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Best Scuba BCD's: Tested & Reviewed | Start Scuba Diving
Best Scuba BCD's

Best Scuba BCD’s: Tested & Reviewed

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From Birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface, and he’s free.”

I don’t know why I continue to return to Jacques Costeau whenever looking for apt words to describe the underwater experience. Somehow, this legend has been able to capture the essence of the sea in his sayings.

For me, at least, the feeling of diving down into the heart of the sea is nothing short of defying gravity. I’ve never been to space (though I’d love to take a trip there), but I’m sure floating about in a zero-G setting is similar to diving down to the fathomless depths.

However, during all my dives into the depths of the deep blue sea, I’ve realized that without the right Buoyancy Compensator Device (BCD), any scuba diving experience can turn hazardous. Inadvertently filled bladders, inflator valve malfunction, and dump valve failure can result in rapid ascent and decompression sickness problems.

That’s why, from the very outset, I’ve been cautious about selecting only the very best scuba BCD’s for my explorations. And today, I’m going to share my knowledge with you, along with a few of my recommendations. 

If you’re also in the market for other scuba diving gear, be sure to check out our other buying guides!

Now, let’s dive into the details without further delay.

Best Scuba BCD's

BCD Best For Shop Now

Scubapro Hydros Pro Air2
Experienced Divers

Aqua Lung Pro HD i300C
All Divers

Zeagle Stiletto
Travelers

Cressi Aquaride Pro
Beginners

Cressi Start Pro
Budget

Factors To Consider When Buying a BCD

Before I get deep into the details of the best scuba BCD’s on the market, let me share some factors you must consider while selecting one. In case you’re buying a BCD for the first time, make sure you keep these in mind when making a choice.

Proper Fit

Appropriate fit is essential when it comes to a BCD, especially the jacket style ones. Unless you’re comfortable and can move freely after putting on the device, you’re going to face trouble underwater.

An overtly loose BCD can move up the arms after inflation and move the tank up to your head level. On the other hand, an extremely tight one can pressurize your lungs when inflated and constrict your underwater breathing.

So, to get the best fit, make sure you try the unit out and see how it fits your frame. Inflate it when testing it, and move around to understand if you’re being constricted in any way. The best scenario would be unrestricted body movements, without any slipping or sliding on the part of the jacket.

Lift Capacity

On average, the lift capacity of a BCD is in the range of 30 to 40 pounds, which is enough for recreational dives. In case you’re looking towards more challenging expeditions, such as cave and shipwreck exploration, knowing the exact lift capacity is crucial as you might have to carry extra tanks and gears.

Weight Integration System

Many modern BCD units have integrated weights, which means you don’t have to carry an additional weight belt when using these. This ensures that you don’t have to worry about the weights sliding around while you’re diving.

However, you do need to pay attention to whether it can hold the level of weight you need. Also, make sure that the device has an emergency release mechanism, just in case you need to lose the extra load fast.

If you’re anyone who’s ready to make scuba diving a long-term exercise, then you’ll know that the right BCD is an investment that’ll last you for years. That’s why I recommend you don’t skimp on the price when making a selection.

That being said, It’s understandable that not everyone might be willing to spend on scuba gear like me! So, I’ve included options that span multiple price levels and arranged them in descending order of price. This way, you can compare among these models and take a pick according to your budget.

But that’s enough talk to fill an air tank. Now, it’s time to take the plunge and see the products in detail!

Top Pick

Aqua Lung Pro i300C

And now I come to the section you’ve been waiting for with bated breath! After carefully trying out every product on my recommendations list, I can safely declare that the Aqua Lung Pro i300C BCD is my favorite. Now, it is a tad bit expensive but comes with all the required bells and whistles.

Its four operating modes offer sufficient flexibility when it comes to choosing Air, Nitrox, and Free Dives. The perfect kit for beginners as well as pro divers, it can help you on both recreational and deep-diving expeditions.

So, if you’re in a position to shell out a bit extra, I suggest you go for the Aqua Lung Pro i300C.



Top 5 Best Scuba Diving BCD's

Scubapro Hydros Pro Air2

Let’s start things off with the Scubapro Hydros Pro Air2, which is the most expensive option on the list, but a beauty nonetheless. I chose this BCD for the simple reason that it’s suitable for use in warm as well as cold waters.

Made of durable monprene, it’s able to stand up to chemical and UV abrasion, which lends it a long operational life. It molds suitably to your body shape, thus ensuring that you don’t feel uncomfortable during deep dives.

I also like how the Body Grip Gel system helps to keep it in place while underwater. Along with that, the shoulder straps help to provide a comfortable fit. And as for air delivery, the AIR2 inflator reg ensures smooth airflow at all times.

The next feature that I’d like to talk about is the large inflate and deflate buttons, which can be easily recognized through color and touch. This makes operating the device underwater a cinch and helps to enhance safety even under low-visibility conditions.

Finally, I must mention the fully integrated weight system, D-rings, and mounting points for accessories such as hoses, knives, and lights. It even includes a travel backpack that can contain the entire kit, ensuring easy portability.

Pros
  • Back-inflatable BCD with adjustable fitting
  • Manufactured from high-quality Monprene compound
  • Fabric-free harness
  • Pockets and clip-off points for accessories
Cons
  • Quite Expensive

My Experience

I first used this rig when I was exploring the Tangalooma Wrecks near Moreton Islands, and the experience was nothing short of stellar. The entire unit sat comfortably on me, and to tell the truth, I couldn’t even feel it when gliding through the waters.

It provides considerable lift, and since it’s fully customizable, I was able to configure it precisely according to my needs. What’s more, it even dries extremely fast, which ensures I don’t have to wait long before packing it and heading off to the next dive location.

The AIR2 power inflator can be operated by hand easily, and as I’ve already mentioned, the inflate and deflate buttons are color-coded. This allowed me to differentiate between them underwater without any hassle. And I think it’s really thoughtful of the manufacturers to include large bite-tabs on the mouthpiece. This can come in handy under high-stress conditions while diving.

Verdict

In case you’re like me and would like to travel around looking for diving spots, this is the BCD I recommend. Also, it provides a lot of scope for customization, which is best for professional and experienced divers. However, if you’re looking to begin with scuba diving, I suggest you go for a more affordable option.


Aqua Lung Pro HD i300C

Up next, I’d like to introduce you to the Aqua Lung Pro BCD, one of the first units of its kind that I tried right at the beginning of my scuba career. Back then, I was still a novice and didn’t know how to select the right components, such as a diving regulator and dive computer.

But this kit solved all my problems! It comes complete with a Titan Qick Connect Regulator and balanced diaphragm that ensures consistent and effortless breathing. At the same time, it also protects the internal parts of the device.

Moreover, it’s equipped with an i300C dive computer that has advanced facilities such as Bluetooth connectivity. The computer is rugged in its build, and paired with a Pressure Gauge 2 console; this makes it ideal for continued underwater use.

The jacket itself is made of salt and chlorine-resistant ResisteK material, which protects it from the rigors of deep-water diving. I also love how the ABS Octopus combines excellent breathing with a low-profile style.

But I haven’t even mentioned the icing on the cake yet! This device comes with four operating modes: Nitrox, Air, Free Dive with Nitrox, and Gauge with Run-timer. Along with that, the gauge provides pressure as well as temperature readings accurately.

Pros
  • Comes with a mechanical weight release system
  • i300C dive computer included
  • Manufactured using salt and chlorine-resistant material
  • Equipped with ABS Octopus
Cons
  • Low beeping tone on the dive computer

My Experience

I remember I used this unit on my…perhaps the third expedition to the Great Barrier Reef? I don’t recall the exact occasion, but I do remember the impeccable performance it provided. I spent over 12 hours under the surface altogether, and it never once showed signs of buckling.

It breathes very easily, and both the primary and emergency mouthpieces are equally comfortable. I remember I used the pockets to house the computer; this made it rather easy to use underwater.

The balance is ideal for me, and I love the fact that it comes with plenty of pockets and integrated weights. This means I don’t have to carry a separate weight belt, which is one less piece of equipment to worry about.

Verdict

Although it’s a bit expensive, I certainly recommend this for beginners as well as advanced divers because it is a complete package. The only beef I have with it is that the dive computer’s warning beep is a bit low. But the flashing red light is visible even in low light conditions, so that’s not a significant problem. Overall, one of the best BCDs that I’ve had the good fortune to use.



Zeagle Stiletto

While the previous two recommendations were ideal for professionals and beginners, I realize that their price is somewhat steep. So, to make sure that you get good quality while going easy on the pockets, I now give you the Zeagle Stiletto BCD.

Though it’s considerably more affordable than the previous two recommendations, don’t think for a moment that this unit compromises on quality. It’s made from 1000 denier nylon that’s chemically reinforced, which provides it with a robust and durable build.

The lift capacity of the unit is 35 pounds, which is enough for most recreational diving expeditions. However, if you’re looking for deeper explorations, be sure to know the exact weight you’ll be packing before taking the plunge.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the low profile retracting bladder, which serves its purpose without taking up too much space. I also like the 30-pound ripcord weight system that’s built especially for pros.

The interesting thing is, despite being so rugged and full-featured, it’s an exceptionally light unit which doesn’t compromise on comfort. Designed for warm and temperate waters, this is one of the BCDs I hope to take on my travels in the future.

Pros
  • Low profile retracting bladder
  • Durable and rugged construction
  • Easy weight release system
  • Suitable for travel
Cons
  • Only available in plain black

My Experience

As my readers already know, I’m not one to invest in a product without sufficient research. So, naturally, I put a lot of effort into understanding whether this one would be suitable for me. I even took the trouble of asking a few professional divers I happened to meet on my underwater expeditions.

However, this product was highly recommended by everyone I spoke to, so I decided to get it and see for myself. After using it for over twenty dives, I can now vouch for its affordable yet durable quality.

It’s extremely straightforward to inflate and deflate, and weights can be easily added to the pockets. The fit is great, and I really enjoy the feeling that it provides underwater. And the zip cord release is the best weight-ditching system I’ve ever come across. Overall, a highly satisfying product.

Verdict

For those looking to get a premium experience at an affordable price, there’s nothing better than this product. Honestly, if you’re expecting to travel abroad and explore exotic scuba locations, this one can easily serve as your primary BCD. This is probably the best travel BCD you’ll find at this price level.

 



 

Cressi Aquaride Pro

As I near the end of my recommendations, I have two products from the Cressi brand for you. Cressi is one of the well-known manufacturers of quality scuba products, and they deliver professional-grade quality at an affordable price.

The Aquaride Pro BCD is a testament to the above observation, and then some. It combines a traditional BCD structure with oversized lobes that help to provide it with great ascensional capacity.

The hydrodynamic profile lends the jacket unit with a unique combination of storage volume and underwater movement capacity. I especially love the lightness, resistance, and comfort that it provides.

The jacket comes equipped with the second version of Cressi’s Lock Aid System, which allows it to be used with or without the weights. And as regards accessories, it contains everything from an adjustable elastic abdominal strap to D-rings with an angular design.

Pros
  • Combination of Italian design and Hungarian manufacturing
  • Semi-rigid backpack
  • Comes with a patented Lock Aid system
  • Hydrodynamic and lightweight design
Cons
  • Collar stitching irritates the skin

My Experience

I’ll be honest with you: Cressi is one of the brands that I swear by. Their Italian design is complemented by Hungarian manufacturing, which makes this BCD one of the better ones. I’ve used it multiple times when diving around the Rowley Shoals, and never once did it let me down.

I found the maneuverability of the unit to be extremely fluid, and it almost fit like a second skin underwater. I say almost, because the only problem I faced with it is that the collar stitching often cuts into the back of the neck while diving.

Other than that one glitch, which can easily be fixed with a rash guard, I found it to be the perfect combo of ruggedness and dependability. And the built-in weight system is just fantastic, with a perfect layout in-axis with the tank.

Verdict

If you can ignore the collar stitching problem and use a rash guard, I’d say there’s no better BCD at this price for beginners or professionals. And the best part is that you won’t face any trouble packing all the accessories you require.



Cressi Start Pro

If the previous Cressi product was perfect for professionals, this one is ideal for those just looking to take their first scuba dive. Highly affordable yet extremely rugged, this is the perfect BCD to begin your scuba journey with.

I particularly like its bullet-proof construction that uses 1000 and 500 Denier Cordura, which means you can be sure that this will serve you for the long haul. Also, fit will never be a problem as the shoulder straps clearly display the size.

Another interesting feature is that the air bladder and waist strap are independent of each other. This means the jacket can be tightened without putting excess pressure on the diver’s stomach.

And I must mention the thermoplastic backplate system, triple exhaust valves for buoyancy adjustment, and integrated weight system. Add to that the two-year warranty, and you’ve got a hassle-free product, if nothing else.

Pros
  • Inflator with double air filtration system
  • Erosion-resistant design
  • Integrated weight system
  • Large pockets and D-rings
Cons
  • Slightly tight cummerbund strap

My Experience

Although this is the most affordable product I’ve tested, I have to say that it’s one of the best ones, in my opinion. It fits me snugly, and I love the integrated weight system. However, I must admit that the cummerbund strap can be a bit tight for those with a large frame.

I’ve taken over twenty recreational dives using it and found it to be ideal for beginners. And though it’s a bit too bulky for travel, I still like to keep one with me as a backup, just in case. After all, when it comes to scuba diving, you never really know when you could need a new BCD.

That said, I would have loved it even more had the integrated weight system been removable. But since I don’t carry much weight on recreational dives anyway, that’s not going to be a problem for me.

Verdict

In my honest opinion, this BCD is ideal for beginners and the budget conscious, but professionals might want something more advanced. But, as I’ve mentioned already, it doesn’t hurt to keep a spare with you, just in case. Plus, it comes for a very affordable price. In my opinion, the best budget BCD on the market.

 



 

Final Words on the Best Scuba BCD’s

That’s all for today, folks! I’ve finally reached the end of my recommendations for the best scuba BCD’s on the market, and I hope you’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I sure had as good a time compiling this list as I did testing the devices underwater.

However, before I take your leave, I’d like to leave you with some tips for using a BCD safely while diving. In case you’re feeling uncomfortable and need assistance from your fellow divers, use the following hand signal to let them know that all’s not OK with you.

Just keep your open hand with the palm facing downwards on your chest, and rotate it from side to side slowly, indicating you’re in trouble. This should attract the attention of your fellow divers and bring them to your aid.

Also, in case you suddenly exceed your no-decompression limit, make a fist and extend your thumb and pinky together. This will alert your companions; although this signal is used mostly by experienced divers, it doesn’t hurt beginners to keep it in mind.

Be sure to check out our other buyer’s guides if you’re looking for more scuba gear!

And with that, I’ll be signing off for now. Till next dive, people!