If you are an avid diver and a woman, you have no doubt experienced what it is like to wear poor-fitting scuba equipment on at least one immersion. It may have been a fin or wetsuit, but chances are it was a BCD sliding around, riding up, and generally causing plenty of discomfort. In order to make your diving experience enjoyable again, you need to look into BCDs for women.
Buoyancy control devices (BCDs) are an essential part of any scuba diver’s kit. They not only help divers stay afloat on the surface (which conserves energy), but they also help divers underwater by maintaining proper buoyancy and trim. This is done by increasing or decreasing the amount of air that flows into the BCD’s air bladder, which is attached to your tank via a low-pressure hose.
Women’s BCDs are different in functions and features to their male counterparts, the most obvious being that they fit a different body type. For instance, women’s BCDs will generally have a shorter torso and the strap placements will be located to accommodate the bust.
Rushing out to purchase the first women’s BCD you find will not necessarily result in a good match. You need to first understand what features are available and how they are sized, which we explain in great detail in our buyer’s guide section further below. There are also BCDs designed for beginners as well as technical divers that can drastically affect the price. In this review, we have compiled a list of the best women’s BCDs that provide excellent functionality for their price.
- Best BCDs for Women Reviewed
- Cressi Travelight – Best BCD for Dive Traveling
- Scubapro Hydros Pro – Most Durable Women’s BCD
- Zeagle Zena – Best BCD for Curvy Girls
- Scubapro Ladyhawk – Most Versatile BCD
- Aqua Lung Soul I3 – Best BCD for Petite Women
- Oceanic Hera – Best BCD for Regular Wear
- Aqua Lung Pearl – Best BCD for Beginners
- Tusa Jasmine – Best Budget BCD
- Women’s BCD Buying Guide
- Women’s BCD Features to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Best BCDs for Women: Parting Words
Best BCDs for Women Reviewed
Cressi Travelight – Best BCD for Dive Traveling
In addition to just being a great BCD for women in general, the Cressi Travelight is one of our favorite travel BCDs because of its streamlined design which makes it super easy to pack. The fast folding system lets it roll up and fit into any day bag.
The female-specific version of the Travelight is cut to fit around the contours of the female shape and is comfortably padded with a wraparound fit. You can further adjust the BCD to fit various sizes and heights.
The Travelight comes with a direct system inflator which features an anti-sand design and has a recalibrated speed of inflation. Its simple push-button design means even beginners can quickly get a handle on it.
Next, the Travelight provides deep zippered pockets to fit all of your accessories and ensure that you won’t be losing any of them. It also has 8 ultralight alloy D-rings so you have plenty of room to attach your tools.
The low price of the Travelight should make it an attractive option for casual divers, however that doesn’t mean the quality is low. On the contrary, Cressi is a reputable company that is known for making products that last a long time, even their “budget” options. The Travelight is a great beginner BCD that is also ideal for travel.
- Lift Capacity: 14-36 lbs
- Style: Jacket
- Dry Weight: 5-6 lbs
- Affordable price.
- Can be adjusted to fit a variety of heights and sizes.
- Padded interior provides a comfortable fit.
- Lightweight and folds up nicely.
- Not as sturdy as some other BCDs.
If you are interested in learning more about the best travel BCDs, then check out this review.
Scubapro Hydros Pro – Most Durable Women’s BCD
If you are in the market for a robust BCD, then the Scubapro Hydros Pro travel BCD is one of the top competitors. It stands out from the other BCDs thanks to its innovative, modular design. Almost every component of this back-inflating BCD can be replaced or removed by yourself without going to a service center.
All of the replaceable components makes the Hydros Pro one of the most customizable options available. It is a bit on the pricey side, but as a long-term investment, you can “recoup” the costs by saving money on future repairs.
Furthermore, the Hydros Pro is one of the most durable models on the market because of how it is constructed. Most BCDs are manufactured using a Cut-Trim-Make process, where numerous layers of foam, fabric, and incisions are made, then stitched and taped together to form the device.
Well, with the Hydros Pro, a different process was used. It uses injection molded, resilient thermoplastic elastomer parts which are then assembled together in a mechanical and modular process. What that means is that the Hydros Pro has durability, comfort, and stability that is greater than most BCDs.
The gel conforms to the contours of the female figure for an ergonomic fit with efficient load distribution that is free from pressure points. The Monoprene harness harness absorbs virtually no water, allowing it to dry faster than other designs, and is resistant to fraying and tearing. Additionally, the fabric-free design makes the Hydros Pro resistant to damaging UV rays and chemicals.
Lastly, despite being such a lightweight BCD the Hydros Pro provides ample lift. The option to add a crotch strap makes this BCD one of the most secure options on the market. When you combine durability and comfort plus the various customizable options it has, it’s hard to beat what the Hydros Pro offers.
- Lift Capacity: 36-40 lbs
- Style: Back Inflate
- Dry Weight: 8-9 lbs
- Modular design allows you to remove and replace components for greater customization.
- Innovative manufacturing process using injection molded fluid-form 3D gel parts which provides unparalleled comfort and ease of diving.
Zeagle Zena – Best BCD for Curvy Girls
To start, the Zeagle Zena is a great beginner BCD that is convenient to carry while traveling. It is lightweight and features a back-inflation style system. Weighing only 6.2 pounds, its light weight and ability to be folded makes it super easy to pack on for a trip.
What makes the Zena standout is its twin waist and hip-band system. This design lets women tightly secure the weights below the waist level and keep buoyancy around their body’s centre of buoyancy. This lets wearers experience the best of both worlds: a tighter and more comfortable fit that results in greater maneuverability while diving.
Another great aspect of the Zena is its innovative zip-jacket system. This design has the front and back panels of the BCD connected together with adjustable straps. The straps can be adjusted once the BCD is secured, and once you zip up the front, you will get a comfortable fit.
Additionally, the Zena comes with integrated weights as well as four metal D-rings. The weight system uses a ripcord design on the sides, as well as non-ditchable trim pockets along the tank straps.
As for storage, the Zena provides a removable and expandable mesh pocket at the front. It is big enough to store small items or a dive light, however don’t expect to fit too much in. If you dive light however, it should do the job just fine; you can even completely remove it if you don’t need it.
- Lift Capacity: 31 lbs
- Style: Back Inflate
- Dry Weight: 6 lbs
- Innovative twin waist and hip band system provides better fit and control.
- Lightweight, foldable, and perfect for travel.
- Comfortable and secure front panel with zipper.
- Straps are adjustable to provide a better fit.
- Can’t hold that many items.
- Slightly on the heavy side.
Scubapro Ladyhawk – Most Versatile BCD
The Ladyhawk from Scubapro is a traditional jacket style BCD with 2 pockets, 2 dump valves, adjustable shoulder straps, and 4 stainless steel D-rings. There are lots of places to store items or attach them onto the rings if necessary. The Ladyhawk has actually been around for a few years and each year it gets updated with minor improvements and changes.
For starters, it provides a narrow neck yoke and padded shoulders that is comfortable and sized for the female shape. The Ladyhawk also features a rotating shoulder buckle as well as a quick-release mechanism to adjust the straps for a tight, snug fit.
Depending one which size you order, the Ladyhawk weighs between 7.2-8.1 pounds and has an integrated weight system. The weight pockets are connected to a quick-release system that allows you to unload them in case of an emergency event.
- Lift Capacity: 34 lbs
- Style: Back Inflate
- Dry Weight: 7-8 lbs
- Backpack style harness design.
- Three-dump deflation system.
- Comfortable fit with a streamlined, minimalist design.
- Long inflator hose.
- Somewhat expensive for beginners.
- Only one pocket.
Aqua Lung Soul I3 – Best BCD for Petite Women
The Aqua Lung Soul I3 was designed with petite divers in mind. It features swiveling shoulder straps as well as a short backplate which helps to keep the centre of gravity low. This reduces the likelihood of it sliding around on your back whether at the surface or underwater. The Soul I3 is also a good option for shore diving or long walks where you might occasionally take a dip in the water.
Next, the Soul I3 has a unique one-touch lever located at the hips, and this is used in place of a traditional inflator hose. How it works is you can push the lever up to inflate the air bladder, or push it down to eject all the air from the jacket vents instantly no matter how your body is positioned. It might take some getting used to, and divers who prefer a traditional inflator hose might not agree with it.
Additionally, the Soul I3 provides five stainless steel D-rings (and two additional plastic ones) that give you plenty of places to attach your tools. It also has a rolled neck collar for superior comfort.
For you petite ladies out there who have issues with regular-sized BCDs sliding around constantly, give the Aqua Lung Soul I3 a chance. Its short backplate, swiveling shoulder straps, and overall ergonomic design will be sure to win you over.
- Lift Capacity: 22-42 lbs
- Style: Jacket
- Dry Weight: 6-8 lbs
- Designed specifically for petite women.
- Plenty of places to attach accessories makes this a great choice for photographers.
- Unique one-touch lever inflator system to inflate and deflate the BCD.
- No traditional hose may be a dealbreaker for some divers.
- Not for taller divers.
Oceanic Hera – Best BCD for Regular Wear
The Hera is a streamlined, compact hybrid-style BCD that is comfortable, functional, and highly robust. It is a BCD you can rely on if you spend multiples days a month in rough or cold waters. The Oceanic Hera provides a well-cushioned, supportive fit that makes it a joy to use regularly. It also features two large zippered pockets and four stainless steel D-rings so you have plenty of storage space for your diving accessories.
Next, the Hera also features Oceanic’s patented custom fit harness which allows you to adjust the cummerbund and shoulder strap length to fit snugly to a petite woman’s torso.
Additionally, the weight pockets used in the integrated weight system feature Velcro closures and mechanical latches. Both can be quickly unlatched in the event you need to ditch the weight; otherwise, they are secured tightly to the BCD.
With a near bulletproof design, it’s not surprising that the Oceanic Hera is a top pick for divers that brave cold and rough waters thanks to its high lift capacity and sturdy construction. Unfortunately, this extra durability comes at the cost of extra bulk however it is not something that should bother you. Lastly, it is a very stylish jacket option if fashion is a concern.
- Lift Capacity: 19-40 lbs
- Style: Jacket
- Dry Weight: 8-9 lbs
- Custom fit harness provides lots of customization options for a perfect fit.
- Large pockets lets you bring all of your dive accessories with you.
- Highy lift capacity.
- Very sturdy; can take a beating.
- Slightly bulkier owing to its durable construction.
Aqua Lung Pearl – Best BCD for Beginners
If you are… amply endowed, then the Pearl might be a good fit for you. This BCD includes an integrated sports bra which provides additional stability and comfort for your chest. The Pearl also combines a back-inflation wing with a wraparound style jacket as part of its hybrid style.
This hybrid-style design results in a BCD that is slimmer, with low-profile edges that rises above the hips. In other words, you can get greater buoyancy control and stability throughout the dive. It has such a streamlined design that even the valves are designed to be flat. The straps can be easily adjusted and there are many sizes to choose from to help you get the best fit.
Next, this BCD model comes equipped with Aqua Lung’s Powerline Inflator which boasts an increased fill weight, making it one of the highest air flows on the market. The air bladder is even environmentally sealed so maintaining it is even easier. Sports integrated hose clips can be attached to the LP hose to provide a slimmer profile.
Furthermore, the Pearl offers Aqua Lung’s SureLock II integrated weight pockets which have a single pull release should you need to dump the weight instantly. The Pearl also has a flexible backplate for easy storage, and two zippered pockets, mounting grommets, as well as four plastic D-rings to connect all of your diving accessories.
- Lift Capacity: 23-44 lbs
- Style: Jacket
- Dry Weight: 8 lbs
- Includes a sports bra which provides extra stability and comfort around the chest area.
- Plenty of padding and adjustable height straps.
- SureLock II integrated weight pockets.
- Generous amount of lift makes it ideal for cool-water diving.
- Inflator hose is surprisingly buoyant.
- Not able to adjust tank valve strap.
- No color options.
Tusa Jasmine – Best Budget BCD
Beginners on a tight budget should look no further than the Tusa Jasmine. Don’t get us wrong, this thing might be cheaper than others, but it has all of the features you need in a BCD. It has a solid backplate with ample padding to provide support whether you’re on land or underwater. It also has five D-rings for you to connect any diving accessories to.
Furthermore, the wraparound jacket gives a good amount of lift and more pockets than comparable models, so it is a solid choice for diving in cooler climates. The adjustable chest and waist straps means the Jasmine will provide a snug fit for nearly all shapes and sizes.
Though the Jasmine is not marketed as a travel BCD, it is still lightweight and compact enough that you can realistically take it with you on your dive travel adventures without much hassle. With what it offers at its affordable price tag, beginners who are in the market for their first BCD should consider the Tusa Jasmine.
- Lift Capacity: 19-32 lbs
- Style: Jacket
- Dry Weight: 6 lbs
- Affordable, but has all of the features a beginner needs.
- Relatively lightweight despite its bulky size.
- Height adjustable chest and waist straps will fit nearly all shapes and sizes.
- Slightly bulky.
Women’s BCD Buying Guide
There are four types of BCDs: back inflate, jacket, hybrid, and backplate and wing BCDs.
Jacket style BCDs are the most prevalent types that you will see on the market or in rental stores. Most divers are taught to use this jacket style BCDs during their training and they just stuck with it. Jacket BCDs are easy to put on and take off because they are familiar to wear like a jacket. On top of that, they are designed to keep your head and shoulders above water like a life jacket, and most people prefer their stability and comfort.
Back inflate BCDs aren’t nearly as popular but that doesn’t mean they are a bad option. As the name suggests, the bladder is aligned along the diver’s back to encourage a horizontal position in the water. This also means that vertical positioning is difficult at the surface due to its air bladder location.
Furthermore, they are a good choice for travel since they are compact and easy to pack. Their streamlined design is the reason why experienced divers prefer the extra mobility back flotation BCDs provide over the jacket style BCDs. You can read more about back inflate BCDs here. If you are interested in how a back-inflate BCD compares to a jacket-style BCD, then read this.
Hybrid BCDs combine both the jacket and back-inflation styles to give you the best features from both styles. By designing the wraparound air bladder to be thinner, it is easy to maintain an upright position at the surface using a hybrid BCD.
Backplate and wing BCDs are ideal for experienced divers who plan on doing more advanced diving. They are modular and have numerous customizable options so that you can add new components to cater to your diving needs. Divers who tend to explore shipwrecks, caves, and any other advanced diving would be better served with this style of BCD. You can learn more about them by reading this guide.
You wouldn’t wear a poorly fitted wetsuit or scuba fin, and you certainly don’t want an ill-fitting BCD. Women’s BCDs specifically cater to a woman’s shape by providing higher waist and chest straps, shorter backplates, extra padding, and inward angled shoulder harnesses.
With that said, buying a BCD designed for women doesn’t mean it will fit you perfectly. There are many sizes available from extra small to extra large, and the exact measurements may differ slightly between manufacturers. If the product has a size chart, you definitely need to check it out. Ideally, you should try on the BCD you are interested in before purchasing.
How do you know if you have a good fit? Ideally, the BCD should have a snug fit without feeling constricting. Even when it is empty, it should not be so loose that it slides around your waist and shoulders. A good fit can be more easily achieved if there is lots of room for adjustment in your buckles and straps. Also consider the extra padding that your wet or drysuit will add.
Lift refers to how buoyant your BCD is, specifically how much positive buoyancy it can provide when the bladder is at full air capacity. The lift capacity must be able to compensate for all of the weight – you, your kit, and any extra weight, at depth. If you plan on diving in cold climates or with lots of lead, you’ll need a heavy duty BCD to keep you safe.
A BCD that can’t support enough weight won’t be able to keep your head and shoulders above water at the surface even under ideal conditions. A BCD with insufficient lift can cause issues during a dive when you reach past the depth where you start to freefall, particularly if you are diving with lots of extra weight. If you aren’t sure how much lift you need, then overestimate.
A standard BCD should provide enough lift for single cylinder dives. If you are carrying multiple cylinders, then you need additional lift. A general rule of thumb for how much lift you need is as follows:
- Thin exposure suit or swimwear while tropical diving: 8-12kgs of lift recommended.
- Full wet or dry suit while recreational diving: 10-20kgs of lift recommended.
- Fully geared for technical diving or other advanced diving: 20-40+kgs of lift recommended.
Not to be confused with the BCD’s lift capacity, how much your BCD weighs can make the difference between a smooth travelling experience and a cumbersome one. It is possible that the BCD is the heaviest scuba equipment in your bag. Frequent travellers should look for models that are lightweight and can be folded up easily to avoid paying excess baggage fees.
Additionally, how heavy the BCD is will affect how much weight you need while diving. If you typically dive with minimal gear to begin with, suddenly wearing a heavy buoyancy compensator can cause you to feel overburdened. It will also decrease the amount of lead that you need to use in the water. If you want to travel comfortably, then look for a model with a simple design or is rated for dive travel.
Where you plan on diving is another major concern when selecting a BCD. If you will be in extreme conditions such as rough, freezing water then you’ll want a BCD with lots of lift. On the other hand, in warmer conditions you do not need as much lift since you will be bringing less gear and this is also convenient for travel. In other words, choose a BCD that can handle the most extreme circumstance that you may encounter on a dive; better to be over-prepared than not.
Women’s BCD Features to Consider
When shopping for a BCD, few features are as important as a BCD’s weight integration. Instead of using an uncomfortable weight belt, a weight integration system lets you place weights into pockets in more comfortable, varied locations on the BCD. This gives you a greater level of customization so that you can fine-tune your buoyancy.
Most BCDs should offer a quick-release mechanism so that you can unload your weights instantly in emergency situations. There may be an adjustment period when using a weight integrated system, so it is recommended that you do a few practice runs by releasing the weights in a pool before your first real dive.
D-rings, Loops, Pockets
Planning on diving with lots of tools and accessories? Then you need to consider the amount of D-rings, pockets, and loops a BCD has. These will be used to connect to or stash surface marker buoys, knives, dive torches, as well as extras like a backup mask or whistle.
Even if you are just a new diver and aren’t carrying many tools yet, you can futureproof your purchase by looking for a BCD with at least two D-rings so you have the option to expand your dive kit as you gain experience. Plastic D-rings are lighter, but metal D-rings are more durable.
Additionally, expandable pockets are quite useful because they can store plenty of accessories and be rolled-up and hidden away otherwise. BCDs with mounting grommets are handy if you are diving with knives or other sharp tools that you don’t want slashing up the inside of your pockets.
Many BCDs feature a hard plastic backplate with a convenient handle so you can easily carry your buoyancy compensator by hand. However, some women prefer a flexible backplate for easier packing when traveling. Should the plastic backplates dig into your back and sides, then find a BCD with extra padding.
A feature that is becoming quite the craze lately is BCDs with adjustable chest and waist straps to accommodate a shorter torso. This feature is particularly helpful for petite women who constantly have to deal with gear riding up on the surface. By adjusting the straps so that it has a different center of gravity, this issue is prevented and it also helps with carrying gear across land.
Some BCDs have a modular design that allows you to add or remove individual components to create a truly custom fit. The most common components you can replace are back-inflating systems with interchangeable panels and straps. At additional benefit of a modular design is how long they can last since faulty components can be easily replaced or repaired.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the differences between BCDs for women and men?
There are many differences between men and women’s physiques. Whether one is short or tall, rotund or slender, endowed with a large bust or not, the difference in curves means finding the right BCD can be a colossal pain.
Why? To start, a woman’s hips are different, so a narrower weight belt designed for men or for both genders will dig in. Furthermore, the location of the weights can make it difficult to reach them during an emergency. Next, women have narrower shoulders and the chest strap can cause discomfort when the breasts get in the way. Lastly, men’s BCDs have a longer back which means the tank/cylinder hangs lower and causes discomfort for women when it keeps smacking against their back.
Knowing that, at least you can shorten the search by avoiding men’s BCDs because they just won’t fit, period. Men generally have a larger frame and it doesn’t help that even unisex BCDs are catered towards men’s body shape, height, and weight distribution.
When looking for a women’s BCD, one should look for ones with extra chest and hip space, narrower shoulders, as well as back plates with heavier padding. These factors are what make a BCD comfortably mold around the female frame. Additionally, BCDs for women should have strap and buckle placements in places where it can be secured tightly over a woman’s waist and shoulders.
How do I take care of my women’s BCD?
After a dive, thoroughly rinse the exterior and interior of the BCD to prevent salt residue or debris from accumulating. The air bladder needs to get rinsed as well; this can be done by connecting a garden hose to the low-pressure oral inflator and flushing it with freshwater.
Make sure to get all of the nooks and crannies and to check if the buttons are functioning properly. Once you are done rinsing, leave it out to fully air dry before storing it. If you fail to remove the salt and ocean debris, it can harden into crystals over time and puncture the bladder.
How well do unisex BCDs fit?
Since there are so many different body shapes, it can be hard to generalize whether unisex BCDs fit well or not. Some women find a unisex BCD to be comfortable enough for their needs, others feel that they are catered towards men’s physiques. Some BCDs could have special features that aren’t available in other BCDs. In the end, it all comes down to one’s personal preference and body shape.
What are the differences between a BCD and a personal flotation device?
Other than the fact that both BCDs and PFDs help divers stay buoyant along the surface and conserve energy, they are drastically different. The benefit of a BCD is the amount of buoyancy control it provides divers so that they can float or sink on command.
A life-saving personal flotation device such as a life jacket is designed to always keep one’s body vertically upright so that one’s head and shoulders are always above water even if one is unconscious. It is intended to prevent drowning, so obviously diving is not possible with a life jacket.
The PFD that is most similar to a BCD is a snorkel vest. Snorkel vests also have an inflatable air bladder that can be filled with air to provide buoyancy and conserve energy by the surface, and deflated if one wishes to dive down. However, unless an additional source of oxygen is available, once a snorkel vest is deflated it cannot be inflated underwater unlike a BCD.
BCDs and PFDs are similar in some respects, however they are designed for different purposes. If you are interested in learning more about the different types of personal flotation devices and the benefits they provide, then we recommend reading this article.
Should I rent or buy my own BCD?
Whether it’s more worth it to rent or purchase your own BCD depends on how you plan on using it. Here are some factors to consider.
Cost: If you dive regularly, then it makes the most sense to own your own BCD. The rental costs would quickly surpass the cost of a BCD and you may not even get a BCD that you are comfortable with. However, if you only dive on holidays then renting makes the most sense in terms of cost and convenience while traveling.
Comfort: Are you fine with using a different BCD each time you dive? Dive shops may have a limited supply and there is a possibility you may get an ill-fitting, uncomfortable one. The plus side is you can try out a variety of BCDs before you purchase your own.
Reliability: When you own your own equipment, it’s up to you to maintain them so that they function as you expect each time. You will have to occasionally get them serviced. When you rent dive gear, the dive shop will shoulder this responsibility and cost instead.
Peace of mind: With your own gear, you know that it’s been well taken care of, it’s sanitary, and that you will get a perfect fit each time. You also know your own equipment inside out and can handle it well even in an emergency. The peace of mind that this affords you may be worth the cost of buying your own BCD.
Best BCDs for Women: Parting Words
It can be difficult to get dive equipment that fits just right, however when it comes to an important piece of kit like a BCD, no compromises should be made. BCDs are not one-size-fits-all, and that is true for both men and women’s BCDs. We do not recommend purchasing unisex BCDs because their design generally favors men’s body shapes instead of women’s.
Finding a BCD that is comfortable and also has all of the features you want might seem like an impossible task. We feel that the list of BCDs we have reviewed above has a solid mix of great features at a good price point. It might seem ironic for an online review to recommend this, but if it is convenient for you to, then go to a local dive shop and try on a few BCDs yourself.
Once you have a better grasp of how the various types of BCDs fit you, then you may be able to confidently order BCDs online in the future. Always check the sizing chart for each BCD model because there may be subtle sizing differences between brands. The best thing to do is to take your own measurements and see where they fall within size ranges.
Lastly, do not be content with a BCD until it perfectly fits your body! We wish you the best of luck on your search.