Scuba Diving Weights: Weight belt or BCD integrated system

Scuba Diving Weights: Weight belt or BCD integrated system

First it should be established that contrary to what the name implies, weight systems are not intended to make you sink while diving. Many people hear that weight systems are needed when diving and fear that they will sink straight to the bottom of the sea.

Weight systems are a necessary part of Scuba diving; for those who are not aware, divers are buoyant. Even with the weight of your equipment, it’s really difficult to reach depths while diving when your very anatomy makes you float. Also keeping you from descending is the fact that wetsuits are extremely buoyant as well.

Weight systems make the descent a lot easier while still allowing for you to ascend quickly and easily if needed. You have a couple of different options when it comes to your weights used for diving, and we’ve outlined each along with their benefits and setbacks below.

Weighted Belts

2 x 4 lb lead diving weights

Zpyder

The oldest weight system known to scuba, and what some divers consider the “tried and true” weight system, weighted belts are as simple as it gets.

Typically, a weighted belt is just a nylon belt that has lead weights on it. It fastens around your waist just like any other belt and is incredibly easy to find as well as very affordable piece of dive gear.

There are fancier versions available that are fabric and have pockets. These are supposed to provide extra comfort for on the dive, but either type is just fine.

Weighted belts are great for when you won’t be using much weight. If you’re diving in warm water or in a shorty wetsuit or body suit, weighted belts should be all that you need, but when extra weight is needed, you might need something more.

BCD Integrated Weights

Scuba integrated weights

USCPSC

If you don’t like the idea of having a belt wrapped around your waist, you can opt for weights that hook right on to your BCD. For new divers, your BCD is buoyancy control device; it’s the lifejacket look alike that divers wear that allows them to have better control underwater.

Integrated weights are built right into your BCD which means you don’t have to worry about carrying or maintaining an extra piece of equipment. The only downside is that it makes your equipment a lot heavier when the weights are in the BCD.

On the plus side, you no longer have anything hanging around your midsection and most divers will tell you that these weight systems are much more comfortable.

I shifted to integrated weights a few years ago and I like it. It’s all a matter of personal preferences but I for one found it much more comfortable.

BCD integrated weights are great for when you need more weight, especially when diving in cooler temperatures or in a dry suit.

If you, for some unexplainable reason, are diving with too much weight. You will find the BCD weight integrated systems will place you more horizontal in the water than a normal weight belt. Alternatively you might consider adjusting your buoyancy.

Combining the Two

If you are caring a lot of weight you might find that all the weight doesn’t fit on one belt or in the BCD weight pockets.

Here it can be a good idea of combining the two systems, if your BCD allows you to use BCD integrated weights.

Put half of the weights on your weight belt and the other half in the two Weight pockets. This is a far more comfortable way of distributing your weights evenly around your body. One minus when diving with this, if you have to drop your weights fast there is one more thing you need to do.

The Release Factor

Scuba diver fixing the weight belt

Gigi Ibrahim

No matter which weight system you choose, the release system is of utmost importance. There may be a time when you need to quickly release your weights, so you need to be sure that your weight system has a release system that is quick and easily accessible.

First is safety; you must have something that you can easily handle while diving and that you can get out of quickly. A quick release system is a must; this feature means that your weight system has a single quick release latch that allows you to drop your weights with one hand in one motion.

A quick release doesn’t mean that you want to look for weights with extremely loose buckles. The last thing you want is for your weights to come undone and drop accidentally. The buckles should be easy to release but strong and reliable as well.

You might also choose a weight system that has multiple releases. This way if something should happen and you need to release some weight, you can drop just some of your weights rather than losing all of it.

What weight system do you use? What is pros and cons about your system?

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand - and dived most of his life in most of the world.He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of DIVE.in you can always catch him here [email protected]

10 Comments

  1. Ryder

    I got a BCD with integrated weights. It’s nice and easy, thought I’m afraid to loose the pockets some day. You know those small pieces I will one day forget on some dive deck.

    Reply
    • Courtney

      Nice how is it? compared to the old belt? I’m thinking of changing to integrated, I’ve heard it’s better for the back if you are diving with many weights.

    • Ryder

      To Courtney. It is really good. Much better than the belt used in the open water. If you have the opportunity then change!

    • Thomas Bang Petersen

      I’ve lost a weight-pocket when returning to the boat from a drift-dive with strong current. Somehow the rope from the boat got a hold of the handle, and the pocket fell out. The guys behind me said it went down quite fast, and at 100+ m it’s probably still down there :-)
      I have never thought about forgetting the pockets on a dive deck. When I put in the weights, I put the pocket back in place in my BCD right away – and when removing the weights, I also put the pockets back in place right away. Otherwise I will someday not be ready to jump in the water because I’ve left at pocket somewhere – and I know how annoying that would be to my fellow divers :-)

  2. Matt Cass

    what about weight harnesses best of both especially with wings

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Matt,
      Well I’ve never tried the weight harness so I couldn’t reveal that much about it. But yes it’s an alternative to both.
      How do you find the harness? Is the weight harness more comfortable then the integrated weights?
      Thanks for the reminder!

    • matt Cass

      Hi Torben,
      I think they are great, you can trim your weights depending on the sort of dive you are doing from feet up for wrecks and caves and a bit more horizontal for open water. It is also far better for those of us with no real hips as the belt can’t slip off and you don’t have to cinch it up so tight. it’s also nice to keep some weight of the wing harness as that can get quite heavy on it’s own with lights and cylinders. and it keeps the wing harness clear as well.
      Cheers
      Matt

  3. David Mc Nally

    Great article – short and to the point.

    I use both a belt and integrated weights in the BCD. Keeping all the weight in the BCD makes it a hassle to get on and keeping it all in the weight belt (pouch belt with soft weights) makes it quite bulgy. I wear quite a bit of weight since I’m diving drysuit with a thick inner suit.

    I have also added a little weight in the trim pockets on the back of the BCD which I feel gives a more natural feel in the water since not all the weight is in the front around the stomach.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Thanks David!
      I use the back pockets as well, usually if I dive with an uneven number of weights I drop one in the back on the tank.
      Both is the best way to go, when diving in cold water with drysuite and a big undergarment.
      Thanks for sharing!

    • Ryder

      See this is where warm water diving come in handy…again :) hehe
      No need for big bulky belts. Just a few weights in the bcd and in the shorty and I’m off diving :)

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