A Beginner's Guide to Buying a BCD

A Beginner's Guide to Buying a BCD

Newly certified divers or those with only a few dives under their belt might not immediately see the necessity of owning their own equipment. However, investing in gear like a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) can significantly enhance your diving experience in the long run! 


Koh Tao Diving


Having your own BCD contributes to increased comfort, confidence, and efficiency on each dive, ultimately making the overall experience more enjoyable. When you're familiar with your equipment, you feel more at ease underwater, allowing you to focus on the beauty of the marine world rather than struggling with unfamiliar gear.

• With your own BCD, it's always exactly as you left it. The features remain consistent, and you don't have to waste time adjusting to slightly different equipment every time you dive. This consistency and familiarity significantly reduce hassle and streamline your pre-dive preparations, leaving you more time to enjoy the underwater wonders.


Choosing the Right Style


There are two common styles of BCDs to choose from: the jacket style and the wings style. Your selection depends on personal preference and the diving you plan to undertake:

  1. Jacket-Style BCD: This is likely the first type of BCD you used when you started diving. This traditional design is worn like a backpack and provides padding for comfort around the back, sides, and shoulders. Equipped with fasteners on each strap – shoulder, chest, and abdomen – it offers a customizable fit. When inflated, the air fills the entire jacket, wrapping around the diver's sides, back, and shoulders.
  2. Backplate/wing style BCD: initially designed for technical diving, offering versatility for various configurations. It comprises three main components: the harness, backplate, and bladder or wing. The harness features a single long strap that extends over the shoulder, between the legs, and fastens with a single clip at the abdomen. Unlike traditional BCDs, the backplate, typically made of aluminum, steel, or carbon fiber, is unpadded. The bladder or wing, located solely on the back, fills with air when inflated. While it may require some adjustment for beginners, wing-style BCDs provide excellent underwater buoyancy control and freedom of movement.


Jacket-Style vs. Backplate/Wing-Style

Trim and position

Jacket-Style BCD:

  • On the surface, the jacket-style BCD provides buoyancy support evenly around the torso, promoting a comfortable upright position.
  • Underwater, however, the air within the jacket can shift, sometimes rising to the shoulders, resulting in a head-up position that makes achieving a horizontal diving posture challenging.
  • When fully inflated, the jacket may feel tight and constricting, particularly around the chest, causing discomfort for some divers.

Backplate and Wing BCD:

  • On the surface, the backplate and wing BCD inflate only the bladder on the diver's back, which may cause the diver's face to be pushed into the water due to the force originating solely from the back.
  • The backplate and wing BCD can be fully inflated without causing noticeable discomfort or squeezing.
  • Underwater, the backplate, and wing configuration provide a more natural diving position, with the wing wrapping around the cylinder, promoting stability and streamlined movement.


 Weights and Pockets

Jacket Style BCD:

  • Jacket-style BCDs typically come with more pockets and storage options, making them ideal for carrying accessories like SMBs, torches, and other gadgets. However, accessing these pockets while diving can be somewhat awkward.
  • The pockets may become inaccessible when fully inflated, limiting access to stored items.
  • Most jacket-style BCDs feature integrated weight systems, eliminating the need for uncomfortable weight belts that can bruise the hips. Integrated weights distribute weight evenly around the torso and shoulders, providing enhanced comfort and reducing stress on the back.

Backplate and Wing Style BCD:

  • The minimalist design of the backplate and wing-style BCDs means they lack pockets and integrated weight systems. However, they compensate for this with numerous D-rings, offering numerous attachment points for devices and accessories.
  • The streamlined design of backplate and wing BCDs promotes better hydrodynamics and reduces drag in the water.
  • Depending on the material of the backplate, such as aluminum, backplate, and wing, BCDs can be significantly lighter compared to traditional jackets, weighing as little as 2kg. This lightweight construction makes them a preferred choice for divers seeking agility and maneuverability underwater.


Fit Comparison

Jacket Style BCD:

  • Typically, it is bulkier and heavier, which may not suit travelers aiming to minimize luggage weight.
  • Individuals with larger body sizes may need help finding a BCD that fits comfortably without feeling too tight or bulky.
  • Jacket-style BCDs are generally bought "off the rack," so finding the perfect fit can be tricky. They are primarily designed for single-tank recreational diving and may require upgrading for tech diving pursuits.

Backplate and Wing Style BCD:

  • It offers a customized fit with a single strap that can be adjusted precisely to the diver's body, allowing for adaptability as diving needs change.
  • The absence of bulk around the sides and front, with the bladder on the back, provides exceptional comfort during wear.
  • While lacking padding, some may find backplate and wing BCDs less cushioned than jacket-style BCDs.
  • Thanks to its adjustable nature, it provides versatility for various diving styles, including recreational, twinset, or side-mount. Components can be purchased separately, allowing divers to mix and match brands according to personal preferences.


Exploring Hybrid AKA Back-Inflate BCDs


The hybrid BCD is a fusion of the two popular designs. It can be of a wing design or back inflation air cell and provides excellent buoyancy control and additional comfort. With a hybrid, it's easy to maintain position horizontally and vertically - less effort and a more comfortable dive. It combines the streamlined buoyancy control of a back-inflated wing with the comfort of a jacket. The straps resemble jacket-style BCD, usually fastening at the shoulders, chest, and abdomen, while the back is padded for added comfort.
Moreover, the hybrid BCD often comes with integrated weight options and may even feature pockets for storing small essentials. Although it may lack the adjustability of a wing-style BCD for technical diving, its versatility and comfort make it increasingly popular among recreational divers seeking a reliable, user-friendly option.


Regardless of your choice, you must ensure that the BCD includes key features such as an adjustable band, a low-pressure inflator/deflator, and an overpressure valve. Additional features can enhance your diving experience, including pockets for accessories, a cummerbund waistband for added comfort, and a quick dump for easy air release.

  • Tips from Coral Grand Divers Team: When transitioning to a Backplate and Wing Style BCD, the initial process isn't as simple as unpacking it and diving right in. It entails trying it on, making numerous adjustments, and refining the fit. Despite this, the effort pays off as these adjustments significantly enhance comfort and fit. While we don't recommend them for freshly certified divers, there are individuals who start diving with a wing and adapt smoothly!


Koh Tao Scuba Diving


At Coral Grand Divers, we provide diverse BCD options, such as the Scubapro T.one and Aqualung Wave in jacket style. Our commitment to safety is reflected in our regular servicing, conducted every 40 dives. This caters to the needs of both our fun divers and student divers, ensuring they can fully enjoy exploring the 25+ dive sites waiting to be discovered in Koh Tao, Thailand.


Here's a glimpse into the BCDs some of our staff members use :

  • Elise from France: XDEEP, Wing-style BCD
  • David from the UK: Aqualung Axiom, jacket-style BCD
  • Yohan from France: Aqualung Dimension, Back-Inflate BCD
  • Cedric from Netherlands: Cressi Commander, Back-Inflate BCD
  • Jules from Germany: Aqualung Wave, Jacket-style BCD
  • Tan from Singapore: Dive Rite Transplate Wing-style BCD
  • Greg from France: Apeks WTX-D30, Wing-style BCD
  • Linda from China: Scubapro Hydros Pro, Back-Inflate BCD
  • Charles from Belgium: Aqualung Axiom, jacket-style BCD
  • Joy from India: Apeks Exotec, Back-Inflate BCD
  • Maria from Spain: Aqualung Pro HD, Jacket-style BCD
  • Jerome from France: XDEEP, Wing-style BCD
  • Clark from China: Scubapro Seahawk 2, Back-Inflate BCD



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