For beginners and experts alike, it is important to have the best equipment when engaging in an activity that is as risky as diving. Granted, not all dives are dangerous or difficult, but it doesn’t hurt to always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. The best way to do so is by making sure you have the highest quality gear you can get. And one of the most important devices you will need for a dive is a BCD.
What is a BCD?
A buoyancy compensator/control device is known by many names, most commonly as BCD. A BCD is a piece of diving equipment that comes with an inflatable bladder used to create a neutral buoyancy underwater. It is one of the most important devices that a diver must have, as it helps give a diver more resilience in the water. It allows divers to expend less energy while floating weightless underwater.
There are many factors to consider before purchasing your BCD. First, have you ever tried renting one out at a trusted dive spot? Get a feel of how a starter BCD works before investing in your equipment. To make this easier, here are some of a few other factors to consider when buying a BCD.
- A good fit
Being as comfortable as possible is very important when diving. You’re already facing more obstacles than usual, and your equipment should not be one of them. A good fit is of utmost importance; your BCD should not be straining against your body, nor should it be pinching you in undesirable places. This is why I find it important to test out BCDs in rentals to get a feel of how it should fit you, as well as trying a BCD on before buying it for yourself.
As a side note, always remember to account for weight gains and weight loss when purchasing your equipment. Make sure you can adjust the size for future changes in your body.
- Dry weight
Proper weighing is another important factor when diving. Having the right weight will help you in executing smoother ascents and descents. Establishing an accurate weight is the basis of your buoyancy, and generally speaking, less weight means less drag. However, do not forsake your equipment’s quality for the sake of lightness. Make sure you still have the essentials with you and only leave behind the non-essentials.
As previously said, weight is a huge factor when diving. It plays another role in considering the “lift” of the BCD. The lift of a BCD means the weight that it can offset for you. Accounting for the lift means recognizing how much or how little weight can be “carried” for you by the BCD. This is especially the case for cold waters, as the body is more likely to fatigue faster with the added weight. In comparison, the lift is not as relevant in warm waters. The lift is most relevant in deep waters where the buoyancy becomes less at depth. The heavy weight that is not compensated by the lift will likely take its toll eventually.
As a general good rule, it is better to choose a BCD with more lift than you expect to need.
If you’ve made it this far trying to look for a good BCD, then you’re probably preparing for a serious dive. Good on you for researching in advance! Let me help you with that by giving you the top 5 BCDs of 2021 (so far)!
Top 5 BCDs
Apeks by Aqua Lung Black Ice Back Inflate
- Dry weight: 9.7 lbs.
- Lift capacity: 52 lbs.
- Style: Hybrid
There’s no question that the Apeks is not the sleekest BCD in the market. However, it makes up for it by it makes up for it through function. The Apeks Black Ice was designed for cold waters. This means a significant amount of lift is needed, and that is exactly what the Apeks provides. The bulk in the back is because it is a back-inflating hybrid.
Like previously mentioned, the lift of a BCD is an important factor to consider, but especially so in cold waters. Although unflattering, the bulk of the Apeks allows it to provide extra lift and cushion to keep the back from settling in. Additionally, it has a SureLock II Mechanical Weight Release system and 4 dump valves.
Aqua Lung Pro HD
- Dry weight: 10 lbs.
- Lift capacity: 29 lbs.
- Style: Jacket
This BCD might seem small at first glance, but it’s got more to offer. It has large and deep pockets for all your extra gear, as well as an adjustable waistband to accommodate most size changes. Much like Apeks, it is also equipped with a SureLock II Mechanical Weight Release system for an easy, single-pull release. The built-in traction pad also helps a lot with avoiding any tank slippage.Aside from the typical attractions, the AquaLung Pro HD Weight Integrated BCD has – surprise – weight integration. It is also made from Resistek material that makes it extra durable against salt and chlorine erosion. As a final surprise, this BCD has special attachments included, such as the 5 D-rings, and the knife. Yes, you read that right. This one can come with a knife accessory that can be attached to the side for easy access.
Cressi Start Pro
- Dry weight: 6.2 lbs.
- Lift capacity: 29-44 lbs.
- Style: Jacket
The Cressi diving company has prided itself on creating quality watersports equipment, and this is no exception. Just as the name suggests, the Cressi Start Pro is perfect for beginners. It is a popular rental equipment because of its straightforward features. It is a great tool for newbie divers who are still a little daunted by the advancing gear. With the Cressi Start Pro, there is some room for fumbling which gained it the reputation of being extremely durable.
The cloth material is made of Denier Nylon Cordura which is a lot harder and stronger than normal nylon. This makes the Cressi start more resistant to erosion and typical wear and tear. This BCD has the usual air bladder and exhaust valves features in place. The waist strap is not attached to the air bladder, allowing for a more comfortable fit, regardless of whether the bladder is inflated or not.
Scubapro Hydros Pro
- Dry weight: 8-9 lbs.
- Lift capacity: 36-40 lbs.
- Style: Back inflate
If you have the funds to splurge, then waste no time in buying this gem of a BCD. The Scubapro Hydros Pro is significantly more expensive than most of its counterparts, but the expense does come with better quality. It is made up of patented injection-molded monoprene gel harness that is highly resistant to chemicals, UV, and other causes of wear and tear.
It is also made to be less water retentive, ideal for travelling, especially in between dives. This BCD is most known for its removable/replaceable pieces. This means that although it is pricey at the initial purchase, you can save a significant amount in the future by replacing parts only when necessary.
- Dry weight: 8.4 lbs.
- Lift capacity: 44 lbs.
- Style: Hybrid
Zeagle has been going strong in the diving business for about 40 years, with its Ranger line as one of its most beloved items. The Ranger is popular for its heavy-duty design, as well as the little element of fun you can incorporate in the equipment. This particular line of BCDs by Zeagle is easily customizable, just place your order in and you can individualize your equipment in a snap.
This BCD can easily transition between cold and warm water use, and can be fitted with a variety of accessories and gears like bladders, backplates, and custom attachments. It is also easily capable of holding twin cylinders, plus it has adjustable waist straps and the bonus D-rings for easy access.
The Ranger is like a strange mix of the old and new. They incorporated some tried and true features of diving gears while also sprinkling in a bit of modernization such as the screw-fit low-pressure inflator. It stays true to its name by presenting with a rugged design. The Ranger has been around for a while, and was actually the first BCD to merge rear flotation, heavy-duty construction, and weight integration. The way it lasted through the years as one of the most recommended BCD is a genuine testimony to its quality.
You will now have a much better understanding of how important a BCD is for all divers. All of these Scuba BCDs are the perfect diving companion. Both beginners and experts must use the BCD that is appropriate for them. Being comfortable and choosing the right weight are all vital considerations for a BCD. We have selected the BCDs that came out on top for features and reliability. You should be able to select one that matches your requirements. We wish you happy diving, wherever you may be!