BCs are generally divided into three “Use” categories: General Purpose (full-featured, high lift, generous ballast capacity, for temperate water diving), True Travel (lightweight, low-profile, easy to pack, for tropical diving), and Dual Purpose (designed to function well in both climes).
General Purpose BCs
General Purpose BCs offer a lot of buoyant lift and integrated weight systems that can accommodate the ballast needed when using thick wetsuits or drysuits. They are usually appointed with generous pockets, D-rings, and grommets for attaching a variety of accessories. Features and comfort commonly rate higher in priority than dry weight, so as a group they tend to be the heaviest BCs on the market.
Dual Purpose BCs
Dual Purpose BCs are lighter and more compact than General Purpose BCs, but the lighter weight means they inherently have less hardware options. They pack easily for trips to the tropics, but at the same time, they provide enough buoyant lift, ballast weight capacity and range of adjustment to be worn in cold water over thick wetsuits or dry suits. The thinking is, because they’re able to be used in both the Great Lakes and the Great Barrier Reef, you only have to own one BC for all your diving adventures.
True Travel BCs
True Travel BCs are even lighter and more compact than Dual-Purpose BCs. They tend to be very low profile, and many are designed to fold or stow in handy storage pouches for easy traveling. True Travel BCs offer less lift capacity and smaller weight pouches to suit warm water dive scenarios.