10 Best Scuba BCD in 2018 – Our Favorite Models Compared

When you’re getting into the world of scuba diving, one of the most crucial elements to pay attention to is buoyancy. Since you will be weighted down with all of your gear, it can cause a lot of stress, both on your body and in your demeanor.

One simple way to control your buoyancy better is to utilize a BCD (buoyancy control device). These machines allow you to move more fluidly in the water and ensure that you don’t exhaust yourself by trying to manage your position in the water.

Today we’re going to look at the top BCD models on the market. All of the models we’re going to see are jackets, meaning that they are ideal for beginners or intermediates. If you’re a technical diver, you should search for wing BCD units, which would be a different list.

Are you ready to go under the surface? Let’s see what the best scuba BCDs have to offer.

10 Best Scuba BCD Comparisons

10 Best Scuba BCDs - Reviews

1. Cressi Start BCD

Because scuba diving can be relatively complex, it’s imperative that you pick a buoyancy control device that offers both simplicity and reliability. When looking at different manufacturers, Cressi is one that stands out for making BCDs for all kinds of users. In this case, we’re looking at the company’s standard model.

The construction of this vest-style BCD is incredible. It uses durable 1000-denier nylon to ensure that you can use it over and over again without getting a lot of wear and tear. If you love to dive, then you will appreciate the attention to detail you get with this BCD.

One element that we like a lot is the rigid back panel. Since the air and gas tanks can be so cumbersome and heavy, they can sometimes press against your back, especially when you’re facing down. Having this panel keeps you safe and ensures better comfort while diving. The material is also padded so that you don’t feel it pressing against your spine.

Because BCDs are all about controlling buoyancy (hence the name), it’s essential that you have sufficient valves and knobs to keep the vest at the right level. The core valves necessary for a smooth dive are there for inflation, dumping air, and over-pressurization.

In this case, you get three of the latter valves, which means that it’s ideal for beginners. Since new divers won’t know the precise amount of gas to put into the system, having over pressure valves ensures that you stay safe no matter what. Also, you can pull ripcords to dump your air manually, making it even more efficient. 

What we liked

  • Durable 500 and 1000 denier material
  • Two extra large accessory pockets
  • Rigid back support panel
  • Separate ventral strap for stability
  • Soft and comfortable interior
  • Ideal for sport diving
  • Three overpressure valves
  • Valves have manual dumping 
  • Power inflator for fast buoyancy
  • D-rings for attaching equipment
  • Quick-release buckles for safety
  • Neutral when empty

What we didn't like

  • No integrated weight pockets
  • Can be tricky to empty the valves completely

2. Cressi Travelight BCD

We’re going to be seeing Cressi a lot on this list, thanks to the company’s commitment to excellence. Also, there are not a lot of consumer-grade businesses that offer affordable BCDs, so Cressi kind of dominates the industry.

We’ve already seen the level of quality and precision offered by these devices, but one element that can get in your way is the weight of the vest. In this case, we’re looking at the Travelight BCD, which is more comfortable to wear and offers a wider range of movement. Assuming that you’re diving in warm waters, you will appreciate having a lighter BCD, especially if you’re still wearing a wetsuit.

One thing that we like about Cressi BCDs is that they offer a variety of size options. Since buoyancy is decided by weight, it’s imperative that you find the right size to fit your body type. If not, then you could be struggling to maintain your position in the water, which can lead to exhaustion and waste of a lot of air.

Because this model is thinner and lighter than most BCDs, it’s super easy to fold for storage. Thus, when you bring the Travelight on your next diving excursion, you don’t have to worry about it taking up so much room in your bag.

Other features included with the Travelight are two zippered pockets on the side, a padded back panel to provide extra comfort while moving around, and multiple color options. Having zippered pockets is ideal when diving since it ensures that you don’t lose anything by accident. However, these zippers are not over sized, so you may have difficulty if you’re wearing diving gloves.

What we liked

  • Lightweight design
  • Two zippered pockets for storage
  • Two weight pockets behind
  • Padded back panel for comfort
  • Three to seven release valves (based on size)
  • Foldable for storage
  • Multiple color options
  • Quick-release buckles
  • Eight D-rings for accessories
  • Less bulk for faster movement underwater

What we didn't like

  • Pocket seams may come undone over time
  • In rare cases, weights may pop out on a dive

3. Cressi R1 Weight with Integrated BCD

Although we love what the Start and Travelight models have to offer, if you’re looking for something easier to use and more comfortable, then you will want to get the R1 instead. This is a suitable upgrade to ensure that you have a much better diving experience overall.

The primary selling point of this BCD is the fact that it has an integrated weight system. When diving, you have to weigh yourself down so that you don’t float along the surface. In traditional setups, you’re supposed to wear a weight belt. However, that doesn’t offer any customization, so it’s not as good as an integrated system like this one.

Cressi has developed a Lock Aid mechanism that makes it easier to put weights into the jacket and pull them out. All of the weight pockets are in the front, however, so keep that in mind when using this BCD.

Overall, most divers prefer to use a weight system like this because it’s much more liberating than wearing a belt. However, with lesser BCDs, there is always the chance that one of your weights can break free and fall to the bottom, lost to the ocean. With Lock Aid, that’s no longer a problem.

The other reason that we like the R1 over other BCD models is that it’s much more comfortable and ergonomic. Still, it uses heavy-duty 500 denier nylon to reduce wear and tear, and it offers lumbar support so that your back doesn’t take the brunt of the weight from the tanks. The back panel is also rigid to distribute the weight more evenly. 

What we liked

  • Durable nylon material
  • Ergonomic harness design for comfort
  • Power inflator for fast buoyancy
  • Weight integrated system
  • Lock Aid for easy insertion and removal 
  • Three release valves for convenience
  • Rigid back panel with handle
  • Two pull dumps, one rear-one shoulder
  • Six D-rings for accessories
  • Quick-release buckles for safety
  • Two large zippered pockets

What we didn't like

  • No rear weight pockets

4. Zeagle Stiletto BCD with the Ripcord Weight System

As veteran scuba divers can attest, having the right weight system can make all the difference when you’re in the water. If you can’t get the balance correct, then you will be struggling to maintain an ideal position, which will lead to exhaustion.

Overall, the Zeagle Stiletto has one of the most versatile and reliable weight systems out of any BCD that we’ve seen. Not only can it support more weight than most, but you can either load your materials in the front or the back.

To ensure that loading and removing weights is as simple as possible, this BCD comes with a ripcord design. This allows you to adjust your weights more efficiently so that you can find the perfect balance. In the front, you can add up to 30 pounds, and in the back, up to 20. That should be more than necessary, but it’s nice to know that you have plenty of options.

The construction of this BCD is also incredible. 1000 Denier nylon ensures that this product lasts for years, so take it with you on hundreds of dives without any problems. It also comes with lumbar support so that the tanks don’t wear you down.

Also, this model is lighter than some other BCDs we’ve seen, so it offers a better range of movement. To make it even better, this is true even when you’ve added weight to the system.

Other features of the Stiletto include a low profile retracting bladder, an adjustable sternum strap, and five D-rings for attaching accessories to the unit. Overall, you get a lot of comfort and convenience with this BCD.

What we liked

  • Reinforced 1000 denier nylon
  • Low profile retracting bladder
  • Built-in lumbar pad for comfort
  • Two zippered utility pockets
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Elastic waist panels
  • Five D-rings for accessories
  • 30-pound ripcord weight system
  • 20-pound rear weight capacity
  • Lightweight model reduces bulk
  • Two tank straps
  • Quick-release buckles for safety

What we didn't like

  • Not made for a two-cylinder configuration
  • Ripcord weight system can be tricky to learn at first

5. Scubapro Knighthawk BC w/ Air II for Scuba Divers

We mentioned at the beginning that most of our BCD models on this list are made for casual divers, not professionals. The primary difference between the two is the placement of the air bladders. With jacket-style BCDs, the air is both in front and the rear, which enables you to position yourself more comfortably.

In this case, however, the bladders are on the back only. Since new divers can struggle with being pushed down from the air, it’s best suited for experienced divers. Thus, if you know what you’re doing and you want a BCD system that will enable you to explore the deep more easily, we suggest getting this model.

One reason that we like the Knighthawk BC is that it has movable straps. These will conform to your body and twist and turn with you, ensuring that you don’t experience pain or discomfort while you’re diving. Rigid straps can dig into your shoulders and torso, so it’s better to have ones that move with you instead.

The benefit of having a wing-style BCD is that it offers more flexibility and range of motion in the front. Since you’re not encumbered by bladders and gear in front of you, you can move around and use your arms a lot more easily. As such, this is a perfect BCD for divers who want that extra bit of flexibility when exploring.

The only downside to this kind of system is that you can’t integrate weights with it. Thus, you have to bring a weight belt along with you, so plan accordingly.

What we liked

  • Wing style BCD for professionals
  • Dual back flotation
  • Wider range of movement around the chest
  • Three dump deflation system
  • Streamlined air cell technology
  • Rotating quick-release buckles
  • Straps move with the diver for comfort
  • Automatic volume air control in compression straps

What we didn't like

  • Not made for beginners
  • No integrated weight system

6. AquaLung Pro HD Weight Integrated BCD

One element of BCDs that we haven’t discussed yet is the D-ring. As you have probably noticed, all of these models come with a certain number of D-rings for your convenience. But why are they necessary? The rings are included because most divers will travel with a ton of accessories. These items can include things like flashlights, cameras, and other tools to make exploring the water more accessible.

For the most part, BCDs will offer at least five D-rings, although some may have more. What’s essential is that they are made of heavy-duty metal so that they don’t break off, taking your gear with it. In this case, the rings are made of stainless steel. The added benefit of that is it’s resistant to rust from saltwater conditions.

As with other BCDs on this list, the AquaLung Pro uses an integrated weight system. The material of the jacket is extra durable to help prevent wear and tear, and the weight pockets are lockable so that you don’t lose anything during your dive.

The release valves on the Pro HD come with oversized pull bobs. These make it easier to dump air quickly, especially if you’re wearing diving gloves. However, they can sometimes get in the way, so be aware of that.

Finally, this model comes with a traction pad on the back to help keep your tank in place while diving. If you’ve ever had a tank slip around and shift your weight, you know how annoying it can be. Having this extra traction ensures that you don’t have any problems.

What we liked

  • Durable fabric
  • Adjustable waist for comfort
  • Zippered utility pockets
  • Locking weight pockets for safety
  • Quick-release buckles
  • Abrasion and fade-resistant materials
  • Traction pad to reduce tank slippage
  • Five stainless steel D-rings
  • Large pull bobs for convenience
  • Fast dumping of air

What we didn't like

  • Few size options available
  • May be too bulky for some users

7. Mares Hybrid Weight Integrated Folding Scuba BC

Although elements like weight integration and release valves are crucial to finding the right BCD, comfort can sometimes be more important. After all, if you’re uncomfortable during your diving experience, you will be less likely to go back out.

In this case, the Mares Hybrid is one of the best BCDs for your body. It conforms to your shape and uses a variety of pads and soft materials to ensure that you always feel excellent while in the water. The Hybrid is also lightweight so that you get a freer range of motion.

In addition to the comfortable design, this BCD also comes with all of the standard features you need. It has seven D-rings for attaching all of your accessories. It comes in multiple sizes so that you find one that fits you best. It also has an integrated weight system to make it easier to get into position in the water. Finally, it utilizes a power inflator and rapid dump system to make buoyancy more efficient overall.

What we liked

  • Durable 420 Cordura nylon
  • Foldable backpack design
  • Ergonomic and lightweight
  • Ultra low profile exhaust valves
  • Better fit and trim to reduce bulk
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Seven D-rings for accessories
  • Detachable harness and Aircell
  • Rear and shoulder dump valves
  • Quick-release buckles
  • Power inflator for convenience
  • Integrated weight system
  • Mechanical release for easier weight maintenance

What we didn't like

  • Only one zippered pocket for storage
  • In rare cases, the weight release may wear down easily

8. Cressi Aquaride Pro

So far, we’ve covered all of the fundamental elements to pay attention to with your scuba BCD. In this case, we have another high-quality model from Cressi. The Aquaride Pro is an excellent choice for both beginners and expert divers. Let’s break down the features it has.

First, the nylon material is lightweight yet rugged. It works in both warm and cold water, providing you with sufficient insulation while reducing bulk. Second, this BCD has a next-generation inflator that makes adding air a breeze.

Next, there are eight steel D-rings so that you can carry more accessories on your dive. This system has three release/overpressure valves for safety, and it comes with an expandable storage pocket. Overall, this is an excellent BCD. 

What we liked

  • Durable nylon material
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Adjustable straps for comfort
  • Eight steel D-rings for accessories
  • Next-gen anatomical inflator
  • Rigid backpack with handle
  • Flat-lock aid system
  • Three purge and overpressure valves
  • Expandable utility pocket with zippers
  • Two trim weight pockets
  • Quick attach rear weight pockets
  • Fast-release buckles for safety
  • Light enough for warm water
  • Thick enough for cold water

What we didn't like

  • Collar can feel stiff and lead to rubbing
  • Some seams can come apart easily

9. Cressi Aquapro 5 Scuba Diving BCD

If you want to get one of the best BCDs for your next dive, we highly recommend the AquaPro 5. Not only does it come with all of the high-quality parts and materials that you’ve come to expect from Cressi, but it has a few upgrades to offer as well.

First, the fabric of this BCD is designed to drain faster. Since waiting for your scuba gear to dry can be a royal pain, having this kind of self-draining mesh offers more convenience.

Second, this model comes with wraparound weight pockets. This way, you get the same feeling of a weight belt, but you also get better customization.

Next, this unit has two zippered pockets for storing your stuff, as well as six D-rings for attaching accessories. The zippers are also oversized so that you can use a diving glove without any problems.

Finally, the AquaPro 5 has a power inflator and rapid dumping system. 

What we liked

  • Durable 420-denier material
  • Self-draining mesh fabric
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Air cell technology
  • Integrated wraparound weight pockets
  • Two zippered accessory pockets
  • Six D-rings for equipment
  • Quick-release buckles
  • External weight pockets have fast unhooking
  • Three air exhaust valves
  • Rigid back with extra padding
  • Power inflator and manual dumping
  • Holds up to 20 pounds of weight

What we didn't like

  • Release system is trickier than other models

10. Cressi Ultralight Travel BC

Our final BCD model is this super lightweight version from Cressi. If you plan on diving in warm waters exclusively, then you will want something as slim and maneuverable as this. The Ultralight is one of the most comfortable models you can wear.

Overall, this BCD comes with all of the standard features you need. It uses high-quality nylon to minimize wear and tear. It has a locking mechanism for the weight pockets so that you don’t lose them to the sea. It comes with five D-rings for attaching gear to the jacket. It also has a hideaway pocket on the inside for additional storage.

When you’re not wearing this BCD, it folds tightly so that it takes up less space. In fact, it weighs less than five pounds, which gives you an idea of how light it really is.

What we liked

  • Two color options
  • Durable 420-denier nylon material
  • Lightweight design
  • Folding for easy storage
  • Hideaway pocket built-in
  • Flat lock system
  • Anatomical shoulder straps
  • Five D-rings for accessories
  • Quick-release buckles for safety
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Weighs less than five pounds
  • Soft back pad for comfort
  • Holds up to 20 pounds of weight
  • Ripcord dump valve

What we didn't like

  • Sizes can run a little large
  • Limited storage space

Final Verdict 

Considering that Cressi is one of the best names in the Scuba industry, it makes sense that we would suggest buying one of their BCDs. Although we like the other units on this list, Cressi has the reliability and comfort that will make your next dive as enjoyable as possible.

If you can afford it, we suggest buying the AquaPro 5. The air cell material is next level, and we love the self-draining fabric that ensures you can let it dry much faster than other jackets. Overall, you get more features and better reliability with this model.

However, if you’re on a bit of a budget, then the Cressi R1 is our secondary pick. It’s heavy enough to work in all water, but light enough to where you don’t feel restricted by it. The integrated weight system is remarkable, and the ergonomic design is much more comfortable than you might think.

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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