Best BCDs for UK Diving

Best BCDs for UK Diving

Below is a list of considerations when purchasing a BCD specifically for diving in the UK. This is followed with information about 6 BCDs suitable for safe diving in either cold water quarries, coastal marine reserves or UK wreck sites. You don’t need to worry about luggage allowance when you throw it into the back of your car so think practical, think robust and think of how your BCD will cope in unforgiving environments like gravel car parks and pebbly beaches! 


Generous Lift

    When diving in the UK you will need a thick exposure suit to stay warm. That will mean more lead is needed to offset the buoyancy of that suit. In short, your BCD needs to have enough lift to compensate for all that lead. Lift capacity is a measurement of how much weight the BCD can handle when the bladder is fully inflated at the surface. A typical travel BCD usually has less than 25lb (11kg) of lift. That will not be nearly enough when diving in a drysuit with more than 10kg and a steel cylinder.

    Weight Integrated pockets

      Wearing all that additional weight on a belt in the UK is impractical and uncomfortable. Many divers combine a belt with integrated weight pockets in a BCD. They may even ditch the belt completely (excuse the pun) and use only integrated weight and trim pockets. Weight pockets in a BCD can be removed prior to exiting the water, making a climb up the shore or ladder much easier. They also offer peace of mind as they cannot come undone and often lock into place with a reassuring click. Trim pockets help the diver achieve better position in the water too by distributing some of the weight around or near the cylinder. 


        Cold water diving does require more accessories than diving in tropical water. You will need a torch or 2, Surface Marker Buoy and reel, a slate or wetnotes, spare mask and a knife or line cutter. No one wants to look like an unsightly Christmas tree with a ton of dangly accessories, so it is helpful to have a combination of sturdy D-rings and pocket storage on your BCD in order to keep accessories streamlined.


        Our Recommended BCDs


        Scubapro Hydros Pro

        This BCD has a modular harness that is strong and light. It is suitable for UK diving because it has a near-zero inherent buoyancy which requires less lead. One of the customisable strap options includes integrated weights and plenty of attachment points for knives, torches and SMBs. You can add weight systems, bungees, D-rings, pockets and accessories as you see fit. See our Package Builder to help create the perfect UK diving unit for you.

        The Hydros Pro is made of Monprene which is a tough and durable material that doesn't absorb water. That means the BCD dries instantly after use, perfect for packing up into the boot of your car following a dive! Injection-molded Monprene gel is UV and chemical-resistant and provides protection against abrasion (such as rocks and rust). There are also no zips or Velcro which are often failure points on a BCD.

        The Hydros Pro is a back inflate wing-style BCD which naturally places you in the optimum swimming position at depth with the air cell behind you. There is no front-body bulkiness, leaving an uncluttered chest area. Drag is radically reduced, creating a feeling of total diving freedom. Compared to other BCD designs, this can feel like you’re diving with no equipment at all! The Hydros Pro BCD has also been specifically tailored for women.


        • BCD type – Back inflated
        • Lift Capacity – 36lb/16.3kg


        Aqua Lung Omni

        This jacket style BCD comes off the peg in small, medium and large sizes or can be customised for the less conventional body shape. Unique ModLock™ connectors allow for quick and easy changing of components so you can set back, shoulder, and waist sizes individually. It can be dismantled after your dive for packing and thorough cleaning with just a pen, key or even a teaspoon!

        Aqua Lung’s design team created a system where you can choose from six colour kits. This helps to be more visible in murky water. For UK diving we also ike the secure GripLock tank band system (popular on some of Aqua Lung’s other BCD models); 5 sturdy stainless steel D-rings; and Surelock II weights system. The Omni has a new 3-position bladder retraction system which pulls in the sides of the bladder during deflation. This keeps the unit streamlined and reduces drag. It also features swivel quick-release shoulder buckles giving greater freedom of movement.

        You can choose the lift capacity of your air cell (small, medium or large) while retaining the size needed with the backplate. Please call us to discuss any special sizing requirements.


        • BCD type – Front adjustable
        • Lift Capacity –31lb/14kg (S), 36lb/16.3kg (M), 47lb/21.32kg (L)


        Mares Dragon SLS BCD

        This BCD was designed to give effective trim underwater with its hybrid “Fusion” bladder. It is a high-end jacket with ample padding, mainly on the shoulder straps and over the high backplate which protects the spine. It is made from durable Cordura – perfect for repeated use in some of the UK’s harsher environments.

        When fully inflated at the surface, the Dragon aircell slides on the shoulders. This keeps you in a heads-up position. Swivel adjustable buckles allow for a snug fit as does the depth compensating cummerbund. This BCD features the reliable Mares SLS (Slide and Lock weight system) and rear trim pockets as well as a pair of zipped cargo pockets with stretch panels to avoid tearing.

        The Mares Dragon SLS monoplate backpack also fits double tanks.


        • BCD type – Front adjustable hybrid
        • Lift Capacity – 45/20.4kg (L)


        Mares Kaila SLS Women’s BCD

        This jacket has found the correct balance for being stylish, packed with features and ideal for UK waters. Like the Mares Dragon, the Kaila is a hybrid BCD made from Cordura with the benefit of both a backmount and traditional front-adjustable BCD. 

        Because women have shorter backs than men, the weight being carried from a BCD, cylinder and weight system can lead to muscular discomfort and back ache. The Kaila has been designed specifically to avoid this with its padded harness and shorter backplate. It supports the cylinder correctly, helping to prevent it from slapping into your lower spine.

        The Kaila has curved shoulder straps with swivel quick-release buckles for a more comfortable and secure fit and like the Dragon its monoplate backpack can fit double tanks for longer or deeper adventures!

        The BCD features the reliable Mares SLS (Slide and Lock weight system), rear trim pockets, 2 large cargo pockets and knife mount grommits. 


        • BCD type – Front adjustable hybrid
        • Lift Capacity –40.46lb/18.35 kg (M)


        Atomic BC2 BCD

        This is the toughest back inflation BC in the world and the Aston Martin of buoyancy compensators! It is easy to justify the hefty price tag because you won’t need to buy another BCD ever again. This is because of the indestructible double-laminated polyurethane-coated fabric and corrosion-resistant metals it is comprised of. It resists abrasion, chemicals, mold, rot and mildew, tears and punctures, is self-cleaning, UV and stain resistant. It also dries instantly and is neutrally buoyant in salt water with no weight added.

        The BC2 also has:

        • a comfortable quilted backpad and adjustable lumbar pad
        • a ratcheting CAM-LOK tank band which works like ski and snowboard bindings which won’t slip or stretch
        • Anti-floating 316 stainless steel pull dumps and knobs
        • Cleverly placed 316 Stainless Steel D-rings with Titanium PVD coating for corrosion-resistance
        • Sand-resistant pocket zippers
        • Patented EZ-LOK weight release system (4.5-6kg each depending on BCD size) which can be operated one-handed
        • Low-profile trim weight pockets (2.26kg each)

        You can choose to purchase the BC2 with or without an inflator. Your choices with are the Atomic Stainless Steel Ai Power Inflator or the SS1 Safe Second/Inflator which is a streamlined alternative to a dedicated octopus second stage.


        • BCD type – Back inflated
        • Lift Capacity –30lb/13.6kg (S), 34lb/15.4kg (M), 45lb/20.4kg (L), 47lb/21.3kg (XL)


        Aqua Lung Pro HD BCD

        This is an entry-level weight integrated BCD. It is affordable but feature-rich and will last for years thanks to the ResisteK material which resists fading. For divers new to UK waters it has some nice features:

        • large pull bobs on the dump valves which are easy to locate by touch in murky water
        • a corrugated BCD inflator hose which is designed to stop air from getting trapped inside
        • Large inflate/deflate buttons that are easy to operate even when wearing thick gloves
        • 2-way pocket zipper, which makes finding and storing your accessories a doddle in low visibility

        As standard the Pro has Aqua Lung’s reliable low profile flat exhaust valves, a knife grommet attachment point, chest strap, large utility pockets, places to keep your instruments streamlined, trim pockets and the patented Surelock II Mechanical Weight Release System.


        • BCD type – Front adjustable
        • Lift Capacity –24-55lb/10.8-25kg (depending on size)


        Aqua Lung Pearl

        The Pearl is the flagship ladies buoyancy jacket from Aqua Lung. It has been cleverly designed with an optimised harness and shorter torso length. This gives greater comfort and balance in the water. The padded rigid backplate itself is shorter, providing stability for your cylinder and helps to transfer the weight comfortably to the hips. The bladder extends down further however to act as a cushion between the cylinder and your back.

        This BCD has some other ladies-specific features which work well with thick wetsuits or drysuit diving:

        • A slightly higher cummerbund to ensure it doesn’t sit directly over your weight belt (should you choose to wear one)
        • The chest strap is higher up to avoid compressing your bust (it can be removed completely should you choose not to use it)
        • Padded, curved shoulder straps sit higher on the body for greater comfort
        • A higher cut at the bottom of the jacket means it sits above the hips comfortably
        • Lower profile lobes under the diver’s arms allow for greater freedom of movement
        • Hybrid style bladder provides excellent head-up buoyancy when on the surface, while the back inflation air cell gives balance and trim underwater

        As standard it has Aqua Lung’s reliable low profile flat exhaust valves, a knife grommet attachment point, large utility pockets with 2-way zipper, trim pockets and patented Surelock II Mechanical Weight Release System.


        • BCD type – Front adjustable hybrid
        • Lift Capacity –23-44lb/10.4-20kg (depending on size)