A buoyancy control device (BCD) allows you to become neutrally buoyant in the water and is an essential piece of scuba diving gear. There are two main styles: jacket and backplate/wing BCDs. Jacket BCDs are more common for beginner divers, but there are many benefits to a backplate/wing set-up.

Here are some key points of comparison between the two styles:

Jacket BCDs

Jacket BCDs, like the name implies, fit like a jacket. They contain an air cell that wraps all the way around your sides and back and the front of your waist. When this inflates, the shape of the bladder causes air to move around the waist and up your chest, as well as your back.


  • Many models have large pockets that you can use to carry items you might want to bring on a dive.
  • Jacket style BCDs are more commonly found as rental gear at dive resorts, but even if you learn in a backplate and wing, it is very easy to switch to a jacket style BCD.


  • These styles are bulky, making them difficult to travel with.
  • Because of the way air settles in the bladder, it can be pretty difficult to establish and maintain maintain a horizontal position.
  • Jacket BCDs are not well-suited for technical diving, so if you plan to advance to this point (or if you're already going on technical dives), you'll want to switch to a wing-style option.
  • For most jacket BCDs, there is no ability to upgrade or replace individual parts, requiring you to purchase a new unit when you want to upgrade or something requires a repair.

Backplate/Wing BCDs

Backplate and Wing systems contain three elements. The wing/bladder contains the air and inflates to provide buoyancy. The backplate portion holds the cylinder(s) on your back. Finally, the webbing/harness keeps all the components together and connects the system to you. With this device, the bladder only inflates at your back instead of all around your body.


  • Backplate and wing setups make it easier to maintain neutral buoyance and maintain excellent trim in the water. The heavier backplate and the position of the bladder encourage a head-down, horizontal float, as opposed to jacket styles which can result in a more vertical position.
  • Backplate and wing setups are more comfortable than jacket-style models.
  • Wing-style systems are highly customizable. This means they can adapt to your changing needs as you continue to grow as a diver. You can easily add more features or adjust your system for technical dives. And, should one part require replacement, you don’t have to replace the entire unit.
  • Tech Shorts can be utilized to carry items that one might wish to bring on a dive.


There are no cons to diving with a backplate and wing. At Paragon Dive Group, we teach all of our students (from Open Water on up) in a backplate and wing set-up, which makes them more efficient and competent divers from the start. 

Shop BCDs Online

At Paragon Dive Group, you can find a wide selection of BCDs, including both jacket-style and wing-style options depending on your needs. We also sell a variety of accessories and components so you can customize your system, whether you're a beginning or experienced diver.

Browse our BCDs online today, or visit us at our physical location in Tucson.

Shop by Brand