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Imagine scuba diving while hovering, weightless underwater – eye to eye with a fish. How is it possible? It starts with your buoyancy control device (BCD).

A BCD does exactly what its name describes – it gives you control in the water. Sometimes you want to float on the surface comfortably. Occasionally, you want to kneel or stand on the bottom, sometimes during a training course. Most of the time, you want to drift along effortlessly mid-water, observing the scenery. To do this efficiently, you need a BCD that fits you well, along with a weight system to fine-tune your buoyancy. The BCD also holds your tank. Visit your PADI Dive Center or Resort to get advice about BCDs.

Standard BCD Features

  • Expandable bladder

  • Low-pressure inflator and oral inflation mechanism

  • Deflator mechanism and overpressure valve

  • Adjustable straps, buckles, bands or releases

  • Adjustable tank band and sturdy back plate

BCD Styles

  • Jacket style – most popular for recreational scuba diving. Some made specifically for women.

  • Wing (back-mount) style

  • Traveling BCDs – made of lighter materials

  • Technical diving systems combine wing-style bladders with harness setups

  • Sidemount divers combine a back wing with a harness system that mounts tanks to your sides.

Optional and Desirable BCD Features

  • Integrated weight system

  • D-rings, clips and hose retainers

  • Pockets

  • Alternate inflator regulator combines your alternate air source with the BCD inflator

How to Choose Your BCD

Choose your BCD based on where you’ll use it most, and then make sure it fits.

  1. With a style in mind, try on the BCD for size. If in doubt, try on a few sizes. If you’ll wear a dry suit or thick wetsuit, consider wearing it to get the right fit.

  2. While wearing the BCD (and maybe gloves if you usually dive with them):

    • Tighten and loosen, clip and unclip every strap and release on the BCD.

    • Play with the inflator and deflator mechanisms.

    • Orally inflate the BCD completely and make sure it’s still comfortable, not restrictive.

  3. Check that the BCD’s inflator hose is compatible with your regulator setup.

  4. After trying on a few BCDs, narrow down your choice by fit and comfort. Then, make the final decision based on style, color, optional features and personal preference.

A BCD is an investment that should last for several years, so don't sacrifice fit and comfort for price.

Take Care of Your BCD

  1. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water after each use – both outside and inside.

  2. Let the BCD dry completely – out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

  3. Partially inflate the BCD and store in a cool and dry place. Don’t leave weights in the weight pockets.

Next Step

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