13 Best Scuba BCDs Review and Guide

I still remember it like yesterday when I was diving with my close friend, Steve.

He wanted to explore the coral reefs with me and had been bugging me for a long time. So, one weekend I asked him to strap on his dive gear and took him to explore a new stretch of the ocean. But carelessness on my part meant that I didn’t do a proper pre-dive check of his gear.

All was going well when suddenly a gust of storm hit us out of nowhere.

I was wearing my trusted BCD, but Steve wasn’t. He had one that he was wearing for the first time and it wasn’t working properly (according to him😀). He was tossed around like a kite in a hurricane. Luckily, I had my dive knife with me and cut loose some weights before somehow hauling him onto the boat.

Since that day, I have always advocated having a good quality BCD on dives, and that’s why this guide discusses the best BCD options.

I’m Marty, and let’s set sail!

Best Scuba Diving BCD – Top 13 Picks

1. AquaLung Pro HD Weight Integrated BCD

When I talk to entry-level divers, I’m often asked to describe the beauty of a coral reef. Unfortunately, I don’t have the words that would do justice to this magnificent natural wonder. Instead, I ask them to strap on the Aqua Lung Pro and go see one for themselves.

What I like about it

It’s essential to adjust to any situation in life and, more so, in deep-sea diving. On that note, this model is geared to help you handle any circumstances while you breathe in the vastness of the ocean. For instance, if you carry too much weight, simply use the mechanical weight release system to pull the handle and release the weights.

The best part is that it has weight integration to help achieve neutral buoyancy, while you can reduce drag and swim freely with its flat valves. In other words, it reduces traction underwater without harming the composition of the material, keeping abrasion to a minimum.

Added to that, it’s the best scuba BCD if you’re looking for one with an adjustable waistband.

What could be better?

It’s undoubtedly a highly sought-after scuba diving BCD, but it could do with a little improvement in some aspects. For example, there are no D-rings on the waist strap, though you still get a snug fit.

PROS
  • Integrated weights
  • Mechanical weight release system
  • Adjustable waistband
  • Drag reduction
  • Carrying handle included
CONS
  • No D-rings on the waist strap
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2. Hollis HD-200

As an ardent diver, I’m always looking for innovative scuba gear, different from what most people use. While other divers might be content with what they have, I have an insatiable hunger to learn more about the latest advancements in diving. On that note, the Hollis HD-200 certainly caught my eye.

What I like about it

I have already mentioned that it’s an innovative product, but what key features make it worth the investment? For starters, it comes with a comfort-molded backpad, featuring a fresh design that results in less fatigue even after long dives. And further adding to the comfort is the neoprene folded neck with suitable lumbar support.

Thus, you won’t lose your posture under the weight of the tanks, while the contoured and lightweight design makes it easy to follow turtles or check out the reef. Moreover, it flaunts a 1,000 Denier Cordura construction, but the best part is its PU laminated exterior, supported by a 15mm internal urethane layer.

In a nutshell, you can scuba or deep-sea dive without worrying about wear and tear.

What could be better?

The only gripe I have about using this model is the poor instructions. I was disappointed to find that the information on the user manual failed to explain the function of each part. Hence, it’s quite problematic for new divers to figure out the mechanisms without expert advice.

PROS
  • 1,000 Denier Cordura construction
  • Lightweight
  • Laminated exterior
  • Urethane-lined interior layer
  • Neoprene comfort neck
CONS
  • Poor instructions
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3. Zeagle Ranger

Experienced divers looking for a BCD with an inflator hose and RE valve will love the performance of this Zeagle unit. In fact, its modern design has been replicated by other brands, albeit with slight changes. But I believe that the original is still great for advanced divers.

What I like about it

When it comes to scuba gear, you should look for three things – weight, durability, and versatility. This product ticks all these boxes, thanks to its rugged construction, and helps you stay safe even in the rough seas. Indeed, it’s most suitable for technical diving, given that it comes with a 44lb lift capacity with a ballistic bladder.

Moreover, you’ll find a 30lb ripcord weight system supported by a 20lb rear trim for greater balance and buoyancy while diving to great depths. Speaking of depths, it has a sturdy 1,050 Denier ballistic nylon construction, reducing wear and tear for prolonged use. Thus, you can use its 11-inch grommets to carry twin air cylinders.

What could be better?

Remember I had mentioned that other brands have slightly tweaked this same design? Well, let me tell you why. Getting used to this BCD takes time, and I found it challenging to release the weight. That’s why I recommend conducting mock tests before the actual dive to stay safe.

PROS
  • Adjustable waist panel
  • Durable
  • Can hold two cylinders
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Stainless steel D-rings
CONS
  • The weight system is difficult to release
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4. Cressi Travelight

Having had the good fortune of diving in some of the most picturesque locations worldwide, you can take it from me that having quality diving gear is essential. That’s why this jacket-style BCD makes it to my list, thanks to its unique body-hugging shape and integrated weight pockets.

What I like about it

Like me, if you’re interested in underwater travel, then try out this lightweight BCD. It has an ultra-soft backrest supported by a weightless design, allowing you to fold the gear and pack it in the bag quickly. You can also enjoy greater buoyancy and movement underwater with the integrated weight system, holding 9 kgs in the front and 20 kgs in the back pocket.

Moving on, I like the air bladder that distributes the weight equally, reducing stress on the back and shoulders. The best part is Cressi’s patented inflator flat, featuring an anatomic and intuitive handle complete with automatic pocket insertion/exertion systems. But why is this important? In layman’s terms, it helps you use it even in challenging conditions.

What could be better?

The thing that bothers me is that the trim pockets are pretty small, and I lost some weights during my last dive. I should mention that the pockets come with a little flap to close them shut, but learning from my previous experience, I have added a velcro strap for greater security.

PROS
  • Integrated weight system
  • Convenient folding
  • Three discharge valves
  • Lightweight
  • Padded back
CONS
  • Small trim pockets
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5. Cressi Start

70% of the Earth is covered by water, which means that a large part of the natural world resides in a completely unknown and mysterious environment. If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s to expect the unexpected in the ocean, and that’s where this trusted scuba BCD proves useful.

What I like about it

What’s fascinating about this jacket style BCD is its excellent durability due to its Denier Cordura construction. While the outside panel has a rating of 1,000, the inner lining has a 500 rating, making it suitable for deep diving. In other words, you can inflate the jacket all the way through without worrying about the material wearing out as it’s stronger than nylon.

The manufacturer has kept the adjustable shoulder straps separate from the air bladder for greater convenience. And when the jacket expanded after inflating it, I could tighten the straps without putting pressure on my stomach.

Not to mention, there are two pockets for holding dive gear, like the pressure gauge or octopus, making it a piece of highly sought-after equipment.

What could be better?

Unlike other scuba diving BCDs, it doesn’t have an integrated weight system; that’s why I dive with a weight belt anyway, but it might be challenging for new divers. Other than that, the unit is pretty compact, although I would have liked the pockets and compartments to be slightly bigger.

PROS
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Highly resistant to wear-and-tear
  • Double air filtration system
  • Triple exhaust valves
  • Lightweight backplate
CONS
  • No integrated weight system
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6. Aqua Lung Axiom

When new divers come to me for advice, I always tell them to keep things simple and not try anything fancy. This is because it’s important to get accustomed to the underwater world and take in the sights and senses while floating in the vast blue depths. As a result, this Aqua Lung scuba diving BCD proves useful.

What I like about it

Staying true to the principle of simplicity, I didn’t find any fancy features or designs on this unit, which makes it one of the best BCDs for scuba diving on the market. In fact, the manufacturers have ensured that it won’t wear out even after frequent dives, owing to its durable construction.

Plus, despite the durability, it’s still highly comfortable and fits easily, thanks to the brand’s wrapture harness system. In other words, you can wear this ADV-style, wrap-around jacket BCD to keep your posture straight even in turbulent waters. Also, the cylinders remain vertical and close to the body, reducing the chances of leaks.

Long story short, it’s the ideal equipment for any recreational diver, featuring a GripLock tank band and a SureLock integrated weight system.

What could be better?

There’s not much to dislike about it, but if I have to nitpick, I would want the storage pocket to be larger. I find that the storage space is limited, which isn’t inconvenient per se; it just requires better space management. Additionally, there is no carry handle but, luckily, it doesn’t weigh too much.

PROS
  • Adjustable chest strap
  • Left lobe knife attachment points
  • Pull dump on the right shoulder
  • Rolled collar for comfort
  • Wrapture harness system
CONS
  • No carry handle
  • Limited pocket space
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7. Scubapro Hydros Pro

One of the greatest pleasures of diving is when you encounter the exotic marine life, seeing animals in their natural habitat rather than in aquariums. But maintaining a safe distance while observing their behavior requires expertise and quality dive gear. As a result, the Scubapro Hydros makes it to my list.

What I like about it

Compared to a traditional BCD jacket, this model is super durable due to the brand’s patented monprene gel harness design. Hence, it’s highly resistant to UV rays and chemicals, guaranteeing maximum safety for recreational and technical divers. But the best part is its ease of use, with one of the key features being its fabric-free harness.

Next, I love the modular construction, owing to which it becomes convenient to add weights, pouches, or straps. In a nutshell, you can replace most components (except the buckles) without stitching, making repairs easy.

Also worth mentioning is its near-zero inherent buoyancy mechanism for a smooth diving experience while reducing the need for carrying lead.

What could be better?

Even though I recommend this top BCD for recreational divers, you should know about a couple of things. Firstly, there is a slight issue with the inflation as the quick-release fastener releases air quickly, which could prove inconvenient underwater. Secondly, divers may not like the small backplate depending on their diving style.

PROS
  • Resistant to abrasion and UV rays
  • Easy to remove weights
  • Dries quickly
  • Near-zero inherent buoyancy
  • Single tank band for swift assembly
CONS
  • Small backplate
  • Inflation issues
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8. Zeagle Stiletto

As a professional diver, I can tell you that after I got over my fear of water, I experienced peace and tranquility previously unknown to me. Hearing this, many people want to start their scuba course right away, for which I recommend trying this stiletto BCD.

What I like about it

I know that size is a concern for many when purchasing scuba diving BCDs; that’s why this unit comes in handy. It has a personal fit system for convenient sizing, which is also a good news for female divers. Because if you choose a smaller size, this could be a good BCD for women, as it can fit nicely when adjusted.

The low-profile retracting bladder complements the 35lb lift capacity. As a result, all the pockets are positioned closer to the body, making them easily accessible.

You’ll also find a dual weight system for balance and stability underwater. While the ripcord system weighs 30lbs, the rear mount has a capacity of 20lbs to help you stay afloat.

But if you need more weight, simply fill the zippered utility pockets and adjust the waist panel along with the stainless steel D-rings. All things considered, it’s ideal if you’re looking for rugged yet lightweight scuba gear.

What could be better?

I mentioned that it’s a lightweight unit, but there’s a catch, and I feel it needs better tank holders. It’s suitable as a travel BCD, but I found it challenging to mount it on the tank, especially in rough waters, because the two tank straps don’t have enough room.

PROS
  • Durable nylon construction
  • Two zippered utility pockets
  • Adjustable waist panel
  • Stainless steel D-rings
  • Low profile retracting bladder
CONS
  • Small tank holders
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9. Scubapro X-Black

While I was still getting over my fear of water, I thought purchasing a durable scuba BCD would help avoid drowning. Later, with more experience under my belt, I realized that picking a unit that offers easy adjustments underwater is equally essential. Long story short, the Scubapro X-Black satisfies this criteria.

What I like about it

As one of the best scuba BCDs, its rugged construction features a front adjustable design complete with a large lift capacity. Hence, it’s possible to hold the air tanks firmly in place due to the vertical orientation and accessory clipping-off points.

I was especially impressed with its exclusive airflex system, acting as a suitable buoyancy control device. And it’s easily identifiable for new divers, as the special valve comes with red bungees threaded across its length.

What’s more, you can store a large assortment of weights, thanks to its zippered pockets, cumberbund pouch, and built-in grommets, with the latter holding a knife. This is part of its integrated weight system, whereby you can release the pouches quickly or secure them with buckles when needed.

What could be better?

Some divers I know have expressed dissatisfaction with its weight. It’s slightly heavier than other BCDs and, therefore, may not be the most convenient for travel. However, it’s not a major issue, and you’ll get accustomed to the load after a while.

PROS
  • Exclusive airflex system
  • Front adjustable design
  • Removable weight pockets
  • Integrated weights
  • Cumberbund pouch
CONS
  • Slightly heavy
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10. Mares Dragon SLS

Over the years, I have developed a keen eye for little details when it comes to choosing scuba diving gear. As a result, another popular option offering comfort, superb fit, stability, and outstanding performance is the Mares Dragon jacket BCD. Rest assured, with it, you can dive to great depths or float to the surface with ease.

What I like about it

Speaking of little details, the first thing to tingle my senses was the tight tailoring that enhances durability. It reduces drag underwater for easy movement and accumulates most of the air cells around the tank.

But there’s no need to worry as the contoured design prevents any uncomfortable feelings, especially due to the location of the air cells. Also, you won’t face any obstructions as these air cells slide smoothly after inflating the jacket.

Additionally, I love the weight integration mechanism, providing an accurate confirmation of the weight in the pouch, which reduces the need to guess the pre-dive load. Not to mention, thanks to its Slide and Lock System, the large pockets have sturdy zippers, which you can operate underwater with gloves.

What could be better?

I’m not the tallest person, but I have a friend who’s well over 6-feet, and she mentioned something to me about the tightness of the cumberbund. She said that the cumberbund felt loose even at the tightest point and the jacket slowly inched up the body while swimming.

PROS
  • Easy to use
  • Integrated weights
  • Comfortable
  • 420 cordura nylon construction
  • Zipper closures
CONS
  • Loose cumberbund
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11. Cressi R1

If someone had told me when I was a novice that one-day Italian handcrafted diving gear would be available, I probably would have laughed. But what was once a dream has now become a reality, thanks to Cressi’s jacket style BCDs.

What I like about it

Purchasing an Italian handcrafted model may seem out of your budget, but this isn’t a pricey BCD at all. Rather the manufacturers have included all the relevant features, despite the low cost, including a lightweight yet comfortable design.

Speaking of comfort, you’ll find adjustable shoulder and chest straps for a precise fit. In fact, the brand features its patented R1 harness system complete with traditional squeeze-style buckles for stability.

Moreover, it has an adjustable weight cumberbund with a velcro opening, guaranteeing more security during deep dives. But you won’t need to worry about damaging the material due to high water pressure either, because it comes with 500 Denier Cordura fabric suitable for intense use.

Also, it has other accessories like three exhaust valves and dual zipped pockets for storage.

What could be better?

After several dives, I spotted that the quick connector on the hose that connects the regulator to the inflator was coming loose. Luckily, you can find a replacement in any local shop selling diving gear, but the most important thing is to conduct a pre-dive check to spot such problems.

PROS
  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • 500 Denier Cordura construction
  • Removable weight pocket
  • Carry handle included
CONS
  • Quick connector is of poor quality
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12. Atomic Aquatics BC2

One of the best high-end BCD jackets available out there that goes well with wet or dry suits is this model from the Atomic Aquatics series. Most professional divers are aware of the range and quality of the products that are part of the series, and this addition doesn’t disappoint either.

What I like about it

At the very outset, its futuristic design caught my eye, with corrosion-resistant materials weaved into the fabric to deliver durability. Hence, it’s tougher than any mid-range BCD, further enhanced by the unique construction having a laminated and waterproof coating. Naturally, it doesn’t get very wet, and you won’t have to deal with a lot of post-dive weight.

It has undergone a design change from conventional back inflation BCDs and, now, comes with a ratcheting CAM-LOK tank band. This keeps the tank in place and prevents the jacket from sliding up your back while underwater.

But in case you’re carrying a few extra pounds, simply use the weight release system to drop a few weights, guaranteeing easy movement.

What could be better?

Although the pockets are durable and won’t wear out easily, they don’t have a lot of space, making it challenging to store a dive knife. That said, it’s hardly a disadvantage and only a problem for advanced divers if they want to carry several accessories underwater.

PROS
  • Patented weight release system
  • Adjustable lumbar support
  • Sand-resistant zippers
  • Quilted backpad
CONS
  • Limited storage
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13. Sherwood Avid CQR 3

A rugged cold water BCD that keeps you safe even at scary depths is the Sherwood Avid CQR 3. Although I mostly like to explore reefs and marine life, sometimes I dive deeper than usual, especially when there’s a wreck on the ocean floor.

What I like about it

Who says that diving equipment can’t be stylish? With this unit, you both look and feel good on your underwater adventures. For starters, it features an ultra-modern design that’s extremely comfortable and fits well on most divers’ bodies. Secondly, the hydrodynamic jacket has a superior bladder, resulting in added comfort compared to other products.

Other than that, it comes with neoprene padding on the neck roll, which reduces the chances of the fabric chafing or irritating the skin. Not to mention, its 3D air cell wraps around the body, providing greater stability, complemented by the adjustable and removable sternum strap.

What’s more impressive is that the four-point release valves offer buoyancy control while the non-releasable pockets store weights to help maintain balance.

What could be better?

It doesn’t have zippered pockets, making it challenging to store the weights securely, so don’t be surprised if you lose a few. However, you can always add a velcro strap from a nearby diving shop to secure the openings, as apart from that, it’s one of the best dive BCDs.

PROS
  • 3D air cell
  • Removable shoulder strap
  • Four-point air release valves
  • Trim weight pockets
  • Greater buoyancy control
CONS
  • No zippered pockets
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What Features to Consider in a Scuba BCD

Having provided an analysis of the best BCD products on the market, I thought of giving you an insight into what makes these options unique. Check out this section to know which scuba BCDs to consider whether you’re taking a recreational dive or setting sail as an underwater photographer.

1. Fit

One of the key features when purchasing BCDs is the size of the jacket because it should form a snug fit. I remember one time when I was filming turtles, and the BCD kept sliding up my back as it was slightly bigger.

Mine was in the store for repairs, so I had borrowed one from a friend, which was a mistake in hindsight. I had to constantly pull the straps and adjust the waist cord, missing some crucial moments to take snaps of a Green Sea turtle.

Long story short, always make sure that the BCD fits perfectly on your body for a comfortable experience.

2. Style

Another important consideration is the style and whether you’re choosing a wing, jacket, or hybrid BCD. It usually depends on your experience level, with beginner divers opting for jacket BCDs as they are easy to use and wrap the body like a winter coat.

In my honest opinion, jacket-style BCDs are suitable if you need more comfort when diving in harsh waters.

On the other hand, hybrid and wing BCDs are more in vogue among technical divers, and naturally less common. That said, they have their advantages, especially as a BCDs for travel, since they come with a foldable backplate and are easy to pack.

3. D-rings

D-rings may seem like just another accessory to the untrained eye, but they are crucial if you want to carry more dive gear. This is because the stainless steel rings act as attachment points so that you can access any gear quickly underwater.

Usually, the most common materials for D-rings are rust-resistant metals that are durable and can hold the extra weight.

4. Weight System

Apart from basic models, almost all products have a weight system to help you explore the uniqueness of the ocean without experiencing buoyancy-related difficulties. Basically, weight integration creates better balance and reduces pressure on the shoulders or back through even weight distribution.

Also, compared to a weight belt, having a weight system reduces pressure on the waist, making navigation easier. But before purchasing, conduct a demo run and test the quick release mechanism to swiftly drop the weights during an emergency.

5. Lift Capacity

Every model has a specific lift capacity that lets divers know about the weight their gear can carry. You should note that the capacity varies depending on the water conditions and your diving expertise.

For instance, when I dive in warm waters, I don’t have to worry much about the amount of weight I carry. But it’s essential to have more weight in cold waters, bringing the lift capacity into play.

On average, first-time divers can use a BCD with a lift capacity between 10 and 20 pounds, while technical divers need more weight ranging from 40 to 80 pounds. However, if you’re unsure, it would be best to choose a unit with more lift capacity than what you might need.

Different Styles of BCD

Here, I have narrowed down the different BCDs and their respective styles to help you make the right choice.

1. Jacket BCD

This is the most common option suitable for entry-level and recreational divers, with air bladders present on both sides of the body. As a result, it guarantees excellent buoyancy even in difficult conditions, allowing you to remain in full control.

In my experience, the balance is fantastic, especially near the water’s surface, while the affordable price makes it highly desirable.

2. Back Inflate BCD

As the name suggests, these models are present on the rear of the diver and are ideal for advanced dives. The best part is that they are extremely comfortable and reduce drag in the water, allowing you to effortlessly maintain a horizontal position.

Naturally, it’s easier to navigate the waters with this gear, provided you get used to the balance as quickly as possible.

3. Wing BCD

Like the previous type, wing BCDs are present on the back of the diver and are mostly used for technical dives. What’s more, you can customize the equipment as per your needs while it’s easy to wear even when fully inflated.

The only downside is that they cost more, but you’re guaranteed a premium-quality product in return.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is BCD Worth Buying?

Imagine this – you’re diving in the tranquil waters off the coast of Hawaii, enjoying the sights and sounds of brightly-colored fish, crabs, and other marine life. Or you’re struggling to hold your breath and fidgeting with the dive gear, missing the wonders of ocean life.

Doesn’t the first option seem more attractive? If so, then you won’t regret buying a BCD as it promises to deliver a comfortable diving experience. There are several unique features in every product, ensuring that you can carry all the accessories required for scuba diving.

What BCD Does the Military Use?

It’s no secret that the BCDs used by navy seals and military personnel are different from what I wear. So, I researched and found that they use the BC-002 Aquatec, BC-003 X-wing, BC-943 X-wing Pro, and the BC-72 Military diver BCD.

All of these are highly advanced models, featuring double bladder protection made from durable materials while having signal alerts to stay safe. Moreover, I noticed a three-dimensional, technical inner aircell and a back inflation buoyancy compensator, among other unique accessories they have.

What Makes a Good BCD?

Although it’s challenging to pinpoint one aspect of what makes a good BCD, there are certain factors you can’t ignore. For instance, it should offer stability in all weather conditions and help maintain a horizontal posture underwater for a comfortable experience.

Most importantly, never make a decision based on looks; after all, your priority is to stay safe underwater, not walk the red carpet at Cannes. Instead, focus your attention on how it fits and whether it proves safe in turbulent conditions.

What’s more, the best scuba BCDs use premium-quality materials to reduce wear and tear.

How Long Does a Scuba BCD Last?

The lifespan of any scuba BCD depends on the quality of the material and how often you maintain it. Unsurprisingly, purchasing a cheap jacket at slashed prices increases the chances of replacing the BCD after a few years.

On the other hand, getting a top model from a reputable brand ensures that it can last for the better part of eight years. And in terms of dive time, a well-maintained gear will withstand more than 4,000 dives.

Do You Need to Service a BCD and How Much Does it Cost?

Yes, it’s imperative to service the BCD after 40 dives or at the end of every year. You simply can’t assume that the gear is in good condition because you haven’t used it much since the last dive.

But the most important consideration is the price, which varies based on the functions and the quality of the material. The average cost of a BCD for beginners is between $200 and $400, and they can use the remaining budget for buying additional dive gear.

However, experienced divers like me will need to dish out $1000 to $3000 for the premium features in each jacket.

How Do I Choose a BCD Size?

To choose a suitable BCD, you should think about your diving style, ensuring that it forms a snug fit. Remember that, ideally, the inflated jacket should wrap your body and adjust according to your structure. Moreover, purchase a model that can support your weight and additional accessories for a comfortable experience.

Overall there are five different sizes ranging from small to 2XL, with the waist measuring between 71 and 132 cm. It’s not rocket science; all you need is to ensure that it doesn’t sit too tight or loose on the body. In fact, it’s pretty much the same as shopping for Christmas clothes, but with slight variations.

Conclusion

That brings me to the end of this informative, albeit slightly longer, guide, and hopefully, now, you’re better placed to buy your own scuba BCD.

I certainly hope you weren’t bored but given the importance of this topic you can understand that I had to dig deeper because divers should never underestimate the sea. When exploring the natural world and especially something as unknown as the ocean, it’s best to be prepared for any situation.

Chance encounters with wildlife are common, but it’s crucial to keep an eye on the weather as the conditions can change drastically. That’s where BCDs come in, helping you stay safe to navigate any situation.

So, have fun diving, and let me know if you come across any treasures buried deep under the ocean floor.