Choosing the right buoyancy control device (BCD) is essential for a safe and comfortable scuba diving experience. Two of the most popular types of buoyancy control device are wing BCDs and jacket style BCDs but while both serve essentially the same purpose, they are also surprisingly distinct. As a PADI dive centre, we have a good deal of experience when it comes to knowing the difference between one and the other, and are often asked which we prefer or would recommend by customers and clients.
Needless to say, our answer is generally “it depends”. As with all dive gear, your decision is down to what suits your personal needs, tastes and requirements. To explain what we mean, we're going to explore the characteristics of both Wing and Jacket BCDs to help you determine which one might be the best fit for your preferred diving style.
A Jacket style buoyancy control device wraps around the diver's torso like a jacket, with an air bladder covering the diver's back and sides. The air bladder of a jacket style BCD is typically made using a durable, puncture-resistant material such as nylon or Cordura fabric, and it can be inflated or deflated using a low-pressure inflator hose. Jacket styles are popular among recreational divers because they position divers more upright in the water, which is more comfortable and natural for most people to start with. Almost all dive schools will provide jacket style BCDs for training, so for someone starting out on their diving career, it will be a more familiar model and they feel more comfortable and confident wearing what they are used to.
Jacket style BCDs also tend to have more storage options for carrying accessories, such as a spare mask, dive light, or dive computer. This can eliminate further costs when purchasing as there is no need to buy further separate pockets to carry your diving accessories. Moreover, many come with integrated weight systems to eliminate the need for a separate weight belt.
While Jacket BCDs are less streamlined than Wing BCDs, they provide excellent buoyancy control for most recreational diving activities. They are also generally easier to use than Wings, making them a good choice for beginners and less experienced divers; particularly as they are also generally less expensive too.
A Wing buoyancy control device features a wing-shaped air bladder that is located behind the diver's back. Like the Jacket Style, the air bladder of a Wing BCD is generally made of a durable, puncture-resistant material such as nylon or Cordura, and can be inflated and deflated using a low-pressure inflator hose. The wing-shaped air bladder is designed to provide lift and stability, allowing divers to finetune their buoyancy and maintain a horizontal position while underwater.
Wing BCDs are often used by technical divers or divers who need to carry a lot of equipment, as they provide a more streamlined profile than traditional jacket style BCDs. They are also built with a modular designed, allowing divers to attach various components such as tanks, weights, and accessories as required. You can buy specially designed twinset and sidemount wings, making them a popular choice for tech divers.
Wings also allow you to attach multiple weight and trim pockets, which can eliminate the need for a weight belt altogether, particularly as the weight of the backplate will add a few kilos too. The other benefit of this is you can choose specifically where you want to carry your weight, allowing you to finetune your trim and buoyancy control.
Whether you're a novice diver or a seasoned pro, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of the different styles of buoyancy control device can help you make an informed decision before your next dive. Ultimately, the best buoyancy control device depends on your diving experience, comfort level, and the type of diving you plan to do. However, if you’re thinking of buying one, it's a good idea to try out both types before making a purchase to see which one feels more comfortable and suits your needs.
Other factors you might want to consider before purchasing a BCD include the amount of lift you’re after, the number of pockets and attachment points, and the type of inflator system Additionally, consider the fit and comfort of the BCD, as a poorly fitting BCD can cause discomfort and potentially impact your safety underwater. Finally, it always helps to read reviews and seek advice from experienced divers before making your purchase. With careful consideration and research, you can choose a BCD that not only meets your needs but enhances your overall diving experience.
We offer a range of Wing and Jacket style BCDs on Aquanauts from popular scuba diving brands such as Apeks, Scubapro, Aqualung and more. Here are just a few examples of what we have available as of April 2023.
Scubapro Hydros: Available in designs for men and women, these jacket style BCD are similar to wing BCDs in that they have a backplate and the bladder is contained on the back rather than the sides. Winner of the 2016 Red Dot Award for design innovation, these modular buoyancy control devices are customisable, extremely light and incredibly comfortable. One thing we especially like about the Scubapro Hydros is that being lightweight, compact and quick drying, they are great for travel!
Scubapro Litehawk Travel: Perfect for scuba diving tourists, these lightweight Scubapro BCDs are hardwearing, comfortable to wear, compact, and affordable. They also come complete with three dump valves, an adjustable weight belt-style waist strap, and rotating quick-release shoulder straps. Weighing in at only 2.5kg, you couldn’t hope for a more reliable travel BCD than the Scubapro Litehawk.
XDeep Zen Deluxe: Available in a wide range of custom colours and complete with matching weight pockets, these Wing BCDs were designed by XDeep to improve upon the traditional wing and backplate design. The innovative backplate and wing design improve stability and comfort, making these the ideal buoyancy control devices for cold water and wreck diving. In addition to customer colours and matching weight pockets, you can even have your name stitched into the XDeep Zen Deluxe making them perfect for those who want a personalised wing.
Apeks WTX D-30 Wing: Designed to provide effortless control of buoyancy and trim, these Wing BCDs are incredibly versatile and can be worn with either drysuits or wetsuits. Its two-bladder design is made up of an abrasion-resistant 1000D Armorsheild Cordura outer bag and a puncture-resistant 22mil thick urethane inner, making them a go-to buoyancy control device for wreck and cavern divers.
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