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When it comes to dive gear, if you are an odd size and want to make sure you are comfortable on a dive, then you are going to have to get your own BCD. Not all dive shops have every size, let alone BCDs made for women, so to make sure you have the perfect dive, just bring your own, that’s perfect for you!

Besides that, if you are diving with a new dive operator, you really don’t know how good or bad the quality of the equipment really is. I’ve done dives where the BCD didn’t fit well, the weight pockets fell out easily, dump valve cords were missing, inflators didn’t work, and much more. It can really ruin your dives.

That’s what this guide is for. There are a lot of dive BCDs out there, and this guide is meant to make it easy to find your best possible match, based on budget, skill level, preference, and more.

If you are afraid of traveling with such a big, bulky load, well you really don’t need to be. On this list, there are a few great options for travel BCDs, that are super lightweight and even foldable, that you will love.

If you can’t find something perfect for you here, I don’t know where else you will!

Top BCD Reviews

scubapro buoyancy control device

ScubaPro is an awesome company and makes many BCDs, but the Scubapro Hydros Pro one is one of my favorites of the year. It has tons of features and comforts and is good for all levels.  There is also a woman’s version.

A rugged but comfortable BCD that has lots of convenient features. The ScubaPro Hydros comes in 9 different colors meaning there’s a BCD for everyone!

The harness is made from injection-molded monoprene gel and along with swiveling shoulder clips allows it to conform to the shape of your body, resulting in supreme comfort.

The material of the harness and wing allows the entire setup to dry very quickly, so you don’t have to worry when packing.

You can select and even change the colors of the BCD, and you can also get smaller accessories for mounting items to it such as flashlights and cutting tools.

The weight integrated pouches allow the use of hard and soft weights.

Metal D rings on the shoulder will not break and are easy to use. It provides lift exactly where you need it to stay in trim and is an excellent all-around option.

A rugged but comfortable BCD with integrated weights, many components are replaceable without rebuying the whole BCD.

While style isn’t the most important thing when picking a BCD, its certainly a factor.

What’s great about this BCD in specific, is that almost every part, including the jacket’s buckles, can be replaced without messing around with stitching.

BEST FOR: Recreational divers, tec divers

Weight: 11.4 lb | 5.17 kg

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weight pockets

FEATURES: No Velcro or zippers, body grip gel, gel harness

PROS: Tons of features, instant dry materials, many colors.

CONS: Heavy for travel and expensive

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Hollis is one of our favorite brands for tec diving and advanced recreational gear. These guys focus on that and are king. The Hollis L.T.S (Lite Travel System) is a weight-integrated back inflation design that’s awesome for travel.

BEST FOR: advanced divers, traveling

Weight: 5 pounds (2.27 kg)

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weight pockets

FEATURES: 30 lbs (13.6 kg) of lift, lightweight design

PROS: Perfect for travel, comfortable, affordable, d-rings

CONS: Limited size weight pockets (around 10-12lbs total)

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Hollis HD 200 BC

The Hollis HD 200 is the more heavy-duty version of the L.T.S above, offering a bigger jacket with more lift, a nylon waist strap, and more weight pocket space. This is an awesome BCD for everyday use.

BEST FOR: Recreational divers, tec divers

Weight: 9.4 lbs (4.3 kg)

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weight pockets

FEATURES: comfort molded backpad, durable design

PROS:30 lbs (13.6 kg) of lift, comfortable, affordable, d-rings

CONS: Heavy for travel

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The Cressi Patrol is probably the best BCD on offer from Cressi, and it’s a good one. This lightweight, rear inflation BC is built for comfort, and any diver would be happy with it as their daily diver.

BEST FOR: Recreational divers

Weight: 5.7 lbs. to 6.5 lbs. (2.6 kg to 2.9 kg)

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weight pockets

FEATURES: Ultralight rigid backplate, Lightweight, high lift

PROS: 30-50 lbs of lift, comfortable, very affordable

CONS: There aren’t really any!

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Here is a great jacket style BCD from Mares, that is super cheap. The Mares Hybrid AT is a good BCD for all levels, and dive shops like the shoulder inflator version for training.

The Mares is a decently rugged back inflate BCD with integrated weight pockets, a zippered pocket for storage, and several attachment points.

Weight integration allows you to use soft and hard weights instead of a weight belt for quick ditching.

The metal shoulder D rings are sturdy and easy to find with your hands, and the zippered pockets allow space for you to store spools, cutting devices, flashlights, and more.

The shoulder clips make donning and doffing simple and quick, while a chest clip makes sure it stays snug around your shoulders. Includes a solid built-in carrying handle for easy transport.

BEST FOR: Recreational divers

Weight: 4kg (size L) 9.5Lbs

Configuration: Jacket style, integrated weight pockets

FEATURES: Jacket style& foldable, lightweight, Airtrim inflator

PROS: Super cheap, great company

CONS: Jacket Style doesn’t suit everyone.

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The Aqua Lung Lotus i3 back-inflator style BCD was specifically designed for women, and we can’t say enough about it. It is probably the best woman’s BCD we have ever tried. It folds and is good for travel, light, and maybe the perfect BCD.

BEST FOR: Recreational and tec woman

Weight: 7.25 lb – 7.6 lb

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weights, side inflater

FEATURES: Woman’s Wrapture Harness System, octo-pocket

PROS: Built high quality, great weight system, great materials

CONS: New divers need practice with inflator/deflator

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The Aqua Lung Dimension i3 is a feature-rich, back-inflation-style BC that incorporates Aqua Lung’s patented i3 inflation/deflation system. This is basically the men’s version of the incredible Lotus (above), and one of the best BCDs on the planet.

BEST FOR: Recreational and tec

Weight: 7.25 lb – 7.6 lb

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weights, side inflater

FEATURES: Wrapture Harness System, octo-pocket

PROS: Built high quality, great weight system, great materials

CONS: New divers need practice with inflator/deflator

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The Aqua Lung Axiom i3 is the BCD I use now, and I love it. Can’t say enough good things about it, except that it really is awesome. The one complaint I would have is how bulky it is, for all my travels. But I preferred this over nearly all others.

BEST FOR: Recreational and tec

Weight: 8.37 lbs (3.8 kg)

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weights, side inflator

FEATURES: Wrapture Harness System, octo-pocket

PROS: Built high quality, great weight system, great materials

CONS: New divers need practice with inflator/deflator

Check out current prices on: Amazon

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The Zeagle Ranger LTD BCD is equipped with Personal Fit System Modular Sizing. The PFS allows for a custom fit and lets you change out specific sections of the BC. It also has adjustable elastic waist panels and a lumbar pad that is permanently mounted in the rear of the vest section.

BEST FOR: Recreational

Weight: 9.5Lbs (4.3Kg)

Configuration: Back inflation, integrated weights

FEATURES: Tough and durable, rapid deflation

PROS: Really great design, good for all levels. Very adjustable

CONS: Expensive, heavy

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So what BCD should you choose?

Still not sure what one to go with, with all these great options? There are a few factors to consider when choosing the perfect BCD for you, so let’s go through those, and then I will just give my recommendations and all-time favorites, that you can’t go wrong with.

Your Budget

Obviously, you should think about your budget, check the prices in the links above, and that will be a big factor. But obviously, since there are a lot of options around the same prices, there will be more factors to think about.

How often will you dive

If you are diving frequently, are a Divemaster or instructor, you are going to want a good BCD that will last, as well as one that matches your skill level. If you are diving a few times a year, you don’t need the most top-of-the-line.

What is your certification level?

Most of you reading this will be recreational divers, and do not need something very technical. And just remember that if you get one with a side inflator, you need to do a couple of practice dives with it, as it is dangerous to not be familiar with where your inflator/deflator is located in an emergency. But once you get used to it, you’ll love it. But, if you are an instructor, you need a regular inflator hose, as you will be demonstrating it to students.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Jacket BCDs?

Jacket BCDs are incredibly common with rental gear and are what most people began learning diving with.

They consist of an air cell that wraps from the back under the armpits and waist, with usually a few D rings or pocket weight integration.

For more info about getting your weight right, check out our weight buoyancy calculator.

The benefits of jacket BCDs are that many people feel comfortable diving in them, as this is what they learned in.

They do have some downsides:

  • They aren’t very customizable
  • They give lift in places that don’t benefit trim
  • They can be hard to replace parts on
  • They usually only come in a handful of sizes

Regardless of the downsides, they are very popular beginner BCDs.

What Are Back Inflated BCDs?

The next type of BCD we will discuss in this guide is a back-inflated BCD.

These look very similar to jacket BCDs but provide lift in better positions on the back instead of around the waist like jackets.

This makes it easier to be in trim, although it is entirely possible in jacket BCDs. Many people find them more comfortable than jackets because the air cell doesn’t squeeze as much when inflated.

Unfortunately, they suffer from many of the same issues as jacket BCDs:

  • They are hard to customize.
  • Hard to replace parts on them.
  • They usually only come in a handful of sizes.

Back Inflated BCDs are fairly common and popular among more experienced divers.

What’s The Best BCD For Travel?

A good rule of thumb for travel BCDs is: the smaller the better. Remember, you’re trying to bring this travel buoyancy control device on vacation with you. Do you really want to lug a bulky BCD around?

For more information on travel buoyancy control devices, check out our guide to the top travel BCDs.

What’s The Best Back Inflated BCD?

Depending on several factors, certain back-inflated BCDs are better than others. For more information on back-inflated buoyancy control devices, check out our guide on the best back-inflatedBCDs.

What’s The Best BCD For Women?

Not all of these BCDs will fit or be comfortable for women. For more information on buoyancy control devices for women, check out our reviews of the best BCDs for women.

So what do we recommend?

I can not say enough good things about Aqua Lung BCDs (although I love all the companies above). From my very first ever dive, I started with a super simple and cheap Aqua Lung Wave. It’s a simple, no-weight integration, and every dive shop has loads of them as they are cheap. It’s all a new diver needs.

aqualung wave best beginner bcd

Once I got a few dives under my belt, I upgraded to an Axiom i3. I think that is almost the perfect BCD. The only complaint I have is that I travel a lot and it weighs over 9 pounds dry, and it is kind of expensive. But it is top of the line, comfortable and great, so I deal with the luggage weight.

Really soon I would like to try out the Dimension i3, as it might be a little lighter to travel with, but I don’t know if it’ll be much better underwater. But you can’t go wrong with either.

As you can tell I really love Aqua Lung, but I also think Scubapro and Hollis are awesome too, I just don’t have as much experience with those BCDs.

What is your favorite BCD? Let me know in the comments below!

Conclusion

I hope this article helps in picking the right BCD gear for you. Always remember that one of the most significant factors in selecting gear is the price. Most BCDs have similar features, so it is advisable to stay in a price range that works for you while still using a good BCD that provides safety and quality.

Here is a quick video demonstrating buoyancy control with a BCD…

Austin Tuwiner Administrator

Austin is the website owner, and began scuba diving at just 16 years old. After traveling and diving all over the world, he is dedicated to bringing the hobby to more people.

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