Regular Buoyancy Control Devices are ill-famed for occupying too much space in dive bags. And since deciding on what to leave behind is not-so-fun, scuba divers turn to the best travel BCD instead.
Travel BCDs take up little bag space, weigh considerably less and perform just like the regular options. Better still, they are easy to pack and will cost you less regarding luggage fees when flying.
How to Choose the Best Travel BCD
Select one that corresponds to your gender
Most of the BCD models have unisex labeling on them. These are great for a cross family use but may sometimes fall short of meeting your needs. Most manufacturers are these days designing more gender-specific BCDs.
These account for the present anatomic variants in both female and male divers. For example, shorter torso lengths and narrower shoulder straps are common for females than males for the same models. To prevent excess pressure on the bust, some female BCDs lack the chest straps.
Choose your Preferred Style
Three common types of compensators are available. These are a jacket (vest), back inflation (wings), and hybrid. Each of these best suits a diver depending on their level of expertise, diving style or personal preferences.
Jacket (Vest) BCDs: This type is the most common among divers. They offer an all-round buoyancy after inflation. Inflation process can be done from the back, front, and the sides. This gives the diver total control of the compensator. Weight storage pockets are available too.
Wing BCD (Back Inflation): These are only inflatable from the back, just as the name suggests. Their bladder is at the back, giving more freedom. Also, the rider can easily stay in a horizontal position. These are meant for more skilled divers.
Hybrid BCDs: An alternative would be to combine both styles into a single product. These inflate a ¼ of the way in front, then ¾ from the back. The result is better buoyancy.
Advantages of Travel BCDs
They are Lightweight
One of the fundamental reasons for investing in a travel BCD is their lightweight nature. In this way, you can carry as much gear as you need without paying exorbitant excess luggage fees.
Most of the BCDs are not more than 3 kilograms, for lighter dive luggage. If you are a frequent flyer, then these would be a great option for you.
They are Compact
Your regular buoyancy compensator is typically bulky, thereby occupying too much space in your bag. With the compact sized nature of travel BCDs, you would have plenty of space remaining for fins, wetsuits, photo equipment, regulators, and much more.
Ideal for Warm Water
Because of their lightweight nature, travel BCDs are ideal choices for warm water recreational diving. Of course, some options can work well for even cold water, but you would be well-off diving in warm water.
Things to Look for in The Best Travel BCDs
- Weight Integration or Not
Having weight integration in your BCD is a great feature. Some BCDs have compartments in the jacket where you can put the dive weights in. The quick release mechanism is provided so that you dump the weights when need be. Therefore, you don’t have to wear a dive belt at all.
- Plenty of Pockets
Jacket pockets are necessary for storing dive accessories. You need to have a place for storing a dive knife, a torch, whistles, surface markers, or even cameras. Look for a model with enough space to accommodate most of your accessories so that nothing drags you in the water.
- Lift Capacity
Every travel BCD indicates how much weight it holds up when inflated. Choose the lift capacity depending on the type of water you will be diving in and how thick your wetsuit is. Cold water means a thicker wetsuit, which adds to your buoyancy. The converse is true for warm water.
Nothing sucks than a BCD that doesn’t fit you properly. Having to adjust it every couple of minutes spoils the fun. Conversely, one that’s too tight becomes uncomfortable. Look for a gender-based option, or try out one that fits you like a glove.
As a frequent flyer, you aim at carrying light luggage as much as possible. If you can find a lightweight one that matches functionality and price, then that would be the best option.
Alongside storage pockets, D-Rings are other features that come in handy. The more you have, the better for you. The integrity of the rings is also important. In as much as plastic rings lower the overall BCD price, they are not as sturdy as stainless steel rings.
What’s the best way to use best travel BCD?
The best way of using a travel BCD is in warm tropical water. That is where most of them are suited. Unless it is specified that you can use it on cold water, then stick to warm water diving.
Also, limit the number of accessories you bring along and attach on the D-rings. More accessories mean more lift would be required, which might not be provided for by the travel BCD.
The controversy surrounding the use of Travel BCDs
Over the past couple of years, critics of scuba diving continue to lay blame after blame for some of the damages to coral reefs around the globe. Some of the reasons for this is in poor buoyancy control and dropping of accessories from either a standard BCD or a travel BCD.
While it may be true, the cases may be few. And it could be caused by a lack of training to scuba divers on the use of their equipment. Out of excitement, one might cut through a reef, drop a dive knife, weight, or camera.
So, let’s all take an oath to avoid careless diving to maintain our healthy reefs. We all would love to go back to the same spectacular spots and enjoy how awesome they are.
Best Travel BCDs Reviews
The Cressi Start Jacket style BCD is a perfect blend of functionality and price. It is, therefore, no surprise that it is popular among those who buy their first travel BCD. The jacket is made from 1000 and 500 deniers Cordura. This material is rugged to make the jacket puncture-resistant.
Other high-quality materials are used in the construction of the other parts such as the D-Rings and releases. There are three relief or dump valves fitted on both the right and left shoulders. The third valve is located on the right side of the air cell on the rear.
An above average-sized bladder generates sufficient lift for beginners who need to stay afloat with ease. Despite its apparent impressive functionality, divers used to having an integrated weight system might be at a loss with this product.
- Low price for first timers
- Easy to use for beginners
- Durable construction
- Excellent for both rentals and dive shops
- Comfortable when in use
- Great buoyancy
- Variety of sizes available
- Too basic for use by intermediates
- D-Rings are made from plastic
- No integrated weight system
Weighing in at about 8.85 pounds, the Zeagle Focus Jacket Style BCD is a decent choice for a travel compensator. This BCD features a soft back pad alongside a padded cummerbund for comfort. These features make it a great option for recreational scuba divers.
A high capacity bladder uses an Airplus technology to generate better lift while remaining streamlined. The bladder is made from a fade-resistant 500 denier Cordura material. Shoulder straps are made from 1000 denier nylon.
Side release buckles feature a squeeze-style doffing and donning mechanisms for easier use. Six stainless steel D-rings act as attachment points for accessories and storage. A 20 pounds integrated weight system is in place. Because of these features, this BCD is relatively pricey.
- Sturdy stainless steel D-rings
- Easy to operate jacket style system
- 2 integrated weight systems
- Sufficient 36 pounds’ lift
- Convenient dual position chest-strap
- Unisex configurations
- Soft, supportive backpad
- Great snug fit
- Complex at times for beginners
If you are looking for travel BCD that combines style and convenience, then the Cressi Aquaride Pro BCD is a great option. This Compensator offers you a great deal of versatility since you can use it in either warm or cold water. Its 420 denier nylon construction is safer too on the skin.
Adjustable shoulder, waist, and chest straps allow for customization of fit. A total of 6 D-Rings made from stainless steel are great for attaching accessories without compromising on the gear integrity. Weights depend on the size you buy but do not exceed 8.5 pounds.
The lightweight nature and trimmed down gear style makes for an easy to use compensator. A hard-frame has generous padding for user comfort. It is not without a couple of issues such as the collar stitching rubs onto the back of the neck in some divers.
- Incredible versatility
- Large sized accessory pockets
- Padded carry handle
- Lock-aid integrated weight system.
- Quick release buckles
- Excellent fit customizability
- Owner’s manual provided
- Annoying scratching on the back of the neck without a wetsuit
- Chest sizing leaves the waist size large
The Apeks Black Ice is a weight-integrated, rugged, back inflation Buoyancy Compensator. With these designs in place, it is indeed apparent that the designers had intermediate to advanced divers in mind when they were coming up with this product. Despite the heavy duty construction, it is surprisingly comfortable.
How does 5 pounds sound for a travel BCD? Impressive, right? Thanks to its Wrapture Harness system, it provides great comfort, stability, and a custom fit. The system comprises of swiveling shoulder buckles, thin backplate, all of which hold onto you when inflated.
With a modular design in place, divers can adjust individual parts of their gear to achieve that perfect snug fit. E valves on the BCD have easy grip pull pumps.
- Superb buoyancy
- High lift capacity
- Heavy duty construction
- Works great for advanced divers
- Removable backpad
- Innovative swivel shoulder buckles add comfort
- Easy to load
- One of the highest airflow rates in the industry
- Complex for beginners
- Finding replacement parts is a nightmare
This 2013 model of the Avid 400 series has a cqr-3 weight release system. It’s a system that is highly regarded when it comes to making it easy to install and remove the BCD pockets. A jacket style of design provides comfort, dependability, and functionality.
Exhaust valves which lack in previous models add a newer and more practical look to this compensator. Trim weights pockets improve accessibility as they can be adjusted without a hassle. Sizes range from small to 5X-Large. It covers all sizes of divers with a 100 percent fit rate.
Using the integrated weights system is one feature about this BCD that you have to be well-versed with. Particularly, you have to be well aware of its limitations and how it operates. An operating manual is provided so that you refer to anything that you find confusing.
- Pockets available for accessories
- Great value for the price
- Comfortable for recreation
- Works great in warm water
- Manual available for reference
- You can achieve a good trim
- Plenty of D-Rings
- Good fit
- Excellent stability and balance
- A bit bulky for traveling
- Falls apart with ease
- Steep learning curve
Prerequisites to using the best travel BCD
Always be competent enough to scuba dive before using your travel BCD. If it is possible, go through training then get certified. You should also be well conversant with the parts of the buoyancy compensator you are using.
Refer to the provided manual every time you aren’t sure about anything. Any mishap can be disastrous and can even cause death.
How to maintain Travel BCD
You want your BCD to last, don’t you? Here are some measures to help you out
- Use fresh water to rinse both the interior and exterior parts. This is meant to get rid of salty water.
- Store the BCD when slightly inflated to keep the pieces from sticking to one another
- Always store it in a cool and dry place
- Keep away any pointed object from the gear as it may puncture it
- Keep it away from intense heat for extended periods. Nylon tends to fade on prolonged exposure to sunlight
- Do not use for a long period in highly chlorinated water. This water prematurely decays the fabric coloration
- Never use paint or alcohol solvents for cleaning
- Partially inflate the BCD, then immerse in a rise tank to check for leaks. Once spotted, repair the leaks
- Rid zippers of gritty particles. You can apply zipper wax to them
- Using a toothbrush, remove gritty, crannies, and nooks from Velcro
Frequently Asked Questions [ F.A.Q]
Q: Can I use a travel BCD for everyday use?
A: Yes. Provided the buoyancy and water conditions are right, then why not?
Q: Should I buy or rent a travel BCD?
A: It depends on the frequency of diving, and whether you are willing to spend on one. If you are a regular diver, then buying your own would be great. Otherwise renting would save you the space and initial cost on investment
Q: Are weights very necessary?
A: Yes, and no. Salty water is high in density and would support your weight easily hence making you buoyant. So, if you want to dive deeper, then you must add weight to offset the balance. You will then need to adjust the weights relative to air to maintain neutral buoyancy.
Q: How deep can you go with a travel BCD?
A: The depth depends on the weights and amount of air you have. Going deeper depletes your air reserve due to the increased pressure. A standard depth shouldn’t exceed 39 m (130 feet). However, 9-18 meters should be great.
Q: Are travel BCDs Expensive?
A: There is a price for everyone. It all depends on the features you want.
Tip/Tick When Buying the Best Travel BCD
Much like anything else you might want to buy, you tend to get “what you pay for.” The cheaper a BCD is, the lesser features it has, and there is every possibility that its practicality would be impaired.
It doesn’t mean you have to go high end also. There are lots of mid-range BCDs to choose from. Factor in your skill levels too. An expensive, more-featured product would be too complex for a beginner. A cheap alternative would also be too basic for an advanced diver.
In this review, the Cressi Start Jacket Style BCD emerges top in my opinion as the best travel BCD. It weighs 7.65 pounds (3.5 kgs), which is quite low, just as you may love it to be. The pricing is another plus, meaning that most divers can afford it.
The whole construction is made from erosion and puncture resistant materials for durability. Two pockets and 4 D-rings provide decent storage spaces and accessories attachment points. Better still, this Travel BCD is certified to meet safety standards.