Best Scuba BCD: Reviews From An Expert (2018)
Are you thinking of buying a Scuba dive BCD but you do not know what the best option is for you?
Do you know the type of BCD Vest Jacket and the essential requirements you must have to get the most out of your dives?
The dive vest, also known as a jacket or BCD is a vital part of your dive equipment to ensure optimum and safe dives, as it will allow you to regulate your buoyancy. Also, it also serves as a harness that holds the bottle and the attached components that allow you to breathe from it.
why it is important to choose the type and model that best fits your needs and style of diving.
And that is not synonymous with having to leave one kidney and part of the other to buy the most expensive BCD on the market. Simply, know how to choose the right option.
Then, I leave a practical guide with the key points that you should keep in mind to buy the proper dive BCD vest.
Our Top 3 Scuba Diving BCD Picks:
Types of Scuba BCD Jacket
There are different styles of the vest. The first thing you should keep in mind when choosing your jacket is the type that best suits your level and characteristics of diving.
Conventional BCD Jacket
This type of BCD most used in recreational Scuba diving. The gas bladder, responsible for swelling and deflating to regulate your buoyancy, is in the back and also passes under your arms. It allows better buoyancy and balance when you are on the surface.
It is the safest option, especially for less experienced divers.
In addition, some models have integrated ballast on the sides, more comfortable and quick to remove than a conventional belt.
Travel BCD Jacket
They are lighter and more manageable because they do not carry back-pack on the back or, in some cases, this plate is foldable.
Some models opt for the maximum portability eliminating also the lateral pockets and some of the rings to hang the accessories.
The main drawback is that they tend to have less buoyancy, so many are not suitable for cold water diving, where you will need to use a lot of ballast due to the thickness of the suit.
Hybrid Scuba BCD Jacket
Like the conventional jacket, both the back and the sides are swollen. However, the proportion of air is ¾ on the back and ¼ on the sides.
This type of BCD carries the gas bladder located only in the back. Thus, it allows regulating of the finest possible way your buoyancy, being the type of BCD more used by professional divers.
They are also the vests that are usually used when diving with double bottles.
The main drawback is that, on the surface, it tends to turn your face down. It can be incommodious and even dangerous for inexperienced divers.
What use will you give the jacket?
The question you should ask yourself to choose the BCD is what type of diving you will do and your level:
Are you a professional or very experienced diver?
If so, you should probably choose a wing, since they will allow you to optimally regulate your buoyancy in water and are those that offer greater comfort, avoiding the "bear hug" effect of conventional vests. This type is ideal for technical diving, underwater photography or if you are a diving instructor.
Do you do recreational diving?
In this case, the most suitable option will be a conventional jacket, which will not only provide excellent underwater buoyancy but will also be more comfortable on the surface, as the volume of air is more distributed.
Are you going to travel frequently with your dive team?
If you do most of your dives away from home, you may want to take a look at the travel jackets, which can fold comfortably, occupy less volume and are lighter.
Diving BCD Manufacturing Material
Currently, the materials most used to make vests are two synthetic fabrics:
- Nylon: because of their characteristics, these vests are ideal if you do recreational diving, as it is a light material and is usually somewhat cheaper than a jacket with equivalent characteristics made of sanity.
- Cordura: they are more resistant and durable. However, they tend to be a little more expensive and weigh more. Because of their characteristics, they are ideal for instructors or people who are engaged in professional diving, who use the jacket daily or very frequently.
Some models combine both materials, retaining the lightness of the nylon but providing greater resistance to the jacket.
There is the sanity index, which allows measuring the degree of resistance to abrasion (the higher the number, the higher the resistance).
Size and capacity of the BCD jacket
In the case of conventional vests, the capacity to hold gas is proportional to size. Normally, small sizes (for children and adolescents) usually have a capacity of 12-14 liters, medium sizes between 14 and 18 liters (for medium-sized women and men) and large and extra-large between 18 and 26 liters.
I recommend that you choose for rather small models.
Think of a large wing as more resistant to underwater movement, so it will be harder to handle with precision and you will have to make an extra effort to move. Also, it will cause you more instability when changing positions.
However, when choosing the capacity of the wing, it is also important to take into account the type of water in which you are going to dive:
- Warm and warm water: by wearing finer suits, you will not need as much ballast to sink, so you will not need too much air inside your waistcoat to climb up and stay afloat on the surface.
- Cold Waters: When you wear thicker suits, especially if you dive in a dry suit, you increase the amount of ballast you will need, so you will also need a larger-capacity vest.
The leads are integrated into supports that are stored in special side pockets. In this way, you can reduce and even eliminate the weights of the uncomfortable diving belt. And, in an emergency, they are the same or faster to remove.
If you choose a vest with this feature, make sure the ballast is well blocked when you insert it, but also that it is easy to remove.
Be careful with the back pockets to place weights. They may be useful if you have a wing to compensate for the "push forward" effect it produces on the surface, but you will not be able to remove them in case of an emergency, so I recommend that you never put more than approximately half a kilo in each. The two pockets.
They allow you to hang the diving accessories, releasing your hands during the dive. If you have many accessories, choose a model with enough rings.
In the case of technical diving, I recommend that you choose a vest with at least 4 rings.Personally, I would try to avoid a jacket with nylon rings, as they break more easily than the metal ones and are less comfortable when hooking/unhooking things.
They are comfortable to store accessories such as a flashlight or other objects that you occasionally use during dives.
There are closed zippered pockets and others with Velcro. The safest ones are the first ones since the Velcro can stop closing well with time. However, Velcro gives you quicker access to the inside of your pocket.
If you want a travel vest as light as possible, there are models without pockets.
Some jackets feature an extra fastening strip (2 main clamping straps + top safety strap), especially useful if you are going to dive with longer aluminum bottles.
Some BCD models have replaced the traditional trachea with an accessory placed on the left side of the vest with a button to inflate and one to deflate.
In this case, to remove air from the vest, instead of the windpipe, it is you who must put upright.This option makes it easier and more comfortable to manipulate the air inlet and outlet of the vest, although it slightly increases the price of the jacket.
Choosing the right Scuba BCD jacket size
Choosing the right size for your jacket is very important to avoid uncomfortable lateral movements during the dive if you get large or under the arms or chest and belly if you come small.
Ideally, the vest should not over- pressure you or make your breathing difficult when fully swollen.
Most models have adjustable straps, both pectoral, ventral and lateral, that allow you to adapt it optimally to your body.
Check that the abdominal girdle closes perfectly and without difficulty: the velcro of the two parts must be able to unite perfectly in all its extension.
There are specific models for women with a design focused on avoiding discomfort, especially in the chest and at the base of the back. Although as a girl you can dive perfectly with a unisex jacket since you are investing in your own diving equipment. See more full face snorkel mask review.
Finally, if you are hesitating between two sizes of a vest model, consider the type of suit you are going to dive into: if it is thick, decent for the larger jacket model.
9 Best Scuba BCD Reviews:
Conventional BCD Vests
It is one of the newest models of this brand. One of the main details that I like more about previous models is that it has integrated ballast.
Also highlight the built-in traction pad that helps prevent slipping of the bottle.
In addition, has two zipper pockets on each side of the jacket and comfortable pockets open on both sides for the octopus. It has 5 stainless steel rings to hook instruments.
It is an excellent option for beginners with all the requisites, good materials and a very reasonable price.
It is a model with a very good hydrodynamic profile and high ascension capacity.
It has integrated ballast improved over previous models, making it flatter, lighter and discreet. It also has pockets on the back to add some ballast.
The back-pack is made of semi-flexible material and very resistant of reduced thickness to lighten it. It has a thermoplastic rubber damper that helps to fix the bottle.
In addition, it has 4 rings accessorizes of stainless steel.
It stands out for its versatility, which allows it to be used both for diving trips, due to its reasonably low weight, and even for diving with dry suit for its high ascension capacity.
This model stands out especially for comfort thanks to the independent harness system (IHS). In addition, it is an extremely resistant vest (sanity index 500).
It has integrated ballast and back pockets to accommodate additional ballast. In addition, it has a ring of stainless steel and 4 of resin to hook the accessories, and two side pockets with zipper.
Ideal for recreational diving of any level.
Travel BCD Vests
It is an extremely light wing model (2.1 kg) but without neglecting all those important elements in a vest: padded shoulders, integrated ballast, padded back, 4 additional rings to hook instruments, etc.
The solid back plate has been replaced by a semi-rigid and padded section. In this way, the weight is reduced while facilitating the folding of the vest to carry it.
From my point of view, it is possibly the best choice of travel vest with a reasonable price.
In addition, it has a specific model for women.
This travel model is conventional type (back and side bladder), making it an ideal choice for recreational diving, especially if you are not an experienced diver.
Although it is somewhat heavier (2.5 kg) than its cousin Cressi Air Travel, it also has very good finishes and also has the advantage of having metal rings, somewhat more resistant than plastic Air Travel.
It also has two large zipper side pockets with a very decent capacity to store all kinds of instruments.
Hybrid BCD Vests
Thanks to its characteristics, it allows a very fine adjustment of the buoyancy, similar to the one of wing, but with greater comfort in surface.
It has folding trellis, ideal to carry it on the road, although it is somewhat heavy (3.9 kg).
It also emphasizes its seamless design in the shoulder straps, which makes it very comfortable. In addition, the suspension system (inspired by the design of backpacks), prevents contact between your back and the bottle holder.
In addition, it has integrated ballast and 7 rings, aluminum fittings.
Ideal if you are a frequent recreational diver seeking a fine control of buoyancy without losing the advantages on the surface of the side bladder vest.
There is a specific model for women with a design that prevents discomfort in the lower back produced by the position of the bottle.
In addition to all the features of the Hybrid model, Mares has opted for this new model by changing the conventional trachea to an integrated one on the right side (Airtrim).
In this way you get a swelling and deflation fast and very easy and allows a precise buoyancy control regardless of where you are as the control device is always at hand.
Rear buoyancy vest with lifting capacity of 18 kg and bladder totally independent of the harness.
It has pivoting buckles at shoulder height and a comfortable integrated ballast system (SLS) with visual confirmation of the correct insertion of the ballast bag. It also has a storage pocket with closure and 7 aluminum rings to hook accessories.
The back plate is one-piece adjustable to mount a monosyllable or Botticelli.
Recommended for advanced recreational divers.
This wing-type vest is an excellent choice for those who practice technical diving or recreational diving very assiduously. High quality and with impeccable finishes, it is a great vest for those looking for precision, comfort and durability.
The modular construction makes it an extremely versatile model: from tropical waters to cold water with dry suit, one or two bottle mounting, easy mounting of technical dive plates, Even additional bladders can be added to increase lift capacity, although the standard bladder already has a lift capacity of 20 kg.
Made of nylon with an index of cordura 1050, it is an extremely resistant vest even under the most demanding conditions of use.
The PFS (Personal Fit System) system developed by Zeagle allows you to customize your own vest to fit perfectly with you and the characteristics of your dives.
It also has two rack pockets to store accessories and 6 stainless rings (two of which are adjustable). In addition, it has integrated ballast system: both lateral and additional pockets in the back.
5 key points to choose your BCD
1. What use will you give? If you are a professional or an advanced diver, you may be interested in buying a wing, while if you do sporadic recreational diving, possibly the best option is a conventional jacket. Also, if you usually do dive trips, you should take a look at the travel vests.
2. Choose the size and capacity of the BCD according to your physical characteristics and the type of diving you do (if it is in cold water, you will need a jacket with greater air capacity so that you can climb without problems).
3. Select the material and index of sanity most appropriate to your type of diving.
4. Check the accessories that you think are going to be useful according to your dive profile: rings, integrated ballast, side pockets ...
5. Make sure you choose the right size : you should not dance too much, but do not overwhelm yourself when it is fully swollen. If you are a woman, value the possibility of choosing a specific model for girl.
Maintenance of the BCD jacket
After each dive, immerse your vest in fresh water for a few minutes to remove salt and sand residues.
When you remove it from the water, turn it upside down, open the quick drain valve and "hitch the vest" to ensure that all the water comes out of the interior. Then you can swell it and repeat the operation to make sure it is dry on the inside.
Let it dry in a ventilated place and in the shade (best slightly swollen).
- Make sure the bottle is as tight as possible by holding it with the straps of your vest to avoid a good scare. To do this, once the straps have been adjusted, lift the vest by the handle on top, shaking it slightly in the air. If the bottle is secure, it will not move in position during the check.
- The models with shoulders and padded back are more comfortable, so it is a point to take into account when choosing the model.
- To counteract the "bottom-up" effect produced by a wing-type vest on the surface, I recommend that you add some weight to the back pockets.