Ideal for beginners, this hybrid women’s BCD combines back inflation with a wraparound jacket for improved stability underwater. The adjustable weight and chest straps help to achieve a comfortable fit for a variety of heights. When it comes to the SureLock II integrated weight pockets, there’s a single pull release if you need to dump weight in an emergency. There are two zippered pockets and mounting grommets for your accessories and a flexible backplate for easy storage. This Aqua Lung Pearl BCD review couldn’t overlook the patented, integrated sports bra, which makes it the best women’s BCD on our list.
- Plenty of lift for cool-water diving
- Adjustable height straps and extra padding
- Integrated sports bra for support
- Hybrid design
- SureLock II integrated weight pockets
- The inflator hose is quite buoyant
- Tank valve strap can’t be adjusted
The Cressi Start Pro shares many similarities with its sister model, the Cressi Start. But it’s a notch above because of the added integrated weight system that’s equipped with quick-release buckles. It was created with dive schools and resorts in mind, offering a durable construction that can survive the rough and tumble of day-in, day-out use. There are adjustable waist and shoulder straps so you can get the fit just right and a padded backplate with a carrying handle. The three exhaust valves will help you manage your buoyancy in a variety of underwater positions. It’s definitely one of the best women’s BCDs for budget and beginner divers.
- Carry handle for easy transportation
- Integrated weight system
- Ruggedly constructed for intensive use
- Three exhaust valves for buoyancy adjustment
- Adjustable waist and shoulder straps
- Bulkier than other women’s BCDs
- Limited D-rings
Offering a sturdy, wraparound jacket design, this TUSA women’s BCD is another great option for beginner divers. It features a firm backplate with plenty of padding to provide support in and out of the water, as well as five D-rings for attaching dive accessories. The adjustable waist and chest straps ensure a snug fit for most body shapes and sizes. While it’s relatively lightweight, it’s not super compact compared to other buoyancy compensators for women on our list. But it makes up for this with a 32-pound lift capacity and an affordable price tag.
- Affordable women’s BCD
- Relatively lightweight
- Up to 32-pound lift capacity
- Adjustable waist and chest straps
- Variety of D-rings
- Bulkier design than some women’s BCDs
- Not ideal for dive travel
Durable and affordable, the Cressi Start was designed to withstand the rigors of dive training and rental facilities. It features three exhaust valves for adjusting your buoyancy and a double air filtration system that’s easy to rinse clean. The backplate has been designed specifically for women’s bodies and there are two large storage pockets (plus two D-rings) for all your accessories. One convenient feature to note is that the cummerbund is independent of the air cell, so you won’t get that squeeze effect when inflating your BCD. It’s ruggedly constructed from durable Cordura material to ensure a long life, even with intensive use.
- Waist strap is independent of the air bladder
- Three exhaust valves for buoyancy adjustment
- Ruggedly designed for long life
- Comfortable thermoplastic backplate
- Limited D-rings and pockets
- Lacks integrated weight system
Cressi regularly makes the list of best scuba BCDs in 2019 and this lightweight travel model is no exception. With a female-specific wraparound fit that can easily be adjusted, this flexible women’s BCD is ideal for traveling divers. It comes with lightweight (yet durable) alloy D-rings and a folding backplate, both of which help to keep its dry weight down to just 6 pounds. There are a variety of deep pockets and zippered closures where you can stash your dive accessories, not to mention an integrated weight system. It inflates and deflates with speed for greater control when in the water, then folds down into a compact size when it’s time to fly.
- Folds down into a compact size for travel
- Soft padded back for comfort
- Eight durable metal D rings
- Affordable women’s BCD scuba
- Adjustable straps for various heights
- Integrated pockets sometimes pop-out
- Stitching is not durable
This back-inflation women’s scuba BCD is a great option for those with larger chests thanks to a unique front-zipping closure and modular design. The adjustable waist and hip straps will ensure a customized fit, no matter what your body shape. The patented PFS sizing system also ensures the weight is at the body’s center of buoyancy. This Zeagle Zena review shouldn’t fail to mention that it’s surprisingly light at just 6.2 pounds. That’s thanks to undersized D-rings and expanding pockets, making the Zena an ideal travel companion.
- Flexible backplate for easy packing and storage
- Adjustable waist and hip straps
- Modular design accommodates larger busts
- Incredibly lightweight
- Durable metal D-rings
- 31-pound lift capacity
- Weights don’t always drop with ease
- Limited D-rings
Designed by women, for women, the Soul i3 by Aqua Lung is a deservedly popular choice that makes our best women’s scuba BCD review list. It boasts swiveling shoulder straps and an extra-short backplate so it won’t ride up when you’re at the surface. This Aqua Lung women’s BCD comes with Sure Lock weight pockets that are easy to load and a GripLock tank band for peace of mind. There are five stainless steel D-rings (plus two plastic ones) where you can attach all your accessories and a rolled neck collar for greater comfort. It also boasts a unique one-touch design for inflation and deflation that’s intuitive to use.
- Lots of D-rings for attaching accessories
- Hybrid jacket with both rear and front inflation
- Up to 42-pound lift capacity
- Relatively lightweight
- Integrated weight pockets
- Shoulders can be loose on smaller frames
- No octopus thread-through pocket
With a lift capacity of 34 pounds and an oversized bladder, this Scubapro Ladyhawk also makes the cut for our best BCD for women review. The versatile design of the Ladyhawk BCD includes swivel buckles and adjustable straps to accommodate all body types, as well as stainless steel D-rings. Other durable features include welded seams and metal zipper pulls to ensure a long life. The three-dump deflation system means you can rid yourself of air from a variety of underwater positions. In addition, the Scuba Pro Ladyhawk boasts a convenient, buckle-in integrated weight system that’s simple and easy to use.
- Three-dump deflation system
- Unique buckle-in integrated weight system
- Backpack-style harness system
- Durable and versatile design
- More expensive than other women’s BCDs
- Only one pocket for stashing dive accessories
If you’re after an ultra-durable BCD, then this Scubapro travel BCD is one of the best that money can buy. It features an innovative, modular design and is manufactured from injection-molded plastic parts. The harness is made from Monoprene and dries super fast while being resistant to UV, chemicals, and abrasion. You can add and remove weight systems, straps and pouches as you please to create a completely customized setup. It comes with a dual-compound backplate for stability and comfort and is also almost neutrally buoyant.
- Up to 40-pound lift capacity
- Modular design with interchangeable parts
- Fast drying for traveling divers
- Almost neutrally buoyant
- Extremely durable
- Very expensive compared to other women’s BCDs
- Not ideal for beginners
If you’re regularly diving in cold-water conditions, then the Scubapro Bella is one of the best BCDs for women on the market. It features a wraparound air bladder that retains its cradle-like shape when fully inflated. Also, there’s a firm backplate with a built-in handle for easy carrying. You can easily adjust the front-body straps if needed and there are also rotating, quick-release shoulder buckles. The welded seams, metal zippers, and D-rings are all built to last and there’s plenty of padding for long-wearing comfort. In addition, it comes with Scubapro’s buckle-in integrated weight system and contoured hip indents that fit the female shape.
- Lift capacity up to 42 pounds
- Adjustable and quick-release shoulder straps
- Durable metal D-rings for attaching accessories
- Integrated weights don’t dig into hips
- Very expensive compared to other women’s BCDs
- Heavier than other women’s BCDs
A BCD (buoyancy control device) is an essential piece of equipment in any diver’s kit. Not only will it help to keep you buoyant on the surface (so you use less energy) but it assists in maintaining proper buoyancy and trim underwater. You can control this by adjusting the amount of air that flows in and out of the BCD’s inflatable bladder, which is connected to your tank via a low-pressure hose.
A BCD that fits well is essential to your under and above-water comfort. It’s for this reason women should invest in a female-specific buoyancy compensator. They’re designed with all the features and functions of their male counterparts but with a fit that suits the female body. Most women’s BCDs feature a shorter torso than a standard buoyancy compensator and are designed with adapted straps that accommodate the bust.
But before you rush out to buy a women’s BCD, it’s important to understand the various features that are available. Some are designed with basic features for beginners while others boast modular components geared towards experienced, technical divers. In this guide, we’ll explain the different types of buoyancy control devices available for women and what to look for when purchasing the right one for you.
Types of BCDs
Buoyancy compensators are available in a few different types, which relate to the positioning of their air bladders and/or how compact they are.
The most common type of buoyancy compensator (and the one you’re most likely to see in dive shops) is the jacket-style BCD. They’re designed with an air bladder that wraps around the torso and back of the diver. So when the BCD is inflated, it provides equal support and makes it easy to remain stable in various underwater positions.
Back-inflation BCDs position the air bladder at the back of the diver, freeing up space for your arms. They’re designed to help you maintain a horizontal position in the water but can take some getting used to. Some divers find it difficult to stay upright at the surface without trim weights on the tank or rear of their BCD.
Hybrid BCDs bring together both the jacket and back-inflation styles, giving you the best of both worlds. They’re designed so that you can maintain a comfortable upright position at the surface, without the wraparound air bladder being too bulky.
Backplate and wing BCDs are commonly used by highly experienced technical divers, as they can be customized to your diving needs. You can add individual components and design a system that’s ideal for deep diving or the confined spaces of cave and wreck diving. Modular styles are also long-lasting as they’re much easier to service and repair.
As many divers fly to dive destinations around the world, lightweight travel BCDs are also increasing in popularity. You can find women’s travel BCDs in jacket, back-inflation and hybrid styles, depending on your preference. But they are all designed to be lightweight and will fold up to a compact size that can easily fit in your luggage.
When it comes to BCD features, weight integration is one of the most important for many divers. Rather than wearing an uncomfortable weight belt, a weight integration system allows you to place weights directly into specially designed pockets on the BCD. It’s a great way to fine-tune your buoyancy, with most offering quick-release mechanisms so you can easily ditch your weights in an emergency. Using a weight integration system may take a bit of getting used to. So it’s a good idea to practice releasing the weights before you jump in for your first dive.
Lift capacity refers to the amount of negative weight that the BCD can float when it’s fully inflated. While this is not so important in warm, tropical waters, it becomes increasingly important when diving in cold water with a thick wetsuit and lots of extra gear. If you’re diving in a BCD without adequate lift capacity, you may find it difficult to stay afloat at the surface.
The lift capacity you require will depend on various factors. But generally speaking, 12 to 24 pounds lift capacity should be adequate in tropical waters. If you’re diving in a full wetsuit, then you will need between 20 and 40 pounds while tech diving with lots of extra equipment may require 40 to 80 pounds lift capacity.
D-rings, loops, and pockets
If you’re diving with a lot of accessories or tools, then the number of D-rings, loops, and pockets will be important. You can use these to attach or stash surface marker buoys, dive torches and knives, as well as things like a backup mask and whistle. Even if you’re just starting out (and don’t carry many accessories), look for a BCD with at least two D-rings so that you can expand your dive kit as you progress. Metal D-rings are much more durable than plastic but will add extra weight to your BCD.
Expandable pockets are also a good option, as they can be rolled out when you’ve got extra accessories and hidden away when you don’t. Some BCDs also include mounting grommets that are handy if you’re diving with knives or other cutting tools that you don’t want poking around inside your pockets.
Most BCDs come with a hard plastic backing equipped with a handle that makes it easy to carry your buoyancy compensator around. But some women prefer a flexible backplate that can be folded easily for travel. If you often find the plastic pieces of the backplate end up digging into your back and sides, look for a backplate with extra padding.
The weight of a BCD is a particularly important factor for traveling divers who don’t want to be carrying around bulky equipment or paying excess baggage fees. But no matter where you’re diving, having a BCD that you can comfortably manage when getting in and out of the water is essential. As technology advances, BCD material is getting lighter and buoyancy compensators are becoming more manageable, even for slightly built women.
Finding a BCD that fits you is essential, as one that’s too big and constantly rides up will be uncomfortable in the water and at the surface. That being said, you don’t want to purchase a size that’s too small and won’t accommodate a thicker wetsuit if you decide to dive in cooler conditions. Also take into account the frame of the diver who will be wearing the BCD. Some styles of BCD’s can accommodate plus-size divers more comfortably than other models.
Women’s BCD sizing is similar to a T-shirt size and most manufacturers will provide a sizing chart so you can determine which one is right for you. If you’re trying on a BCD in a dive store, you want the cummerbund to fit snuggly across your abdomen, with 2-3 inches spare at the end. After connecting the waist buckle, do the same with the sternum buckle and tighten it so that the shoulder straps are positioned correctly. You can then adjust these and there should be at least 1-2 inches of excess strap, just in case you need to accommodate a thicker wetsuit down the track.
Another feature that’s popular with female divers is chest and waist straps with adjustable height options. These are designed to accommodate a shorter torso and are a great option if you’re quite petite and find that your gear is constantly riding up on the surface. The straps can be adjusted to achieve a high center of gravity, which not only helps underwater but also when carrying your gear across land.
Caring for your BCD
A BCD isn’t a cheap piece of equipment and you’ll need to care for it properly if you want it to last for many years to come. You can easily rinse the exterior in fresh water after each dive to remove any salty residue or debris from the ocean. It’s also a good idea to regularly rinse the interior of the air bladder. Salt can build up over time and eventually form crystals, which may rupture the inside. The easiest way to rinse the air bladder is by connecting a garden hose via the low-pressure oral inflator and flushing freshwater in.
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!