Reviewed by our Scuba Instructors:

The Best Scuba Diving BCDs For Every Budget 2019

Z

Our divers at work

We gave our two scuba diving BCD geeks one job:
Test 21 different Scuba Diving BCDs and write reviews of the best.

The result is 12 of the best Scuba Diving BCDs on the marked today.

summer worsley

Summer Worsley

PADI instructor & Writer

Summer has been teaching scuba for the last 10 years

Torben Lonne

Scuba diving BCDs geek and editor Torben is a dive nut, with a passion for dive gear and especially Scuba diving BCDs.

BCD stands for buoyancy compensation device. These handy and essential bits of equipment allow a diver to offset their negative buoyancy by adding air from the tank to the BCD while underwater. They’re also essential on the surface for maintaining positive buoyancy.

BCDs have come a long way since the old-school Fenzy collars which featured only an oral inflate function and a single air bladder which was worn around the neck. Today’s models are incredibly comfortable, user-friendly, and come in a variety of styles.

Here, we’re going to go over some of 2019’s best BCDs. But first, let’s cover what you should look for when making a new BCD purchase.

Best Scuba Diving BCDs 2019

On our list, we’ve covered budget, mid-range, and high-end BCDs. Let’s get started with some entry-level options that are both easy on the eye and easy on the wallet.

Best beginner dive computer

Best Budget Scuba Diving BCDs

We've gathered a selection of the best budget Scuba diving BCDs. All stable a reliable, but at a low cost.

Best Advanced Dive computer

Best Mid-Range Scuba Diving BCDs

You're diving alot and you want a diving BCD that meets your needs. Here's the best mid-range scuba diving BCDs.

Best technical Dive computer

Best High-End Scuba Diving BCDs

Best high-end scuba diving BCDs needs to be durable, realiable and easy to read. Here's the best choices in the tech scuba diving BCD selections:

Best Budget BCDs 2019

For recreational and beginner divers, budget BCDs are just the ticket. There’s really no need to spend huge amounts of money for features that you will never use and budget doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality. All the options listed here are from trusted, top name brands in the industry.

Tusa Jasmine (W)

This stylish BCD is tailored for women. With its wrap-around style, there is additional padding in the shoulder straps and at the back to provide extra comfort and support. TUSA’s Ultimate Stabilizing Harness (U.S.H.) holds the cylinder snug against the body and helps prevent tank roll. Made from heavy-duty Cordura Nylon, the Jasmine is made to last.
We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Tusa Jasmine (W):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Jacket
  • Capacity: 18 lbf / 8.2 kgf (XS) to 38.2 lbf / 17.3 kgf (L)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Two
  • Number of D-rings: One stainless steel and four resin.
  • Designed for: Women
What we like:
  • Low-profile, wrap-around bladder.
  • Lightweight.
  • Not an overtly feminine design.
  • As the Jasmine is designed for females, the smaller sizes are ideal for teenagers.
What we don't like:
  • No shoulder dump valve.
  • Not enough metal D-rings.

Cressi Start (M / Unisex)

The Cressi Start was initially intended to be used by dive schools and resorts. It has a basic design but is highly functional making it ideal for beginner divers too.

One nice feature is that the waist strap is independent of the air bladder, so if you tighten it while the jacket is deflated, it’s not going to squeeze your stomach too much when you inflate. If you are looking for a BCD that is reliable and almost bullet-proof, the Cressi Start is a great entry-level option.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Cressi Start (M / Unisex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Jacket
  • Capacity: 29.2 lbf / 13.25 kgf (XS) to 45 lbf / 20.4 kgf (XL)
  • Integrated Weights? No
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Three
  • Number of D-rings: Two plastic
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • The waist strap is separate from the air bladder.
  • Inflator hose is easily disassembled for cleaning.
  • From a dive center perspective, the size is clearly displayed on the shoulder pad.
  • Great value for money.
What we don't like:
  • No metal D-rings.
  • Edges of the shoulder straps are a little rough and can chafe against the neck.
  • The chest strap is quite high.

Sherwood Silhouette (M / Unisex)

Another dive school and rental shop favorite because of its rugged and adaptable design. The waist strap comes with a cummerbund for extra comfort. Both these and the shoulder strap are simple to adjust for a good fit. Sturdy and reliable, the Sherwood Silhouette BCD should provide years of dependable service.
We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Sherwood Silhouette (M / Unisex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Jacket
  • Capacity: 17 lbf / 7.7 kgf (2XS) to 40 lbf / 18 kgf (XL)
  • Integrated Weights? No
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Two
  • Number of D-rings: Two plastic
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • Simple to use.
  • 3D designed air bladder.
  • Built-in carry handle.
What we don't like:
  • Only two dump valves.
  • Although large, there is only one pocket.

Best Mid-Range BCDs 2019

This is where we start getting into BCDs with some additional features like integrated weight systems and rear inflation. If you are happy to spend that little bit extra but are not quite ready to splash the big cash, these mid-range options could be for you.

Zeagle Scout (M / Unisex)

The Zeagle Scout is compact and weighs in at 3 kg / 6.6 lbs, making it an ideal lightweight choice for travelers. The rear-mounted weight system consists of two pockets which hold a maximum of 16 lbs (7.26 kg).

Zeagle’s power inflator system can be hooked up to a standard garden hose making it super easy to wash out the interior of the air bladder. If you have never dived with a back-inflate BCD or a wing before, the Zeagle Scout is a good way to get started.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Zeagle Scout (M / Unisex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Back-inflate
  • Capacity: 24 lbf / 10.9 kgf (S to XL)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: One
  • Number of D-rings: Four stainless steel
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • Being able to properly wash out the bladder using a hose.
  • Rear weight system.
What we don't like:
  • All sizes have the same lift capacity because of the lightweight, travel-ready design.
  • Weight pockets are hard to reach.

Cressi Aquapro (M / Unisex)

The Cressi Aquapro is a popular choice, suitable for the majority of recreational divers. A rigid but fully padded back support provides stability for the cylinder and prevents it from moving around. Gravity-release weight pockets are located on either side of the jacket. Give the securing buckle a squeeze, the pocket drops down, and the weights fall straight out. The Cressi Aquapro is a simple design but has loads of great features.
We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Cressi Aquapro (M / Unisex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Jacket
  • Capacity: 13 lbf / 6.1 kgf (XXS) to 36 lbf / 16.3 kgf (XL)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells:
  • Number of dump valves: Three
  • Number of D-rings: Four stainless steel and two plastic
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • Location of weight pockets.
  • A good number of D-rings.
  • Sits high on the waist giving the option of wearing a weight belt.
What we don't like:
  • Pockets are high so difficult to access the zipper to open them.
  • A second tank band would be helpful.

Seac Sherpa (M / Unisex)

For those looking for a BCD which offers more advanced features, the Seac Sherpa is a great option. The padded backplate has extended lumbar support. This allows you to transfer the cylinder weight from the shoulders to the hips.

One of the stand-out features is the 3D air cell which has wings that wrap around the air cylinder. Weight distribution is improved and the tank is held securely in place. The Seac Sherpa provides a comfortable experience both on the surface and below it.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Seac Sherpa (M / Unisex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Hybrid
  • Capacity: 37 lbf / 16.7 kgf (S) to 52.9 lbf / 24 kgf (XXL)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of dump valves: Three
  • Number of D-rings: Six stainless steel
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • Wing design gives better weight distribution.
  • The simplistic design is clutter free.
  • Six D-rings.
  • Easy to locate dump valves.
  • Extended lumbar support. Takes all the stress off the shoulders.
  • Great lift capacity.
What we don't like:
  • The dry weight of the BCD is heavy. Size L is 9.25 lb / 4.2kg.
  • Sizes are on the large size and are more appropriate for men. Even an S will be unsuitable for the majority of women.

Sherwood Luna (W)

Definitely, a BCD designed with women divers in mind. It features thick padding on the inside with a plush nylon finish. The jacket and air bladder are specially cut for a snug fit to female curves.

Sherwood uses a unique Halfpac backplate which offers the versatility of soft backplate with the stability of a hard backplate. This means it’s extra comfortable but will also hold your cylinder firmly in place.

One great feature of the Sherwood Luna is the padded neoprene neck. A small hint of color adds a nice feminine touch.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Sherwood Luna (W):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Jacket
  • Capacity: 18 lbf / 8.16 kgf (XS) to 25 lbf / 11.34 kgf (L)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Two
  • Number of D-rings: Three stainless steel
  • Designed for: Women
What we like:
  • Slimmer cut for women.
  • Extra padding at the back of the neck.
  • Stylish design.
What we don't like:
  • If diving in cold water, there may not be enough releasable weight (16 lb / 7.25 kg).
  • No right shoulder exhaust valve.
  • Zippered weight pockets.
  • Would be nice to be able to pick your color!

Cressi Ultralight (W)

The Cressi Ultralight has to be one of the lightest BCD’s on the market at just 4.6 lb / 2 kg (M). It features a fast folding system for quick, easy, and compact storage. This does mean that there are not as many fancy features—it has all the essentials and does the job well.

Rear inflation means this BCD will not obstruct your movement when in the water. For any female diver who likes to travel, the Cressi Ultralight is a great choice.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Cressi Ultralight (W):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Wing
  • Capacity: 20.2 lbf / 9.2 kgf (XS to M)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: One
  • Number of D-rings: Four lightweight plastic
  • Designed for: Women
What we like:
  • It really is ultralight!
  • Easy to pack away with the fast folding system.
  • Soft backplate.
What we don't like:
  • Being so lightweight, there are no metal D-rings.
  • No cummerbund. Need to make sure the straps tighten up enough to fit around the waist.
  • No bigger sizes for the larger lady.

Best High-End BCDs 2019

When your budget can stretch that little bit further, you might want to enter the world of gadgets and flash accessories that will make you the envy on the dive boat. If you want all the bells and whistles that a BCD has to offer, look no further than at some of our high-end suggestions.

Oceanic Hera (W)

Another BCD designed specifically for women divers. The custom fit harness has a multi-position cummerbund and shoulder straps which adjust easily for ladies of all shapes and sizes.

The Oceanic Hera brings together the benefits of a jacket and rear inflation styles making it easy to use whatever position you dive in. The patented and adjustable depth-compensating cummerbund ensures you are comfortable and snug however deep you are.

There are two generously sized utility pockets as well as numerous D-rings and mounting grommets for all of your accessories. And being made from Cordura nylon, the Oceanic Hera is exceptionally durable.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Oceanic Hera (W):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Hybrid
  • Capacity: 20.46 lbf / 9.3 kgf (XS) to 40.7 lbf / 18.5 kgf (L)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of dump valves: Two
  • Number of D-rings: Two pre-bent welded and four standard stainless steel
  • Designed for: Women
What we like:
  • Lots of places to place and hang accessories.
  • Front placement of weight pockets.
  • Ergonomically designed.
  • Adjusts to fit women of all shapes and sizes.
What we don't like:
  • Clips holding the weight pockets are stiff when first using the BCD.
  • Pockets can be hard to access when at depth.

Aqua Lung Dimension i3 (M / Unixex)

The Aqua Lung Dimension has been around for a while but is it still a leading BCD on the market. There is a patented Wrapture harness system that attaches to swivel buckles at the shoulder and includes lumbar support. An adjustable strap across the chest can be moved up or down. This is a great idea when diving in a dry suit. The strap is prevented from sitting across the valve.

When out of the water, the Wrapture allows you to stand straight and the cylinder will sit perfectly vertical.

The most impressive feature of the Aqua Lung Dimension i3 has to be the inflation/deflation system. Instead of providing the dangling LPI hose, the patented i3 control system uses a simple lever on the side of the BCD. Lift the lever up to inflate and push down to deflate. Pushing down also opens all the dump valves at once so whatever position you are in, air will be dumped. It can take a bit of getting used to, but once you have, you will see how convenient and easy it is to control your buoyancy.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the Aqua Lung Dimension i3 (M / Unixex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Wing
  • Capacity: 35 lbf / 15.88 kgf (S) to 50 lbf / 22.68 kgf (XL)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Three
  • Number of D-rings: Four stainless steel and one plastic
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • i3 control system.
  • Octopus holder for tidy storage.
  • Console sleeve.
  • Streamlined appearance.
  • High lift capacity.
What we don't like:
  • Because the i3 control system takes up one side of the BCD, pocket storage is limited.
  • Tank strap is a little low.
  • No carry handle.

ScubaPro Ladyhawk (W)

The ScubaPro Ladyhawk is designed to give women a sense of freedom in the water. A narrowed neck yoke, rotating shoulder buckles, swivel clips on the chest strap, and rear inflation give you a well-fitting BCD. This allows for plenty of movement around the chest and shoulder areas.

A flexible cummerbund compensates for changes at various depths to keep a good fit. The hard backplate is contoured for extra comfort. There are two rear trim pouches for additional weights to help with achieving the perfect, well-balanced position in the water.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the ScubaPro Ladyhawk (W):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Wing
  • Capacity: 33.7 lbf / 15.4 kgf (XS to L)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Three
  • Number of D-rings: Four stainless steel
  • Designed for: Women
What we like:
  • Depth-compensating cummerbund.
  • Rear inflation.
  • Decent amount of storage.
  • Narrow neck yoke for small shouldered ladies.
  • Swivel clips on the chest strap.
  • Comes in three different color options.
What we don't like:
  • Limited on number and size of pockets for storage.
  • Quite heavy for traveling.

ScubaPro Hydros Pro (M / Unisex)

Probably the most advanced BCD we are featuring. ScubaPro has developed the first 3D injection, molded gel harness. What that means is that this BCD has loads of features to improve comfort, movement, stability and buoyancy control.

The gel conforms to your body giving you an ergonomic fit, adjusting to your torso length and shoulders. Less lead is needed as the ScubaPro Hydros has near-zero inherent buoyancy. This gives better buoyancy control which leads to a more enjoyable diving experience.

Because of the lack of fabric, the harness retains no water so it’s quick drying and will weigh less after your dive. The waist and shoulder straps pack into the wing making a compact package which is great for both traveling and storage.

Practically every component can be replaced without the need for stitching so is easy to repair. It may be an expensive purchase, but the ScubaPro Hydros Pro is definitely the future of BCDs.

We've done all the work for you and found the best prices on the ScubaPro Hydros Pro (M / Unisex):
Our recommendations:
  • Amazon with worldwide shipping
Specs & Features:
  • Type: Wing
  • Capacity: 35 lbf / 15.9 kgf (XS) to 40 lbf / 18.1 kgf (XL)
  • Integrated Weights? Yes
  • Number of air bladders/cells: One
  • Number of dump valves: Two
  • Number of D-rings: Numerous plastic + 4 metal D-rings
  • Designed for: Unisex
What we like:
  • Ergonomic design. Has a harness that molds to your body for ultimate comfort.
  • Stylish and streamlined.
  • Quick drying.
  • Easy to pack away and compact.
  • Near-zero inherent buoyancy.
What we don't like:
  • Although the lift capacity is good, there is little difference between the sizes.

What to Look for When Buying a New BCD.

Whether you’re making your very first BCD purchase or upgrading to a newer model, the following considerations should be kept in mind.

Capacity / Lifting Capability

Each BCD has a certain amount of lift which is directly related to the size and volume capacity of the air bladders. The amount of lift capability you’ll need depends on a number of factors including your own body weight, the amount of weight you need to dive with, the number of tanks you carry, and the type of exposure suit you wear.

If a diver wears a neoprene dry suit and goes diving in a very salty sea or ocean (such as the Red Sea) that diver will need significantly more weight than the same diver wearing a skin suit and diving in a freshwater lake. More weight equals a greater lift requirement.

Because of the above variables, there is no set rule concerning the amount of lift a BCD should have.

As a general rule, sized BCDs offer the right amount of lift for all recreational diving. So even if you’re a larger individual who needs a lot of weights, an XL or 2XL BCD will have big enough bladders to give you all the lift you require.

The only time an inappropriate amount of lift would be an issue is if a diver who uses a lot of weights, and wears no exposure suit, manages to squeeze themselves into a BCD many times too small and cannot maintain positive buoyancy on the surface. Or that same diver loads themselves up with steel twins and deco tanks and hits the depths.

We could come up with a few more situations like the above, but as you can tell, these are very unlikely scenarios so rest assured that for recreational diving purposes, a properly sized BCD will offer you the lift you need.

Types of BCD

There are three main types of BCD; jacket or vest, back-inflate, and wing. Let’s have a look at each type now.

Jacket BCDs

Jacket BCDs, also called vests, are the most common type in recreational diving. They’re kind of like an inflatable waistcoat. The air bladders sit behind and on the sides of the diver. For entry-level divers, a jacket BCD is a great option.

Back-Inflate BCDs

As the name suggests, back-inflate BCDs have the bladders solely at the back of the diver, where they sit on either side of the tank. This style is relatively new but proponents champion the streamlined style and the fact that there is less drag than with a traditional jacket BCD.

One drawback to back-inflate BCDs is that new divers may struggle with them on the surface as all the buoyancy is at the rear, this effectively pushes a diver forward.

Wing and Backplate

As the name suggests, this type of buoyancy device involves a solid metal backplate which is mounted with a wing bladder. Tech divers and cave divers prefer this set-up because it is customizable—different wings can be used with different backplates.

What Is a Hybrid BCD?

You may have heard the term ‘hybrid BCD’. A hybrid aims to combine the best elements of wing systems and jacket-style BCDs. The distribution and shape of the bladders mean that maintaining a trim position while diving and being comfortable on the surface are both easily attained. This style of BCD is growing in popularity.

Older hybrid models offered a lot of lift by combining a partial wing at the back with the jacket bladders at the front. These have largely fallen from favor because of their bulkiness and the, often unnecessary, amount of buoyancy they provide.

Weight System

Many BCDs offer integrated weight pockets, others have no weight integration system. Very basic, entry-level BCDs are usually of the latter variety. There’s nothing wrong with that and a lot of divers actually prefer to use a weight belt.

Some BCDs offer trim weight pockets at the rear. These are usually small, situated near the tanks, and hold about a kilogram / 2.2 lbs of lead each.

Pockets

Everyone loves pockets, right? Well, when it comes to BCDs that’s not strictly true. Many divers prefer to keep the front of their BCD clear and don’t want big pockets.

Other divers prefer large pockets where they can stash a spare mask, their SMB, a torch, and all those other essentials.

This one is really up to personal preference but bear in mind that without pockets you may have to clip all of your extras onto your BCD. Some people don’t like having too many bits and pieces hanging off them, for others, it’s no issue at all.

Fit

Getting the right BCD fit, even when you’re buying online, isn’t hard so long as you take the time to measure yourself properly. Check the manufacturer's guidelines on their website before making a purpose. For the most part, BCD sizing is down to height and weight.

A good rule of thumb is that your tee-shirt size is approximately the right size BCD you need.

Many divers make the mistake of buying a BCD that is too large. Try to avoid this as an oversized device will make it harder to stay streamlined while diving and will contribute to tank roll, even when it’s fully tightened.

Buying a BCD for Small Children?

If you’re buying for a child, look for a simple, jacket style BCD without unnecessary straps, buckles, and pockets. Basically, you’re looking to avoid the potential hazard of hoses and straps getting tangled up.

Because children do not need a lot of weight to dive, a BCD with weight pockets is a good idea and saves them the hassle of a weight belt.

You don’t need to buy a purpose-made BCD, a good option is the basic, but hardwearing and reliable, Aqua Lung Wave. It comes in multiple sizes including XS, 2XS, and 3XS. Unfortunately, the new model 2XS and 3XS Wave BCDs don’t feature a gravity-release, weight-pocket system. For this reason, these BCDs are better suited to older kids.

Overall, our top recommendation for a young diver’s BCD is the ScubaPro Rebel Youth. It has the gravity-release weight pockets and will fit even the smallest bubble makers.

Number of D-rings

D-rings are in-built rings that a diver can use to attach additional gear to his or her BCD. Metal is the preferred material but plastic or resin D-rings are more than solid enough to attach a whistle, an SMB, or a slate.

If you intend to carry stage tanks or would like your BCD to do double duty as a sidemount device, look for a BCD with enough metal D-rings placed accordingly.

Do you have a favorite BCD?

What do you love about it?

Let us know in the comments below what you think makes for the perfect BCD.

How divers rate us:

5 Comments

  1. Lenore Grunsell

    I need to find a BCD with its own integrated emergency inflation system. I have experienced running out of air, and found that when I reached the surface, I was exhausted and could not inflate my BCD manually. Luckily I had something nearby to cling to, otherwise I might have drowned. I note that yachtsmen’s floatation vests have integrated inflation, and I am seeking a BCD with its own separate air canister.

    This would also be very helpful when helping a buddy who has run out of air i.e. instead of trying to inflate his vest manually, one could initiate the built-in inflation and his flotation would quickly be restored. Do you know of any such vest?

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Lenore,

      When I started out diving, we use to have a small tank attached to the back of the BCD that could be used to inflate in case of an emergency. I haven’t seen BCD with the attachment valve on BCD’s for many years, so I’m quite sure it’s not made anymore.

      My best advice to you would be to monitor your air better instead of looking for solutions once you’re this close to an emergency.

      Reply
    • Kevin Whiting

      I believe “AP Diving” still offers a pocket on the back of their “Commando” BCD for an emergency bottle that actually connects to the lower right purge valve thereby sending air into the bladder for both buoyancy and breathing through the inflation hose.
      Hope this helps.
      Cheers….Kevin

      Reply
  2. Jason New

    I started with a ScubaPro Night Hawk rig. I love the design and features. It comes with ScubaPro’s Air2 inflator and secondary breathing regulator. It also has two pockets as well as removable weight pockets. 4 metal D rings and two trim weight pockets also help round this unit out. Mine has 10 hard years on it and is ready to retire, but ill be looking to get another one.

    Reply
  3. Ahmed Shdid

    hi , what do you think of seac sub smart BCD !?
    My usage is average not that big much .

    Reply

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