Choosing the best bcd isn't easy. There are lots of scuba diving buoyancy compensators out there and what works best for you depends alot on personal preferences and/or budget.
Do you want a weight integrated buoyancy compensator? Do you want a jacket style or wing style BC? What price can you afford? Do you need a travel bcd or one made especially for females?
Of course, we all know there is no "one fits all".
Nevertheless, I have chosen what I consider to be the best scuba diving BCD's at various price points - entry level or budget, mid range and high end - as well as ones specifically for women and the more technical divers.
To this end, I have read many ratings and reviews of various scuba diving BC's. I have only chosen those models which have received many top reviews from lots of different users. My reasoning is if it has universal good marks, chances are you will be happy with it too.
(If you need more general information on BC's, see our free Scuba Diving BC Buying Guide .)
Some top rated BC's from last year's picks fell off the list while a few still made the cut. My goal is to update this list about every 6-12 months or so, so you can rest assured you are getting the best bcd available right now.
So if you are planning on doing some diving and need a bc, this list is for you.
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Here are my updated picks of the best BCD's - from entry level to midrange to top of the line to female specific to travel (recommendations will open in a new window on our partner's website).
Categories for best BCD are determined by price as listed below.
To jump to the category you are interested in, just click on the link:
Entry Level/Budget BC's (Under $300)
If money is no object, why not go for it?
Our first two picks for the best high end bc still remain the perennial favorites. They continued to garner great reviews from new users throughout the year, cementing their place as our top pick.
Both picks for best bcd are Zeagle models and this manufacturer once again routinely gets high marks for its products.
First up is a Zeagle model. It gets great reviews from lots of divers with an average rating of 4.9 out of a possible 5. Very few users had anything negative to say about this BC.
They keep on adding features to this BC so a great BC becomes even better.
This model has heavy duty construction and is a weight integrated BC. The standard bladder that comes with the BC has a 44 lb. lift capacity.
However, it is a very versatile model and is compatible with a variety of other bladders and accessories.
It is also equipped with what they call a Personal Fit System (PFS) Modular Sizing. This allows you to change out specific sections of the BC for a more custom fit. But without a custom fit price (granted it is still not cheap!)
You are also able to adjust the harness to fit your body so you shouldn't have that restricted movement you feel on some BC's in the chest/underarm area.
The Zeagle model also has 2 zippered utility pockets, 4 stainless D-rings on shoulder and 2 on the vest, a 30 lb. capacity ripcord weight system with a 20 lb. capacity rear trim weight system.
With all these attachment points it is very easy to store any accessories you may have and the adjustable weight system makes it easy to control your buoyancy and trim.
It is a bit different than many other standard BC's in that it has rear flotation. If you haven't used a rear flotation BC before, it may take a dive or two to get used to its action on the surface (basically you will have to lean back more and/or inflate less on the surface; the rear trim weight system can also help with this problem).
After reading through countless reviews posted about this BC, I have compiled a list of the pros and cons of this best BCD choice to help in your decision:
Our second pick for best bcd in the top end category is once again the Zeagle Stiletto model. It garners an even higher rating then when I last reviewed it - now getting a rating of 4.8 out of a possible 5.0. Not too shabby!
This model has made the top list several years running and it continues to perform well, getting many more good reviews throughout the year.
This also gets the nod as the best travel BC. This is one of Zeagle's more lightweight models and Zeagle calls it its most rugged travel BC. (See "Best BCD For Travel" section below for another pick for travel BC's).
However, based on all the great reviews, it still lives up to Zeagle's reputation for high-quality BC's.
As far as its' features, it has 24 lb. capacity ripcord weight system and a 20 lb. capacity rear mount weight system, a 35 lb. lift capacity and 5 stainless D-rings (3 on vest, 2 on shoulder).
From my review of this BC, it is basically a stripped down version of the Zeagle model chosen above. It has similar features but is toned down, has a little less lift capacity (but still more than sufficient for your average rec dive) and made more lightweight.
The list of pros and cons from this model are:
This is a new entrant in this category for best bcd. Our third pick for best high end BC is a Sherwood model.
This model earned a solid rating of 4.4 out of a possible 5.0.
And this model is at the very bottom of the price range for this category which is a nice bonus!
Features of this best BCD include a updated weight release system which makes it easier to work with the pockets than the previous versions of this BC.
There are 3 dump valves to further help you with your trim and buoyancy. The lift capacity of this BC also varies according to the size of the BC - ranging from a 20 lb. lift capacity for an XS to a 36 lb. lift capacity for a 3XL.
The amount of releasable weight also varies depending on the size - ranging from 16 lbs. for the lowest to 26 lbs. for the highest. All sizes can accommodate up to 10 lbs. of non-releasable weight.
There are plenty of places to store your accessories including 6 stainless steel D rings and 2 zippered pockets and 1 velcro pocket.
Our list of pros and cons after combing through many reviews online are::
We have all new picks for best bcd in this category this year - which I believe is a first if my memory serves me correctly.
While the price is lower than the previous category there are still some very good BC's available at this price point that don't sacrifice on features.
Our top pick for this category is a new entrant and is a Cressi model.
This best BCD pick gets an average rating of 4.8 out of 5.
A feature of this jacket is that it is a back inflation wing model. This gives the diver more freedom of movement while still having plenty of lift.
In fact, this model offers the most lift of any Cressi model. Lift for the BC ranges from 29.2 lbs. up to 50.6 lbs., depending on the size of the BC.
As far as weights, the integrated weight system can hold up to 20 lbs, 10 lbs in each pocket with two rear non-releasable weight trim pockets.
This BCD also features 3 dump valves so it is easier to maintain trim and buoyancy control.
As far as storage, this jacket contains 6 stainless steel D-rings and 2 zippered utility side pockets so you should have plenty of places for any accessories you bring along.
The pockets on this BC can be put away when not using so it will help in streamlining.
Our list of pros and cons after combing through many reviews online are:
Our next pick in the mid-range category for best bcd is another Aqualung model.
This model has garnered a rating of a solid 4.3 out of a possible 5.0.
Reviewers sing the praises of the WRAPTURE harness system on this BC. This system hugs the body and gives great support and stability while being extremely comfortable according to reviewers.
This BCD also features a weight integrated system with 2 releasable weights ranging in capacity from 20 to 30 lbs. depending on the BC size. There are also releasable weights with a capacity of up to 10 lbs which should help with your trim and buoyancy.
Depending on the size of the BC, this model provides you with 27 to 48 lbs. of lift.
There are also 5 stainless steel D-rings and 1 plastic one to hold your gear.
Our list of pros and cons on this model:
Even if you don't want to shell out alot of money on a buoyancy compensator you can still find some nice BC's that do a perfectly fine job.
Our first choice for best bcd in this category is a Zeagle model and is a new entrant and just squeaks in right under $300. Figures, right?
But this is a nice model and you get alot for your money. It earned a solid 4.3 rating out of a possible 5.
This model is Zeagle's lightest and most compact model making it a good choice for travel also. However it is still rugged and gets good ratings for durability.
This Zeagle model has a back inflation system rather than the wrap around style.
This is not a weight integrated BC but it does have 2 weight pockets in the rear where you can place some weight if needed (16 lbs. maximum capacity). The majority of your weight would probably go on your weightbelt.
This model provides 24 lbs. of lift. If you need more than this you would be better off with a different model.
Given these aspects, this model is probably best suited for warm water diving.
This model has 1 relief valve and 4 stainless steel D-rings.
After reading through 30+ reviews, the pros and cons I come away with are:
Our next choice for best bcd in the budget category is another new entrant this year. This Cressi model gets high ratings with a rating of 4.6 out of a possible 5.0.
This model is extremely durable - in fact, it is designed for the rental market. You know how rough that can be on equipment so it should have no problem holding up to the private user.
It has quick release weight pockets which would hold either soft or hard weights - up to 20 lbs. Some people didn't think they would like this style of weight pockets but users have been won over.
This BC provides 29.2 to 45 lbs of lift, depending on the size of the BC. This lift should be sufficient for most recreational diving conditions.
Cressi also designed this models with 3 dump valves. It does have 4 D-rings though they are made of plastic and not stainless steel.
This is a solid, well made BC and should stand up to many dives in varying conditions.
Our list of pros and cons include:
Our last pick for best bcd in the entry level/budget category is a return entrant for this year and is another Cressi model.
It is very similar to the Cressi model above in this category (the #2 pick) with the main difference being that it does not have weight integrated pockets.
This model has earned a rating of 4.7 out of a possible 5.0.
It is the cheapest among the three in this category but this is still a strong and durable BCD jacket. This is due to the fact that, like the Cressi above, it was also designed for use in rental facilities.
This comes with 3 over-pressure relief valves – one on each side of the shoulders and the other one on the right rear of the air cell. All of them can be dumped manually – two using pull cords while the other uses the power inflator mechanism.
Like the mode above, this BC provides 29.2 to 45 lbs of lift, depending on the size of the BC.
This BCD also comes with 4 plastic D-rings along with two large pockets with Velcro closures.
Unlike most of our other picks, however, this is not a weight integrated BC. You will have to use a good ol' fashioned weight belt with this model.
Here is my list of the product’s pros and cons of this BC:
With all the excess luggage fees on airlines these days, having a travel BC makes alot of sense. While they may be lightweight, they are still good all around BC's.
In fact, looking at the choices for travel BC's I was surprised to find my first 2 picks for best travel BC's were also picks in 2 of the previous categories.
My number one pick for a travel BC was my number two pick in the high end category above. And my number two pick for the best bcd for travel was my number 1 pick in the entry level category above. Got that?
Just goes to show that if you have a good BC, it will probably be the best all around in a number of categories.
As we discussed above, our first pick for best travel BC is this Zeagle model (this was our #2 pick in the high end category). This is an all around good BC and is light enough to win for travel BC.
Again, as discussed above our second choice for best bcd for travel is this Zeagle model. (This was our #1 pick in the entry level category). Zeagle appears to have it all going on. I guess that happens when you make a good product and win rave reviews.
For our number three choice, we have an new entrant and is not on any of the lists above. Our number 3 pick is a Scubapro model.
This BC earned a solid rating of 4.4 out of a possible 5.0.
This BC is a back inflation model and is designed to be lightweight for travel.
A question here is how much lift do you get out of this lightweight model? While the specs list 56 lbs., I found this hard to believe. Doing more research, it appears that this model has 29.2 lbs of lift (from Scubapro's website) which should be more than sufficient for most rec divers.
So while the spec may be wrong on this aspect, I still believe it deserves a spot on our list.
This BC has 2 movable accessory pockets and plastic D-rings.
This is not a weight integrated BC so you have to use the good ol' weight belt here.
The pros and cons of this travel BC are:
I hope our picks for best BCD have helped you make a decision on which scuba bc to buy. There is alot out there but hopefully we narrowed the field for you.
Have fun shopping and let us know how you like your new BC!
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