A Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) or Buoyancy Compensator (BC) is an important piece of equipment that scuba divers wear. It has quite a few jobs to do for you!
• It provides positive buoyancy while resting on the surface.
• It contains an inflatable air bladder which you can add or subtract air
from, allowing you to achieve neutral buoyancy in the water.
• It allows the dive cylinder(s) to attach to the BCD
• It allows the diver to carry or attach all of their accessories using
built-in pockets and D-Rings.
You can roughly break the different types of BCD's on the market down to 5 styles; Jacket-Style, Back Inflation, Back Plate and Wing, Side Mount Systems and Hybrid. Each style has positives and negatives, some are better suited to a particular type of diving but they all can be and are used by newer divers as well as the most experienced divers and instructors!
The jacket-style is perhaps the most common type of BCD among divers for the last 30 years. The BCD consists of a wearable sleeveless jacket into which an air bladder is integrated that wraps around the diver. The types and configurations of this kind of BCD are numerous, but the basic premise remains that the bladder wraps around and inflates both in front, on the sides and behind the diver. The jacket-style BCD is very comfortable and provides pockets for storage and is commonly found with pouches for weight integration which replaces the need for a independent weight belt. Jacket BCDs are extremely stable in all positions in the water and is the most popular choice for recreational divers all over the world.
Back Inflate BCD
The back inflate BCD only has an air bladder on the back, leaving the diver’s chest area uncluttered. Back inflate BCD’s are known for how great they are at positioning the diver in the more flat horizontal position in the water. Most divers strive for good horizontal positioning (trim). Being in a nice horizontal position is very streamlined with the diver having less resistance moving in the water while swimming; this reduces workload and helps to prolong your air supply. Like the majority of modern BCD's today they are virtually all weight integrated, eliminating the need for a cumbersome weight belt. Some divers when used to diving in a traditional jacket style BCD find the transition to a back inflate BCD a little "different" when on the surface or vertical, however this feeling soon passes and the stability in the horizontal position while diving is truly appreciated!
The hybrid is described as "the best of both worlds" in terms of recreational BCD design. The innovative hybrid air bladder design allows less front clutter than most jackets style units and the flat horizontal diving position you get from a back inflated BCD. However, the unique design allows you a more relaxed and comfortable vertical orientation when you find yourself in that position (kneeling on the bottom or on the surface). This style of BCD is a staff favorite among our Instructors here at Divers Supply.
Back Plate and Wing BCD
The back plate and wing BCD is considered by many the most versatile of BCD’s There are unlimited possible combinations in backplate choice, wing size and design choice and harness design and harness hardware choices when putting together a back plate and wing system. Most divers who choose this style will assemble to meet their specific needs, often with their instructor or mentor. The Backplate and Wing system is a great choice for divers who are contemplating moving into more advanced diving such as technical deep, penetration wrecks or cave diving. Some of our staff are huge fans of the Backplate and Wing system and would love the opportunity to show you one!
Sidemount systems allow you to dive with your tanks under your arms at your sides instead of positioned on your back. This style of BCD has evolved from Cave Diving in very tight areas to being a popular choice for many technical divers looking to move away from heavy double tanks on their back. It is growing in popularity and we would love to explain the ins and outs of this growing type of BCD!