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Buying a scuba diving BCD for beginners

Find the perfect scuba diving BCD for beginners with our ultimate buying guide!

By 10 Min Read
Scuba diver with lionfish

In part 6 of my “Ultimate guide to buying scuba gear for beginners” series, I will give you tips, tricks, and recommendations on buying a BCD (buoyancy control device) when you’re new to diving.

Use the table of contents to read to the sections you are interested in most or jump to another part of the series.

Best BCDs for beginners

These are my personal recommendations for the best BCDs for beginners.

Scuba diver with fish underwater
Find the best BCD for beginners here.

I have added recommendations for each type: ADV, Hybrid, and Backplate/Wing.

Best ADV-style (jacket) BCDs for beginners

Aqualung Pro HD

Aqualung Pro HD

Comfortable and affordable

The Aqualung Pro HD with integrated weight pockets 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 is the best affordable BCD for scuba diving beginners.

Tried and tested, the Pro HD has been used by hundreds of students at Social Diving and countless divers around the globe. It ticks off all the important boxes like lightweight, integrated weight pockets, plenty of storage space, and superb build quality.

Sure, it might not have the flashy colors like the ScubaPro Hydros Pro, but it’s the perfect combination of good price and great features.

The Aqualung Pro HD is the best affordable BCD for beginners.

ScubaPro Hydros X

ScubaPro Hydros X

Feature-packed, well designed, and great trim

The ScubaPro Hydros X is the best ADV-style BCD on the market and is loaded with features.

It will give you great trim in the water, looks really nice, and is super comfortable.

When ScubaPro released the first version of their now famed Hydros Pro BCD, it took the diving world by storm. Within a few months, it felt like there was one of them in every dive group on every diving trip or excursion.

The Hydros X is the new 2020 version and improves the old build in several regards.

It looks very cool, has integrated weight pockets, a power inflator, padded straps, and all the other features you could want as a beginner diver.

It is not cheap, however, comes with the usual ScubaPro build quality that’s worth the price. It can be considered a travel jacket due to its lightweight and small packing volume, however, without the usual drawbacks that come with them.

They also make a women’s version.

If you want the best jacket-style BCD on the market, get the ScubaPro Hydros X.

Best Hybrid BCDs for beginners

Apeks Black Ice

Apeks Black Ice

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

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

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 the best Hybrid BCD for beginners.

Best Backplate/Wing BCDs for beginners

xDeep NX Zen Deluxe

xDeep NX Zen Deluxe

Innovative and great quality

The Zen Deluxe by xDeep is one of the best backplate/wing BCDs for beginners and super affordable.

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 have sold several of them to students of mine. They all share my sentiment and will probably never buy another BCD again.

xDeep is a newer brand from Poland disrupting the Wing BCD market with its innovative designs and creative sets.

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.

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

Find your own!

My personal suggestion for the best Backplate/Wing BCD is to hop on over to Dive Right in Scuba and check out their Wing Sets!

They offer anything from super affordable to premium and have very generous free and international shipping policies.

I especially like the Dive Rite Harness, as well as anything made by HOG.

Go and find your personal kit at Dive Right in Scuba!

Where to buy a BCD for beginners?

These are my top picks for buying BCDs for beginners online.

Dive Right in Scuba

My top pick for buying scuba gear online

Based in the US, Dive Right in Scuba offers a large inventory, super great support, and will be your one-stop shop for anything scuba diving.

Scuba.com

My top pick for buying scuba gear online

Another large retailer based in the US, Scuba.com (previously LeisurePro) offers very competitive prices and carries all major scuba brands and items.

Amazon

Perfect for scuba gear and electronics

No introduction is needed on this one. Amazon carries a large inventory of scuba diving equipment, most notably accessories, ABC sets, and dive computers.

Which BCD style is best for beginners?

From the explanation above, you probably already know the answer to this question.

If you just want the bottom line, here it is:

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

There is no rational reason why most scuba divers still dive with old jacket-style BCDs when there are so many Backplate Wing sets are out there for super affordable prices.

The best reason I could find was that some manufacturers are just better at marketing than others. 😉

Backplate wing BCD at shop.
A Backplate/Wing setup is optimal for any diver.

Backplate Wing setups offer 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 my personal favorites: One size fits anyone. Just adjust the harness straps and the same Wing 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 as a beginner?

Owning your own version of each equipment piece is always recommended. However, there are several specific reasons why buying a BCD as a beginner is a good choice.

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 good Backplate/Wing 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.

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 my air consumption.

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.

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

Easy to travel with

If you follow my advice and get a modular Backplate/Wing setup, traveling is super simple. Just put the backplate in your backpack (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.

Buying a BCD for beginners

Of course, trying things on before purchasing can be helpful.

However, BCDs of any kind are very easy and convenient to shop for online, as they come in standard sizes and are more forgiving than, for example, a wetsuit.

This is especially true for Backplate/Wing setups which are a one size fits all kind of equipment piece.

Finding the right BCD size

Most beginners tend to pick BCDs that are way too big for them.
Of course, it should not be too tight and restrict your breathing by pushing on your lungs or stomach.

However, if it’s too loose, you won’t easily reach all the important valves, knobs, and buttons and create unnecessary drag underwater.

Just like with weight pieces, less is more!

I use this rule of thumb when handing out rental equipment to students, and when I bought my own BCD:

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

If you are usually a Large, get a Medium BCD and that should fit well. If you already wear a Small shirt size, get an Extra-Small BCD, so it won’t be too loose.

Integrated weight pockets

If you want to get an ADV or Hybrid style BCD, spend the extra money and get some integrated weight pockets.

Trust me, they are worth it and you will not be missing your weight belt ever.

As the pockets are located higher than your belt, you will have a better trim underwater and won’t struggle to keep a flat position during a dive.

Don’t fall for hype

Please don’t blindly buy the most expensive or most fancy BCD out there because someone told you “this is the best BCD out there”. As a beginner, it’s often hard to decide which features are necessary and what manufacturer is worth the asking price.

Read reviews, ask around your local diving community and browse online shops like Dive Right in Scuba to find BCDs you like. Remember, the best marketing doesn’t always (but sometimes) indicate the best product.

Find the right BCD for your type of diving

It’s important to understand that not every BCD is well-suited for the particular style of diving you are aiming for.

If you are a beginner diver who wants to explore shallow reefs in tropical waters, you will not need the extra-large 45lbs double-wing made for diving double 8L scuba tanks.

On the other hand, if you are an avid cold water diver looking for cold water diving equipment, that might just be what you want.

A Backplate/Wing BCD will give you the best flexibility for any kind of diving so you never have to buy another one again.

Extra features

Modern ADV BCDs come with lots of bells and whistles, some of them very useful, others plain pointless.

Decide whether you absolutely, positively need any of them before spending more money because of them. As yourself: “Have I needed this feature on any dive before?”, “Will this feature create any negative side effects?”.

I am particularly thinking about any extra moving parts, inflator hoses with integrated regulators, and extra pockets at any imaginable place.

Less is more, and more features mean more drag underwater and more that can go wrong.

Conclusion

This concludes this beginner’s guide to buying a BCD for scuba diving.

It’s always a good idea to try out different ones before deciding which one to pick. I obviously favor the modular Backplate/Wing approach over any others.

If you have any questions or need help finding the right one for you, leave a comment below.

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Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃

Cheers

Julius

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