Diving fun and safety with a buoyancy compensator

Often, inexperienced divers underestimate the importance of buoyancy while diving. They envision themselves peacefully moving along the ocean's floor while observing marine life. Veteran divers know better. They understand how buoyancy control can impact the success of their dives as well as provide a safety precaution while underwater.

Whether you're trying to inspect something up close without bumping touching it or you simply want to maintain a constant depth (not easy when you're submerged with all of your diving gear), a buoyancy compensator device (BCD) can provide you with the control you need. Below, we'll describe a few types of buoyancy compensators and reasons you should consider investing in a BCD.

Types of buoyancy compensators

Buoyancy compensators come in three types: wings, stab jackets and diver's lifejackets. Wings are basically small pouches that a diver can wear on his back as well as his sides. They can be inflated up to 30 liters while underwater, providing a high level of buoyancy control. Each wing is designed with an elastic web. This allows the pouch to draw itself close to the diver's body when deflated, minimizing any obstruction it could potentially cause.

Stab jackets are vests that come in two types: those that wrap around the diver's body and those that sit on the diver's back. Many experienced divers like jackets that wrap around the upper torso because they provide more control and balance. However, when they're inflated, they can put pressure on the chest. By contrast, the stab jackets that sit on the diver's back don't put pressure on the diver's chest when inflated. But, because they inflate on the diver's back, they can cause the diver to float face down. Stab jackets can inflate up to 25 liters. They're not as expandable as wings, but still effective in providing buoyancy control.

Finally, divers' lifejackets are the least effective of the three types of buoyancy compensators. They offer less expandable room (up to 15 liters) and are often uncomfortable. These BCDs sit around the diver's neck and chest with straps around the waist and legs. Though considered unfashionable and antiquated, they do provide a unique benefit. Because the lifejacket sits primarily on the diver's chest, an unconscious diver will float to the surface face-up. That said, with only 15 liters of expansion this type of BCD offers the least amount of buoyancy control.

Why a buoyancy compensator is helpful

Neutral buoyancy is a goal of every experienced diver. They train diligently in order to achieve it by natural means (adjusting ballast weight, breathing control, tank weight, etc.) as well as with the aid of a buoyancy compensator. Buoyancy control allows a diver to maintain his depth at any point during his dive. This helps prevent a "drifting" effect that happens when divers propel themselves (even gently). Because many beginning divers maintain a vertical position while submerged, smoothly propelling themselves horizontally can be challenging. With optimum buoyancy control, a diver can glide along horizontally without drifting toward the surface. A buoyancy compensator makes continual adjustments to help the diver maintain a state of neutral buoyancy.

Enjoying your diving adventure

Scuba diving is an adventure. But, your experience is affected by how well you maintain your buoyancy during your dive. If you keep drifting toward the surface whenever you propel yourself forward or you can't maintain your position near objects that you want to investigate up close, you'll find yourself getting frustrated. A buoyancy compensator can provide you with the control you need to enjoy your adventure. With a little control, your exploration of the world beneath the ocean's surface will be far more rewarding.