5 Types of Buoyancy Compensators

A buoyancy compensators is a device used by divers to manage their flotation, such as keeping afloat, giving neutral buoyancy, and overall crucial to a diving experience.

A benefit of this is the ability to provide both comfort and safety.

Buoyancy compensators (BC) or Buoyancy compensation devices or Scuba  BCD assist a scuba diving in maintaining neutral buoyancy throughout a dive.

If an underwater object starts to rise, that’s positive buoyancy. If sinking, its negative buoyancy. If stationary, a scuba diver has achieved neutral buoyant – ideal position for a diver.

The point of a dive is to explore the undersea world, and that’s difficult if a diver is always rising and sinking. Having neutral buoyancy gives a diver more freedom to move about. So, an important first step with novice divers is to learn techniques for retaining neutral buoyancy.

Types of buoyancy compensators:

This essential piece of dive equipment is split into five different types:

  • Jacket Style BCD
  • Back-Inflate BCD
  • Hybrid BCD
  • Back Plate & Wind BCD
  • Sidemount BCD

For those first starting out with scuba diving, a jacket style set-up is the most practical option. It is the most common in recreational diving activities, mostly for the fact it is the easiest to use. A jacket style BCD is similar in design to a jacket with air bladders positioned at the sides, front, and rear, which makes it easier to remain in a vertical position. Plus, this BCD has several pockets in place to help store a variety of essential supplies.


The hybrid BCD is a type of mixture and gives a versatile set-up. Hybrids are a combination of the back-inflate and jacket style BCD and provide more freedom while having the ability to provide the comfortable horizontal position.

A back plate and wind system are quite easy to modify by the diving to ensure the preferred buoyancy is achieved. Parts of this system are quite flexible which means it is possible to interchange with alternative parts when needed. It gives the option to attach two dive tanks which can benefit the wreck, cave, and deep divers.

Plus, the Sidemount BCD provides a unique design to make it easy to attach the dive tanks on the sides (under the arms) which is preferred by those in restricted spaces, such as cave diving.

In general, the function of a buoyancy compensator is straightforward.

Buoyancy compensators operate with air pumped into the bladders on the jacket, resulting in positive buoyancy, air is less dense than water. The BC device forces the scuba diver in an upwards motion.

As a scuba diver starts to rise, the pressure starts to decrease, and that expands the air volume. Again, as a diver dives, pressure on a jacket starts increasing, thus reducing the level of air contained. That reduction in volume results in an upward buoyancy force to lessen, allowing for a descent that’s faster.

Deflating or inflating the compensator offers a scuba diver means to control how little or much buoyancy force it delivers. Working inside (or alongside with some models) the BC is weighted which counteracts the buoyancy level.

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