Back Inflate BCD vs Jacket Style BCD

When you’re getting out in the water, you’ll want a BCD which is also known as a buoyancy control device. These are an essential piece of your diving gear.

What are the differences between a jacket style and back inflate BCD?

But as with any other kind of gear, there are a lot of choices out there for you to pick from. There are two main kinds of BCDs that we will be going over so that you can make the best possible decision when it comes to the gear that you eventually pick up.

The advice offer here will give you an idea of where to start. Also, make sure to take every opportunity to try the gear before you buy it. Renting a specific type of BCD in a dive shop can be a great start. You might not have the opportunity and that’s where the following advice will come in handy. So here we go.

What is Back Inflate BCD?

A back inflate BCD sits on your back, kind of like a backpack.

Scubapro Hydros Pro Mens BCD
Scubapro Hydros Pro Mens BCD


  • Don’t constrict the chest too much; more comfortable
  • Allows for a better range of motion
  • Because of the position that it holds the diver in, this BCD can be better underwater because of the horizontal position


  • When used on the surface, a back inflate BCD will most likely make you face down into the water or on your back.
  • They can face some issues (time, efficiency, etc.) when it comes to the deflation process. Some companies try to build in straps to help deflate it, but this is not standard.

What is Jacket Style BCD?

While part of this BCD is on your back like the Back Inflate BCD, there are a couple of flaps on the sides as well. This BCD is a little more common than the other BCD.



  • When inflated at the surface, this BCD will keep you vertical with your head above the surface of the water.
  • Because of the straps that keep the inflation cell near the body, this style of BCD might be a little easier to deflate


  • Because of their design, they constrict the chest area a little bit more which can be a little uncomfortable.
  • Can be a little bit constrictive of movements of the arms and shoulders.
  • When inflated underwater, these BCDs are less effective because they keep the diver vertical which makes moving around a little more difficult.

Which is Better?

When it comes to deciding which kind of BCD you want, there’s a lot to keep in mind. While we’ve hit some major points, the kind of BCD that you will need may depend on what you want to do.

Regardless of what you’re doing, you should try to test out all of the BCDs (Aqualung Dimension i3 BCD Review) that you are considering. This will help you decide which fits you best and which will work best for you.

However, there are some general rules of thumb that you might want to consider.

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Kinds of diving

When you are looking at a BCD, you might want to consider how deep you intend on going. The way that a BCD can help you is based on the lift capacity. The more lift, the more air it will hold at the surface. This means that you will be able to go down deeper.

For this, you might need to consult with someone a little more experienced about what kinds of dives you’ll be going on. However, once you know what you’re going to be doing, then you’ll be able to look at BCDs that are in that range. If you’re not going that far and aren’t doing that much exploration, then a jacket-style BCD might be best.

However, if the diving trip you want to go on is a little bit deeper and you want to explore the area, then a back inflation BCD might be your best bet. It will allow you to have a good view of your environment, even if the BCD is inflated underwater.

Experience level

If you are new or introducing someone you know to diving, then you might want to consider the jacket style BCD over the back inflation style. The reason for this is because it can be more helpful. It returns divers to an upright position and for someone that is a little bit nervous about diving, this can make them feel a little more relaxed where they’re out on the water.

When you become more experienced, you’ll want to play around with different cells for your BCD and the best style for that is the back inflation style. This way you’ll be able to have a container and then change out the cells as you need. This can be nice for experienced divers as well because it means that they won’t have to pack multiple BCDs for trips where they want to go on multiple dives of various kinds.

Jacket-style BCD and gear ready to scuba dive

What Do You Get When You Rent?

While most beginners will have the most luck in a jacket-style BCD, what you get when you rent isn’t really going to be set in stone. Many companies might have a range of equipment depending on what you’re going to be doing. When making reservations, you might be able to ask about the style of equipment or you might not.

There are scuba companies all over that advertise using one or another. If you’re looking for a chance to try out the different styles of BCDs, then renting gear might be the best time to try and see how everything works. Don’t be afraid to email a company and ask about what they have. You want to know what you’re getting into.


When it comes to picking out a BCD, you’re going to have to go with the style that works best for you. If you’re new, not going too deep, and want to feel secure then a jacket-style BCD might work best.

If you have some experience and want to do a range of dives, then a back inflation BCD might your best bet. However, regardless of what we say, you should test out the gear before you purchase it, even if you’re just putting it on in the store. You’ll want to feel safe and comfortable whenever you dive.

What are the differences between a jacket style and back inflate BCD?
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