If you’re like us, you travel a lot for diving. Also, if you’re like us, you like to use your own equipment. The main problem is that some of the equipment you need for diving can be bulky and hard to transport. One-piece of dive gear specifically is can be a culprit for this. That is your buoyancy control device or BCD for short. These are bulky, heavy, and typically one of the more difficult pieces of equipment to travel with. But, they don’t have to be. We’re going to take a look at BCDs made specifically for travel.
What should you look for in a travel BCD?
The answer to these questions is going to largely be dictated by what type of traveler you are and how far you are traveling. If you’re a backpacker, for example, your going to have a different set of needs than someone going to a luxury resort or staying at a single hotel their entire trip.
As a backpacker, you are going to be moving around a lot and every bit of space counts. But, if you’re staying at a resort, you can pack all of your dive equipment into one large diving case and leave it in your room at the resort till you need it. You are going to be moving around much less so portability isn’t as much of an issue.
For the backpacker, you need to think about space and how to best maximize it with all of your other gear. Weight usually isn’t an issue as most airliners won’t weigh your bag if you only have a carry on (this has been our experience). But, as the resort dweller, you want to think about weight and cutting down the cost of any extra baggage fees. How bulky the BCD is won’t be as important as how heavy it is. Yes, larger and bulkier usually means heavier but this isn’t always the case.
As a backpacker, you want to look for something that can easily be broken down into multiple folding pieces or a single piece that is easy to fold. This usually means a wing-style BCD where the bladder detaches from the harness and can be deflated and packed away. Or, a hybrid jacket style BCD with a back inflater. These are usually smaller and cut down on size and weight as they are missing many of the features of normal jacket style BCDs.
If you are staying at a single hotel or resort and bringing an extra case just for your dive gear, you have more options. You can opt for a lightweight jacket style BCD or go for the wing-style BCD if you are tech diving. You can even bring a larger jacket style BCD if it is more to your preference. It really comes down to how much extra space you have in your dive case and how much you are willing to carry.
The exact features you choose for your BCD are going to be reflective of your specific needs. But, the above guidelines will help you when it comes to figuring out which type is right for your needs as a traveler.
What are the best travel BCDs?
Wondering what the top BCDs for traveling are? We’ve got you covered. Over the past five years, we’ve used all manner of BCDs. Some of them have been fantastic and some of them downright awful to the point of being potentially dangerous. But, we’ve managed to find the best travel BCDs to meet the need for a variety of divers.
All of the travel BCDs on this list are hybrid back inflator types. The reason for this is because they are guaranteed to meet the needs of all parties. As we mentioned above though, if you are traveling with a separate diving suitcase for all of your equipment, you can get away with a bit more than someone who is backpacking or only bringing one case.
Let’s dive into the best travel BCDs on the market today.
Dive Rite Travel Pac BCD
Dive Rite has been on the market since the mid-1980s. They don’t have the same history as brands like Cressi, but what they lack in history they more than makeup for in technical expertise.
They are leading manufacturers in equipment for high-level divers. Much of the equipment they produce is geared for more experienced technical divers such as cave divers and wreck divers. But, their equipment can be used by just about anyone who has a preference for it. Their travel Pac BCD is no different. It is a wing-style BCD with a lightweight and compact harness system and compact bladder.
We will warn you, this is a no-frills BCD. You are getting the bare minimum in terms of accessories. That’s in essence what travel BCDs are. So, if you are looking for a super high tech BCD with all the bells and whistles, this isn’t it. But, if you want a rugged and durable BCD that is compact and will pack away easily this is a great option.
- As we mentioned above, this is a no-frills BCD. It does not have all of the extras like integrated weight pockets or extra pockets for equipment. But, one thing we do like is they’ve managed to add enough D-rings to hold almost everything you could need. There is plenty of room for you to attach a dive knife, dive light, octo holder, or anything else you prefer on your dives.
- This is one of the most durable BCDs that we’ve used. What they sacrificed in size and features they gained in toughness and durability. You can easily use this on almost any dive you could think of, short of high-level technical dives. The setup gives you plenty of room to swap out into different setups for wreck dives or cave dives. So, if you are planning on branching out past normal recreational dives, this is a good choice for you.
- With a total weight of just under 7lbs, this is an extremely flexible option for packing up. Many larger jacket style BCDs can add as much as 15 to 20lbs to your luggage weight. This is before you even begin to pack in your regulator set or any of your extra equipment. But, this lightweight BCD should help you avoid a strained back if you are a backpacker and any excess weight fees if your flying with checked-in baggage.
- There aren’t really too many cons when it comes to this specific BCD. The main issue that some people may have will be the price. But, this is going to hold true for all of the BCDs on this list. Travel BCDs are not cheap. They are certainly more expensive than some of their non-travel-friendly counterparts. The question will come down to how often you dive and whether having your own equipment will pay for itself over time by saving on rental fees.
Oceanic Biolite Travel Scuba Diving BCD
- The Biolite BC looks to establish itself as a complete solution with the introduction of a new color...
Oceanic is getting towards the top of the line when it comes to equipment. They specialize in diving gear for recreational divers. Their counterpart, Hollis, produces gear focused more towards technical divers. Both companies were the brainchild of diving pioneer Bob Hollis. With a name like that backing the companies, you can bet their equipment is going to be good.
Their Biolite Travel Scuba Diving BCD is one of the lightest and most compact on the market. It is an excellent choice for recreational divers looking to ditch the bulky jacket style BCD for something more travel-friendly and lightweight. This is one of the lightest BCDs on our list and has everything you need including an integrated weight system and abundant D-rings.
- One of the best things about this is the quick release weight system. It can hold up to 14lbs. The reason we like this is that many weight systems on travel BCDs hold significantly less than this making them effectively useless. If the weight pockets don’t hold enough for your needs you will still need a weight belt which completely nullifies even having the weight pockets. At this point, they just become extra room on your BCD that could have been eliminated.
- As we mentioned above, this is one of the lightest BCDs on this list. It comes in at just around 5.5lbs. This makes it one of the lightest BCDs on the market and also a fantastic choice for backpackers looking to save on weight. We also like that this BCD can fold in half making it incredibly easy to stow away in either a suitcase or large travel backpack.
- Even though they’ve saved on room, they didn’t sacrifice any features. Aside from the weight system which we’ve already discussed, there are plenty of places to strap your gear. They’ve included four D-rings as well as a lace system on the left shoulder strap to attach carabiners too. You should have no trouble attaching all of your equipment to this BCD.
- The main issue we have with this BCD is the strap system for the tank. The backplate on this is quite small in order to save room for the BCD to fold in half. Aside from this, there is only one strap. This means your tank may be prone to slipping. You may need to occasionally nudge your tank up during a dive which can be an annoyance. We would have preferred two straps for securing the tank. But, this does not nullify all of the other benefits of the BCD.
Hollis LTS Travel System BCD
- Ideal for traveling divers, weighs only 5 lbs (2.27 kg)
- 30 lbs (13.6 kg) of lift capacity. Comfortable backpad
- Chest and hip d-rings for accessories or sling bottle
- Rugged 1000D nylon outer cover with 420D internal bladder
- 5lbs dumpable integrated weight system
As we mentioned above, Oceanic and Hollis were both founded by scuba diving pioneer Bob Hollis. Oceanic is focused more on manufacturing equipment for recreational divers, while Hollis is geared more toward technical divers. This particular BCD, however, is good for recreational divers who travel quite frequently. It is the lightest BCD on this list and, if we may say so, probably one of the coolest looking as well.
It has everything you need in a proper BCD from an integrated weight system to enough D-rings for all of your equipment. Plus, since it is designed by Hollis, you can guarantee that it is going to be top-notch in both its manufacturing and the material used to make it.
- The Hollis LTS has 30lbs of lift capacity making it an excellent option for divers of all sizes. Another of the main issues with many travel BCDs is that they lack the lift capacity to handle many heavier divers. If your tall and muscular, many travel BCDs just don’t have the lift capacity to handle you and your equipment. More often than not you end up having to swim to stay afloat rather than relying on your BCD. Not so with the Hollis LTS.
- This BCD is made out of 1000 Denier Nylon. This means it can take a beating and keep ticking. Many BCDs, travel or otherwise, simply aren’t made to withstand the wear and tear that the average diver, especially newer recreational divers, put them through.
- As mentioned above, this is the lightest of all the travel BCDs on this list. This makes it a fantastic option if you know you are checking in your luggage and want to avoid fees. It also makes it much easier to carry around if you plan on backpacking and want to minimize your total weight.
- The main drawback of this BCD is the sizing. A few larger people have complained that the chest strap does not adequately adjust for individuals with larger chest sizes. This can make wearing the BCD uncomfortable. You may want to take this into consideration when looking into this BCD.
- Scubapro Litehawk BC with Air 2 Alternate Air Source Inflator 5th Gen 22.220.155
- Low-drag, low profile progressively-shaped air cell on a light back flotation BC
- Elastic cords automatically control the size and keep the air cell streamlined when partially...
- Constructed in durable 1000 Denier Nylon for long life wear, Adjustable belt-style waist strap with...
- Lightweight, perfect for travel: just 5.2 lbs / 2,36 kg
If you’ve read other articles here you will know we are big fans of Scubapro. They are one of the leading manufacturers of scuba diving equipment. They have a long and rich history dating back to the early 1960s. Since that time the brand has become synonymous with high quality and durable equipment. Their travel BCDs are no different. The Litehawk, their answer to a lightweight and easy to use BCD, is one of the smallest on the market. It’s a back inflate option that can easily be stowed away in either a travel backpack or a suitcase. At 5.2lbs, it is only slightly heavier than the Hollis LTS.
- This is a back inflate BCD which we are fans of. The reason for this is using a back inflate BCD makes it easier level off horizontally and remain neutrally buoyant in the water.
- Like the Hollis LTS, the Litehawk is made form 1000 Denier Nylon. It’s both rugged and durable and isn’t going to tear easily. This is a major plus as many cheaper and less well-constructed BCDs are prone to ripping at the seams or can easily tear if snagged. When making a major purchase such as with a BCD, you want to feel confident that it is going to last for many years.
- Even though this is a travel BCD, it still has everything you would expect to find on a normal jacket style BCD. You have your choice of four D-rings to choose from when loading on your extra equipment. There is also an integrated weight system so you can ditch the weight belt in favor of something more compact and comfortable.
- The biggest drawback here is going to be the price. Yes, the Litehawk is a superior model travel BCD. But, we feel the Hollis LTS above is on the same level of quality but comes in at a slightly cheaper price. The Litehawk is still a very solid product well worth the expense. But, do know that there are other options that are just as durable from companies just as reputable as Scubapro.
Oceanic Jetpack BCD Travel System
- BC: 30lbs lift.
- 14 lbs dumpable weight / optional cylinder band trim weight.
- 10lbs non-dumpable.
- One size fits all = custom fit for everyone: adjustable harness, cummerbund and lumbar.
- Adjustable position weight pockets.
This final BCD on the list is the culmination of many years of travel BCD production. It isn’t just a BCD but a complete travel system designed to make carrying your scuba equipment as easy and painless as possible. The BCD is designed so that it is contained within a backpack which can be used to store the rest of your equipment and clothes when not in the water. This makes it easy to pack a single bag for short dive excursions and not have to worry about check-in. If your a little confused by that description, you can watch this video showing how to pack the Oceanic Jetpack.
- The fact this is not only a BCD but also a backpack makes this probably the best travel BCD on the market. It has been completely designed with avid travelers in mind. You can easily pack away up to a week’s worth of clothing and gear, depending on your needs, into one pack.
- Another thing we like about this is the backpack part is separate from the BCD. It is a 42-liter dry bag that straps onto the packed away BCD. This way, you can pack all of your dive equipment into the BCD bag and all of your clothes and other gear into the drybag. When you aren’t diving, just unhook the drybag and store it away in your hotel room.
- Even though this is a travel bag it has everything you would expect in a normal BCD. It has an integrated weight system with quick release weight pouches. The left strap has a lattice system for attaching carabiners and extra equipment. Also, this is a back inflate system making it easier to level off in the water.
- The main downside with this BCD is that there is no backplate. A few users have reported that there are issues with keeping the tank in place so you have to make extra sure you have it tightened. This is not a major issue and the workaround is quite easy. But, it does mean that you may have to put a bit more effort into prepping it for your dive.
If your a diver constantly on the go, there has never been a better time. As you can see from the above list, there are quite a few fantastic options when it comes to purchasing travel-oriented dive equipment. Since your BCD is the largest and bulkiest of all of your equipment, it certainly makes sense to start here.
What do you think about the list? Have you personally used any of these BCDs? Or, maybe you’re a fan of a travel BCD that didn’t make this list. Let us know what you think in the comments section. We enjoy hearing what fellow divers have to say and always look forward to learning something new.
This page was last updated on 2022-08-29. Affiliate links and Product Images are from Amazon PAAPI