Commonly referred to as BCD (Buoyancy Compensating Device) or BC (Buoyancy Compensator) or Stab (Stabilizing) Jacket the modern BCD allows the accurate addition and subtraction of air whilst in the water to adjust buoyancy.
To help you select the correct size BCD we have drawn up an approximate size chart – some BCDs have their own size chart as supplied by the manufacturers which supercedes this chart. This is only an approximate guide and you should always try your BCD as soon as you receive it and before actually using it to ensure the correct fit in case you find you need a different size. The measurements shown are chest measurements over your exposure protection, so if for example you have 42inch chest and wear a dry suit which is approximately 2 inches of bulk, you should consider a size compatible with a 44 inch chest. You have 28 days to return it if the one you choose doesn’t fit – please see our returns policy for full details.
Weight integration built into a BCD can mean you won’t need to wear a weight belt. However, most systems available today will not necessarily hold enough weight to totally remove the need for a weight belt when worn with a dry suit or thick wet suit.
For warm water divers (and especially ladies who are fed up of having bruised hips after diving), weight integration should seriously be considered.
The weights that usually fit on the belt are now stored in special removable pockets. These pockets can be dumped in an emergency or easily released and passed to the boat crew when exiting from deep water.
Modern ladies BCDs offer female divers increased comfort and a much better fit. Key features are that the back length is reduced (ladies have shorter backs than men), which means the cylinder does not rest on the base of your spine.
Integrated weights save your hips from the bruising sometimes suffered by using a conventional weight belt. Also, often the chest straps are moved or completely removed on a ladies BCD to avoid constriction across the bust.
New ladies BCD’s like the Aqua Lung Pearl i3 even have an integrated sports bra.
The rule of thumb with selecting whether to go for a wing or jacket style BCD is your experience level. A normal jacket style BCD offers good all round buoyancy when inflated.
A wing style BCD only has inflation in the rear, meaning that at the surface it will have a tendency to turn the diver face down. A lot of divers go for wing style BCD’s for the "techie" look and whilst this is fine for those techies who really know what they’re doing, one must remember that safety is paramount and that performance is key rather than looks.
Reasons for choosing a wing are if you want to keep your front area free from clutter, if you are an experienced travelling diver or if you need to use multiple cylinders. Travel wings are becoming more popular due the size they pack down to but remember the points listed above when deciding whether or not you should buy one.