Keen divers know that a diving trip means not only a quest for the best travel BCDs but when your trip includes a plane journey, you’re on a search for the best lightweight travel BCD. (Post updated April 2019)
While travel suggests minimum weight to carry, we don’t want to compromise on quality. Here we will give you our top 3 travel BCDs taking weight into consideration for air travel.
Our top choice
For those in a hurry, our top BCD for travel is the Aqua Lung Zuma. With high quality features and at less than an 4.75lbs (2.2kg), we consider this to be the best lightweight travel BCD. (More specs. below). Click text link or image for best price.
Let’s get straight to the winner’s list to find the best travel BCD for your travels. You can read about the various features you should look out for in a travel BCD below our list of best options.
BEST TRAVEL BCDs
The Aqua Lung Zuma has been a popular choice among divers for many years and although newer and even lighter jackets have attempted to surpass this BC’s reign, it still remains top of our list.
This ultra-light BC is extremely light for travel and can be packed flat or rolled. It weighs less than 4.75lbs (2.2kg) with the airway and weight pockets included.
It is compact, lightweight and super-comfortable. This AquaLung Travel BCD promises comfort with sculpted padded shoulders, rolled neck collar, padded spine and lumbar support. 4 plastic D-rings are provided.
The innovative tank support system means there is no need for a hard pack. This jacket features SureLock II Mechanical Weight Release System (patented). The SureLock II weight pockets self-align. A “click” will ensure that the pocket is correctly inserted and a single pull release is all that’s needed in the event that you need to ditch weights. The SureLock II weight pockets can accommodate 20 lbs. (9 kg) capacity in all sizes. The Aqua Lung Zuma also has optional non-releasable weight capacities of 10 lbs. (4.5 kg). Overall lift capacity is 22-34lbs (10-15.42kg) size dependent.
Aqua Lung have a whole range of travel specific diving products. Our top choice travel fins are also from the Aqua Lung brand. If you need compact, lightweight fins, check out our post on the best scuba fins for travel.
Coming in at less than 5.5lbs, the Oceanic Biolite is a feature-rich back inflation style jacket that also ticks the box for those who seek a lightweight BC.
The Oceanic Biolite boasts its patented Bioflex material which claims to be up to 30% more flexible than competing BC materials. The material stretches and conforms to your body allowing more flexibility while remaining airtight. The torso adjustable shoulder straps are contoured so fit snuggly on your body and there is also an adjustable sternum strap equipped with a safety whistle.
The Oceanic Biolite has an integrated weight system of up to 14lbs (6.4kg). It also features dual 5lbs (2.3kg) non-release weight pockets. Overall this BC has a lift capacity of 25 – 29lbs (11.3 – 13.1kg) size dependent.
BEST LIGHTWEIGHT TRAVEL BCD
Yet again, Cressi have come out with a BC design to rival competition in the lightweight BC market. At 4.6lbs( 2kg), It is the lightest BC on the market making it the perfect choice for air travel. It also features a ‘fast-fold system’ to fit compactly in your luggage.
This back inflation style jacket ensures solid support of the tank underwater in contrast to many other “travel” diving jackets. This is due to the rigid padding, double straps and the configuration of the air chamber guiding the tank.
The integrated weight system holds up to 20lbs (9.2kg) of hard block or soft weights. 4-lightweight plastic D-rings are provided. Anatomical shoulder straps, a soft back pad and 1.73″(40mm) torso adjustable buckles ensure comfort. The Cressi Ultralight provides lift of 20.2 – 31.7lbs (9.2- 15.3kg) size dependent.
If you’re looking for the best lightweight travel BCD, this is the one for you. It is the lightest BCD on the market.
Coming in at just 5.2lbs (2.36kg), this BC is also ideal for travel.
This BC boasts comfort and quality features. Back flotation technology provides ease of movement around the shoulders and chest. Divers can ensure a secure and comfortable fit with the rotational quick-release shoulder fasteners and adjustable shoulder strap. The soft neoprene neck roll and padded back pad give added comfort.
A significant feature of the Scubapro Litehawk is that it comes with an integrated regulator. Scubapro’s AIR2 Breathable Inflator configuration eliminates the need for a separate alternate air source and provides that all important alternate air source as part of your BC.
Optional weight pockets are also available and four aluminum D-rings are provided.
BEST HYBRID BCD
Coming in at just 6.25lbs, this is still a very lightweight BC ideal for travel.
Well this one is unique and combines your BC and gear carriage in one bundle! This package comes with a backpack that clips together with the BC to provide a travel-friendly solution for adventure-seeking diving enthusiasts. The backpack and BC combine to form a compact hybrid pack that holds all your diving essentials such as regs, computer, fins, suit etc.
It features 30lb lift capacity and weight integration. The BC/backpack combo weighs in at 8.25lbs.
Features to consider when choosing a TRAVEL BCD
Before you make your final decision on the best dive BCD for you, let’s examine the most important features to consider.
As you can see from our list above, the market for travel B.C.s is getting more competitive, with manufacturers trying to outdo each other on the lightweight feature for travel. At 4.6lbs, the Cressi Ultralight (number 3 on our list above) is currently the lightest on the market. However, the Aeris Jetpack(number 5 on our list) at 6.25lbs is also a very lightweight BCD! Instead of jumping into buying the lightest option, make sure to consider the big picture and do not ignore the other all-important features. Consider the best features for your specific needs.
Many B.C.s are gender specific. Male versions may include a longer torso length and longer chest straps. Some are unisex and combine a fit that provides custom features to adapt to all body types.
Many B.C.s have padded shoulder/neck sections for added comfort. Adjustable straps and buckles allow a custom fit and flexible material means greater agility and freedom of movement.
WEIGHT INTEGRATION/LIFT CAPACITY
To get down under the water we need weight. Weight belts are often used for this but most BCDs now provide weight integration features such as removable pockets. You’ll notice “quick release mechanism” is a feature that many BCs boast and this is important. In case of an emergency, you need to be able to quickly dump your weights.
The lift capacity indicates how much weight the BCD is capable of carrying. Don’t forget to consider your wetsuit and the type of water you will be in. In warm water you’ll have a lighter wetsuit and in cold water thicker, more buoyant wetsuit.
Remember, your BCD is part of your safety gear. The “lift” provides balance against the weight of you and your equipment to allow you to safely float at the surface.
Although pockets may seem like an added luxury, they are a essential storage feature. You need to store your gear such as a torch, dive knife, whistle etc.
If you’re looking for a good quality diving knife, check out our post here: the best dive knife under $50.
D-Rings also allow you to store gear on your person by clipping it to your jacket. The more D-Rings and the stronger they are, the better!