When you decide between backplate and wing vs jacket BCD rigs, there's plenty to keep in mind.
There are many different styles of BCDs, and the three main ones are jacket, wing, and semi-wing.
In this guide, we'll explore what each of them offers and their pros and cons to help you make a perfect choice.
What Are Jacket Style BCDs?
Jacket BCDs are likely the most popular option, as they offer an optimal fit.
Compared to other designs, jacket style models need to be gender-specific BCDs, as the anatomical makeup of women and men are different.
With standard designs, you'll find the air bladder allows the air to migrate all around you.
In comparison to other styles, you won't have to worry about air on your back. This feature allows you to navigate vertically or lie on your back with ease.
However, when you're underwater, jacket style BCDs can be harder to use if you need to go prone or horizontal.
Another quintessential feature of these jackets is they incorporate plenty of storage, allowing you to carry your essential gear.
For example, you can take torches, valuables, or pocket masks on your dive with you, as the pockets are easy to access.
Divers will also find that built-in weights are quite common in jacket models, which is better than opting for a weight belt.
As these BCDs are the most common, you'll find they're easy to use, especially for beginners.
Knowing where all of the straps, pockets, and D-rings are located should be second nature.
You'll be able to remember where your releases are kept, especially as these designs are popular for diving schools.
You'll also find an extensive number of upgrades to jacket style BCDs over the years.
Divers can now have better padding, form-fitting straps, shorter backplates, and other features that make them more comfortable.
Advantages of Using Jacket Style BCDs
- Plenty of storage space
- Feature built-in weights
- Impressive modern comfort features
- Some lightweight models for travel
- Easily attach to your cylinder
- Allow for optimal surface movement
- Form-fitting design for a custom feel
Disadvantages of Jacket Style BCDs
- Promote less-than-ideal diving positions
- Less movement and freedom
- BCD could compress your chest when inflated
- Can be extremely heavy and cumbersome
- Could limit your abilities for experienced divers
What Are Wing Style BCDs?
If you're someone who isn't a fan of jacket BCDs, you'll want to consider wing models as an alternative.
Technical diving is becoming more popular, especially among divers who are ready to progress to the next level.
However, although they are marketed to the more experienced diver, they can also be used by beginners.
There are three specific parts to a wing-style BCD, your wing or bladder, your harness or webbing, and a backplate.
The backplate's job is to hold your cylinders on your back, and the bladder is responsible for offering buoyancy.
With the addition of the harness, everything will remain solidly strapped to your body for resilience and reliability.
If you were to compare wing style BCDs to jacket style models, the main difference is the inflation.
With wing designs, the inflation is found on your back, instead of migrating around your entire body.
Many technical divers prefer this feature, as it's the easiest for positioning yourself underwater.
Because these BCDs are designed with a backplate, they offer optimal weight distribution, which can encourage you to dive deeper.
Also, all of the parts are highly configurable, so you can create a custom setup to accommodate your diving style.
Not to mention, there are a ton of adjustable features that can help you to experience a tailored fit with your BCD.
As you get more experience with diving, you'll find that wing style BCDs allow for significant personalization.
Most designs allow you to add and remove particular features and replace them with other manufacturer's items.
Above all else, these BCDs are fantastic for divers who want equipment that grows with them.
With all of their adjustable and customizable features, you can continuously upgrade your rig for the best diving experience.
Advantages of Wing Style BCDs
- Highly customizable design
- Comfortable to wear underwater
- Allow mixing parts from different brands
- Can be lightweight with carbon fiber backplate
- Perfect for double cylinders
- Useful in fresh and saltwater
- Ideal for technical diving
- Perfect for underwater movements and positioning
- Exceptional freedom
Disadvantages of Wing Style BCDs
- Could be less comfortable than jacket style BCDs
- Surface body positioning is challenging
- Less storage than jacket designs
- Takes more time to adjust to your body
- Typically don't have weight integration
What Are Semi-Wing Style BCDs?
As you would expect, a semi-wing style BCD is designed to fall in between jacket and wing style BCDs.
With these models, the bladder is located on the back, but it also contains a ton of storage options.
Majority of manufacturers design semi-wing rigs with adjustable harnesses for a more snug fit.
When you're in the water, you'll find that navigating with a semi-wing model is similar to a full wing BCD.
It is also ideal for divers who remain close to the bottom, as it will help give you smoother movements.
If you're well-versed in using a jacket style BCD, you'll find that it's easy to take advantage of semi-wing models.
When it comes time to adjust the harness to your body, many of the adjustable features are similar to a jacket style harness.
You'll also find that these rigs come in both male and female varieties, though you can also find unisex designs.
Fortunately, you won't have to worry about the more technical adjustments required from wing style rigs.
These BCDs are best chosen if you're upgrading your jacket model without diving head-first into a wing BCD.
They won't give you as much technical diving experience as the more advanced designs. As a benefit, you should still be able to fit two cylinders.
Advantages of Semi-Wing Style BCDs
- Most have built-in weights
- Plenty of storage and D-rings for accessories
- Similar design to jacket style BCDs
- Allow for simpler underwater navigation
- Easy to deflate
- Adjustable harnesses for men and women
- Relatively comfortable and easy for beginners
- A median for intermediate divers
Disadvantages of Semi-Wing Style BCDs
- Not ideal for highly technical diving
- Limited replacement parts with basic models
- More expensive designs allow for customization
Backplate and Wing vs Jacket BCD: Final Thoughts
When you know the difference between backplate and wing vs jacket BCD models, you'll choose the best style.
With wing models being better for maneuverability, freedom, and customization, it's an excellent choice for technical divers.
Backplate models, on the other hand, are familiar, easy to use, and offer plenty of storage for all of your equipment.