How to choose the perfect BCD?

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Are you planning on buying a new BCD? Johan gives a few tips on finding the most suitable Buoyancy Control Device or diving jacket.

01-09-2015 -  by Kevin Van der Straeten


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Are you planning on buying a new BCD? Johan gives a few tips on finding the most suitable Buoyancy Control Device or diving jacket.


Hi Johan, welcome back to our studio.  


Hi Kevin.  


Today... Well, you see it over here. We're going to talk about BCDs. Diving jackets. If I want to buy one, what do I need to look for?  


Well most importantly is the fit of course. It is like buying clothes: everything has to be the right fit. So you have small jackets, medium jackets, large, extra-large...  


So that also means you have to try it on?  


Of course, yes, always. That's one important thing. And secondly, it's also important to know why you are going to use it. So for what kind of diving you are going to use it. For example if you're going to go technical diving, or you're going on holiday and you'd like to take your BCD with you. So there are 3 different kinds of jackets, and that's what we're going to discuss today. So let's start with the most common one, and this is what we call the standard jacket. So this is also suitable for beginning divers. What we can see here is the level of comfort. So we have a backplate, it's in plastic of course. And also the lining is very soft, so it protects your back. In this model we have integrated weights, so you don't need a weight belt for it.  


And why would you take integrated weights over a normal weight belt?  


Well, first of all: you can't lose your weight belt. Because of course it's integrated. And secondly, if you know diving, you know you have two forces: you have the forces of the jacket: it's going up, and you have the weights, which are going down. So you have two opposite forces, and the advantage of this model is that the two forces are combined. So the effects are neutralizing each other. That in comparison with a normal weight belt: the weight belt is pulling your body down and the jacket pulls it up, and that's quite annoying while diving in fact, this you don't have with the integrated weights. Then you have all the D-rings, of course, so this is for equipment. You can attach a torch or something, knives. Yeah, that's the most standard jacket, in fact.  


And the pockets?  


The pockets, of course, yes. You can put everything you need while diving.  


So also take notes of what you want to take, and see if the pockets are big enough?  


Yeah okay, so that's the standard model. Then we have what we call the travel BCD.  


That looks the same.  


It looks the same, but there's a small difference. And the difference is here: you don't have a backplate. You can bend it, it's supple in comparison with this one.  


There's a hard plate, yeah.  


It's made for traveling: you can take it anywhere in the world. It's also light-weight, it doesn't weigh a lot. But functionally it's just the same. It has the same functions. You have the inflator, also integrated weights if you like.  


And the comfort?  


The comfort is almost the same. Maybe just a little bit at the backside, because you are missing the backplate. But normally for diving you get used to it, so it's no problem at all. So this is the travel BCD. And then we have, what we call, the wings. It's quite large.  


That's huge.  


The wing is originated from the technical divers, so the cave divers in fact. And normally they use it for carrying tanks, a lot of tanks. A technical diver has two tanks on the back and then stages and so forth. And that's why they have a very large bladder, as we call it. You see the difference in size. This is a small bladder and this is a big one. So it's like a truck, it's made for carrying stuff, in fact. The comfort is of course less than a normal standard jacket. It's very basic. There's also a lot of D-rings to attach many things. You have D-rings there. But normally it's used for technical diving, so if you're in for technical diving, then you can buy it. For a beginning diver... They don't need it that much. It's better to buy something standard like this. But you see recreational divers using such things. Yes, they use it, that's why they sell it too. It looks cool, you know?  


And it's impressive.  


It's impressive, of course. But normally I'm not in for this kind of situation. They think they're technical divers, but they're not. They're still recreational divers. But yeah, they're selling it, and it's meant to look cool, I suppose. But normally it's really made for technical diving. It's not for recreational diving, in fact. Also the backplate is quite heavy. And as you can see...  


Yeah, there's metal underneath.  


So for traveling, it's not very handy. It weighs a lot. Then we have a fourth model, and that's what we call a hybid jacket. It's a little bit a combination between a standard BCD and a wing. And you can see it here at the front: so we have the bungee here. So this part is the wing, comparable with this one. And this part is like the standard BCD.  


And what's the advantage of combining them?  


Well, the pressure on your back is less, because this part is separated from the rest. So you get less pressure when you're inflated, that's the difference between them.  


It's comfortable, yeah.  


Yeah, it's quite modern. Many models already have the hybrid system, but it's really a combination between two systems.  


And I also read that there are different models especially for women?  


Yeah, for women of course the difference is that the shoulders are smaller. It follows the anatomy of the female body, of course, but normally the functions are just the same. Inflator, hose, everything is the same. It's just more the shape of the female body, that's the difference.  


What you see over the last few years is that a lot of manufacturers start to put buttons on here to inflate the jacket, have a second breathing apparatus integrated over there... What's the use of those things?  


This is what we call the air-trim. So instead of using this inflator hose, they put these two buttons at the side. The advantage of this system is that you don't have to look for it. So in the water this can sweep everywhere, so if you know the buttons are on the left side, you can always find them quite easily. The functions are just the same, so you can inflate and deflate. But normally they're really attached to the side of the jacket. That's what we call the air-trim. And then we have the air-tool. It's different. The air-tool is like a regulator, but built in this hose. So instead of using the octopus, you can use the air-tool and you can really breathe from this hose, in fact. And you can give your normal regulator to your buddy, if needed. That's the difference, yes. Normally they use it in the United States. In Europe it's less common to use this one, yeah.  


Johan, thank you for all your advice on buying a BCD. And you at home: thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week!


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