Jacket or Back-mounted BCD – Which is best?

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Jacket or Back-mounted BCD – Which is best?

Your BCD, or ‘buoyancy control device’, is what keeps you bobbing at the surface and helps you maintain a comfortable level of buoyancy underwater. Essentially, it’s a jacket that fills with air and works by the diver controlling the air ‘bladders’, or ‘cells’ inside, using the automatic or manual inflation hoses.

If you’re thinking about buying your own BCD, there are two main types to choose from: jacket or back-mounted.

The one that you’re probably most familiar with is the ‘jacket’ style – the design favoured by warm water and recreational divers. But there are plenty of advantages to back-mounted styles too. Read on to make you own decision about which is best for you…


Also known as a ‘vest’, these BCDs are most commonly used for trainee and recreational diving. With less lift capacity than back mounted BCDs, they are recommended for warm water scuba diving, so would be well-suited to a Caribbean or Maldives Diving trip.

The air bladders on these jackets are carefully positioned to wrap around the diver from back to front, allowing them to float vertically at the surface, as well as provide comfort throughout each dive. Quick releases on the shoulder straps and front pockets make for easy use.

Example of jacket-style BCDs currently on the market include:

Oceanic Ocean Pro: A simple BCD that does an excellent job. Built to last, this durable jacket will see you through your first few seasons and beyond. The integrated weight system is optional and easily adjustable shoulder straps allow ease of use.

Mares Dragon BCD: If you want to spend a bit more, take a look at the Mares Dragon, with its revolutionary weight-release system and customized air cell that moulds to the diver’s body: a more streamlined, extremely comfortable and easy to use jacket.

Back Mounted

Also referred to as ‘wing’ style, these BCDs offer more lift than vests so are great when carrying heavier loads. The bladders are located on the back, sitting like ‘wings’ either side of the tank and offering the diver a more streamlined shape. Suitable for both cold English waters and warmer Maldives Diving, these BCDs allow greater manoeuvrability at the front and encourage the diver to float in a horizontal position.

These features make back mounted BCDs best suited to technical divers, those who tend to carry lots of equipment, or those who often spend a lot of time swimming at the surface.

Examples of back-mounted BCDs currently on the market:

Zeagle Ranger: A Porsche of a BCD, the Ranger is a first class piece of equipment, featuring heavy-duty buckles and accommodating either single or twin tanks, it offers superb ease of movement, outstanding lift and is easily adaptable for carrying extra gear. A stylised jacket, with tribal tattoo patterns, the Ranger also makes this BCD easily identifiable.

Aeris 5 Oceans: This lightweight jacket packs down easily for travel, so would be ideal for taking on that Caribbean or Maldives Diving adventure. Easily adjustable, with excellent buoyancy, this BCD can be adapted for cold and warm water use and its integrated weight pockets are conveniently sectioned, to reduce shifting during dives.

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