The Difference Between BCDs | Which is Right for You?


Nowadays there are a million and one different BCDs available in the diving industry. But to make things more clear there a basically only three main types of BCDs. A jacket style, a wing style and a semi-wing bcd. All three have benefits and drawbacks to them and we are going to tell you all about them. For the original article, please visit

Jacket style BCD

First up we have the jacket style BCD which is still the most popular among most divers. One of the main characteristics is the fact that the bladder with the air is all around you. So when you inflate the BC it will inflate on the back but also on the sides.

The difference Between BCDs

What we like about a jacket style BCDs:
  • You are very stable on the surface. A jacket style BCD requires no effort to keep you upright on the surface.
  • Underwater it’s easy to change diving position. If you want to like for instance swim on your back or side then this is easily done.
  • Almost all jacket style bcds have weight intergration
  • Jacket style BCDs tend to have big pockets and a lot of d-rings which make it easy to bring along accessories.
What we don’t like about a jacket style BCDs:
  • Your diving position is not ideal. You tend to swim with your legs pointed down a bit because of the position of the weight pockets and the bladder.
  • Less freedom of movement because the pockets and weight pockets are under your arms. These restrict you to freely move your arms around.
  • Some divers don’t like feeling the BCD compressing them when it’s fully inflated.

Example of a jacket-style BCD:

  1. Scubapro X-Black

Wing style BCD

The wing style BCD is becoming more and more popular but has it’s origins in technical diving. A wing is basically stripped of all components which are not deemed necessary for diving. Therefore it only consists out of a bladder, backplate and a harness. The main characteristic is the fact that the bladder is mounted on the back and when inflated you won’t feel it at all.

The difference Between BCDs The difference Between BCDs

What we like about a wing style BCD:
  • Because a wing style only inflates on your back it put’s you in that prone diving position. This is the best and most streamlined diving position. A great benefit is that your fins are not pointing downward which prevents you from kicking up any dust or sand.
  • Although the harness doesn’t look like much, once it’s correctly fitted to your size it’s really comfortable.
  • Because a wing style BCD is stripped of everything which is not essential you have a lot of freedom of movement around your arms.
  • All components are replaceable. So when you need a new harness you don’t need to replace the whole wing but just get a new harness.
  • It’s possible to do technical dives (with a twin set) and recreational dives with a wing.

What we don’t like about a wing style BCD:
  • The harness is hard to set to size. Especially when you change from a wetsuit to a dry suit a lot it’s annoying to keep adjusting the size of your harness.
  • It’s harder to get into a wing style BCD because the shoulder straps are not adjustable.
  • There are no pockets and no weight integration on a proper wing. That’s why most technical divers have pockets on the legs of their dry suit.
  • Something which you need to get used to is the fact that a wing tends to push you face down in the water on the surface. This is because the bladder is located on the back. This is easily fixed by leaning a bit back.

Semi-wing Style BCD

The semi-wing BCD is more or less a hybrid between a jacket style and a wing style BCD. The bladder is located on the back, which gives you the “skydive” position in the water but also has weight integration and big pockets. Also most semi-wings have a normal adjustable harness.

The difference Between BCDs

What we like about a semi-wing style BCD:
  • The diving position of a semi-wing is pretty similar to a full wing. The prone position gives great streamlining and is perfect for not kicking up any dust or sand.
  • Enough pockets and d-rings to stow away all the accessories you need.
  • Almost all semi-wings have weight integration.
  • A semi-wing has the same adjustable harness as a jacket style BCD. Therefore you can switch between a dry suit and wetsuit all you like without having to take a lot of time to adjust your harness.
  • Easier to deflate because most semi-wings have bungee’s around the bladder which compress the bladder, forcing the air out while deflating.
What we don’t like about a semi-wing style BCD:
  • You can’t do technical diving with a semi-wing. Some allow you to put a 7×7 twin set on them but that’s about as big as you can go.
  • There is no replacing separate parts like the bladder or a backplate unless you have bought the Aqualung Outlaw or Rogue.
Examples of semi-wing BCDs:
  1. Aqualung Outlaw
  2. Scubapro Hydros Pro
  3. Mares Pure SLS
  4. Scubapro Seahawk

So which type of BCD is right for you? This is the one million dollar question and impossible to answer because the answer is different for everybody. I personally love the freedom of the wing style BCD and this makes it the BCD of choice when I dive in my free time. But when I teach scuba to students I opt for a jacket style BCD because this is similar to what the students are wearing.

This doesn’t mean this is true for you and if possible try one of each type out before you decide which one is right for you.