When you choose a buoyancy compressor or buoyancy control device (BCD), the choice between a jacket (aka: vest-style) or back inflation BCD is one of the most important decisions to make.
Both designs are good solid designs, with pros and cons for each. I’ve listed a few below as GENERAL GUIDELINES. The main difference between both designs is the location of the air cell or bladder. The air cell is the part of the BCD that inflates and deflates as you add or remove air. In a jacket style BCD, that cell wraps around your body more, generally at the waist level.
The jacket style:
Pros: Ease of use, often lighter weight and more portable, lower starting price, quicker to deflate, on the surface holds diver upright better
Cons: Unable to customize much, Entire system must be thrown away if one component is damaged, poorer posture underwater
The back style:
Pros: Very customizable (rings, clips, etc.), Replaceable parts, Great posture underwater (air cell all behind you and streamlined)
Cons: Takes longer to set up and adjust on the fly, Can be heavier and thus less portable, Basic models are more expensive than basic jacket BCDs, on the surface, generally pushes the divers face towards the water.
Overall, the jacket style of BCD is much more suited to beginners, while the back style is perfect for more advanced users, but again, that’s only a general rule of thumb. There is nothing wrong with training on either one. A large part of it is what you get used to. If you’ve been using a jacket style and would like to try aback plate/wing style BCD, pop by Float N’ Flag and we’ll show you one and give you a better sense if this is for you.