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The Best Scuba BCDs of 2021 Reviewed

ScubaLab tests 10 new jacket and back-inflation BCs
By Robby Myers | Authored On May 14, 2019
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The Best Scuba BCDs of 2021 Reviewed

A BCD—also called a BC or buoyancy compensator—is the core of your scuba gear setup. Divers are very particular about their preferred BCD style, as one slight tweak can throw everything out of whack underwater. ScubaLab's test divers kept this in mind while evaluating 10 new BCDs for their 2021 review. This review, which focused on jacket-style and back-inflation BCDs, was conducted with real-world testing, resulting in the best head-to-head scuba gear review out there. Check out our review for the best scuba BCDs of 2021 below, and visit our gear page for more on the latest ScubaLab reviews.

| Jump to Results |

 

2021 Scuba BCs Reviewed:

Jacket BCs

  • Scubapro Hydros X
  • Edge Element Sport
  • Seac Smart
  • XS Scuba Seablazer

Back-Inflation BCs

  • Cressi Patrol
  • Dive Rite Transpac
  • Hog Total Buoyancy Control System
  • Hog Travel Pro
  • Sherwood Crux
  • IST Sports J-1900/E Delta

How We Score

The bar graphs with each review show the BC’s combined test diver scores for comfort and fit, and for attitude and stability.

The scoring is:
1=poor
2=fair
3=good
4=very good
5=excellent

How We Test

Ergo Test

Testing was conducted in fresh water at Blue Grotto Dive Resort in Williston, Florida. Divers recorded their observations about each BC’s performance and assigned scores from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor) in each of the following categories:

Setup Ease and security of tank and hose ­attachments
Loading Weights Ease of loading and security of integrated-weight system
Comfort ­Overall comfort, both in and out of the water
Adjustability Ease of adjusting and range of adjustment
Attitude and Stability In swim and ­vertical (head-up and head-down) ­positions; overall sense control of attitude and trim
Streamlining Is drag noticeable at depth?
Stowage ­Usefulness and ­accessibility of cargo pockets, D-rings, loops, etc., for securing accessories
Valve Operation Ability to control when inflating/deflating by power inflator and manually; ergonomics of the controls
Ascent Control Ability to maintain desired ascent rate and attitude
Surface Floating Position Comfort and stability while inflated at the surface
Ditching Weight System Ability to drop weights quickly; security from accidental ditching

 

Objective Test

We conducted three tests in a swimming pool to measure important performance and safety criteria.

Flow Rate Test
We tested the ability of exhaust systems to prevent uncontrolled ascent in the event of a stuck power inflator. At 10 feet of depth, each BC, loaded with 20 percent of the claimed buoyant lift, was held upright while the power inflator and an upper exhaust were simultaneously active for 20 seconds. Industry standards require that at the conclusion a BC has not become positively buoyant.

Buoyant Lift BCs were fully inflated while mounted upright to a neutrally buoyant plastic bucket, which was then progressively weighted until the BC would not support another pound without sinking.  

Inherent Buoyancy To determine how a BC’s built-in buoyancy would affect ­weighting requirements, BCs were submerged, with all air removed, and weights added in half-pound increments until the BC became negatively buoyant.

 

Jacket BCs

 

Scubapro Hydros X

Scubapro Hydros X BCD

MSRP $999 (with BPI inflator) | CONTACT scubapro.com

Jon Whittle

This jacket is outfitted with an injection-molded Monprene harness similar to the original Hydros Pro. Grippy and supportive yet supple, it earned a very good score for comfort. The BC features swiveling shoulder buckles and an adjustable sternum strap to further fine-tune the fit, and is available in gender-specific sizing. The wraparound air cell provides up to 51 pounds of buoyant lift in size medium but maintains a compact profile, earning a very good score for streamlining. Pinch-to-release weight pockets are very secure, but some testers noted they can catch on the Monprene sleeve during insertion. The smooth, ergonomic power inflator and well-placed pull dump releases took top marks for valve operation and ascent control. The BC scored very good for stowage thanks to two humongous pockets whose long-zippered openings provide convenient access. D-rings are heavy duty, but sparse. Users can upgrade the system with optional pockets, D-rings and mounting points. Capable, comfortable, and a favorite of test divers, the Hydros X is our Testers Choice for jacket BCs.

 

Edge Element Sport

Edge Element Sport BCD

MSRP $299.95 | CONTACT edge-gear.com

Jon Whittle

Though it appears unassuming, this BC offers a great deal to the beginner or budget-conscious diver, and earned good and very good scores across the board. The system has a 39-pound lift capacity in size medium and only 1 pound of inherent buoyancy. Testers scored it very good for attitude control, noting a slight vertical inclination. It took top score for surface floating position. With two roomy cargo pockets, five well-placed stainless D-rings and a pair of octo/gauge pockets, the Element Sport tied top score for stowage. Integrated weight pockets use simple pinch-to-release buckles and slide in and out easily. “Easy to load and very secure,” one tester noted. Lightweight padding on the backpack provides comfort without adding too much weight or buoyancy. The eager inflator is “all-or-nothing,” one test diver noted, but three pull dumps help moderate buoyancy. Featuring great all-around performance, the Element Sport was picked by several divers as a favorite.

 

Seac Smart

Seac Smart BCD

MSRP $389 | CONTACT seacsub.com

Jon Whittle

The Smart took the top score for attitude and stability in its category, inspiring test-diver comments such as “really good attitude control in all positions” and “rock-solid stability in vertical orientation.” The harness is very comfortable and supportive, with a two-position adjustable sternum strap and lightweight cushioning along the back pad and shoulder straps. “Feels like a nice hug,” noted one tester. It sports several stainless D-rings that are well-placed and easy to access. Cargo pockets are large, but the big plastic zipper teeth can make the opening feel a bit narrow. Velcro closures at the top and bottom of integrated weight pockets make loading and ditching a breeze. Testers debated about the practicality of the additional pinch-to-release buckle, but none doubted its security. With solid performance in all categories, this BC offers great comfort, control and convenience at a below-average price. The Smart is our Best Buy for jacket BCs.

 

XS Scuba Seablazer

XS Scuba Seablazer BCD

MSRP $439.95 | CONTACT xsscuba.com

Jon Whittle

Test divers rated the SeaBlazer’s wraparound air cell very good for attitude and stability in the water and at the surface. “Rock solid in all attitudes,” is how one tester described it. The modestly sized bladder was rated good for streamlining and offers up to 34 pounds of buoyant lift in size medium. The design of the integrated weight system puts the locking mechanism out where divers can see it, making it easy to line up the pocket and visually confirm when lead is secured. Testers did note that it can be difficult to quickly wrap your fingers around the release handle if the pocket shifts forward. Setup is swift and easy thanks to a quick-release tank band. Two large cargo pockets sit farther down and back than is typical, but their long opening and oversize zipper pulls make them very easy to access. Scoring very good for comfort, the light back pad features ergonomic mesh padding at the center and lower back.

 

Back-Inflation BCs

 

Cressi Patrol

Cressi Patrol BCD

MSRP $349.95 | CONTACT cressi.com

Jon Whittle

Compact and streamlined, the Patrol is a travel-friendly solution that sacrifices little convenience or performance. Though the rear-inflation air cell provides an impressive 46 pounds of buoyant lift in size medium, an elastic bungee keeps the system stable and streamlined, with very little drag. Test divers scored it very good for attitude and stability. “Like being cradled in the hand of God,” one tester described it. Scoring very good for comfort, the harness is plushy and padded throughout. Integrated weights scored very good for security and ease of ditching, but just good for loading, as the pockets can be a tight fit when filled with more than a few pounds. The power inflator was a little sluggish when exhausting, but three pull dumps are easy to reach and quick to vent excess air. Six D-rings and a spacious drop-down pocket provide room for all of the essentials. A favorite among test divers and modestly priced, the Patrol was our Best Buy for back-inflation BCs.

 

Dive Rite Transpac

Dive Rite Trans Pac BCD

MSRP $779 | CONTACT diverite.com

Jon Whittle

Durable, high-quality construction abounds on the Trans-Pac, garnering praise from test divers such as “well-built” and “quality.” The harness features a semi-rigid back plate covered by a thick, plushy pad that divers rated very good for comfort. Negatively buoyant, the system has a 46-pound air cell bound by bungees to maintain trim and control. Testers rated it very good for attitude and stability. “Uber stable and secure,” one tester commented. Integrated weight pockets sit close to the back, increasing stability in a head-up orientation. Testers found the two-compartment weight pockets, which open from both ends, overly complicated. Ditching requires divers pull the pocket upward. While secure from accidental displacement, it can make ditching difficult, even with D-rings placed below the release for leverage. The beefy power inflator is responsive, but slow to exhaust. Ample stainless-steel D-rings provide several attachment points for gear.

 

Hog Total Buoyancy Control System

Hog Total Buoyancy Control System BC

MSRP $449.95 (as tested with aluminum back plate) | CONTACT edge-gear.com

Jon Whittle

Incredibly customizable, this system gives divers a plethora of options to configure their BC, including choice of stainless steel, aluminum or a flexible soft back plate (we tried all three). Divers can also choose between different bladder sizes, weight pockets and harness configurations. The system took the top score for adjustability, allowing users to really dial in the perfect fit. That, combined with the padded shoulder straps and optional cushioned back pad translated to a very good score for comfort. “Comfortable, like it was made for me,” is how one tester described it. The system was rated very good for attitude and stability, especially in swim position. Despite testers’ misgivings about the jumbo-size inflator hose, the system also took top scores for ascent control and valve operation. Several large metal D-rings provide multiple points for accessories. It was our Testers Choice for back-inflation BCs.

 

Hog Travel Pro

Hog Travel Pro BC

MSRP $399.95 | CONTACT edge-gear.com

Jon Whittle

Weighing just over 5 pounds in size medium with a compact air cell and a soft cushioned back pad for easy packing, this BC lives up to its name. Two tank bands (each with a convenient half stop on the buckle) and an adjustable leash hold the cylinder firmly against the back. Testers scored the BC very good for comfort as well as attitude and stability. “I could wear this all day,” one tester commented. “Really comfortable and steady,” noted another. Weight pockets are straightforward, secured by a hook-and-loop flap, requiring only a stiff tug to ditch. Sporting only four D-rings and a set of soft web loops, testers scored it just fair for stowage. The Travel Pro took the top score in its category for surface floating position and was a favorite of multiple test divers.

 

Sherwood Crux

Sherwood Crux BC

MSRP $690 | CONTACT sherwoodscuba.com

Jon Whittle

Made of independently sized components, this modular BC offers a wide range of adjustment, and allows divers to fine-tune the fit for different exposure gear. No tools are needed for customization. Divers can also tweak the number of tank bands and trim pockets, add accessories (two different-size pockets and a knife mounting plate are included) and swap air cells. Mesh padding and a neoprene-wrapped collar helped the system score good for comfort. Weight pockets load and ditch easily, but some testers felt its pulls and the lower exhaust valve were a bit too close to each other. The 3D bladder—available in 40-and 50-pound sizes—was rated very good for attitude and stability. In the words of one test diver: “Comfortable and secure underwater.”

 

IST Sports J-1900/E Delta

IST Sports J-1900/E Delta BC

MSRP $600 | CONTACT istsports.com

Jon Whittle

This update to IST Sports’ Delta now includes D-rings on the shoulders and under the waist, adding some much-needed stowage to the system. More of a hybrid than a true back-inflation BC, the Delta’s 35-pound air cell has a triangular profile that sightly wraps around the hips for additional stability when vertical in the water and at the surface. “Stable in all positions,” one tester noted. One-size-fits-all, the system is highly adjustable, but it takes time to get the right fit. Outfitted with a padded, interchangeable back pad, it was rated good for comfort. Integrated weight pockets tied top score for ease of loading and are secured from accidental ditching with buckles and fasteners. A responsive inflator and three exhaust valves make for very good ascent control.

 

Weight For It

Integrated weight systems are surprisingly varied in their design, and each style has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Seac Smart Integrated Weight Pocket

Seac Smart integrated weight pocket.

Jon Whittle

For example, Cressi’s Flat-Lock-Aid system requires a simple tug to ditch smoothly, but if a diver unknowingly snags the release handle, they could lose their weight underwater. The weight pocket on the Seac Smart, however, is secured by a release buckle in addition to a Velcro flap. This two-step process prevents accidentally ditching, but could impede weight removal in an emergency. No matter what kind of weight system you use, you should be sure that you and your dive buddy are familiar with its location and operation in the event of an emergency.

 

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