Finding the right BCD starts with knowing a little bit about the different options available to you. There are many different models of BCD on the market, which can be split into three main categories: Jacket-style, Backplate + Wing and Hybrid (aka Semi-Wing).
This is the most common type of BCD in recreational diving and preferred by dive schools as they are easy to use and fit different body types. We can recognize the Jacket-style BCD by the airbladder which fills at the back as well as the sides (like a jacket). This feature allows Jackets to be comfortable as well as easy to handle on the surface.
Being such a common style, we can find many different models with different characteristics; light and minimalistic specifically designed for traveling, simple and economical for rental or beginner divers. As we increase in price, we find characteristics such as extra padding, additional stainless-steel D-rings and a tougher outer shell which makes them more comfortable and suitable for more frequent divers. This higher price range are the kind used every day by dive professionals.
Backplate + Wing setup
This type of BCD is back-inflated only meaning that when inflated, the air is directed only to the back part of the BCD also known as “the wing”, making it very comfortable under water and perfect for maintaining a good position while diving. However, for some people, they are not as comfortable on the surface since, when inflated fully, they tend to push the body forward however with a little practice it can be controlled for instance by not fully inflating the wing, correct body position as well as being weighted properly.
This kind of BCD is the most customizable as they are made up of three separate modules: The Harness, the Backplate and the Wing. This allows it to be highly customizable, not only with regards to size, volume of bladder and comfort level of harness but also in its appearance and function. It can be as streamlined and as minimalistic as necessary, adding or removing parts like pockets, D-rings, a crotch strap, etc. to really make it your own. This modular approach will also make it easier to replace parts if and when needed. All of this makes them ideal for any type of diving, especially technical diving.
Hybrid BCDs or Semi-wings
As the name implies the hybrid BCD shares features of both the Backplate + Wing and the Jacket-style BCD. These are back-inflate BCDs that come as a complete preassembled package. Most commonly they will have an integrated weight system with adjustable straps and comfortable padding similar to the Jacket-style however they have the streamlined feeling of freedom that is associated with a Backplate + Wing setup. This kind of BCD has a good balance between the two previous styles, making them the number 1 choice for experienced divers and dive professionals that want comfort, good performance and streamlining but don’t need the full customization of the Backplate + Wing.
When it is time for you to choose your next BCD remember to talk to your sales person about what needs and characteristics are important for you. At the Dive Friends Retail store, we have a crew of experienced instructors and highly trained service technicians that can help guide you in your search. We also have a large selection of styles and sizes so we are sure to have something you like.