Selecting your Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) or Buoyancy Compensator (BC) is a big decision on an important piece of equipment. It has quite a few jobs By using an inflatable air bladder and weight pockets, you can achieve positive bouyancy on the surface, negitive buoyancy to descend and neutral buoyancy once you achieve the depth you desire,
It attaches your scuba cylinder(s) to you and It allows the diver to carry or attach all of their accessories using built-in pockets, attachment points and D-Rings.
You can roughly break the different types of BCD's on the market down to 5 styles; Jacket-Style, Back Inflation, Hybrid, Back Plate & Wing and Side Mount Systems. 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. Tis 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 of, 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. The air cell surrounds your torso like a jacket. Jacket inflation is best suited for newer divers who need to maintain a vertical orientation or spend a lot of time on the surface.
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 face-down position in the water. Most divers strive for good horizontal positioning (trim). Back Inflation places the bladder behind the diver. Many divers find this more comfortable, as it allows for easier movement of the arms and feels less restrictive. A back inflation ScubaBC, like the Excursion Oceanic BC, also helps divers maintain proper horizontal attitude while underwater. 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 provides the flat horizontal diving position underwater you get from a back inflated BCD. However, the unique cut of the bladder design allows you a more relaxed and comfortable vertical orientation when you find yourself in on the surface.
This style of BCD is a staff favorite among our Instructors here at Divers Supply. Look for a video on these units on our YouTube channel.
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!
The 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 divers looking to move away from the 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!
Fitting your BCD
If you’re having trouble choosing a scuba BCD, one of the factors you should consider is your body type. You need a scuba BCD that fits well because this device will give you the support you need in the water. Your body type will help determine what type of scuba BCD you choose. For instance, if you have a large frame, bulk won’t be an issue when you’re choosing a scuba BCD. However, if you are petite, you’d be better off with a compact scuba BCD. If you are short-waisted, one way to ensure a good fit is by selecting a scuba BCD that has an integrated weighting system. Consider the length of your scuba BCD. You don’t want one that extends too far down because it will make removing your weights more difficult. Choose a model that fits snugly and doesn’t ride up your body or one that has a customizable fit.
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Caring for your BCD
Your BCD is an essential piece of equipment to help you control your entire dive from your descent to your return to the surface. Make sure you keep this valuable piece of equipment in good shape. Here are a few maintenance guidelines you should keep in mind.
How to properly care for your BCD:
POST-DIVE CARE AND MAINTENANCE
With proper care, your BC will provide many years of reliable service. The following preventive maintenance must be performed to extend the life of your BC:
• Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight and extreme heat. Nylon fabric can quickly fade when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and extreme heat may damage the welded bladder seams.
• Avoid repeated or prolonged use in heavily chlorinated water, which can cause the BC fabric to discolor and decay prematurely.
• Do not allow the BC to chafe against any sharp objects or rough surfaces that could abrade or puncture the bladder. Do not set or drop heavy objects such as block weights on the BC.
• Avoid any contact with oil, gasoline, aerosols, or chemical solvents.
• To preserve the life of the bladder, rinse it inside and out with fresh water after every day of use, using the following procedure:
Pressurize the power inflator with medium pressure (MP) air via the MP hose.
CAUTION: Before rinsing, ensure that the inflator is pressurized with air. This will prevent debris and contaminants from entering the valve mechanism if the inflator button is accidentally depressed.
Using a garden hose, direct water through the oral inflator mouthpiece or the Multiport to flush the interior of the bladder, and then thoroughly rinse the exterior of the BC.
Completely drain the bladder of water, either through the oral inflator or through the over-pressure relief valve.
After rinsing, inflate the BC, and allow it to dry inside and out.
Rinse your BC after use, whether you’ve used it in the pool or ocean. Both chlorine and salt water can harm your BCD.
Make sure you drain all the water out of your BC after using it. First, fill it to one-third full with fresh water, swish the water around and then drain the water from your BC.
Leave your BC fully inflated until it dries. By doing so, you are testing the firmness of the bladder and valves.
If your BC doesn’t stay firm for at least an hour, take it in to a professional for repairs.