Wednesday 13 November 2013

Diving Equipment Trials: Wing Vs BCD

In these days of Diving there is so much new equipment that is being produced that getting something that suits you as a diver can be a minefield. You cannot always get impartial advice from your local dive store, as you need to buy the equipment and brands that they stock.

So, I thought I would share my insights into that age-old debate... BCD Vs Wing!!!

I am always willing to try new equipment and adjust my configuration when new products and ideas emerge. I learned to dive originally in the old Horsecollar buoyancy Control Devices and swiftly
converted to a BUDDY commando jacket style BCD, which seemed to be the unspoken champion of BSAC clubs across the UK. Hundreds of BSAC Scuba Divers congregated on the edge of Stoney Cove at the weekend in various shades of Flourescent Yellow and Orange, browns, blacks and Pinks ready to get wet.

Jacket BCDs are absolutely fantastic for what they are. They can be like an armchair cradling you while you dive and at the surface and are still the most common type of buoyancy device you will see today.

Inside the Jacket is an air cell, which wraps around the diver's sides, front and back. They are very stable in any position you adopt under the water and will hold you in a head up position on the surface.

 All jacket style BCDs have convenient storage pockets and sometimes weight pouches for integrated weight systems and, I will admit, seem to be easier for the novice diver to use.

They do tend to hold the diver in a slightly "fins down" position in the water though and when the BCD is full, most divers will feel the jacket squeeze them, like a big uncomfortable bear hug!

These days I wear a wing and backplate system, which I can honestly say I prefer. My reasons are as follows.

The Wing and backplate system is so versatile that I can customise my system to the way I dive.

For example, I can use an aluminium or a steel backplate. There are 30lb or 40lb wings for single tank diving or I can use a larger wing to accommodate my twinset for Technical Diving. These are all interchangeable parts so I can use them in any configuration I like, making it extremely convenient, particularly for a Diving Instructor, like myself, that has to change from Single tank, to twinset to rebreather set-up on an almost daily basis.

The Wing has an air cell that inflates only on the diver's back, which works to "trim the Diver out" in the water.
What I mean is, the diver is put into a more horizontal position when diving a wing and backplate system. This works to make the diver more streamlined in the water, reducing drag and effort required on the dive and feels extremely stable.

There is also a great feeling of freedom to diving with no clutter around the front of you. The wing configuration means there is only equipment on your back and your chest and stomach are pretty much clear.

There was an argument that wings and backplates are more difficult to put on and remove and while it was true, divers quickly got used to the difference and adapted.  However, with the invention of the cinch system from Halcyon, this is no longer viable. All a wing and backplate diver now needs to do is simply pull the shoulder straps to loosen the harness and pull the waist band to tighten it. Easy as Pie!!

For me, the versatility and convenience provided by the wing and backplate system far out weighs any benefits a jacket style BCD  can offer. This doesn't neccessarily mean the system will work for everyone.

The best advice I can give, is to dive with a wing and back plate. Ask someone knowledgable to help you set it up to fit you properly. If you are in Cyprus, pop in and see us and we can show you the system and take you out. See what you think of it and if you will be a convert like I was.

The proof is in the pudding. Over the past 3-4 years, the number of qualifed divers coming to Scuba Tech and asking for a wing set-up far out weighs those looking for the jacket style BCD.

Would I swap back? Not a chance!!

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