Lightweight BCDs Designed For Travelling

Why buy your own travel BCD?

Having your own scuba diving equipment can give you peace of mind when diving abroad. Although the majority of dive centers keep their equipment in good condition, you can never guarantee that your BCD (buoyancy control device) isn’t faulty or will fit properly. Therefore buying your own BCD is worthwhile for a diver who dives overseas or away from their local diving area often.

BCDs have developed rapidly and now many lightweight, stripped down BCDs are available on the market. Some travel BCDs weigh as little at 2.2kg, and can fold down into a compact size. Below we look at the top travel BCDs currently available.

If you are not sure what to look for in a BCD, check out our how to choose a BCD guide at the bottom of this post.

Travel BCDs summary

BCD style, backplate flexibility, weight and price are some of the key features to compare when choosing a travel BCD. Below we summarize these features for our top travel BCD picks.

BCDStyleBackplateWeightPrice
Scubapro LitehawkScubapro Litehawk Travel BCDWingPartially flexible2.4kg / 5.3lbs$$
Cressi TravelightCressi Travelight Travel BCDHybridFully flexible2.5kg / 5.5lbs$$
Aqua Lung ZumaAqua Lung Zuma BCDHybridPartially flexible2.2kg / 4.8lbs$$
Hollis LTSHollis LTS BCDWingFully flexible2.2kg / 4.8lbs$$
Oceanic BioliteOceanic Biolite Travel BCDWingPartially flexible2.5kg / 5.5lbs$$
Oceanic JetpackOceanic Jetpack Travel BCDWingFully flexible2.8kg / 6.2lbs$$$
Scubapro EqualizerScubaPro Equalizer Travel BCDJacketRigged3.3kg / 7.2lbs$

1) Scubapro Litehawk Travel BCD

Scubapro Litehawk Travel BCD

BCD Features
Partially flexible back plate
Integrated weights
Single pouch integrated weight capacity – 3kg
Optional trim weight pockets
BCD weight – 2.4kg

Scubapro Litehawk Travel BCD Review

The minimalist Scubapro Litehawk is a highly popular travel BCD. Stripped to just the padded harnesses and air bladder results in a BCD which packs down to a small size, making it perfect for travelling.

The elastic bungee bladder improves trim when the BCD is deflated and increases streamline through the water of the BCD. The majority of air is stored in the back, which increases freedom of movement when worn.  The Scubapro Litehawk is made of 420 denier nylon which is lightweight, but durable to cope with normal use. Three dump valves make releasing air from the BCD extremely easy, and the hinged release button on the inflator means you can control exactly how much air you release.

  • Light weight

  • Packs down to a small size

  • Air positioned in the back

  • Integrated weights compatible

  • Padded shoulder straps

  • No side pockets

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2) Cressi Travelight Travel BCD

Cressi Travelight Travel BCD

BCD Features
Fully flexible back plate
Integrated weights (SureLock II)
Single pouch integrated weight capacity – 4kg
BCD weight – 2.5kg

Cressi Travelight Travel BCD Review

The Cressi Travelight combines the look of a more traditional BCD with the flexibility and weight of a travel BCD. The BCD can fold down to a size of 36cm x 25cm x 15cm due to its bendable structure and weighs just 2.5kg. This flexibility does not cause any compromise to its hydrodynamics, while the air bladder is designed for natural distribution of air inside the large wings.

The Cressi Travelight features two useful side pockets and plenty of D-Rings to attach all of your accessories to. The waist strap is independent of the bladder which prevents constriction when the BCD is full. A recent recalibration of the inflator means speed of inflation is now 50% faster than before, while the anti sand design helps to prolong the life of the inflator.

  • Light weight

  • Integrated weights compatible

  • Side pockets

  • Fast inflation

  • Anti-sand filtering system

  • No side pockets

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3) Aqua Lung Zuma Travel BCD

Aqua Lung Zuma BCD

BCD Features
Partially flexible back plate
Integrated weights
Single pouch integrated weight capacity – 3kg
Optional trim weight pockets
BCD weight – 2.2kg

Aqua Lung Zuma Travel BCD Review

An extremely light BCD at just 2.2.kg, the Aqua Lung Zuma is the lightest BCD on our list. Aqua Lung have been making dive equipment since 1943 so know what it takes to make to good BCD. Like many travel BCDs, it is designed to be minimalist. The backplate is fully flexible meaning the Aqua Lung Zuma can be folded or rolled into a small size, while padding on the backplate ensures it is comfortable at the same time. The lowered cylinder strap means the majority of the cylinder weight is on your hips, rather than spine which reduces the risk of injury and improves comfort. Padded shoulder straps further improve comfort, especially if diving in a rash vest.

The Zuma features Aqua Lungs patented SureLock II integrated weight pockets with a utility pocket on the right side, enabling you to store dive accessories on your BCD. With 4 D-rings to clip on further accessories and a sleek black design, the Aqua Lung Zuma is an attractive option for travelling divers.

  • Extremely light weight

  • Packs down to a small size

  • Integrated weights compatible (SureLock II)

  • Side pockets

  • Padded shoulder straps

  • None

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Hollis LTS BCD

BCD Features
Fully flexible back plate
Integrated weights
Single pouch integrated weight capacity – 3kg
BCD weight – 2.27kg

Hollis LTS Light Travel BCD Review

Another super light BCD at only 2.27kg, the Hollis Light Travel System is a hybrid BCD designed for the more advanced travelling diver. The backplate is fully flexible allowing it to fit easily in a suitcase, while the wing is made out of 1000D nylon which contains an internal 420 denier nylon air bladder. The striking red and black colour will make you stand out underwater.  Padded shoulder straps and backplate make it comfortable to wear underwater, while integrated weights makes will make it more comfortable around the hips due to not having to wear a weightbelt.

  • Extremely light weight

  • Padded shoulder straps and backplate

  • Integrated weights compatible

  • Fully flexible back plate

  • Attractive design

  • No side pockets

  • No shoulder dump valve

  • Non padded shoulder straps

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5) Oceanic Biolite Travel BCD

Oceanic Biolite Travel BCD

BCD Features
Partially flexible back plate
Integrated weights
Single pouch integrated weight capacity – 3.2kg
BCD weight – 2.5kg

Oceanic Biolite Travel BCD Review

Stripped down to the bare essentials, the Oceanic Biolite has a straightforward design focusing on comfort and convenience. Although not the lightest BCD on the list at 2.5kg, the Oceanic Biolite is still incredibly light for a BCD. A partially flexible back plate allows the BCD to fold in half to fit in a suitcase. The air bladders are situated on the back and are made out of Oceanics patented Bioflex material. This allows the Biolite to provide as much lift as a regular BCD using a smaller air bladder, making you more streamlined underwater.

The Oceanic Biolite features a handy carabiner on the right shoulder strap and two integrated weight pockets able to carry up to 3.2kg each. There is a dump valve on the lower left hand side, but lacks a shoulder dump valve.

  • Light weight

  • Packs down to a small size

  • Air positioned in the back

  • Integrated weights compatible

  • No side pockets

  • No shoulder dump valve

  • Non padded shoulder straps

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6) Oceanic Jetpack Travel BCD

Oceanic Jetpack Travel BCD

BCD Features
Functions as a BCD and backpack
Integrated weights
42 liter semi dry bag for travelling
BCD and backpack weight 3.5kg
BCD only weight – 2.8kg

Oceanic Jetpack Travel BCD Review

The striking Oceanic Jetpack is a cleverly thought out design that functions both as a BCD and backpack. A 42l semi dry bag can be clipped onto the back of the BCD which allows you to fit your whole dive set, regulator, wetsuit, fins and mask inside. The integrated weight pocket and inflator hose can also be removed to fit inside the BCD. This frees up a lot of space in your hold luggage which would have otherwise been taken up by your dive gear. Once at your destination, simply reassemble the BCD and you are good to go.

The Oceanic Jetpack comes in one standard size, but can be adjusted to fit any user. This may be a slight problem from smaller divers which could result in a lot of excess straps dangling about.

  • Functions as a BCD and backpack

  • Can fit a full set of dive equipment inside

  • Air positioned in the back

  • Integrated weights compatible

  • One size fits all

  • Can potentially get damaged during travel

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ScubaPro Equalizer Travel BCD

BCD Features
Rigid padded backplate
Integrated weights
Single pouch integrated weight capacity – 4kg
Octo pockets
BCD weight – 3.3kg

Scubapro Equalizer Travel BCD Review

For those who prefer a jacket style BCD or are less experienced, the Scubapro Equalizer might be the travel BCD for you. Although not as light (3.3kg) and flexible as many of the travel BCDs mentioned previously, it is still significantly lighter than a standard BCD. Therefore it could work well for someone who wants to use it a home, as well as when abroad. The Scubapro Equalizer is packed with features, including integrated weights, Octo Pockets to hold your spare regulator and knife grommets to hold your dive knife.

Apart from the weight of the BCD, the main draw backs are the rigid backplate, which means it will not fold down as small as other BCDs in your luggage. The lack of padding on the shoulder straps may be uncomfortable for rash vest divers.

  • All round air inflation is advantageous for beginners

  • Octo pockets to neatly store you spare regulator hose

  • Side pockets

  • Integrated weights compatible

  • Knife grommet

  • Heavier than other travel BCDs

  • Non flexible back plate

  • Non padded shoulder straps

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How To Choose A BCD

A buoyancy control device (BCD) is an essential piece of equipment for scuba diving. They allow us to control our buoyancy in order to become neutrally buoyant in the water (not sinking and not floating up). This is an essential skill in scuba diving, not only from a safety perspective but also from an enjoyment point of view. The better you are at controlling your buoyancy, the less you will fin, resulting in you being more relaxed and consuming less air. It will also most likely improve you interactions underwater, as fish are easily scared by divers fining a lot.

How to choose a BCD

A BCD is essential to maintaining neutral buoyancy

The following designs and features are things you should consider when purchasing your next BCD. If you are new to diving, you will most likely use rental gear for most of your first dives, therefore it is a good opportunity to try different styles and manufacturers to see what you prefer.

BCD Styles

There are three main styles of BCD; jackets, hybrids and wings. There are also BCDs available on the market which are suitable for traveling or a better fit for ladies.

Jacket BCD

Jacket BCDs inflate all around the wearer (chest, waist and back) and are a good choice for beginners. They provide a stable and comfortable position in the water, which makes them great for learner divers. Jacket BCDs are more bulky and normally have velcro pockets around the waist. This results in them being slightly heavier than the other types of BCDs.

Cressi Jacket BCD

Cressi Jacket BCD

Hybrid BCD

Hybrid or back inflate BCDs are a mixture of jacket and winged BCDs. The air bladders are located on the divers back, which makes it easy to maintain a horizontal position in the water. Hybrid BCDs again come with storage around the waist and most allow integrated weights.

Aqua Lung Zuma Hybrid BCD

Aqua Lung Zuma Hybrid BCD

Wing BCD

Finally wing style BCDs are generally used by more advanced and technical divers. At their simplest, wing style BCDs are a backplate and back air bladder. As the majority of air is held on your back, this again allows for a streamlined horizontal position in the water. Wing BCDs feel like you are almost not wearing a BCD at all they allow a lot of freedom with your arms. As wing BCDs are more minimalist, they are often lighter as they forsake pockets around your waist.

Tusa Wing BCD

Tusa Wing BCD

Travel BCD

With the explosion of scuba diving and more and more people traveling overseas to dive, many manufacturers are producing lighter stripped down travel BCDs. Travel BCDs can be jacket, hybrid or winged style, however the majority are generally winged or hybrid as these are already more minimalist. The materials used are often thinner and lighter, with D-rings often being aluminum rather than steel to reduce weight. Travel BCDs are also more flexible, with partially flexible or fully flexible cylinder plates which allow the BCD to be folded down to a small size to fit in a suitcase.

Ladies BCD

Ladies BCDs are designed to provide a better fit for women compared to standard BCDs. The back length is shorter which prevents the cylinder resting on the base of your spine. Chest straps are sometimes removed to allow more comfort.

Dump Valves

Dump vales are an important part of a BCD allowing you to manually release air from your BCD. Most BCDs have several dump valves; normally one on your right shoulder and one on the back on the side where your hand can reach. Dump valves have a small toggle on a cord which you can pull to release air. They also have a one way pressure valve which will automatically release air if you inflate it too much to stop it exploding!

Dump valves should be easy to reach and you should be able to find them without looking for them. Some BCDs may have dump valves which aren’t in the best position for you personally, so it is something to bear in mind. The more you dive the more you get a feel for where you like your dump valves to be located.

Inflator

BCDs are inflated using the inflator hose which is usually located over the left shoulder. Different brands and models of BCD inflate at different speeds. Top quality brands allow fine tuning to get the precise amount of air in the air bladder, so it is something to consider. The inflator button can also be located in slightly different places on the hose, therefore it is worth finding a position you are comfortable with.

BCD Inflator Hose

BCD Inflator Hose

Deflator

The inflator hose will also contain a release button which allows you to release air from the air bladder. The button should be easy to operate and easy to locate. You should also find it easy to inflate orally incase of an emergency.

Integrated Weights

Integrated weights allow divers to forsake the need for a weight belt. This improves mobility in the water and is one less thing to forget! Integrated weights are simply pouches which weights can be added to which then clip into the BCD. They can be released quickly in case of an emergency.

Integrated weights

Integrated weights forsake the need for a weight belt

Pockets & D-rings

Jacket and some hybrid style BCDs have pockets near the waist to allow you to store accessories such as torches or dive slates. If you like to take a lot of accessories during you dive then you may find pocketed BCDs useful. All BCDs will come with several D-rings which will allow you to clip on accessories to also.

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