Buoyancy compensators, referred to as BCDs by divers, serve several purposes in the water: they keep the bottle in place on your back, help you to regulate your buoyancy, enable you to return to the surface effortlessly and even keep you there! It’s important to master this equipment that combines functionality and safety. To do this there’s nothing better than having your own buoyancy compensator!
But faced with a mass of models, here’s some Tribord information to help you buy the BCD that suits you best in terms of your type of diving and your personal characteristics.
WHICH BUOYANCY COMPENSATOR FOR WHICH DIVER?
When choosing your buoyancy compensator, the first thing to do is to choose a category of BCD based on your type of diving.
STANDARD OR ADJUSTABLE BUOYANCY COMPENSATOR
This is the most widely used BCD. Its price, pockets, versatility and the possibility of adapting it to several morphologies/heights make it a favourite with divers. Advantages that almost make people forget its rather cumbersome nature, limited volume and weight.
This type of BCD is suitable for recreational divers, from beginners to instructors as the range is very wide. Children can also use them as they adapt to their growth and as can women with special models being made for them.
This buoyancy compensator has a large number of practical advantages: its volume and clutter-free area including the torso and the stomach. Next, its fine adjustments that go as far as bespoke models equipped “à la carte” (with or without pockets and back plate, double inflator, choice of volume…). What’s more, this customisation makes it very popular with experienced divers such as photographers and techies.
Photographers like it because they have the front area free from clutter allowing them to shoot as they wish while technical divers are won over by its lifting volume which enables wearers to have several Deco cylinders.
And they all appreciate its highly modular nature and the horizontal position it favours underwater.
On the downside, it’s hard keeping in a vertical position on the surface with this BCD!
WRAPAROUND BUOYANCY COMPENSATORS
As the name suggests, these buoyancy compensators wrap air around your shoulders. Robust and featuring wide pockets, they’re used more by instructors and experienced divers who appreciate their ideal volume: ideal for a Deco cylinder or assisting another diver.
They’re renowned for being comfortable under water and easy to balance.
N.B. This type of BCD is rather heavy, expensive and requires several adjustment dives.
TRAVELLING BCD, BACK PLATE OR TRADITIONAL
Popular for being light and being highly clutter-free, this stab doesn’t have a rigid back-pack. This gives it a streamlined look (few pockets, less comfort) but also makes it somewhat fragile. Book it for your holidays!
TECHNICAL CRITERIA FOR CHOOSING YOUR BCD
So, you’ve decided which type of buoyancy compensator you want? Before buying one, take a look at the following technical points:
- the price: a secure BCD often costs from £114.99 and is approved by DAN Europe!
- the model: for all divers or specific models for men, women and children;
- comfort: soft padding around the neck limits irritation. A padded backrest protects your back. Make sure you check out the quality of the back-pack as well!
- solidity: an index (500, 1,000…) expressed as denier or as Cordura indicates the solidity of a buoyancy compensator. The higher the index, the more solid the BCD. Assess and compare by touching;
- pockets and rings: essential for storing or fastening your accessories such as diving tables, octopus, a diving torch… Some BCDs have dedicated attachment points for your knife, your lifting bag or your weights. What’s more, these pockets are reinforced and quickly releasable, while others remain on your back (non- releasable) to distribute the weight evenly and provide you with a good hydrodynamic balance.
Vigilance: too many rings might prove to be a burden - three or four are enough!
- Inflator: your BDC is inflated by this. Compare inflating speed of different models and also look at their responsiveness, sensitivity and accessibility. Today, integrated divers systems – such as a knob or two fastened buttons on the pockets — replace the usual hose. You need to get used to this and inform your diving partner!
- Purges: BDCs are equipped with a slow purge on the inflator on the left and several fast ones on the shoulder and at the bottom of the back. Check their presence, position, quality as well as their accessibility with your gloves!
LOOKING AFTER A BUOYANCY COMPENSATOR MADE SIMPLE!
The performance and durability of your BDC depends firstly on being used properly. It’s best not to overload it with weights. Carry the bottle by the handle instead of on the BDC. When in the water, avoid rubbing against the relief and putting the cylinder on top of the BDC on the quay.
Get the inflator serviced quickly in case of malfunction or leak.
In terms of product care, it’s important to empty your stab through its drain valves and soak it after each diving: the sun, salt and sand are its enemies. Then dry it and store away from sunlight. And at the end of the season, give your BDC a thorough overhaul before putting it away.
Do you need a recap with pictures? In that case, watch our own video dedicated to looking after buoyancy compensators!