Many beginner divers will rent their gear until they have a feel for what suits them in the water. Once you decide to get stuck in and kit up, you’ll want to consider having your own BCD. Rental kit can vary in quality, size, and design. Having your own lets you really get to know your own buoyancy and dial in your skills to the next level. Dive to dive you’ll get to know your BCD, how it carries you in the water, how to weight it to get your best trim. You get to a general comfort level with where all your snaps, buckles, pockets and weights are located.
When selecting a BCD there are a number of things to consider. Here we will take a look at fit, style, water temperature, and location
Focus on Fit
At a glance, choosing a size might seem simple, but manufacturers don’t follow a standard when sizing their kit. A medium in one brand might be the size of a large in another. Make sure your selection fits you well, while leaving some room for adjustment, as our bodies do change, and your BCD should last you a few years.
If you are a lady, there are many makes of BCD that have a different cut and will account for a variety of body types.
Think About Style
The two more common styles are jacket, and the wing. The style you are looking for depends greatly on you personal experience, preference, and the type of diving you intend to do..
This style is the most prolific if you are using rental kit for training. It is generally more used for single tank recreational dives. The bladder jacket BCD inflates on the sides, the front and the back. Many of these BCDs have side pockets for storage and/or integrated weight systems with quick release. Disadvantages of the jacket style are that the bladder design is less stable than that of a wing, which makes maintaining trim more difficult. Also, jacket BCDs are often less customizable than their wind and backplate counterparts.
Jacket style BCDs are often the best choice for the recreational diver, or someone looking to pack light on a dive holiday.
The wing BCD is comprised of a backplate and a back mounted air bladder. The wing allows more freedom of movement and work well to suspend the diver evenly in the water. There might be some complaints that this style pushes you forward when on the surface, but this is generally outweighed by the benefits to your trim underwater. These BCDs are often as customizable as you like. You can add clips, d-rings, pouches, or whatever you like to the webbing that is used as shoulder and waist straps. Larger wings are also specifically made to support twinsets. They have larger air bladders to support the additional weight.
The wing and backplate are ideal for the advanced diver, or a recreational diver that is looking to really dial in their trim.
Cold or Warm Water
In cold water you should pay more attention to lift capacity. Thicker wetsuits, and drysuits require you to carry more weight. Therefore, your BCD should have enough lift capacity to keep you buoyant on the surface.
When you are in warm water, or salt water you’ll need less lift. Having a large wing BCD in this situation might not be the best choice if the rest of your diving set up is light as well.
Where are You Diving?
If most of your diving is going to be in warm holiday waters, your primary BCD concerns will be portability and weight. For a purely recreational diver this might mean a lightweight jacket style BCD, with a nylon or plastic backplate. You’ll want it to pack small and light if you are concerned about baggage weight limits. Such BCDs are suitable if you are planning single tank recreational dives while wearing a thinner wetsuit, and a relatively small amount of weight.
Some wings are quite well suited to travel. Cutting down on baggage weight might still be a concern, meaning you might want to leave that steel backplate at behind. Many lighter options exist, including aluminum or even carbon fiber backplates. These models provide stability, while drastically reducing packed weight.
If you are more of a local area diver, who likes to throw their kit in the boot and hit the nearest beach, you’ll be best off going for the sturdiest and most comfortable BCD that suits you.
If you are still uncertain of your needs feel free to give us a ring at the shop, we’ll do our best to point you towards the equipment that will suit you best.