How to find the best scuba diving vest

After getting your diving certification, you are probably thinking of buying your own equipment. It’s a substantial investment, so getting the correct gear is essential. A quality scuba diving vest, also known as a buoyancy compensation device, is crucial. Some divers also refer to them as a hydrostatic vest or a stab (stabilizing) jacket. Here are a few tips to help you find the right scuba diving vest for you.

Scuba diving vests vs. wet suit vests

A scuba diving vest isn’t actually a vest at all. Instead, it looks and functions more like a jacket or tactical harness, and it is the main component for neutral buoyancy underwater and keeping your oxygen supply firmly on your back.

Most people incorrectly refer to a wet suit vest as a scuba diving vest, but they’re different things. A wet suit vest is often a sleeveless garment made from neoprene that you would wear for any water activities to maintain your body temperature. It is similar to a rash vest that surfers wear to protect themselves from surfboard wax. Make sure you’re getting the right kind of vest before making a purchase. 

Types of scuba diving vests

It can be easy to assume that all diving vests are the same, but typically, there are three types of vests that divers use:

  • Jacket BCDs are the most common, especially when renting equipment. It has a single air bladder that sits snugly around your back and sides. 
  • Wing BCDs are slightly different from jackets and take on a horseshoe shape while all the air is in a cell on your back.
  • Hybrid BCDs combine elements from the jackets and wings. They inflate three-quarters at the back and a quarter in the front, giving you better buoyancy control.

Best scuba diving vests

Top jacket-style scuba diving vests

Cressi Durable Start BCD

Cressi Durable Start BCD

The jacket-style BCD includes three exhaust valves for easy  buoyancy adjustment, while the durable harness provides excellent load distribution. It also has two large pockets with a Velcro closure and an octopus holder.

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Scubapro Hydros-X

Scubapro Hydros-X

Based on the same modular Monprene harness as the previous Hydros model, this vest uses an EndurTex high-tenacity fabric bladder. The harness is UV-resistant and doesn’t absorb water, reducing the drying time. It has rotating quick-release shoulder buckles, and the tank is held in place by a Super Cinch buckle system. There are two zippered cargo pockets for accessories, and stainless steel D-rings give you clip-on options.

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Top back-inflating scuba diving vests

SEAC Smart Buoyancy Compensator

SEAC Smart Buoyancy Compensator

This scuba diving vest has a comfortable and supportive two-position adjustable chest strap and safety release weight pockets, so it is perfect for beginners. On the back and shoulder straps, there is lightweight cushioning. It’s a great vest for those who travel to diving spots, as the dry weight is under 7 pounds. Additionally, the vest has metal D-rings to clip accessories onto it and pockets with zippers to store extra gear.

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Zeagle Covert XT CBD

Zeagle Covert XT CBD

This vest fits relatively snug, and it has several steel D-rings for accessories and some pockets for added gear. The rubber row webbing’s increased width is to secure the tank better, and there is a durable elastic strap on the bladder to prevent excess bulk. The open-cell foam padding on the shoulders and lumbar area offer better support, and there are knife mounting points on both sides.

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Aqua Lung Rogue BCD

Aqua Lung Rogue BCD

The Rogue is a great option if you have a few dives under your belt and know what sort of vest you prefer. The shoulder and waist straps are easily disconnected and reattached, and the GripLock tank band won’t pinch your fingers. The three-position bladder retraction system prevents that by pulling the sides in to make it more streamlined.

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Riptide Mutineer Lightweight Men's Back Mount BCD

Riptide Mutineer Lightweight Men’s Back Mount BCD

The Mutineer is one of the lightest scuba diving vests available, weighing under 5 pounds when dry. It has a soft backplate and has minimal padding on the harness shoulder straps and waistband. The integrated trim weight pockets assist with the 38 pounds of lift, and it has a water-activated strobe light. The air cell’s design allows air to move around the waist and shoulders, which helps vertically stabilize you as almost no air will be on your back.

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Beuchat Masterlift Tek

Beuchat Masterlift Tek

The Masterlift is an excellent all-around vest that is perfect for scuba diving, spearfishing and free diving. Its fit resembles a preformed backpack with an anodized aluminum backplate, elastic compression cord and a 35-liter air bladder. It is compatible with twin-pack cylinders, and there are 12 aluminum D-ring fasteners for accessories. 

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