Jacket Style Back Inflate Hybrid Travel-Friendly
Buoyancy Control Device (BCD); when deciding to purchase a BCD it can be a bit overwhelming. What features do I look for? How many types of BCDs are there? What is lift? So here is a basic breakdown of what features and styles to look for;
Jacket Style BCD: a jacket style BCD is most common in rental gear, so this is probably what you used during your Open Water certification. A jacket BCD is designed to have the air bladder at the back and wrapped around to the front, giving you optimal buoyancy for when you are learning. After you are certified many prefer this type of BCD because they feel the comfort of the SCUBA hug that it gives. This design typically allows enough room and lift for cold water diving and most are a bit bulkier for travel, but Scuba Pro does make a great travel-friendly jacket BCD.
Back Inflate BCD: a back inflate BCD is simply that, the air bladder is only on your back. These BCD’s are designed for your perfect buoyancy while diving (huh, isn’t that the point?) since the air inside the bladder will surround the air tank while in the diving position. Some have had issues at the surface, since the air at the back can push you forward (face into the water) but it just a matter of getting used to it and leaning back. Most travel BCD’s are back inflate since they are typically less bulky and easier to pack but many also work great for cold water diving, especially in a dry suit.
Hybrid BCD: a hybrid BCD takes the best of both worlds from a jacket style and a back inflate BCD. The air bladder allows more air into the back (back inflate) but still allows some air into the front for a bit of that SCUBA hug (jacket). These can be great for cold water diving, will typically pack smaller than a jacket style, but will normally weigh more than a back-inflate for travel.
Travel-Friendly BCD: Most travel-friendly BCD’s are light weight for easy packing. They can have plastic d-rings instead of metal, smaller weight pockets, and less a rigid back plate. As I had mentioned most are back inflate for ease of packing but some cannot hold enough weight for cold water diving.
When it comes time to decide which one is best for you, you will have to consider where you want your diving life to take you. It isn’t something that you have to have set in stone, since some BCD’s can be switched from a cold water to a travel BCD with just a few clicks but it is a good idea to know all the options before the big purchase. So for wherever your diving takes you, make sure you make the right choice for you!