapped up in one package. This is often accomplished by separating the air bladder into various compartments (i.e. the back vs the sides) that can be added and subtracted as desired to personalize your buoyancy. Often offering many of the features of relegated only to jacket style BCD’s but the stability of a back-inflate, hybrid BCD’s are becoming more and more popular among serious divers.
What is Lift? Lift is the force provided by a BCD, directed outwards, that counteracts pressure at depth and allows you to be neutrally buoyant. Lift capacity is the amount of weight a BCD is capable of “lifting” with the volume of air it holds inside it’s bladder.
Lift capacity can be an important factor in determining which BCD is right for you because it determines how much lead a BCD can effectively counteract. Picking a BCD with a lift capacity that doesn’t meet your needs will make diving far more difficult (and dangerous!) than it needs to be. If you often dive in thick wetsuits or use over 20 lbs of lead, BCD lift should certainly be something you take into account before purchasing.
Weight integration is often a useful metric for assessing if a BCD can provide enough lift for you. Integrated BCDs feature weight pouches that will only hold as much lead as they can effectively lift. If you find yourself stuffing a bunch of extra weights into your BCD’s nooks and crannies, chances are you need a model with a greater lift capacity. Integrated weighting systems also allow you to ditch those bulky and uncomfortable weight belts, all in all creating a safer and more efficient diving experience.
Pockets and D-rings are commonplace on many of today’s BCDs. Often, models featuring higher lift capacities come with more space to store extra stuff. Every extra piece of gear you clip on or stuff in a pocket goes to counteract the lift forces provided by your BCD, so if a certain model only features one or two D-rings, you know it’s for a good reason.
Top 5 Scuba Diving Tips
Know your gear! By knowing the ins and outs of everything you take underwater, you’ll be sure to know what will help and what won’t in case an emergency situation arises.
Know yourself! Don’t dangerously push yourself out of your comfort zone for any reason! While trying new things (like diving!) is a great way to test your limits, build confidence, and discover hobbies you enjoy, trying to dive during a hurricane is certainly not.
Always be prepared: both physically and mentally. Just like any other activity, being distracted or out of shape can lead to issues that were otherwise easily avoided.
Use it as an excuse to travel. You can find a dive operator pretty much anywhere in the world, take advantage of them all!
Enjoy the moment. Stop worrying about whatever is troubling you. Just focus on the task at hand, and take it all in.
What Is a BCD?
A BCD, or Buoyancy Compensator Device, is an item worn by scuba divers that assists in buoyancy control, tank attachment, and gear storage. Essentially a balloon stuffed inside of a jacket, divers can add or subtract air to the BCD, thereby increasing or decreasing its volume. By changing the volume of the BCD, divers are able to fine tune their buoyancy in the water. Many BCD’s now feature pockets, D-rings, and other features in order to store gear, securely attach tanks, and more.
You will need some other top-notch gear to pair with your CBD. You can find the best scuba gear on our scuba gear main page.
How Safe Is Scuba Diving?
Scuba Diving, despite what many believe, is not necessarily more dangerous than other adventure sports. While being underwater for sustained periods of time is unique among outdoor activities, it is no less unique than say, jumping from a plane at 15,000 ft. Every sport has its own complications, and even the most dreaded dive complication - decompression sickness (often referred to as “DCS” or “the bends”) - can be generally avoided with proper training and safe diving procedures. By following the rules to a T and ensuring every dive you do is monitored as well as within recreational limits, diving can be a safe and worry free activity.
How Do I Know If I’m Fit Enough To Dive?
It is vital to consult a medical professional before beginning any scuba-related activity. Your doctor will want to look at your medical history and ensure you don’t have any cardiac, respiratory, or functional injuries or malfunctions.
In terms of physical fitness, you want to be able to meet all the demands of diving and have adequate energy to spare in case the need for it arises. In general, if you are unable to transport, carry, and set up your own scuba gear, as well as put it on without assistance, then you most likely are unfit to dive.
While many dive operators do their best to make diving a breeze, it is still important that you can meet basic functional fitness markers before embarking on your next dive journey. You will find that better fitness equates to less fatigue, improved breath control, and longer bottom times when diving, in turn feeding into your enjoyment of the sport and hopefully, keeping you fit to dive.
How Do I Clean My BCD?
While a simple freshwater rinse is often adequate for most gear, additional steps will help make your BCD last for years to come. Due to the inherent design of BCDs, seawater can easily enter your jacket, causing a whole host of issues. Saltwater, along with a host of other gunk, can shorten the life of your dive gear over time, especially if said gear is not properly cared for after each and every dive.
Before rinsing in freshwater, it is important to let all of the seawater that accumulated during your dive out of your BCD. To do this, simply pick a dump valve, orient it so that it is the lowest point, and pull. You will most likely be surprised by the amount of water that comes out! Once all the water has seemingly left the system, it is time to soak your BCD in freshwater. Rinsing is fine too, but in general soaking allows more time for the freshwater to break down any residual gunk that has gotten stuck to your BCD.
After your freshwater soak/rinse you’ll want to once again purge the water from your BCD, repeating the steps from above. Once finished, inflate the BCD to ~40% of capacity and store it partially inflated. This allows any residual water stuck inside to properly dry, otherwise you may start to get mold or mildew growing inside your BCD (gross!).
As with all dive gear, be sure to store your BCD in a cool, dry and shaded environment. If this is your last dive for a while, allow your gear to air dry completely before packing it down for long term storage. It is never a good idea to put your BCD (or any other piece of dive gear for that matter) in a dryer, as this will reduce the longevity of your items.
Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?
While everyone will have their own preferences and necessities, we feel the BCDs on the list truly are the best that money can buy.
For guys, no doubt it is the Scubapro Hydros Pro BCD. Extremely customizable, comfortable, and reliable, it will quickly become one of your favorite pieces in your kit.
For the ladies, we recommend the Cressi Travelight BCD. Coincidentally also our pick for the best BCD for travel, this option is lightweight, compact, and stylish, with a durability to match. Feel free to take it from Alaska to South Africa and everywhere in between.
If you’re less concerned with gender specific fittings and just want a BCD to get ‘er done, no matter the circumstances, than opt for the Hollis Weight Integrated BCD. Featuring ample space for lights, cameras, and extra goodies, this bombproof piece is sure to outperform and outlast for years to come.
As it is easy to see, there is a perfect BCD out there for everyone. Be sure to follow the links provided and be one step closer to claiming your very own. Purchasing a reliable, well fitting BCD is only one step of many on your trek to becoming an expert diver, enjoy the journey!