Bouyancy Control Device (BCD)

What is a BCD? A BCD is a Buoyancy compensator device. It’s a vest with “bladders” that you inflate and deflate with air to allow the diver to ascend or descend. It works in conjunction with the volume of air in your lungs. As with most dive gear BCD’s come in a wide range of styles to suite many needs. Some BCD’s are made specifically cold water and some for warm water. The bladder, which gets filled with air, varies greatly between BCD’s. Some provide a great deal of lift which is great for the extra weight you will need when diving in cold water or when wearing a buoyant wetsuit in any type of water.

Why should I care about a BCD? On the surface fill it with air and enjoy floating in the ocean. When your under the water it helps keep you where all the fishes are, and if you go deep it prevents you from sinking into the black oblivion.

E-mail us if you have questions about our BCD’s OR call us at 780 438-1218

What to look for in a BCD:

BCD Materials:

What do we mean by materials? The material the BCD the fabric used to construct the vest that anchors all of your dive gear to you.

Why should you care about the materials?  If you want your BCD to last it needs to be made of high quality materials that are resistant to wear and tear. Nothing is worse than having to replace your expensive gear a year or two after because you bought something that wasn’t made to last.

A good quality BCD will have been colored with high quality dyes that resist fading in the sun and discoloration from using your gear in a chlorinated pool.

The zippers, velcro straps, quick-releases, and various other parts also need to be made so that they continue to work as intended over the lifespan of the BCD.

BCD Bladder:

What is the Bladder? It’s the part of the BCD that gets filled with air to keep you at the right depth in the water. Or keeps you floating peacefully as you wait to board the boat after a dive.

Why should I care about the BCD Bladder? Not all BCD bladders are created equal. One of the most important features is having a double lined bladder. This means that it is encased in two layers, which if you’ve ever seen a balloon pop is a good thing. It provides that extra safety if you scrap up against some rough coral or some other object penetrates the BCD.

The volume the bladder contains has an impact on how much lift it can provide. If your diving using a wetsuit you need extra weight to help you sink. Having added lift allows you to add this weight without having to worry about sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

BCD Styles (Back-inflate, Vest, Back-plate and wing):

What is a Vest Style BCD? This style of BCD is more like a traditional life vest. The bladder wraps around the individual providing buoyancy from your central axis. It is great at floating at the surface but may have some trouble keeping you horizontal in the water.

What is a Back-inflate Style BCD? A back-inflate BCD inflates a bladder that is located on your back that keeps you horizontal in the water and always looking at the fishes' below you. On the surface you’ll have to put just enough air to stay afloat. If you put too much in you’ll tip forward.

What is a Back-plate Style BCD? Typically reserved for technical divers who need a very streamlined gear setup, the back plate and wing provide a great deal of lift and reduce the amount of weight you need to carry. The back plate functions as a support and weight to help keep you trimmed in the water.

Why should I care about the BCD style? When it comes to the style of BCD it really comes down to comfort. No matter the experience a diver has they will always have a preference. The best advice we can give you in this department is to come to a pool session and try out the various styles and see which you find the most comfortable.

Weight Integration:

What is a weight integrated BCD? A weight integrated BCD will have special pockets to put weights in.

Why should I care about weight integration? Simply put you don’t have to wear that extra weight on a belt. A belt can be uncomfortable and it also means that all that extra lead is put around your hips. This can cause you to float vertically in the water rather than horizontally, which is a problem when looking at fish on the reef below.

A good quality weight integrated BCD will also have pockets on the back of the BCD. These pockets allow you to distribute the weight around your body and enhance your ability to stay horizontal in the water.


BCD’s have pockets? Some BCD’s have additional pockets for storing other stuff in?

Why should I care about pockets? When you go on a night dive it’s nice to be able to put your backup light in a pocket, so it doesn’t get in the way. You’ll find you want to put all sorts of things in the pockets just in case.

Quick Releases:

What is a quick release? These are clips that allow you to get out of your gear quickly.
Why should I care about quick releases? When your at the end of a dive and you really have to pee it’s all about the quick releases, snap, snap, snap and off to the head you go! And yes we are being serious here. That is the best reason to make sure you have easy to use quick releases.

On the safety note, if you ever end up injured and someone is rescuing you, wouldn’t it be great if they could ditch your gear and get you to safety easily. Believe us if you ever get in the position of saving someone else and they don’t have easy to find and use quick releases performing a rescue is a real struggle.

Low Pressure Inflator/Deflator Hose:

What is a low pressure inflator/deflator hose? A low pressure inflator hose is used to add air and subtract air while diving.

Why should I care about a low pressure inflator/deflator hose? You need one to control buoyancy at the surface and underwater. Buoyancy control is one of the most important techniques you need to master while diving. You do not want to bump into corals while diving and on the surface you will like to float effortlessly while waiting to board the boat or swimming to shore.

Dump Valves:

What is a dump valve? Dump valves allow the air in your BCD to get purged quickly. Your BCD will typically have three dump valves. One on your shoulder, one near your bum, and the other is your low pressure inflator.

Why should I care about dump valves? When start a dive you are typically very buoyant. You jump in the water and your BCD is inflated to keep you afloat. Instead of using your low pressure deflator/inflator which releases air relatively slowly, you can pull the dump valve on your shoulder and get rid of all the air that is keeping you at the surface quickly.

Dump valves are also used when assisting a diver who has an uncontrolled ascent. Pull one of the dump valve and get rid of the air in the BCD, this can save them from a painful lung expansion injury.

The important thing when it comes to dump valves is that they are easy to find by feeling as you will rarely be able to look at them. Having big handles is great because they are easy to find. The dump valve by your bum is one of the hardest to find. Some rear dump valves have a cord that allows the valve handle to be positioned in an easy to reach place.

Hooks, Loops, and Fasteners:

What is a D-Ring or Fasteners For? Hooks, loops and fasteners make it easy to stream line your equipment.

Why should I care about Fasteners? Hooks, loops and fasteners make it easy to stream line your equipment, this is important because while diving you do not want any hoses or equipment dragging. You will not be as streamline in the water so it will take more effort to swim. Also you do not want anything dangling and bumping the reef system and doing damage.

E-mail us if you have questions about our BCD's OR call us at 780 438-1218

Northwest Scuba Carries:

BCD brands that Northwest Scuba carries.

Oceanic, Tusa, Hollis