What does BCD Stand For in Scuba Diving?

What does BCD stand for in scuba diving? Well, it’s an acronym in the diving world that all divers, both amateurs and experienced, know about. It’s because it’s that significant. For this reason, we’re going to tell you all about it in this blog post today. Make sure to stick around until the end for this article is jam-packed with all things about BCD. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional diver or just someone who’s curious about diving, you’ll definitely enjoy reading this!

What is the Meaning of BCD in Scuba Diving?

BCD stands for Buoyancy Control Device. Others also call it in various names such as buoyancy compensator (BC), stabilizer, stab jacket, or wing. BCD is a diving equipment for divers that is responsible for neutral buoyancy underwater. The said neutral buoyancy is definitely needed, so you won’t sink any further than what’s intended. At the same time, the BCD is also responsible for positive buoyancy on the surface if needed.

Basically, the BCD has bladders that you may use to either inflate or deflate it. If you inflate it, it makes you neutrally-buoyant that allows you to descend. On the other hand, if you deflate it, it makes you positively-buoyant which then allows you to ascend.

BCD Standard Features

*Air or Expendable Bladder

This is responsible for inflating or deflating your BCD. Once again, if you inflate the BCD, it makes you descend easily and successfully. However, if you deflate your BCD, it allows you to ascend with no problems. In addition to this, the bladder is also used by the diver to stay at a certain level underwater.

*Low-pressure Inflator and Oral Inflation Mechanism

Furthermore, take note that the bladder has a low pressure feed that puts air into it. The feed is obviously connected to the oxygen tank. Moreover, you have control over the air with the inflation valve. At the same time, there’s the oral inflation valve where you can use to blow air into the bladder.

*Deflator Mechanism and Overpressure Valve

The BCD has a controlling valve that restricts you from letting out more air than the appropriate amount. In addition to this, the valve has vents for dumping. One is at the shoulder level while the other one is at the waist level. One of the vents is positioned upright while the other one is upside down.

*Adjustable Straps, Buckles, Bands or Releases

These connect the oxygen tank to your BCD. What you need to do first is set the oxygen tank and your BCD at the right height. Moreover, the right position is when the top of the tank is even with the height of the BCD. Next, put the tank between your knees. Then you have to pull the straps toward you. Make sure that these get into the opening on the buckles. Pull the straps tightly toward you for the buckles to flat. After that, close the straps. Moreover, remember that the BCD also needs to be attached to the diver by the Velcro straps. As soon as everything is securely attached, you’re certainly good to go.

*Sturdy, Padded Back Plate

A no-brainer, this is simply for the diver’s absolute comfort throughout the entire diving experience.

BCD Optional Features

*Integrated Weight System

The BCD’s integrated weight system refers to the weights you wear by putting into the weight pockets. Bear in mind that the weights help with your swift descend. At the same time, always remember to take out the weights after every use of the BCD. Moreover, after cleaning your BCD, keep the weights in another place not inside the weight pockets.


These allow the diver to attach his/her camera, diving flashlight, and many other diving necessities.


Other BCDs include pockets where the diver can put stuff such as small diving gears.

Styles and Types of BCD

Here are the various styles and/or types of BCD used by divers:

*Vest Type or the Jacket Type/ Front-Adjustable Jacket

This is the most common of all BCDs. Here, there is a sleeveless jacket wrapping around the diver and also has an integrated air bladder. Moreover, the bladder certainly wraps around and inflates both in front, on the sides, and behind the diver. Additionally, this type of BCD has a drag on the diver using it because of its paddings and cummerbund.

Divers like that this is comfortable with pockets for other diving items as well as weights. On the other hand, some divers say that this is somewhat restrictive, mobility wise. At the same time, they also complain about the chest squeeze it induces when inflated.

*Back Inflate BCD

This BCD has the diver’s chest area free with only chest straps on it. Additionally, the flotation bladders are on either side of the oxygen tank.

Divers like the fact that they have good mobility because of their uncluttered chest area. Also, there is less drag on them. Moreover, there’s no resulting squeeze that they can feel when they inflate the BCD. On the other hand, the problem with this BCD is that the bladders being on the back forces the diver to dive face first instead of being vertical. Although, this can be perfected in time with enough practice.

*Back Plate and Wing BCD

Last but definitely not the least is this most streamlined of all the BCDs. This simply consists of a metal back plate of aluminum or steel. Then there is a continuous harness with waist belt and crotch strap looping through its notches. Moreover, there’s a wing type bladder on the back of the plate that inflates on either side of the tank attached to the middle.

Divers like the good stability in the water that this kind provides. It’s because of the back inflate putting the buoyancy closer to the tank where there’s significant weight. At the same time, divers like that this is customizable for you can add any type of inflatable wings. Divers who switch from single to double tank diving and technical divers with multiple tanks find this feature favorable. Lastly, it’s just easy to go in tight spaces with the use of this BCD which just makes this not-so-hard to like. Divers who are really wanderers and really like exploring further areas underwater finds this BCD very convenient. At the same time, this being designed minimally is just basically comfortable.

On the other hand, the obvious drawback of this is that it doesn’t have any pockets at all for necessary diving gears and weights.

How to Choose a BCD?

If you’re a diver, one of the basics of BCDs that you need to know is how to pick one in the first place. Take note that choosing your BCD mainly depends on where you’ll use it the most.

Without a doubt, the first thing on your mind right now is the size. And you’re absolutely right! It’s also advisable to think about how the BCD will fit if you have a diving suit on. Next, try on every strap, buckle, band, or releases. You really want to make sure that they’re all working just fine. Definitely test its inflator and deflator mechanisms, especially the oral inflator. It’s because you’ll going to directly use it yourself. Lastly, you must know if the BCD’s inflator hose is indeed compatible with your regulator setup.

After you’ve done all the basic tests and observations, then you can opt for adding your style, color, and other optional features preferences.

Hazards and Malfunctions

It’s true what they say that some things just don’t go your way. This certainly applies to diving too, especially with the diving equipment. It’s because nothing is perfect. Now, before you go freaking out, know that the best for you to do is be informed already of what can go wrong. If you know what can go wrong with your gears, you’re going to be ready for the right response.

*Accidentally Opened Inflation Cylinder

First, know that there’s a possibility that an inflation cylinder can be accidentally opened. This may definitely result to your quick ascent as well as barotrauma. Moreover, barotrauma is the physical damage to the body tissues. It results from the difference in pressure between a gas space inside or in contact with the body and the surrounding gas or fluid. Divers experiencing this condition has sinus or middle ear effects, decompression sickness, lung injuries, and other injuries resulting from external squeezes.

Furthermore, barotrauma can also happen when the diver has a mask squeeze. Sometimes, the mask isn’t equalized as the diver goes down resulting to hemorrhages in the area it’s covering. At the same time, barotrauma can also come out of a helmet squeeze. Here, the gas supply hose is severed above the diver and the non-return valve at the helmet gas inlet fails or isn’t fitted right. Definitely practice a controlled ascent and descent to avoid this situation.

*Accidentally Filled Bladders and Other Bladder Failures

Redundant bladders in the BCD may be unintentionally filled for so many reasons. Take note that this may end up in an uncontrolled ascent. What you can do to prevent this from happening is to make sure that the filling mechanisms are distinguishable by both feel and position. It’s because once you’re underwater, it’s going to be tricky to find out which bladder is full. For this reason, you may dump air from the wrong one. Moreover, the bladder can also fail because of a tear or whatsoever in the dump valve. This certainly results into the diver experiencing inadequate buoyancy.

*Malfunctioning Inflator Valve

Once again, uncontrolled ascent may happen if the inflator valve has a failure. You must know how to disconnect the inflator hose under pressure if you want to solve this problem quickly.


Maintaining your BCD is truly hard and scary at first because you don’t want to ruin it in any way. On the other hand, once you’ve done it already, it’ll feel like an easy routine for you.

  1. First, you have to rinse your BCD with fresh water after each of your dives. In addition to this, the rinsing should both be outside and inside.
  2. Next, let your BCD dry completely but avoid exposure to direct sunlight.
  3. Lastly, you have to partially inflate your BCD. Then you can already keep it in a cool and dry place.

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BCD, besides standing for Buoyancy Control Device, it represents something deeper. It just shows that diving is so much more than your swimming skills and bodily prowess. Indeed, diving is also a lot about knowing your diving gears. Your equipment is responsible for making you stay alive underwater. However, that’s only the case if you know how to operate it right. Moreover, knowing how to properly use it has a lot to do with being completely informed of the gear’s features and functions. Have a fun and great diving experience by knowing your BCD.