What is your preference, Back plate or Jacket style BCD?


1 comment   |   scuba diving

It is interesting when showing students or customers a black plate and wing style buoyancy system. Some remarks are, “it looks too technical”, “that plate must be hard on the back”, “where are the pockets”, and the best of all, “it’s not colorful or pretty looking.”  Dont judge a book on its cover, there are some benefits to both and it is best to try both systems to see which one suits you best!

New divers are first exposed to diving using a jacket style BCD (buoyancy control device) for their training and are not exposed to other styles or configurations. Two remarks stand out from these new divers. One is that the jacket floats up around their ears while on the surface. The other is that it twists on their bodies while diving.  First make sure you have the right size and second make sure waist band and shoulder straps are adjusted properly.  Most models do shift but ensure with your instructor that all of the straps are adjusted properly and readjust once you get to depth.

When it comes down to a “back plate & wing” system most divers are not introduced to this diving system until they are well into their diving experience.  The system is modular, meaning that you can change the size of the wing depending on where you are diving or what you are diving (single tanks or double tanks). The back plate can be either aluminum or a heavier stainless steel and your preference will depend on where you are diving. Weight systems can be moved for better trim in the water within minutes, no plastic quick releases to break when something heavy lands on your BCD. Also, you can add a thigh pocket for your SMB (surface marker buoy), finger reel, spare mask and other essential items for the dive, which makes it easy to access these items. The system also utilizes a crotch strap that holds the BCD down when floating at the surface or being inverted underwater looking for creatures under ledges. What? A crotch strap! Yes, and it is comfortable when adjusted correctly!  For women just think of it as a thong, for men, we don’t need to know if you wear a thong or not….hehehehe

When the back plate and wing system is on the diver, it fits snugly. No loose gaps, no pressure around the stomach or chest areas as the air cell is on your back. Your arms move more freely by not having the bladder on the side of your body. It becomes a part of the diver. When you move, the unit moves with you. Your trim (horizontal position) is improved in the water as the air cell is on your back, causing less drag and you use less air.

Some remarks from divers who have tried the back plate and wing system were: “I have been fighting my trim for years, now after twenty minutes using a wing, I trimmed out perfectly!”, “it feels more secure and fits better than any female jacket BCD that I’ve had before”, “I don’t feel smothered when on the surface, nothing pushing against my chest,” and finally, “it feels like it’s a part of me.”

The price of a wing and back plate system including the harness and optional weight pouches is comparable to the price of a traditional BCD. Because the wing and back plate system is modular, it is more economical in the long run because the type of wing, back plate, and weight pouches can be easily changed to suit the diver’s needs. I used to have two BCD’s, one for tropical diving in a thin wetsuit and another one for diving in my 7mm drysuit. Not anymore!

think about trying this out the next time you go diving.  some divers prefer their jacket, some prefer their backplates.  Which ever you decide to do, make sure you are comfortable, happy and can gain your trim easily.  ONe is not better than the other, it is just about personal preference.

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