When making any major scuba equipment purchase, be it for warm water or local diving, divers are confronted with a variety of choices and BCDs are no exception. While some still think they are strictly for technical divers, backplate systems may be worth a second look.
A local dive shop perspective on BCDs
You may notice when you walk into IDC that along with the common jacket-style and back-inflate buoyancy compensators we also have backplate and wings on display and as rentals. Should you dive with us, you’ll notice the majority of our staff and active divers opt for this system. Talk to those that dive with one and you’ll likely uncover a deep appreciation for this BCD. We recommend these to divers of all walks that are looking for a new BCD. Whether you dive in warm water, cold water or a bit of both, off boats or from shore; whether you use a wetsuit or drysuit, are a man or woman, divers of all shapes and sizes that are doing shallow reef dives or long, chilly decompression or penetration dives & those in the water teaching will likely reap the rewards of a comfortable, stable platform and an overall well-made product.
There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about this particular variety of BCD floating around out there. Many dismiss it as an option for them because they associate it – for a variety of reasons – with technical diving. And while it is true that the backplate and wing is the primary option for those engaged in such diving, this is not the limit of its usefulness. It will perform as satisfactorily on a 30ft/10m reef dive as it will several hundred feet into a cave system.
They are more practical in the water
These systems, despite looking refined and possibly “technical” are really more practical and comfortable in the water, at the surface and on land/boats when preparing for the dive.
Adding and removing weight is a breeze
One of the greatest benefits of the backplate & wing system, particularly by Halcyon, is the ability to alter the distribution of weight. It’s easy to affix any variety of weight to the unit itself. How the diver opts to do so can depend on how they trim out in the water otherwise, where they wish to carry their weight, how convenient it is to remove and other weighting systems they may be using in conjunction with it. For instance, if you’re feeling a little head-heavy, try moving some weight to optional trim weight pockets on the cam bands. Or, if you need to add weight but are trimmed out just perfectly, consider a thicker/heavier backplate or a weighted single tank adapter or V-weight. There are a multitude of other weighting systems that come with or can be added onto these BCDs.
Simple to use means they work for most types of diving
These systems look quite different than many other BCDs available which may account for some initial apprehension. They are simple, minimalist units that are typically well-built, durable and customizable. This is also what makes them the best option for so many different types of diving. They are streamlined (“hydrodynamic”) so they provide less resistance when moving through the water than most traditional BCDs. There is little clutter on a backplate and wing; little for divers to get entangled in.
Backplate and wing BCDs are a custom fit
The single, continuous piece of webbing that the diver wears is adjusted to the individual diver and the exposure protection they use. This means that each unit is a custom fit. This, along with the steel or aluminum backplate (available in standard and short lengths) bolted to a single tank adaptor or the bands of double tanks creates an incomparably stable platform in the water. This helps, rather than hinders a diver to achieve proper and comfortable trim and forms the basis of an overall effective, streamlined, practical equipment configuration that can be built up to a technical diving rig or kept optimized for recreational diving.
Thinking about purchasing a BCD?
The modular nature of the Halcyon BCD design, as well as the durability of the product itself make this the last BCD you’ll ever need or want to buy. Hundreds of dives later and Halcyon stands by their warranty. If something should break or deteriorate due to normal wear and tear or to a user’s negligence, these systems can be replaced/repaired one piece at a time. This tends to be much gentler on the wallet in the long run. Think about a wing and backplate the next time you are in the market for a new BCD.
Many other makes of backplate and wing are available and may be a suitable option for you. Brands including Apeks, Scubapro, OMS and others have backplate & wings available. Ask us about the different options if you are shopping for a BCD.