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What Is A Scuba BCD & How To Choose Yours?

The main attraction of scuba diving for many people is the opportunity to explore the underwater world. But your exploration underwater would be tricky, at best, if you are unable to remain at a particular depth and are instead sinking to the ocean floor or floating useless at the surface.

A Buoyancy Compensator Device (BCD) is vital scuba gear that will help you maintain neutral buoyancy when ascending, descending, or exploring the depths. Neutral buoyancy occurs when your weight is equal to the volume of water you displace so you are neither sinking nor floating.

There’s more to BCDs as they also help secure your scuba tank, hold ballast weights, and assist in routing your air hoses. All of the above shows how important BCDs are and why it’s important to choose a quality one.

The good news is that choosing a BCD is fairly simple. However, there are some factors, which will be discussed in this article, that you must put into consideration when buying a BCD. Read our buying guide to help you choose one that’s right for you. Here we go.

What Is a Scuba BCD?

A Buoyancy Compensator Device (BCD) is an essential scuba diving gear that serves many purposes like securely holding your scuba tank, maintaining neutral buoyancy underwater, routing the air hoses, and securing ballast weights thanks to its integrated weight system. All these make scuba BCDs the cornerstone of a scuba diving rig.

What Are The Different Types of BCDs?

Scuba BCDs are available in different styles which will be discussed below:

Jacket BCD: As the name implies, jacket style BCDs are very similar to a life jacket and feature a bladder system that inflates around you. Also, jacket-style BCDs come with more D-rings and pockets to keep small diving items.

This BCD design is very comfortable and offers unparalleled stability.

Back-inflate BCD: Back-inflate BCDs come with bladder systems that are positioned at the back. This offers more freedom of movement allowing you to move easier in the water and there is less bulkiness due to the position of the bladder system. However, back inflate BCDs tend to have fewer pockets/D-rings.

Front adjustable BCD: Front adjustable BCDs are literally designed to embrace you as the bladder system is positioned in front of you, under your arms, and around your waist. This type of BCD has adjustable closings (shoulder, chest, and waist straps) at the front and it offers more control, security, and stability.

Hybrid BCD: Combines the elements of the jacket style and back inflation BCDs to produce a product that offers better buoyancy control and more comfort. Hybrid BCDs offer superb performance in any water body.

Travel BCDs: These are lightweight and compact BCDs that are designed to travel. They are easy to pack, offer less buoyant lift, and have small pouches for ballast weights. If you dive while on vacation or in warm-water locales, you’ll do well to go for a travel BCD.

Women’s BCD: Specifically designed for female scuba divers. While most BCDs are unisex, some women may have a hard time finding a perfect fit due to the unique shape and size of the female body.

Backplate/Wing style BCD: This type of BCD is used for technical diving and features a metal backplate, harness, as well as detachable air bladders surrounding the backplate. They can be used for single or double-tank configurations.

How To Choose Your Scuba BCD?

Below are factors to consider when choosing a scuba BCD:

Comfort and Fit

It’s important you buy a BCD that is comfortable and fits you snugly. And this requires you to buy a BCD of proper fit. If your BCD is too big, chances are that it’ll be floating around your ears especially when you are on the surface. On the other hand, a very small BCD is not only uncomfortable but difficult to adjust underwater.

Read about a brand’s sizing before you buy a BCD. However, divers have reported that buying BCDs in the same size as their T-shirts fits well.

BCD Weight

The weight of a BCD is something to consider if you travel to dive sites. There are travel BCDs that are lightweight, compact, easy to pack in a dive bag, and stay within weight restrictions if you are traveling by air. However, travel BCDs offer less lift and carry smaller weights. As a result, they can only be used in warm waters.

You’ll need BCDs with more lift capacity to dive in cold water. Buying a hybrid BCD will provide the needed lift and hybrid BCDs have the benefit of not being as bulky as general-purpose BCDs although they are still heavier than travel BCDs.

If the weight of your BCD isn’t a concern, you can go for general-purpose BCDs when diving in cold water.

Lift Capacity

You need to pay attention to the lift capacity of your BCD especially if you’ll be diving in cold water. The lift capacity of a BCD is a measurement of the total weight the BCD can support on the surface with the bladder fully inflated.

The implication of this is that cold water diving gear like wetsuits, gloves, boots, and hoods are generally thicker than that of warm water diving which translates to more weight for the BCD to counteract higher buoyancy.

Warm water diving will require BCDs that offer 12 – 24 pounds of lift while cold water diving requires more with a range of 20 – 40 pounds.

Integrated Weight Systems

BCDs with integrated weight systems have designated pockets that can hold weights. The manufacturer will specify the total amount of weight the BCD can hold.

You’ll need to choose a BCD with this feature if you don’t like wearing weight belts. Check that the weight system is easy to operate and that there is a quick-release system to dump the weights in case of an emergency.

Dump Valves

A dump valve helps offset increased buoyancy as you ascend by removing air from your BCD. This helps you maintain neutral buoyancy during ascent.

Pockets & Rings

Pockets and rings on scuba BCDs can be used to hold weights or small scuba items like dive compasses, reels or computers. The number of pockets on a BCD depends on the size and type of the BCD. Travel BCDs, for example, generally have fewer pockets because of their compact design. Check a BCD before buying to know if it has enough pockets to hold your items.

Final Thoughts

Scuba BCDs can seem like complicated devices and many divers have found themselves overwhelmed when buying one. This article aims to help you understand the different features of scuba BCDs and help you select one that’s right for you by giving you a list of the best BCDs available on the market.

If you still have any questions, feel free to reach me through the comment section.

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