The right buoyancy control device (BCD) provides divers with the ability to fine-tune their buoyancy, ensuring comfort, stability, and ease of movement throughout their dives.
The idea of buying a BCD online can be a scary task, considering the different brands, types, and sizes available.
As a PADI Divemaster working in the South Florida scuba diving industry, I am often tasked with fitting customers we take out on scuba charters with their rental BCDs.
Using my experience, I’ve curated a list of the nine best buoyancy control devices on the market to share with you all.
I narrowed down the list based on important factors such as:
- Type of BCD
- Lift capacity and buoyancy control mechanisms
- Comfortable fit and adjustability
- Presence of integrated weight system
- Weight capacity
- Materials and construction for durability
- Additional features such as pockets and D-rings
- Brand reputation and customer feedback
- And much more!
Below, I’ll review the nine best BCDs in-depth, as well as cover the product specs and what type of diver they’re best for.
I’ll then jump into a BCD buying guide, where we cover everything from picking the right size to the different types of BCDs (jacket, back-inflate, backplate + wing).
Lastly, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions that come up when divers are looking to buy a BCD.
Let’s do this!
Best Back-Inflate BCDs
A back inflate BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) has an inflation bladder on the diver’s back. Due to the air placement, back-inflate BCDs provide a streamlined profile, allowing for more freedom of movement and a better horizontal trim underwater.
This design also promotes a more natural and comfortable diving experience, particularly for those who prefer a back-mounted tank configuration. A lot of divers, including myself, find them more comfortable than jackets because the air cell doesn’t squeeze as much when inflated.
This type of BCD usually still has pockets for storage and an integrated weight system, but not all of them. On the other hand, it takes a bit more practice and skill to maintain a vertical position at the surface.
Consider using a back-inflated BCD if:
- You have issues staying streamlined
- You’re not comfortable in other BCDs
Don’t buy a back-inflated BCD:
- You want to heavily customize your BCD
- You want to self service your BCD
- You have trouble fitting into BCDs
Best Overall Back-Inflate BCD - Hollis LTS
Best for: Beginner Divers | Type: Back Inflate | Material: Denier-nylon | Lift: 30lbs / 13.6kg | Weights: Integrated | Pockets: 2 large | D Rings: 4 – metal
First on the list, is the Hollis LTS. I rate this as the best overall back inflate buoyancy control device as it’s the BCD that I personally use. As it’s a back-inflate BCD, the vest keeps me horizontal in the water at pretty much all times.
It’s also an affordable mid-range BCD, making it a realistic purchase for divers of all budgets. The L.T.S. in the name stands for “Light Travel System”, as it only weighs 5 pounds.
If you travel a lot like I do, to liveaboards and dive locations around the world, it makes a solid travel buoyancy control device.
The manufactures website claims the BCD can only support one steel 80 or aluminum 85s scuba tanks, but I’ve personally used it with 100s.
- Metal D-Rings
- Can’t support dual or larger scuba tanks
- Large pockets but only room for weights
Best Jacket BCDs
The jacket BCD may also feature a zippered or have velcro pockets on each side for storing accessories such as SMBs and flashlights. It is very stable in the water as the air goes in the front, the back, and the lower part of the ribs but the air placement can make it a bit hard to maintain a horizontal position.
Consider using a jacket BCD if:
- Comfort- Many people feel comfortable diving in them, as this is what they learned.
- Storage- They also tend to have large pockets for storing gear.
- Resale- The other benefit of these is that since they are so common it is easier to resell them and you can upgrade from there.
- Ease of use- Easy to put on and take off because of the quick release on the shoulder straps and above the pockets.
Don’t buy a jacket BCD:
- Customization- They aren’t very customizable.
- Lift- They give lift in places that don’t benefit trim.
- Fix- It can be hard to replace parts.
- Sizes- They usually only come in a handful of sizes.
Best for: Beginner Divers | Type: Jacket | Material: ResiteK | Lift: 23lbs-39lbs | Weight: Integrated | Pockets: 2 large | D-Rings: 5 | BCD Weight: 5.5lbs
The next BCD on our list is the Aqualung Pro HD BCD. We rated this product as the best all-around jacket BCD. It’s perfect for beginner divers because of its’ ease of use, affordability, and comfort.
The reason that it stands out as a versatile beginner BCD against others is that when correctly sized it fits snuggly, which on its own is great. The 2 large pockets for storage and integrated weights are a major bonus for comfort and safety.
It is extremely durable and a very common BCD at dive shops and on liveaboards for a reason. If you have had or used the previous versions before, there’s a notable improvement in material quality. The Pro HD features ResiteK material offers higher resistance to fading and abrasion.
- Provides a secure fit
- Metal D-rings are highly durable
- Maintaining horizontal orientation can be challenging for new divers
- Customization options are limited
Best Wing BCDs
The backplate and wing BCD is the most streamlined of the three types of BCDs.
This BCD rarely if ever does not contain, weight pockets, pockets, or harnesses in the front. It just consists of a metal backplate made of high-strength aluminum or steel. It has a continuous harness with a waist belt and a crotch strap that is looped through notches.
A huge downfall of this BCD is is the lack of pockets for dive accessories and weight integration pockets. But on the positive side, there are infinite combinations when choosing which back-plate and wing combination you want. The backplate and wing BCD is the best choice for divers who are planning more advanced and technical diving. This goes for those that want to deep dive, wreck dive, or explore caves.
Consider using a wing BCD if:
- You like tons of customization
- You want to wear less weight
- You’re a tech diver
Don’t buy a wing BCD if:
- You’re a beginner diver
Best for: Advanced Divers | Type: Backplate & Wing| Material: 3D Mesh | Lift Capacity: 41.88 lbs/13.6kg | Weight: Integrated | Pockets: 2 | D-Rings: 2 – metal | BCD Weight: 6.6lbs
The next BCD we will introduce you to is the xDeep NX Zen Deluxe Scuba Diving BCD. We would say that this BCD is best suited for advanced divers who want a BCD that has superior buoyancy control and minimal drag.
It’s mid-range to upper-range in price for a BCD. It secured its position on this list for its efficient design, ideal weight distribution, and customizability. The backplate comes in small/large sizes, steel/ aluminum, and the ability to add up to two weight pockets in three different sizes as well.
If you have never used one before, it does take some practice to adjust your weighting and trim. The adjustment might be tricky for beginners.
- Efficient buoyancy control
- Reduced drag
- Easy to distribute weight
- High price
- Adjustment might be tricky for beginners
Best BCD for: Advanced – Expert Divers | Type: Wing| Material: Monoprene gel | Lift Capacity: 36lbs-40.5lbs | Weight System: Integrated | # of Pockets: 2 | # of D Rings: 2 – metal | Weight: 8.6lbs-11lbs
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 BCD for Travel
I know I have had issues getting my BCD into my bag, it frustrated me. If this has happened to you you may want a travel BCD. Here is an overview of what features a travel BCD should have:
- Back inflation air bladder
- Small and can roll it up compact
- Convenient adjustment attachment points
- The dump vales lay flat for better streamlining
- The harness should fit snug around your waist
- Integrated weights
- Around 6 pounds (2.5kilo)
Consider using a travel BCD if:
- You’re traveling a lot for diving
- You’re limited on space in transport/bag
Don’t buy a travel BCD if:
- A majority of your diving is local
Best for: Advanced – Expert Divers | Type: Backplate & Wing| Material: 3D Mesh | Lift Capacity: 41.88 lbs/13.6kg | Weights: Integrated | # of Pockets: 2 | D Rings: 2 – metal | BCD Weight: 6.6lbs
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.
The Patrol is a lightweight BCD that still offers a lift capacity from 29 to 50 lbs (13.3 to 22.9kg) and still has 20 lbs (9kg) weight releasable capacity.
The air cell compression strap gives you quick deflation for volume control as well.
It has a rigid back plate to be able to give stability. The Patrol also has Cressi’s flat-lock-aid integrated weight system which streamlines the BCD better and gives you the fast release of the weights in an emergency.
Though it only has a 1-roll-up cargo pocket it is quite large and holds almost everything you need. It also features plastic D-rings to help reduce weight and distribute it around the body. A feature that is quite handy is an optional tank band trim weight pockets that we also recommend getting.
- Style of BCD: Back-inflate
- Product Material: Denier Nylon
- Lift Weight Capacity: 29.2 to 50.6 lbs
- Weight System: Integrated
- BCD Weight: 6.7lbs-7.5lbs
- # of Pockets: 2
- # of D-Rings: 4
Best BCDs for Women
There are slight differences between men’s and women’s BCDs.
While you can use the other sexes’ BCD it is helpful to have one that matches your body.
Men’s BCDs will have longer torsos and woman’s BCDs have shorter ones.
Women’s BCDs are designed and made to fit the shorter backs of women compared to men, and some of them don’t even have chest straps for women that are larger in that area.
Consider using a womans BCD if:
- You’re a woman who’s having trouble fitting into male BCDs
- You want a different colors/styles on your BCD
Best for: Women| Type: Jacket | Material: Nylon | Lift: 22.6lbs | Weight: Integrated | Pockets: 2 | # D Rings: 6 – metal | BCD Weight: 6.2lbs
The Zeagle Zena is likely the highest recommended BCD out there for women. The BCD has a patented sizing system, that lets the torso, chest, and waist all to be sized independently of one another.
For those that are picky on the design of the BCD, there are some more “female friendly” designs, such as pinks, purples, and floral designs.
Basic Parts of a BCD
Here is a list of all the parts of a BCD in case you are new to diving or just need a quick review.
Air Bladders – Where the air goes when the BCD is inflated.
Adjustable Tank Band – It is located at the back of the BCD, this straps and holds the SCUBA tank in place and allows divers to change their tanks with ease.
Air Inlet– On the power inflator and is the connector to the low-pressure hose of the regulator.
Backplate- Used on certain types of BCDs and is adjustable to fit the diver.
Cummerbund/ Waistband– Usually velcro and adjustable for a more comfortable fit.
Dump/Quick Valves– Located on the top and bottoms of BCDS to quickly release air from the bladder no matter what position you’re in case you cannot hold the deflator mechanism upward.
D-Rings – Used to attach gear, bag, tapper, flashlight, etc.
Deflator – This button is used to deflate or release air from the air bladders.
Inflator – Used to inflate the BCD by pressing the power buttons and delivering air from the tank via the regulator to the power inflator. Located close to the air inlet.
Integrated weight pockets – On either side of the BCD and can be dumped in emergencies. Not all BCDs have these but are a nice feature.
Oral Inflator – Hold the button and blow into the mouthpiece to manually inflate the bladder on the surface to save air or in the event of a malfunction on the power inflator.
Straps/ Buckles – Used to adjustable for a better fitting BCD.
Pockets – Some BCDs do not have these butt most will have pockets on each side of the jacket for divers to carry accessories and even weights.
How to Choose the Perfect BCD
If you are still not sure which one to go with here are a few factors to consider when choosing the perfect BCD for you. After that, I will just give my recommendations and all-time favorites, that you can’t go wrong with.
First of all, you should think about your budget, check the prices in the links above and go from there. Since there are many options around the same prices, there will be more factors to consider. Please do think about this as an investment, if taken care of the BCD can last years and will save you money in the long. Also, this is a device that you will use for your safety so even if you are looking for a cheaper one make sure that it is a quality one.
Frequency of Diving
How often will you dive? If you are diving frequently, or are a Divemaster/ Instructor, you are going to want a good BCD that will last, is very durable, as well as one that matches your skill level. If you are diving a few times a year, you won’t need the most top-of-the-line BCD.
Type of Diving
What type of diving will you do? Are you muck diving, deep diving, or solo diving? Depending on what you are doing can also influence your BCD choice. If I was to go deep or solo diving a lot I would want a more sturdy BCD with more pockets for extra gear.
If I was just muck diving I would want something light and easy to get around in. If you are a recreational diver/ instructor then the jacket style is good. You want the same BCD to show the students. Also, using the jacket-style BCD can give more comfort on the surface since it inflates all around.
Most of you reading this will be recreational divers and do not need something very technical. Remember that if you get one with a side inflator, you need to do a couple of practice dives with it.
It can be dangerous if you are not familiar with where your inflator/deflators are located in the event of an emergency. But once you get used to it, you’ll love it. If you are an instructor, you need a regular inflator hose, as you will be demonstrating it to students.
Try it On
It is not necessary to wear a wetsuit when trying on the BCD. The important part is that there is enough space to allow you to move around in it as it will inflate. If you can manually blow up the BCD to see how it fits inflated and depending on if you own a regulator have that as well to make sure its hoses and accessories are compatible with the BCD.
Dive With It
If you can try it on and take it out for a dive. This will give you the best feel for it. A lot of dive shops have rentals so you can try to rent and use it first to see if it fits right in the water.
What is Surface Lift and How Much Surface Lift do I Need?
Surface life is the amount of negative weight that the BCD can float at. For how much you need, there is no exact answer to this but here are some guidelines and ideas on how much surface life you should have when diving.
You will need enough lift to compensate for the weight you will lose due to air consumption, your gear, your actual weight, the lead you are wearing, and possibly the compression for your wetsuit. You should choose a BCD with at least 10 pounds more lift than the total weight.
This is another factor to consider when choosing a BCD. When you are reading about the BCD it will usually list their lift capacity. BCDs for the recreational diver usually only have space for a 12 or 15-liter tank. So you can guess the weight from there as most people use aluminum tanks vs steel tanks. You can use our weight calculator for how much lead to wear to get a better idea of how much surface lift you need. Here are three common scenarios with an estimated surface lift needed to help you to get a better idea.
- Recreational diver in warm water (84F 30C) in a rash guard- 16 to 28 lbs (7 to 13kg) is good for surface lift.
- Recreational diver in a 3mm wetsuit or drysuit- 20 to 45 lbs (9 to 21kg) is good for surface lift.
- Technical diver diving in a drysuit- 42 to 90 lb (19 to 21kg) should be good for surface lift.
Frequently Asked Questions
We recommend that scuba diving BCDs are serviced annually.
If you use your BCD on a regular basis it may be worth getting it serviced a little more often, especially if you dive in salt water frequently.
Depends on how well you look after it!
Regular servicing and proper cleaning techniques paired with diving skills such as perfect buoyancy, will lengthen the lifetime of your BCD
BCD stands for buoyancy control device.
Different dives call for different accessories!
Going on a night dive? Well then I would highly suggest taking a dive light!
An SMB is also a dive accessory you should consider for every dive!
Dive knives can be attached to most BCDs, and are an important piece of kit for wreck dives, and dives where entanglement can be an issue
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.
If you’d like to learn some buoyancy control tips, we’ve got you covered there as well.
What is your favorite BCD?
Let us know in the comments below!