Scuba BCDs – The Difference Between Jacket Style, Wing Style and Semi-Wing Style

A jacket style, a wing or maybe a semi-wing? There are three main types of scuba diving bcds and all of them have pros and cons. In this video we tell you all about them!

Join the 50ftbelow community:

Nowadays there are a million and one different BCDs available in the diving industry. But to make things more clear there a basically only three main types of BCDs. A jacket style, a wing style and a semi-wing bcd. All three have benefits and drawbacks to them and we are going to tell you all about them.

Jacket style BCD
First up we have the jacket style BCD which is still the most popular among most divers. One of the main characteristics is the fact that the bladder with the air is all around you. So when you inflate the BC it will inflate on the back but also on the sides.

What we like about a jacket style BCDs:
You are very stable on the surface. A jacket style BCD requires no effort to keep you upright on the surface.
Underwater it’s easy to change diving position. If you want to like for instance swim on your back or side then this is easily done.
Almost all jacket style bcds have weight intergration
Jacket style BCDs tend to have big pockets and a lot of d-rings which make it easy to bring along accessories.
What we don’t like about a jacket style BCDs:
Your diving position is not ideal. You tend to swim with your legs pointed down a bit because of the position of the weight pockets and the bladder.
Less freedom of movement because the pockets and weight pockets are under your arms. These restrict you to freely move your arms around.
Some divers don’t like feeling the BCD compressing them when it’s fully inflated.

Wing style BCD
The wing style BCD is becoming more and more popular but has it’s origins in technical diving. A wing is basically stripped of all components which are not deemed necessary for diving. Therefore it only consists out of a bladder, backplate and a harness. The main characteristic is the fact that the bladder is mounted on the back and when inflated you won’t feel it at all.

What we like about a wing style BCD:
Because a wing style only inflates on your back it put’s you in that prone diving position. This is the best and most streamlined diving position. A great benefit is that your fins are not pointing downward which prevents you from kicking up any dust or sand.
Although the harness doesn’t look like much, once it’s correctly fitted to your size it’s really comfortable.
Because a wing style BCD is stripped of everything which is not essential you have a lot of freedom of movement around your arms.
All components are replaceable. So when you need a new harness you don’t need to replace the whole wing but just get a new harness.
It’s possible to do technical dives (with a twin set) and recreational dives with a wing.
What we don’t like about a wing style BCD:
The harness is hard to set to size. Especially when you change from a wetsuit to a dry suit a lot it’s annoying to keep adjusting the size of your harness.
It’s harder to get into a wing style BCD because the shoulder straps are not adjustable.
There are no pockets and no weight integration on a proper wing. That’s why most technical divers have pockets on the legs of their dry suit.
Something which you need to get used to is the fact that a wing tends to push you face down in the water on the surface. This is because the bladder is located on the back. This is easily fixed by leaning a bit back.
Semi-wing Style BCD
The semi-wing BCD is more or less a hybrid between a jacket style and a wing style BCD. The bladder is located on the back, which gives you the “skydive” position in the water but also has weight integration and big pockets. Also most semi-wings have a normal adjustable harness.

What we like about a semi-wing style BCD:

The diving position of a semi-wing is pretty similar to a full wing. The prone position gives great streamlining and is perfect for not kicking up any dust or sand.
Enough pockets and d-rings to stow away all the accessories you need.
Almost all semi-wings have weight integration.
A semi-wing has the same adjustable harness as a jacket style BCD. Therefore you can switch between a dry suit and wetsuit all you like without having to take a lot of time to adjust your harness.
Easier to deflate because most semi-wings have bungee’s around the bladder which compress the bladder, forcing the air out while deflating.

What we don’t like about a semi-wing style BCD:

You can’t do technical diving with a semi-wing. Some allow you to put a 7×7 twin set on them but that’s about as big as you can go.
There is no replacing separate parts like the bladder or a backplate unless you have bought the Aqualung Outlaw or Rogue.


Dive Another Day says:

Hi! I would find it interesting to hear about the differences of brands out there (Aqualung, Cressi, ScubaPro, Diverite, etc). Your personal opinions on strengths or weaknesses of different brands (and warranties) and how a homogeneous or a mixed combination of brands is good or bad. Presently I have a simple / recreational mix, but in my case, I want to go with a single brand for a more uniform professional look. However, doing so is hard, as some brands seem to be strong in one way, weak in another, or maybe just too pricey $$$. How should one decide when planning to make a set up purchase?

Gabriel Marias says:

Hi! Im really looking for a light travel bcd for intense recreational use in warm but also 14° 40m dives, with high Denier o Cordura construction because i love wreeks and im afraid to rip the Bcd.
I will like to use back inflators
In my list Cressi Ultralight, Aqualung Outlaw (dont like too much the usability of the quick weight pockets and cant see real diving videos using it to have realnopinion) and maybe poor lift capacity?
Hollis LTS or Litehawk are great but weight system is poor and small..
So whats your opinion?
By the way whera is the dive at the end of the video with the amazing truk?

Thx a lot

Patrick B says:

I think at the very beginning with diving you should not buy a wing with harnes because you will not start with double tanks …

 Write a comment


Do you like our videos?
Do you want to see more like that?

Please click below to support us on Facebook!