OUR TOP PICK

travel bcd

Overall Rating

4.9 /5

Design

4.6

Functionality

4.8

Ease of Use

4.7

Durability

4.8

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General Impression

The Zeagle Express Tech BCD is an ultra lightweight BCD that’s a great budget option, which is why it’s topped our best travel BCD review. It’s equipped with twin tank bands for peace of mind and features a rear bladder with extra padding for a comfortable fit. The integrated weight system can handle up to 20 pounds and there are dual rear-pull dump valves if you need to rid yourself of air. It’s easy to rinse the bladder after diving thanks to the Bx Inflator that can be attached to a standard garden hose. This scuba Zeagle travel BCD easily folds up to fit in your luggage, whether you’re traveling to the tropics or just across the country.

Specifications

BRAND: Zeagle
WEIGHT: 5 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 1000 Denier Cordura

PROS

  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Padded rear bladder
  • Integrated weight system
  • Folds up easily for transport
  • Easy-to-rinse bladder

CONS

  • Lack of emergency dump valve on shoulders
  • Can’t attach weights to tank strap
BEST VALUE

best travel bcd 2019

Overall Rating

4.5 /5

Design

4.4

Functionality

4.7

Ease of Use

4.5

Durability

4.5

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General Impression

Another Cressi travel light BCD that makes our cut in this best travel BCD review is the Ultralight Scuba. It utilizes the company’s innovative Flat Lock system and features two additional weight pockets so you can fine-tune your buoyancy, as well as a hideaway pocket to stash your octopus. The anatomical shoulder straps make it easy to don and remove while being super comfortable to wear. At 4.4 pounds, it’s also one of the lightest BCDs on the market and folds up fast when it’s time to fly.

Specifications

BRAND: Cressi
WEIGHT: 4.4 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 420 Denier Cordura

PROS

  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Anatomical shoulder straps
  • Hideaway pocket for octopus storage
  • Fast folding system
  • Integrated weight system

CONS

  • Sizes run big
  • No backplate

travel bcd reviews

Overall Rating

4.5 /5

Design

4.4

Functionality

4.7

Ease of Use

4.5

Durability

4.5

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General Impression

The Hollis LTS is a deservedly popular piece of travel scuba gear, with a lift capacity of 30 pounds (despite being only 5 pounds in weight itself). The red and black coloration is appealing, as are the chest and hip D-rings for attaching all your accessories. Diving BCD reviews often mention that it’s incredibly comfortable to wear, even for long periods of use. This lightweight BCD is ideal for warm water diving by either beginners or experienced divers.

Specifications

BRAND: Hollis
WEIGHT: 5 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 1000 Denier Cordura

PROS

  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Integrated weight system
  • Rugged construction
  • 30-pound lift capacity
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Available in four sizes

CONS

  • Tank band placement could be improved
  • Difficult to use oral inflator hose

lightest bcd

Overall Rating

4.5 /5

Design

4.6

Functionality

4.5

Ease of Use

4.6

Durability

4.4

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General Impression

Well designed, this Palantic travel BCD features a three-dump deflation system, so you can dump air from a variety of underwater positions. The integrated pockets also boast a quick release system if you need to rid yourself of weight. That being said, they also hold securely, so you don’t have to worry about them accidentally slipping out. These lightweight BCDs weighs in at only 5.5 pounds while offering 30 pounds of lift capacity.

Specifications

BRAND: Palantic
WEIGHT: 5.5 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 420 Denier Cordura

PROS

  • Quick-release integrated weight pockets
  • Three-dump deflation system
  • Available in three sizes
  • Cheap BCD

CONS

  • Relatively unknown brand
  • The bladder isn’t heavy duty

best travel scuba gear

Overall Rating

4.3 /5

Design

4.3

Functionality

4.6

Ease of Use

4.3

Durability

4.3

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General Impression

One of the best lightweight travel BCDs for beginner and intermediate divers is this Oceanic Biolite model. It boasts a streamlined, integrated weight system that can handle up to 14 pounds while the vest itself weighs in at just 5.5 pounds. The low profile backpack design means you can fold it in two when traveling and there are three different color choices available. The design is straightforward, comfortable and convenient, which is why it’s one of the best travel BCDs in 2019.

Specifications

BRAND: Oceanic
WEIGHT: 5.5 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 1000 Denier Cordura

PROS

  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Can be folded in half for travel
  • Quick drop weight release system
  • Streamlined design
  • Three color options available
  • Five size options available

CONS

  • Only a single tank strap
  • Difficult to tighten around the body

cressi travelight

Overall Rating

4.2 /5

Design

4.5

Functionality

4.3

Ease of Use

4.2

Durability

4.2

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General Impression

One of the cheapest travel BCDs on the market, this comfortable Cressi model comes in two color options. Its design was inspired by the Cressi Flex BCD, with a padded back and integrated weight system that can handle up to 30 pounds. In addition, there are suitably placed pockets where you can safely store accessories. It’s renowned for its ultra-fast inflation and deflation, as well as folding down into a compact and easily stow-able package for travel.

Specifications

BRAND: Cressi
WEIGHT: 6 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 210 Denier nylon

PROS

  • Folds down into a compact size for travel
  • Soft padded back for comfort
  • Fast inflation and deflation speeds
  • Eight lightweight D rings
  • Affordable travel BCD

CONS

  • Integrated pockets sometimes pop-out
  • Stitching is not durable

dive rite travelpac

Overall Rating

4.7 /5

Design

4.4

Functionality

4.6

Ease of Use

4.7

Durability

4.7

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General Impression

Featuring a metal backplate and fully adjustable diving harness, this back-inflating travel BCD is a lightweight option for divers who are regularly on the road. It boasts a lift capacity of 25 pounds, with straps that can be adjusted to your body size for a comfortable and secure fit. It’s ideal for diving on coral reefs or in confined spaces, such as wrecks and caves, making it suitable for experienced divers. There are two chest D-rings and two waist D-rings for attaching accessories, plus a stainless steel belt buckle.

Specifications

BRAND: Dive Rite
WEIGHT: 5.2 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Traditional
MATERIALS: 210-denier nylon laminated bladder

PROS

  • Adjustable straps to fit all body sizes
  • An easy-clean internal bladder
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Suitable for diving in overhead environments

CONS

  • Traditional weight system (no integrated pockets)
  • Lift capacity only 25 pounds

aqua lung zuma travel bcd

Overall Rating

4.2 /5

Design

4.2

Functionality

4.3

Ease of Use

4.2

Durability

4.4

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General Impression

At just 4.4 pounds, this weight integrated BCD is one of the lightest on the market. But despite its weight, it doesn’t compromise on features, with pockets for essential accessories and four D-rings. The padded back offers plenty of lumbar support while it’s still easy enough to fit into a suitcase. It features Aqualung’s Surelock II integrated weight system for peace of mind that your weights won’t accidentally slip out. The adjustable chest strap also allows you to get a snug fit around your body.

Specifications

BRAND: Aqua Lung
WEIGHT: 4.4 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 420 Denier Cordura

PROS

  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Padded spine and lumbar support
  • Adjustable chest strap
  • Patented Aqualung integrated weight system
  • Can fit into a suitcase

CONS

  • Difficult for bigger bodies to don
  • D-ring placements could be better

scuba pro litehawk

Overall Rating

4.6 /5

Design

4.7

Functionality

4.6

Ease of Use

4.6

Durability

4.5

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General Impression

With air pockets positioned predominantly on the back, this lightweight scuba gear allows greater movement and flexibility compared to most BCDs. The three-dump deflation system allows you to dump air from various underwater positions, giving you greater control. The streamlined air cell technology ensures you can regulate your buoyancy while the lightweight design makes it perfect for travel. The ScubaPro Litehawk features a belt-style waist strap and quick-release rotating shoulder buckles, as well as a two-position sternum strap for a snug fit. Also, there are four D-rings where you can clip on additional gear.

Specifications

BRAND: ScubaPro
WEIGHT: 5.2 pounds
STYLE: Back inflation
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Traditional
MATERIALS: 1000 Denier nylon

PROS

  • Three color choices
  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Streamlined technology for easy buoyancy regulation
  • Three-dump deflation system
  • Optional quick-release pockets available

CONS

  • Not suited for cold-water diving
  • More expensive than other travel BCDs

oceanic jet pack bcd

Overall Rating

4.3 /5

Design

4.3

Functionality

4.5

Ease of Use

4.3

Durability

4.4

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General Impression

This innovative design combines a semi-dry day bag with a lightweight travel BCD, offering the best of both worlds. You can stash the backpack with toiletries and clothing for a few days of vacation, then remove them when it’s time to don the BCD and dive. The adjustable harness and cummerbund ensure a comfortable fit while there’s plenty of lumbar support. It’s a little heavier than other BCDs in our best lightweight travel review at 8.25 pounds but this will be more than worth it for some divers considering its versatile nature.

Specifications

BRAND: Oceanic
WEIGHT: 8.25 pounds
STYLE: Hybrid
WEIGHT SYSTEM: Integrated
MATERIALS: 800 Denier Cordura

PROS

  • Versatile 2-in-1 design
  • Spacious (42-liter) semi-dry backpack
  • Adjustable harness and cummerbund
  • Integrated weight system
  • 30-pound lift capacity

CONS

  • More expensive than some travel BCDs
  • No backplate

As with all diving equipment, the best BCDs for travel will depend on the type of diving you do and your individual preferences. In this guide, we’ll explain the different types of buoyancy control devices available and what features to look for when purchasing lightweight BCDs.

Types of BCDs

When it comes to purchasing top-rated buoyancy compensators, there are a few options to select from:

Jacket BCDs are the most common style, with an air bladder that wraps around the torso and back. When inflated, it provides equal support around the diver’s body, making it easy to remain stable in various underwater positions. These are generally the best buoyancy compensator for beginner divers but they tend to be heavy and not ideal for travel.

Back-inflations BCDs have an air bladder positioned at the back of the diver. This gives you greater freedom to move your arms and helps you to maintain a horizontal position in the water. However, back inflation BCDs take some getting used to, as they will push you forward at the surface without the use of trim weights on the tank or rear.

Hybrid BCDs incorporate elements of both the jacket and back-inflation styles. The air bladder isn’t as bulky at the front as with traditional jacket BCDs but it also allows for a comfortable upright position at the surface.

Travel BCDs come in a variety of styles but share one common feature – they are lightweight and can fold down to a compact size. This is usually achieved by limiting their features to some degree, although technology innovations are enabling travel BCDs to be manufactured on par with their weightier counterparts.

Backplate and wing BCDs are customizable and popular with tech divers, as you can add individual components depending on your diving needs. You can design a system that caters to the dives you will be doing on a particular day, whether it’s deep diving, cave diving or wreck diving.

Lift capacity

The lift capacity of a BCD refers to the amount of negative weight it can float when fully inflated. This is most important if you’re carrying a lot of extra gear to counter the positive buoyancy of a thick wetsuit when diving in cold water conditions. If your BCD doesn’t have adequate lift capacity, you will have a hard time staying afloat when at the surface.

If you’re diving in mostly tropical waters with a shorty wetsuit, then 12 to 24 pounds in lift capacity is adequate. Recreational diving in a full wetsuit will require between 20 to 40 pounds while technical diving with lots of additional equipment and tanks may necessitate a BCD with between 40 and 80 pounds lift capacity.

Weight integration

Another important feature to look for in BCDs for traveling is weight integration. This allows you to put weights directly into specially designed pockets on the BCD, rather than wearing a weight belt. A weight integration system is favored by many divers as you can strategically place your weights to achieve better buoyancy.

If you’re buying a BCD with an integrated weight system, look for a quick-release mechanism. This enables you to rapidly ditch your weights in an emergency situation by simply pulling a tab. But check carefully how it works before your first dive so you know how to use it and don’t accidentally drop the weight pockets underwater.

D-rings, loops, and pockets

Most BCDs have D-rings, loops and/or pockets so you can attach dive tools and accessories. The number of attachment points you need will depend on the type of diving you’re doing and what you want to take with you. Perhaps you want to take a dive torch, knife and backup mask, as well as a surface marker and whistle. Look for D-rings made from stainless steel (which are the most durable), rather than plastic or aluminum.

Weight and size

One of the most important features to consider when buying a travel BCD is its weight and how compactly it folds up. Ideally, you want a light BCD that will be able to fit in your luggage, so you aren’t paying excess baggage fees with airlines. If you have to walk to and from dive sites, then a lightweight BCD is even more important. That being said, you don’t want to compromise on the features you really need, just for the sake of a pound or two.

Fit

Finding a good fit is essential when purchasing a new BCD. If you buy a size too big, the BCD will constantly rise up above your shoulders. If it’s too small, you may feel restricted in your movements and won’t be able to use the BCD when wearing a thicker wetsuit. If you are diving in both dry suits and thin wetsuits, then it’s important to buy a BCD that can accommodate both.

Women’s BCDs

While some BCDs will fit both men and women comfortably, others won’t. Most scuba diving manufacturers offer women’s designs, with a shorter torso and adjusted straps. If you’re not sure whether a buoyancy compensator will fit you and you’re purchasing online, check the travel BCD reviews to see what other users have to say.

What does BCD stand for in scuba diving?

BCD stands for buoyancy control device, although they’re often referred to as buoyancy compensators. A BCD is worn during dives to ensure positive buoyancy at the surface and neutral buoyancy underwater. This is controlled by adjusting the amount of air that flows in and out of the BCD’s inflatable bladder, which is connected to the tank via a low-pressure hose.

BCDs come in various types (jacket, back-inflation, and hybrid) and with a range of features, which make them suitable for different diving needs. Mastering the control of a BCD to fine-tune your buoyancy is one of the trickiest parts of learning to dive and something that’s acquired through regular practice.

What is the best beginner BCD?

Most divers begin with a jacket-style BCD, which features an air bladder that wraps around the torso and back. It’s designed to provides equal support around the diver’s body so they can remain stable in different positions under the water. Jacket-style BCDs are the type that you’ll most commonly find in dive shops and dive schools around the world. However, they tend to be heavy and are not ideal for divers who travel frequently.

What is the best type of BCD?

The best travel scuba gear for you depends on your experience and the type of diving you will be doing. If you’re just starting out, then a jacket-style BCD will make it easier for you to remain stable underwater. Once you’ve mastered your buoyancy and have more experience, you may want to try using a back-inflation BCD, which positions the air bladder at the back. The advantage of these BCDs is that they help you maintain a horizontal position in the water and give you greater freedom to move your arms. Hybrid BCDs combine elements of both the jacket and back-inflation styles while allowing you to stay in a comfortable, upright position at the surface.

If you’re traveling frequently to dive, then you’ll probably want a lightweight and compact travel BCD. Most are back-inflation style and utilize lightweight materials and innovative designs to reduce their bulkiness. Technical divers may want to consider a backplate BCD that’s customizable to their diving needs.

What is the best jacket BCD for diving?

The best jacket BCD is the one that offers the features that meet your diving needs. Things to consider include the lift capacity of the BCD and whether it offers weight integration. If you are considering a BCD with an integrated weight system, look for a quick-release mechanism so you can easily ditch your weights in an emergency situation.

Other features to consider are the number of D-rings, loops or pockets available to stash your diving accessories, such as torches, knives and surface marker buoys. Women can look for specially designed women’s BCDs that offer a shorter torso and adjusted strap positions for a more comfortable fit. The weight of a BCD is another important feature. Rather than being a jacket style buoyancy compensator, the best light BCD models tend to be back inflation.

How to size a scuba BCD?

Sizing for BCDs is roughly parallel to your T-shirt size, so this is a good starting point. A BCD should fit snuggly, without being too tight, and come with adjustable straps so you can alter it if you’re wearing a thicker or thinner wetsuit. Before purchasing your BCD, consider the type of exposure protection you will be wearing (a lycra skin or 7-millimeter wetsuit), as this will affect the size of BCD you should buy.

When trying on a BCD, loosen all the straps and place it on over your T-shirt. Adjust the cummerbund so that it fits snuggly across your abdomen, with at least 2-3 inches overlapping. Connect the waist strap buckle so that it’s secure but not too tight, then connect the sternum buckle strap and tighten it so that the shoulder straps are well-positioned. Then tighten the shoulder straps, ensuring there are at least 1-2 inches of excess strap for adjustments. If there are big gaps around the shoulder area, try on a smaller size.

What does a BCD do in scuba diving?

A BCD is designed to help a diver achieve neutral buoyancy underwater and positive buoyancy when at the surface. They feature an inflatable air bladder that can be manually manipulated to allow air to flow in and out as needed. Air flowing in will cause the diver’s position to rise slightly while air being released will do the opposite. Mastering the control of your BCD and fine-tuning your buoyancy is something that takes practice. The amount of air you need in your BCD will change depending on the amount of air left in your tank, the weight you are carrying and the thickness of your wetsuit.

How to care for your BCD?

Like all scuba diving equipment, your buoyancy compensator will need to be cared for properly if you want it to have a long life. The exterior can be simply rinsed in freshwater, removing any saltwater residue or ocean debris. But it’s also important that you rinse the interior of the air bladder, as saltwater crystals can form over time and rupture it. The easiest way is to use a garden hose and flush freshwater into the bladder via the low-pressure oral inflator while holding down the deflate button.

cheap travel bcd

REACH OUT

As always, we create our content with you, fellow divers, in mind. So, how’d we do? Did you find this informative? Did it help you make a decision? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you below. Thanks for reading and we hope your next dive is a great one!

Pippa Strickland

Pip is a product expert, a degreed environmental scientist, and an adventure-style traveler originally from Australia. Pip has been an SSI-certified Divemaster for over 5 years, during which time she’s worked with hundreds of certified divers. She’s dived widely throughout Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and the Middle East, with a particular passion for night diving. When she’s not diving, her key interests include surfing, trekking and gardening in her ever-growing veggie patch.

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