Why Buy A Back Inflate BCD over a Jacket Style?

Ocean First   Jul 01, 2022

I am asked this quite often. Normally it is by someone who already has a jacket style BCD (where the air goes into the back along with the wings), or by someone who has a friend who is trying to encourage them to buy a back inflate (where all of the air is located behind you), or they have a friend who is scaring them away from one! For those leery of back inflates, they may believe that the slimmed down size of the back inflates means they are losing features. This used to be true with older models, but the newer models give you just as many features as a jacket without the bulk! Back inflates now tend to have front pockets, that are in many cases the same size as a jacket, they have just as many attachment points, weight integration, and are just as comfortable if sized correctly.

Even with all of those similarities, I was certainly hesitant to switch over to a back-inflate when I had only ever used a jacket style previously, but I am so glad that I did!  Most instructors can tell you that one of the most important ways to ensure good buoyancy is to make sure the BCD fits you and you know how to use it correctly. No matter what style you own, you'll constantly struggle with your buoyancy if your BCD swings around because it is too big.  At Ocean First, we are always happy to properly fit you into a BCD and allow you to use it in the pool to make sure it is the right choice.

So, getting down to the main reason I was hesitant to switch.... I had heard that back inflate BCD's float you face forward in the water and you would struggle against that. This is a primary issue of knowing how to use your equipment correctly. Let's take a step back....if you fully fill any BCD, it may roll you forward slightly because a majority of the air is behind you and the wings around you in a jacket style BCD can't fully compensate for a full BCD. If you only partially fill your BCD, the air goes up towards the shoulders regardless of which style you get. So no matter which style you get, if you are not over-weighted and don't need much air at the surface you have the potential of rolling forward. The way to handle this is counter-weighting and position. All of the back inflate BCD's come with back trim pouches where you can add up to 10lbs of weight behind you. Many people that have an issue with rolling forward are not using those pockets and have all of their weight in their front weight pockets....weight in front, air in back...you get the picture. Now, if you took some of your weight and put it in the back of your BCD it would counteract the air in the back bladder, allowing you to float more vertically. Don't get me wrong, you will still need to be relaxed on the surface and lean back slightly like you are in a recliner, but that is more comfortable than being vertical anyway!

Once you have realized that Back Inflate BCD;s have many of the same features and are not as big of a detriment, you can start looking at what sets a back inflate BCD apart from the jacket style - size, comfort, and underwater positioning. Let's start with size. Back inflate BCD's tend to be quite a bit smaller than their jacket style BCD cousins. This is extremely important when traveling, as less bulk means less space taken up in your luggage and less weight towards your 50lb bag allowance! Comfort is another important aspect . The waist wings on a jacket style BCD tend to be bulky and limit arm movement and freedom in many cases. The air going around your waist when a jacket style is filled can actually press on your stomach and waist which can be incredibly uncomfortable. The slimmed-down profile of a back inflate gives the user an impressive range of motion without hindrance or discomfort, because when the bladder is full it is behind you rather than wrapped around you. Finally, one of the most important factors for good buoyancy control is better underwater positioning with a back inflate than a standard jacket. Because the air is located on your back, you tend to be able to "lay down" a bit easier which ensures proper diver position for breathing easy, less exertion in currents, and better air usage. These BCD's tend to be more stable when you try to roll to one side or the other to look at things because the air is not located in wings around your waist. A jacket style bladder allows the air to roll more which can make you roll when you don't want to.

With all of this said, your individual comfort is the most important thing. All of the BCD's we sell are back inflate for a reason, and we'd love to have you come in and try one or several styles out. If you still want a jacket style we are more than happy to order one for you!

Until next time...Happy Fishes!