Although scuba diving is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities, it can still be dangerous if you don’t have the right equipment.
These buoyancy compensators offer a reliable and comfortable method of keeping you neutral underwater and afloat on the surface while accommodating one or two tanks.
We’ve ranked them here by durability, lift capacity, storage, and ease of use.
The Genesis Drift (about $199) slips on easily and has an integrated weight system with quick-release pockets, meaning there is one less piece of equipment you have to wear on your dives. Their pull cords are a little too similar to the lower air dump valves, however.
- Compatible with Akona accessory kit
- Nylon is somewhat thin
- Has only a single velcro compartment
Tusa Liberator Sigma II
The Tusa Liberator Sigma II (around $399) feels just like putting on a comfortable jacket and conforms to match your body type.
It has a pair of valves for adjustments, and the two large pockets are ideal for collecting pearls or other treasures from the ocean floor.
- Lots of d-rings for attaching gear
- Weight is distributed well
- Chest strap is thin
The Cressi Start (appx. $199) is made out of extremely strong Cordura fabric, which makes it ideal for users who constantly inflate their BCD to the max. Conveniently, it is designed with a waist belt that is completely separate from the air bladder.
- Effective filtration system
- Rugged backplate
- D-rings are plastic
The Zeagle Stiletto (around $617) is ideal for both warm and temperate water use and features a 1,000-denier nylon construction to resist damage from reefs or wrecks you might encounter. It also has plenty of durable attachment points for tools.
- Easy to adjust the fit
- The all-black regulator is hard to see
- Difficult to secure tanks
Sherwood Avid CQR-3
The Sherwood Avid CQR-3 (appx. $499) has adjustable shoulder straps to fit a wide range of individuals. It holds onto air tanks securely, and its 3-D air cell provides a high level of stability through a variety of underwater maneuvers.
- Lots of gear storage
- Removable sternum clip
The Zeagle Ranger (around $772) has a 44-pound lift capacity and the ability to secure one or two tanks as desired. It is built tough to sustain extended and frequent use and can stand up to encounters that might tear or damage other models.
- Inflator head included
- Allows for lots of modification
- A bit on the bulky side
Scubapro Glide X
The wraparound bladder system in the Scubapro Glide X (about $643) makes it a smart choice for divers who prefer the comfort of vertical support at the surface. Its pair of releasable weight compartments boast maximum loads ranging from 20 to 24 pounds depending on your size.
- Stainless cam buckle
- Zippered cummerbund pocket
- Lift capacity could be better.
Scubapro Hydros X
The Scubapro Hydros X (about $1080) is made from an injection-molded thermoplastic that contours to your torso to drastically reduce any shifting that might otherwise occur underwater. It’s a modular system designed so that you can easily replace any part that may get damaged.
- Strong tank cinch
- Lightweight, durable bladder
- Uv-resistant materials
Cressi Aquaride Pro
The Cressi Aquaride Pro (about $449) is specially designed to adjust perfectly to your body for a comfortable, customized diving experience. It’s a reliable tool that is lightweight on land, featuring an integrated handle for convenient carrying.
- Can be used with a drysuit
- Lots of padding on the frame
- Secure zippered pocket
Atomic BC2 Back-mounted
The weight compartments on the Atomic BC2 Back-mounted (appx. $1400) are designed to accept the included pouches you can fill with hard or soft materials before closing and securing them with a definite snap. Its stainless-steel D-rings are titanium coated for added durability.
- Corrosion-resistant power inflators
- Responsive buttons
- Operates smoothly
Buyer’s Guide Buoyancy Compensator
Which BCD to buy, you don’t know which one you want or what kind BCD you want? Take a look at our Buyer’s guide and decide if you want a wing or a normal BCD!
For a BCD, there are various names such as BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Device) or BC (Buoyancy Compensator) or Stab (Stabilizing) jacket. The modern BCD makes it easy to regulate your buoyancy underwater.
Does the BCD fit you?
The fit of a BCD is extremely important because the fit also determines if the BC dives nicely. When a BCD is too big, your cylinder will move freely on your back. You cannot get a steady dive position, and you will roll over every time. When fitting the BCD, you have to take in mind which suit you are going to use. Will you use a 2mm shorty or a drysuit? When you also want to use a drysuit, then your buoyancy compensator device needs to be big enough. So take your time to think about where you want to use your BC.
Do I need a weight integrated BCD?
When you buy a weight integrated BCD, you don’t need any weight belt anymore. When you started driving, you can remember how annoying the weight belt can be. So when you are buying a new BC, buy one with integrated weight. Despite that, there are still a number of cases where the weight belt is still useful.
Nowadays, almost every scuba brand has BCDs with and without weight pockets. Are you using the BCD only for travel? Take in mind that almost every dive center is using big weight blocks. My experience is that almost every time I use a weight belt when I’m diving abroad.
All weights that normally fit around the belt are now placed in special, easily removable pockets.
These can easily be dropped or removed in case of emergency or during a boat dive. Normal weight blocks fit in these pockets, but for the preservation of the pockets and the comfort of the diver, soft lead bags are often used. These bags are full of small balls of lead and form to the body.
A weight pocket needs to detach really easily. Every brand has its own method, so keep in mind that you can get used to it when you are buying a new BCD.
A wing? You say what…
A wing? can I fly with that?? Nope, it is still a BCD, but all the air is on your back. I love diving with a wing, but a lot of people hate it. You are forced in a horizontal position, so when you love the freedom of movement, maybe a wing is not a good idea.
The most important feature of a BCD: Lifting capacity!
Lifting capacity is the most important feature of the BCD; despite the fact that BCDs sometimes have large amounts of lifting capacity, it is still very important to use a good amount of weights for you. When you use a good amount of weights, then all the BCDs have enough lifting capacity.
The lifting capacity will play a role when you’re going diving with a double tank or just technical diving.
How many D-rings and pockets do I need?
Always make sure the BCD has enough pockets and d-rings for the dives you want to make.It’s always wise to take a spare mask or a decompression buoy with you. So you will need pockets or enough d-rings.
Always check if you can take all your accessories with you. D-rings are often slightly bent; this makes it easier to attach something to the D-ring during your dive.
Dump all the air!
Nowadays, almost every normal BCD has 3 dump valves. The first one is located on the left shoulder and one on the back located near your right hip. The last one is located in your inflator. When the inflator is pulled, it dumps air from the left shoulder.
A wing only has 1 dump valve, and it is located on the back near your left hip. It is wise to test all the dump valves before you going buy a BCD or Wing because eventually, you will use it a lot!
Yes, another one! These are really lightweight BCDs, and you can use them for traveling. It is called a Travel BCD, and often these BCDs are designed to be easily folded into a small package.
As a result, many travel BCDs have the absolute necessities and are made of lighter but, therefore, more vulnerable materials.
For example, integrated lead bags are often missing on these types of models. This makes these BCDs the most suitable in tropical waters.