The 10 best Scuba Diving BCDs in 2024

By Julius
We're reader-supported: Just so you know, some of our articles contain affiliate links. If you click them and make a purchase, we will earn a commission. It won't cost you anything extra but it helps us pay the bills. Thank you for supporting Social Diving this way!
Scuba diver showing okay signal underwater

Choosing the best scuba diving BCD for your next dive is super important to float more effortlessly underwater! But with new models coming out all the time, it can be hard to find the right one, especially for beginners.

That’s why we’ve tested and reviewed A LOT of them so you can make a good decision on which BCD to purchase.

Here is our list of the best Scuba Diving BCDs in 2024 with suggestions for any budget:

  1. Best Overall in 2024: ScubaPro Hydros Pro
  2. Luxury Choice: Atomic Aquatics BC2
  3. Budget Beast: Aqualung Pro HD
  4. Design Award: xDeep NX Zen Deluxe
  5. Best for Travel: Cressi Travelight BCD
  6. Best Jacket-Style: ScubaPro Hydros X
  7. Best for Tech: Halcyon Evolve
  8. Best Mid-Range: Mares Prestige SLS
  9. Most Durable: Zeagle Ranger
  10. Best Sidemount BCD: Dive Rite Nomad XT

When it comes to Scuba Diving BCDs, it sometimes feels like we’ve tried them all. 😅 Every week, we spend a lot of time underwater and in the real world testing the top models so that we can compare them here for you!

All our tests for scuba gear were done by avid divers, professional dive instructors, and equipment specialists at Social Diving. There are always at least 2 people involved when reviewing a piece of equipment. We never recommend anything we haven’t used ourselves and think it’s great!

We make sure our picks offer something for everybody on any budget. Because we know, not everyone wants to spend the same amount of money on gear.

Our ranking reflects both our tests and use in the real world as well as the opinions of other users.

Keep reading for our reviews for each of them, as well as all the others we have tested so far! ⬇️

We also added a Scuba Diving BCDs buyer’s guide that takes you through what you need to look for before buying, the available types and the pros and cons of each.

With strong options available at all price levels, you can either pick from among the top flagships or opt for a solid midrange one with all the features you need at a fraction of the price. We also have super-budget versions that still work great.

The best scuba diving BCDS are comfortable to wear, have plenty of attachment points for other gear and enough lift capacity for your diving style, help you achieve good trim and buoyancy, and are light enough for traveling.

The 10 best Scuba Diving BCDs in 2024

These are the 10 best Scuba Diving BCDs in 2024 for every budget:

ScubaPro Hydros Pro

Best Overall

An amazing modular vest-style BCD that will last forever.

  • Extremely lightweight
  •  Versatile & durable
  •  Compact & comfortable
  •  Lots of features
  •  Can be taken apart
  •  Back-inflate
  •  Easy to replace parts
  •  Dries quickly
  • Price (you knew this was coming) 
  • Quality management at ScubaPro could be better
  •  Little lift differences between the sizes
ScubaPro Hydros Pro

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The ScubaPro Hydros Pro in both its 4th and 5th gen versions is one of the all-time best-selling high-end BCDs out there and gets you the best non-backplate/wing BCD money can buy in 2024.

It features integrated weight pockets, a super lightweight design, and a modular approach to using your kit which can be taken apart completely, and features can be added or removed as needed. As expected from a BCD at this price point, the air bladder is on the back, thereby giving you much better buoyancy and trim in the water. It’s just a bit pricey

The ScubaPro Hydros Pro has taken the BCD world by storm and if you can afford it, this is the best jacket-style unit you can buy (unless you are willing to spend double on the Atomic Aquatics BC2).

Specs & Features

TypeHybrid Wing BCD (Hydros X: jacket-style)
Lift Capacity15.9 kg to 18.1kg (35 lbs. to 40 lbs)
Bladder LocationBack
Weight5 kg (10.95 lbs.)
Integrated Weight PocketsYes (can be detached)
Number of Relief Valves2
Different Men/women versionsYes
Other FeaturesModular setup

Luxury Choice

The most expensive BCD in the world comes with amazing build quality, a superb feature set, and great design.

  • You get what you pay for 
  •  Amazing build quality
  •  Waterproof fabric
  •  Tacheting tank band
  •  Quilted back pad & adjustable lumbar pad
  •  Sand-resistant pocket zippers
  •  Different inflator options
  •  Silicon band prevents 'tacoing' of the wing around the tank
  • Very pricey 
  •  No inflator included (what?!)
  •  No extra pockets available (yet)
  •  Release valve positions not optimal
Atomic Aquatics BC2

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Sigh…every best-of-list for scuba gear eventually ends with the deluxe offering of Atomic Aquatics that mostly blows the rest out of the water and the Atomic Aquatics BC2 is no exception. If you can afford the most expensive BCD in the world, you also get the best recreational BCD

It’s really well made, looks cool, feels super valuable, and comes with the usual super long-term Atomic Aquatics warranty. There are different inflator options (how cool is that?) and it’s light enough for frequent travel. Speaking of that inflator though, it’s not included(what?!)! Oh and the BC2 is super pricey but you already knew that.

If you have ever used Atomic Aquatics scuba gear, you know they are usually best-in-class and the Atomic Aquatics BC2 will not disappoint you!

Specs & Features

TypeBack-inflate Wing BCD
Lift Capacity9.7kg to 18.3kg (21lbs to 40lbs)
Bladder LocationBack
Weight4.6 kg (10.2 lbs)
Integrated Weight PocketsYes
Number of Relief Valves3-4 (depends on inflator option)
Different Men/women versionsNo
Other Features

AquaLung Pro HD

Budget Beast

Arguably the best bang for your buck at this price range.

  • Convenient weight system
  •  Super affordable
  •  Lots of features
  •  Lightweight
  •  Looks cool
  •  Very sturdy
  •  Great new design
  • Sizing chart a bit unreliable (buy 1-2 sizes down)
AquaLung Pro HD

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Aqualung Pro HD has long been the Social Diving rental BCD for students and it’s a great piece of equipment. Comfortable, unbreakable, and super cheap, this ADV-style BCD will serve you well for years to come and it’s an excellent choice for beginners and experienced divers.

Integrated weight pockets that work like a charm, lightweight, four relief valves, extra trim weight pockets…You usually find this stuff only in high-end models. I mean…what else are you expecting from a BCD apart from diving for you? 😄 Tried and tested, the Pro HD has been used by hundreds of students at Social Diving and countless divers around the globe. Just the sizing chart is very unreliable so buy 1-2 sizes down.

The Aqualung Pro HD is a great BCD and the perfect combination of price and features.

Specs & Features

TypeJacket-Style ADV BCD
Lift Capacity10.9 kg to 25kg (24 lbs. to 55 lbs.)
Bladder LocationSides
Weight4 kg (9 lbs.)
Integrated Weight PocketsYes
Number of Relief Valves4
Different Men/women versionsYes (2022 version and later)
Other FeaturesSureLock Integrated Weight System (Love it!)

xDeep NX Zen Deluxe

Design Award

Made for diving in any environment and one of the best affordable Wing options out there.

  • Back-inflate
  •  Modular
  •  Good quality
  •  Cool design
  •  Great trim
  •  Lots of options
  • Non-standard backplate
  • A bit too much 'fluff'
  • Doesn't fulfil DIR principles (but that might not be a bad thing)
xDeep NX Zen Deluxe

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The xDeep Nx Zen Deluxe is one of the best backplate/wing BCDs on the market and super affordable. xDeep is a newer brand from Poland disrupting the Wing BCD market with its innovative designs and creative sets. They also win best design in 2024!

Quality, design, features…what’s not to love about the xDeep products? The Zen Deluxe is made for diving in any environment and the best affordable Wing option out there. Get the aluminum plate for traveling and the steel one, if you dive in cold water. I love xDeep products and many of our students have bought these.

They are perfect for beginners who want to dive into the world of back-inflate Wing BCDs and the Zen Deluxe is their best set. Purists and DIR divers will find it has a bit too much fluff and the backplate is non-standard!

Made for any kind of diving and with options for more modularity, go and grab the xDeep Zen Deluxe, and don’t look back!

Cressi Travelight BCD

Best for Travel

Excellent lightweight travel BCD with lots of attachment points and only minor drawbacks.

  • Very affordable
  •  Really light weight!
  •  Super compact
  •  Versions for men & women
  •  Plenty of attachmen points (8D rings!)
  •  Integrated weight pockets
  •  Two tank bands
  • Weight pocket handle bars are a bit to small
  • Some quality issues in first versions
  •  No instructions manual
  •  Non adjustable chest strap
  • Tank strap could be better

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Cressi Travelight BCD is a great choice for those looking for a lightweight travel BCD in warmer waters. It comes with a compact design, 8 D-rings, diffferent versions for men and women, and even has two tank bands. Despite its light weight you don’t have to miss out on the convenience of quick-release weight pockets which is so much better than using a weight belt!

It’s only about half the weight of other ADV-style BCDs on this list, however, its lift capacity may be a bit too limited if you plan on diving doubles. We don’t like that the tank safety strap cannot be adjusted (why?) and there are no instructions included that show how you can put it together for travel (again, why?!).

Travelers and casual reef divers will love the Cressi Travelight and be thankful for the extra space and weight in their suitcase that it frees up. Don’t expect to dive it in cold waters, but then again, that’s usually not what a travel BCD is for.

ScubaPro Hydros X

Best Jacket-Style

Modularity and lots of options make this the best ADV on the market.

  • Lots of features
  •  Great trim
  •  Comfortable back plate
  •  Integrated weight pockets
  •  Superb build quality
  •  Great service by ScubaPro
  • Modular
  • For the same price, you can get a back-inflate BCD
  •  A bit bulky
  • Some quality control issues in the early versions
ScubaPro Hydros X

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The ScubaPro Hydros X is the best ADV-style BCD in 2024 that comes loaded with options and the same modularity approach as the Hydros Pro! When ScubaPro released the first version of their now famed Hydros Pro and Hydros X BCDs, they took the diving world by storm.

If you have the budget for it, the Hydros X is simply the best ADV-style BCD on the market. It offers an exceptional fit, is super durable and versatile and can be taken apart and modularized. It will give you great trim in the water, despite the side inflate, looks really nice, and is super comfortable. We like basically everything from the integrated weight pockets, the power inflator, padded straps, and all the other features you could want as a diver.

It is not cheap, however, comes with the usual ScubaPro build quality that’s worth the price. Just remember that for the same price, you could get a good back-inflate BCD.

If you want the best jacket-style BCD on the market, get the ScubaPro Hydros X. It will last forever and has everything you could ever want in a scuba diving BCD!

Mares Prestige SLS

Best Mid-Range

A sturdy and comfortable choice for mid-tier BCDs without bells and whistles.

  • Very sturdy
  •  Great color coding
  •  Good quality
  •  Good price
  • A bit bulky
  •  Some complaints about faulty weight systems
  •  Weight pockets hard to insert
Mares Prestige SLS

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Mares Prestige SLS is one of the better Mares products out there and a sturdy and comfortable choice for mid-tier BCDs. It’s a common occurance in dive centers around the world for good reasons. We really love the colorcoding and Mares did a good job making it foolproof to use.

It looks good, comes at a really fair price, and is super durable. We like that it has trim pockets and already bent D-rings along with big pocket space. As with all Mares BCDs, this thing can take a beating. That makes it a great choice for dive centers but also people who like diving in harsher environments.

Unfortunately, the weight pockets aren’t the best ones out there and the handle bars could be improved on Mares side. The BCD is also rather bulky which was a bit annoying for our female test divers. If you are looking for fancy features, this is not the BCD for you!

If you want a no-nonsense ADV-style scuba diving BCD, the Mares Prestige SLS is a great choice without bells and whistles.

Specs & Features

TypeJacket-Style ADV BCD
Lift Capacity10.8 kg to 18.3 kg (24 lbs. to 38 lbs.)
Bladder LocationSides
Weight4.5 kg (9.9 lbs.) for Size L
Integrated Weight PocketsYes
Number of Relief Valves3
Different Men/women versionsYes
Other FeaturesGreat color coding

Most Durable

One of the best and most iconic wing BCDs on the market that comes with pure quality worth paying for.

  • Can be customized
  •  Superb build quality
  •  Extremely durable & reliable
  •  Versatile enough for doubles & tech diving
  •  Lifetime warranty
  •  Wing bladder well positioned
  •  Super comfortable
  • Easy to put on and off
  •  Enough D-Rings for the rest of your life
  • Design feels a little 90s
  •  A little too many moving parts for tech divers
Zeagle Ranger

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Zeagle Ranger wins our “most durable” BCD award in 2024 once again. It is completely indestructible (I mean, I know more than a handful of divers who have been using the same Ranger jacket since the early 2000s), build quality, and the Zeagle lifetime warranty that comes with every purchase.

It can be used for technical diving and has more than enough lift capacity to carry double tanks if you choose. It isn’t a DIR backplate/wing combo but if this isn’t important to you, you cannot go wrong with it. There are enough D rings on this thing for your entire diving group and it is really comfortable!

If we have to pick a con it would be that it’s missing the modular backplate/wing approach and that the design feels a little retro by now. However, Zeagle actually has a custom BCD service so you can freely pick how you want your BCD to look like. It takes between 4-6 weeks to get it shipped but it’s a nice touch.

The Zeagle Ranger is incredibly well made and has all of the features you would expect on a high-end wing BCD.

Specs & Features

TypeWing BCD
Lift Capacity20 kg (40 lbs)
Bladder LocationBack
Weight3.8 kg (8.4 lbs)
Integrated Weight PocketsYes
Number of Relief Valves4
Different Men/women versionsNo
Other Features

Dive Rite Nomad XT Sidemount Rig

Best for Sidemount

If you want a durable BCD that can do both sidemount and backmount out of the box, this is it

  • Very robust
  •  Sidemount & Backmount ready
  • Modular
  • Rugged
  •  Super dependable
  •  Works great out of the box
  • A bit bullky
  •  Bungee system is personal preference
  •  Valve strings could be more durable
  • Beginners might be overwhelmed at first

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Dive Rite Nomad XT Sidemount Rig is the best BCD for sidemount diving in 2024. Actually, our favorite aspect is that it can be used for both sidemount and backmount diving as you wish. Whether you dive at reefs, in caves, wrecks, fresh or saltwater, from shore or off of a boat, the Nomad XT can do it all.

It is completely adjustable for any diving style, has plenty of attachment points, and is good for both single and double setups. We recommend getting the backplate weight pockets so you can ditch the weight belt. The entire set looks very rugged and everything works out of the box.

However, if you are a beginner, this sidemount rig might be a bit overwhelming and it’s missing some jacket-style conveniences like big side pockets or integrated weight pockets out of the box.

If sidemount diving is your thing but you want to keep the option taking backmount tanks, the Dive Rite Nomad X is an excellent choice!

Other Scuba Diving BCDs We Have Reviewed

Besides our 10 top choices from above, we have also reviewed and tested a lot of other scuba diving BCDs.

Cressi Start Pro 2.0

The Cressi Start Pro 2.0 is a cheap, lightweight, and beginner-friendly BCD that’s ideal for new divers and dive schools.

  • Super affordable
  •  Separable waist strap & bladder
  •  Easy to disassemble and maintain
  •  For dive centers: Size clearly marked on the shoulder 
  •  Useful carry handle
  •  2.0 version comes with some quality improvements
  • No integrated weight pockets 
  •  D-rings are plastic 
  • High chest strap
  •  Not as comfortable as higher-end options
Cressi Start Pro 2.0

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The Cressi Start Pro 2.0 is a cheap, lightweight, and beginner-friendly BCD that’s ideal for new divers and dive schools.

The waist strap is independent of the bladder, meaning it won’t squeeze your stomach when it isn’t inflated.

In typical Cressi-fashion it does the job flawlessly, but you won’t find any fancy bells or whistles. In return, this is among the cheapest BCDs you can find!

Specs & Features

TypeJacket-Style ADV BCD
Lift Capacity13.25 kg to 20.4 kg (40 lbs to 45 lbs)
Bladder LocationBack
Weight‎2.38 kg (6.4 lbs)
Integrated Weight PocketsNo
Number of Relief Valves3
Different Men/women versionsNo
Other Features


3.7 / 5

Has all the basic features you could want in a BCD at this price point and we find not much wrong with it.

  • Super affordable
  •  Looks nice 
  •  Plenty of sizes available
  • Build quality okay but not superb
  •  Very small D-rings
  •  No integrated weight-pockets
  •  Only for vacation divers
  •  D-rings a bit brittle

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

SEAC is a reputable scuba gear manufacturer and the SEAC Ego (or Smart) is their introductory option.

It’s durable, looks nice, and will last a long time. It has all the basic features you could want in a BCD at this price point and we find nothing wrong with it.

For less than around $300 you get a lot of BCD and beginners will love the fact they don’t have to fiddle around with lots of options and moving parts.

Specs & Features

TypeJacket-Style ADV BCD
Lift Capacity9.7kg to 18.3kg (21lbs to 40lbs)
Bladder LocationBack
Weight3.2 kg (6.9 lbs)
Integrated Weight PocketsNo
Number of Relief Valves3
Different Men/women versionsNo
Other Features

Apeks Black Ice

Great trim, convenient weight pockets, and indestructible design make the Black Ice one of the best hybrid BCDs on the market.

  • Lightweight
  •  Modular
  •  Back-inflate
  •  Very very durable
  •  Looks very cool
  • Very pricey
  •  Not DIR conform
  •  Chest straps made from plastic
Apeks Black Ice

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Heavy-duty without the heavy weight.

The Apeks Black Ice is one of my favorite Hybrid BCDs that combines the modular backplate/wing approach with the storage convenience of jacket-style BCDs.

I cannot say it better than this Amazon reviewer: “This BC has comfort, accessibility, capability, versatility, & style all wrapped up in one”.

The Apeks Black Ice is made for heavy-duty diving in cold water and will be your reliable partner for many years. Built like a tank and with the usual high quality from Apeks (owned by Aqualung) this is one of the sturdiest BCDs out there and you will probably never need any repairs done on it.

A favorite among dive guides and instructors, the Black Ice is comfortable, offers superb trim, and looks pretty cool while doing so.

The Apeks Black Ice is a great durable Hybrid BCD.

Scuba Diving BCDs Buyer’s Guide

A BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), also known as a buoyancy compensator (BC), is an essential piece of scuba equipment. As the name suggests, we use it to control our buoyancy underwater by inflating and deflating it with air from our scuba tanks. It also helps us float at the surface and we attach other scuba gear, tanks, and accessories to it.

Nobody likes a poorly-fitting BCD that has too much or too little lift, feels awful on your back, or is hard to handle. A good one, on the other hand, helps you enjoy your time underwater even more.

In the water, we compensate for negative buoyancy by adding more air, the deeper we dive. On the other hand, at the surface, we inflate it completely to achieve positive buoyancy and float.

BCDs come in different shapes and sizes and offer a range of features that cater to various diving styles and environments. You might also have heard them be called other things like “jacket“, “wing” or “vest“. This refers to special types of BCDs which we will look at, too.

Scuba gear lined up on boat

Types of BCDs

There are four different types of BCDs available: ADV-BCDs, Back-Inflate BCDs, Travel BCDs, Backplate/Wing BCDs, and Hybrid BCDs.

ADV-BCDs are also called jacket or vest BCDs and are what most people learn to use first. The air bladder is located on the side and they come with lots of pockets and accessories.

Back-Inflate BCDs have an air bladder that’s located on the back which leads to better buoyancy and trim. They can still look like vests but may also come in other configurations.

Travel BCDs are more and more common. They are super lightweight but aren’t technically different from the ones above.

Backplate/Wing BCDs are highly customizable BCDs with separate bladders, harnesses, and backplates. They are also called technical BCDs and the BCD of choice for technical diving.

Hybrid BCDs are essentially a mix of either of the ones above. They often combine the improved buoyancy specs of back-inflators with the convenience of ADV-BCDs.

Before purchasing a new BCD, it’s important to understand their advantages and disadvantages.

Backmount vs Sidemount

There are both Backmount and Sidemount BCD configurations which refer to the placement of the scuba tanks during a dive. In Backmount setups, one or two tanks are worn on the back of the diver, whereas in Sidemount, as the name suggests, all tanks are carried on the side.

ADV/Jacket/Vest BCDs

ADV (Advanced Design Vest) BCDs were first introduced by Seaquest in 1985 and have been the de-facto standard in scuba diving ever since. Especially in Europe and in other places they are also called jacket-style BCDs or just “jackets” whereas in North America you will come across the word “vest” more often.

ADV-style BCDs Pros

  • Storage pockets
  • Most divers already know how to use it
  • Multiple deflate options
  • Integrated weights options
  • Easy to float at the surface with

ADV-style BCDs Cons

  • Bulky & a lot of drag
  • Air bladder at suboptimal position
  • Poor trim
  • Heavy!!!
  • Too many moving parts

Most divers learn to dive using one of these BCDs and about 99% of all recreational diving rental equipment around the world consists of them. They look like underwater backpacks in which the air bladder is directly attached to the straps and harness and located on both sides of the diver.

They come in all shapes and sizes, featuring pockets, D-rings, inflator hoses, extra weight pockets, and other useful gadgets. If you are already certified, you know how to use it well. Mid-range to high-end BCDs feature integrated weight pockets to ditch the extra weight belt.

However, there are some drawbacks to this kind of BCD in comparison to wing and other back-bladder setups.

Travel BCDs

In recent years, travel BCDs have come to the market and basically, every manufacturer has its own offering for one of them.
While they do offer advantages in terms of weight and size in comparison to more clunky AVD BCDs, they still fall short when compared to Backplate Wing jackets. Therefore, make sure the features are sufficient for your style of diving.

ADV-style BCDs are often rather bulky and large which makes them heavy and hard to fit in a suitcase. You will not achieve perfect trim with them since the air bladders are located on the sides rather than on the back. While this is not the only aspect of buoyancy, it does play a role.

In addition to buoyancy concerns, their size leads to more drag underwater and higher air consumption. Last but not least, more moving parts mean more potential points of failure.

Back-Inflate BCDs

These BCDs provide better horizontal trim and buoyancy in the water which is preferable for many if not most divers. They can be more streamlined than jacket BCDs but come at a price.

Hybrid BCDs Pros

  • Moderate weight & drag
  • Better trim
  • Less moving parts
  • Similar look & feel to jacket-style BCDs
  • Good air bladder position

Hybrid BCDs Cons

  • Still considerable drag
  • Bigger volume than BP/W
  • High price

Hybrid BCDs

While ADV-style BCDs are the standard at most places, more and more divers start seeing the benefits of back-bladder (“wing”) BCDs.

Hybrid BCDs Pros

  • Moderate weight & drag
  • Better trim
  • Less moving parts
  • Similar look & feel to jacket-style BCDs
  • Good air bladder position

Hybrid BCDs Cons

  • Still considerable drag
  • Bigger volume than BP/W
  • High price

Wing BCDs were first used by technical and cave divers but many mainstream manufacturers have begun making so-called hybrid BCDs. They look and feel like ADV BCDs with pockets, straps, etc., but the position of the air bladder has been moved to the back.

Manufacturers claim you get the best of both worlds this way. On the one hand, superior buoyancy and trim, on the other hand, all the bells and whistles (and pockets) of jacket-style BCDs. While there is still some drag and bulkiness, it’s a big step up from traditional setups.

They are usually found in the $500+ range, making them mid-tier to high-end options, but they can be worth it.

Scuba diver hovering underwater
Pick the BCD that offers the best buoyancy and trim!

Backplate/Wing BCDs (BP/W)

Backplate/Wing configurations (often referred to as BP/W), are the most streamlined type of BCD out there. The air bladder is located on the back, leading to better buoyancy and trim in the water but they feature no pockets, extra straps, or integrated weight systems.

Backplate/Wing BCDs (BP/W) Pros

  • Lightweight & small volume
  • Great trim
  • No moving parts
  • Little drag
  • Optimal air bladder position
  • Little to no extra weights needed
  • Perfect for tech & cave diving
  • One size fits all

Backplate/Wing BCDs (BP/W) Cons

  • Few to no pockets
  • Can require some time putting it together

Instead of one single device, it consists of the air bladder (wing), a metal backplate, as well as a harness consisting of straps, D-rings, and buckles. The entire configuration is modular, making this the most versatile type of BCD out there. The air bladder is located on the back of the diver, giving it the characteristic “wing” look, which is far superior to any ADV-style setup.

What we really like, especially when renting them out the others, is the fact that one size fits all. In contrast to ADV-style ones, Wing BCDs don’t have a “size” like small, medium, or large, and instead, the harness can be adjusted to any body type or size. That’s just super convenient.

Cave diver wearing shorty and wing BCD holding lamp underwater
Backplate Wing BCDs are especially popular among technical divers.

In our opinion, there are no real drawbacks to this system and it is the best type of BCD for beginners and experienced divers alike. If you choose to buy a set, they come preconfigured, however, if you go the modular approach you will need to spend a little bit of time putting it all together.

Best Beginner BCDs

Some BCDs are better for beginners than others so we made a special guide on buying a BCD for beginners. Check it out if you’re looking for beginner-friendly choices.

What to Look Out For When Buying a BCD

There are several things you should look out for when buying a BCD. Whether you’re buying your first one or upgrading to a new model, we recommend keeping these in mind.

Type of BCD

As explained above, there are different types of BCDs, as well as hybrid versions thereof. Think about which type of BCD you’re looking for and why you prefer one over the other. Don’t be put off by labels though, and decide on one only because it “feels appropriate”.

Scuba gear setup
There are many different BCDs on the market so pick wisely.

Your Diving Style

Your choice of BCD will be greatly influenced by your diving style and the type of diving you want to do. Frequent travelers will focus on lightweight and small sizes, whereas underwater photographers will want to have a larger number of pockets and D-rings to carry their camera, lights, and other gear.

The more technical you get, the more you will need to look out for the specific features you need.

Fit and Comfort

A BCD should fit snugly but not be too tight. Adjustable straps and a cummerbund are good to achieve a good fit. You can also look out for a padded backplate if you dive with thin exposure suits.

Weight System

Many mid-tier to high-end BCDs feature integrated weight systems. They are convenient and if you can afford it, go for a BCD that has integrated weight pockets. In comparison to a weight belt, this usually improves your trim and means one less thing you need to buy.

Some BCDs even offer trim weight pockets on the tank strap that can be filled with smaller lead pieces to improve your trim. Whether you need those or not is personal preference and there is no right or wrong answer.

Pockets and D-Rings

D-rings are used for carrying accessories such as slates, an underwater camera, or flashlights. The more the better usually, however, don’t get entangled in too many things hanging off of your BCD!


BCDs are typically made from durable nylon or Cordura. Unless you have a specific preference, they are all equally good.

Ease of Use

Consider how intuitive the BCD is to use. Can you easily reach and operate the dump valves and inflator? How about putting it on and off? There is nothing worse than diving and noticing you cannot get to something you really need!

What’s your budget?

BCDs range in price significantly. Set a budget and stick to it! Yes, great BCDs do make a difference but it’s not worth spending all your money on it if you could instead get more diving time.

However, quality BCDs can last a long time and are worth a bit more!

Lift Capacity

This is how much weight the BCD can support while remaining buoyant. Choose one that can handle the weight of your gear and the conditions of your usual dive spots. How much lift you need depends on several factors like your own body weight, the type of exposure suit, what kind of extra equipment you carry, the water type, and the number of tanks you take on your dive.

If you are a recreational diver, you don’t need to worry about this unless you dive different setups (double tanks, stage bottles, super heavy camera equipment, etc.)

Scuba diver practicing genie seat hovering underwater
Life capacity determines how much specific weight can be carried by your BCD.


Finding the right BCD fit is easy as long as you take the time to measure yourself and read the size chart of the manufacturer. They usually offer ranges for both the diver’s weight and height so as long as you roughly fall under those, you’ll be fine.

As a rule of thumb, I’d go with one size below for your BCD, unless the sizing guidelines are totally off.

Get a BCD of one size below your Shirt size to get a nice, and tight fit.

Most beginners and even experienced divers buy BCDs that are way too large. Not only is it unnecessary in terms of lift capacity, but it will also make you heavier in the water, waste air, and use up more space when packing your dive bag.

Dry Weight

Manufacturers usually name the “dry weight” of a BCD in their specs and for obvious reasons, you want this to be as low as possible. Special travel BCDs are often stripped-down versions of bigger models with fewer straps, rings, and pockets to save weight this way.

Which BCD style is best for diving?

The best BCD style for trim and buoyancy optimization is a backplate/wing configuration which is also the lightest and most versatile of them. However, if integrated weight systems, pockets, or other convenient features are wanted, a hybrid back-bladder wing BCD is the best choice.

As long as you get a BCD with a back-inflate bladder, meaning a wing bladder, you are already off to a good start. That being said, our personal opinion is:

A wing configuration is superior to other types of BCDs in (almost) every regard. Therefore, it is the recommended BCD for all scuba divers.

ADV-style BCDs are usually much cheaper, but if you can afford to spend just a little more on them, a Wing BCD will improve your buoyancy by a lot!

Halcyon BCD setup
A Backplate/Wing setup is optimal for any diver.

Backplate Wing setups offer even better trim and buoyancy, better weight distribution, can be packed super small and lightweight, and are modular. They decrease the number of potential failure points significantly, are dirt simple to put on, and can be used in any diving scenario out there.

And don’t forget one of our personal favorites: One size fits anyone. Just adjust the harness straps and the same BCD can fit a 10-year-old at 30kg, or a 30-year-old at 100kg. Don’t let anyone talk you out of buying one because “they are just for tech divers“, “they are very expensive“, or “where are you going to put XYZ if you don’t have any pockets?“.

I understand that many dive shops get bigger commissions from certain brands for promoting their products (nothing wrong with that!), however, any diver can use a Backplate Wing.

Why buy a BCD for scuba diving?

It is recommended that scuba divers buy their own BCD rather than rent for several reasons. They are very sturdy and usually last 10+ years, making it a good investment. Such BCDs usually offer superior buoyancy and trim over rental ones and fit better. Lastly, the same BCD can be used on every dive so only one is required.

Owning your own scuba gear is great and often the better choice over renting. However, there are several reasons why buying a BCD is a good choice in general.

It will last forever

Unlike wetsuits for surfers, ropes for climbers, and shoes for runners, a BCD in scuba diving can last for decades if you treat it right and service it regularly. I’ve seen divers go out in BCDs they bought in the late 80s and a quality Backplate/Wing kit will serve you well for 10+ years at least.

Better Buoyancy & Trim

Your BCD has a large impact on your buoyancy, in comparison to a regulator, for example. Using your own BCD will make you a better diver, improve your trim and buoyancy, and is a great investment in the long run.

Scuba diver hovering on back relaxing
Buying a better BCD can significantly improve your trim and buoyancy.

Good fit

I find it very annoying to always rent a certain piece of equipment, as you have to adjust to the new one wherever you go. In the case of ADV-style BCDs, you will often receive one that’s too loose or too tight, you are struggling to find all the air releases and the trim is off.

When you buy your own BCD, it will be the perfect fit wherever you go.

Less extra weights

With new BCDs, you can never be sure how many weight pieces will be right. I find this to be super annoying as it creates unnecessary drag underwater and increases air consumption.

If you are wondering how much scuba weight you will need, use my FREE scuba diving weight calculator and do a weight check before your next dive.

Poor Rental Gear

Let’s face it, rental equipment at many dive shops is awful. Low quality, worn out, missing pieces, and not convenient at all.

BCDs are among the worst in this area and often consist of the cheapest €150 kits which have been in use for 5-10 years.

Save yourself the hassle and get something yourself.

Carry on with scuba gear
Backplate/Wing BCDs can be packed super light and small.

Easy to travel with

If you follow our advice and get a modular Backplate/Wing setup, traveling is super simple. Just put the backplate in your backpack (it doesn’t count against your travel weight restrictions), fold up the wing and harness, and put them in your suitcase.

Overall weight used up: less than 1kg. Other Travel BCDs can be just as light.

Use my FREE scuba diving trip packing list for more tips on what and how to pack for a diving trip.

Join more than 21,300 readers on our email list for more tips & tricks!
We send out one newsletter per week, every Wednesday.

Subscription Form