BCDs

Commonly referred to as BC (Buoyancy Compensator) or BCD (Buoyancy Compensating Device) or Stab (Stabilising) Jacket the modern BCD allows the accurate addition and subtraction of air whilst in the water to adjust buoyancy.

A good quality BCD will improve your buoyancy control, weight distribution, and comfort in the water. Generally speaking the more you spend the more features your BCD will have.

Ladies should certainly seriously consider lady BCDs, they offer a shorter length of jacket, integrated weights (to stop the bruising to your hips) and a better fit all over.

For a large range of BCDs for all conditions visit our BCDs section in the Dive Shop.

Sizing

To help you select the correct size BCD we have drawn up an approximate size chart - some BCDs have their own size chart as supplied by the manufacturers which supercedes this chart. This is only an approximate guide and you should always try your BCD as soon as you receive it and before actually using it to ensure the correct fit in case you find you need a different size. The measurements shown are chest measurements over your exposure protection, so if for example you have 42inch chest and wear a dry suit which is approximately 2 inches of bulk, you should consider a size compatible with a 44 inch chest.

Material

Denier refers to the thread thickness used in the weave of the material covering your BCD. A high denier such 1200 offers excellent scratch resistance (e.g. inadvertently scraping against a sharp edge on a wreck) but low puncture resistance (e.g. accidentally pressing a pointed object against the BCD). A low denier such as 420 offers low scratch resistance but high puncture resistance. A low denier jacket will have a lighter physical weight making it more popular in travelling BCDs designs whilst a high denier makes the BCD heavy but harder wearing. Many BCDs now incorporate different denier panels in different areas of the BCD to offer the best of all thicknesses.

Integrated Weights

Weight integration built into a BCD can mean you won't need to wear a weight belt. However, most systems available today will not necessarily hold enough weight to totally remove the need for a weight belt when worn with a dry suit or thick wet suit. For warm water divers (and especially ladies who are fed up of having bruised hips after diving), weight integration should seriously be considered. The weights that usually fit on the belt are now stored in special removable pockets. These pockets can be dumped in an emergency or easily released and passed to the boat crew when exiting from deep water.

Ladies BCDs

Modern ladies BCDs offer female divers increased comfort and a much better fit. Key features are that the back length is Reduced (ladies have shorter backs than men), which means the cylinder does not rest on the base of your spine. Integrated weights save your hips from the bruising sometimes suffered by using a conventional weight belt. Also, often the chest straps are removed on a ladies BCD to avoid constriction across the bust.

Styles: Wings vs Jackets

The rule of thumb with selecting whether to go for a wing or normal jacket style BCD is your experience level. A normal jacket style BCD offers good all round buoyancy when inflated. A wing style BCD only has inflation on the rear, meaning that at the surface it will have a tendency to turn the diver face down.

A lot of divers go for wing styles BCD for the "techie" look and whilst this is fine for those techies who really know what they're doing, one must remember that safety is paramount and that performance is key rather than looks. Reasons for choosing a wing are if you want to keep your front area free from clutter, if you are an experienced travelling diver or if you need to use multiple cylinders. Travel wings are becoming more popular due the size they pack down to but remember the points listed above when deciding whether or not you should buy one.

Lift Requirements

A lot is said regarding the lift capacity of a BCD. However lift of the BCD (i.e. the amount of negative weight the BCD can float) should not replace proper weighting. As with all diving you should ensure you are correctly weighted (this was one of the first lessons you should have learned when you were taught to dive). You should always avoid being over weighted. With this in mind, all BCDs offer plenty of lift. The exceptions come when you start to carry multiple cylinders or extra tools which will increase your need for extra lift.

Travel BCDs

Travel BCDs are designed to minimise weight and bulk to make travelling with them easier. They tend to be made of lower denier materials with only basic features and are most suitable for tropical locations. Often steel D-rings will be replaced by plastic ones which are virtually as strong, but much lighter, to help reduce the weight of the BCD

Inflation

BCD inflation can either come from the traditional over the left shoulder inflator/deflator hose or from "air trim" style inflators that are located lower down in a more natural hand position. Balanced Power Inflators still remain the best for performance, but in recent years "air trim" styles have become more popular.

Alternate Inflator Regulators

An alternate inflator regulator can replace the normal inflator/deflator mechanism on your BCD and still allows you to inflate and deflate in the standard way but also gives you a built in spare second stage regulator. These are usually only slightly bigger than regulator means that you do not have to have an octopus (secondary second stage) and in an out of air situation, you give away your primary second stage and breath off the alternate inflator regulator (you can still control your buoyancy even when it is in your mouth).

These systems are ideal for travelling divers who wish to reduce the weight and bulk of equipment. However like all new equipment we would recommend practising using yours in a controlled environment first. These should only be fitted by a trained technician and only to a BCD made by the same manufacturer.

Dump Valves

Generally speaking, the more dump valves on a BCD the better. Usually located on the rear right shoulder area and rear left hip area, most BCDs have two. Modern BCD sometimes have a third built into the inflator/deflator mechanism on the left shoulder. You should learn where these are by feel.

Pockets and D-rings

Make sure that your BCD has enough pockets and D-rings for the kind of diving that you are planning to do most. Often D-rings are pre-bent to flare outwards towards the bottom which makes attaching clips much easier than with flat D-rings which tend to lay flat agiainst the BCD.

In tropical waters, only one or two small pockets will suffice useful for carrying things like your Fish ID slate. For cold water diving, you will probably want to carry more equipment such as a DSMB and reel, or spare mask.


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For a large range of BCDs for all conditions visit our BCDs section in the Dive Shop.

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