Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why dive a backplate and wing instead of a jacket BCD

The backplate and wing, possibly the best piece of scuba gear you can buy.

Long the configuration of choice for the technical diver, the backplate and wing is seeing more acceptance in recreational diving, and rightfully so.  New divers are faced with a decision to purchase a back-inflate or jacket BCD.  Rarely are they offered the third, and superior option.  The benefits of a backplate and wing over these traditional recreational BCD's are numerous.  A BP/W is infinitely adjustable to fit any size diver, is incredibly durable, easily repaired, can be modified as necessary, and is dollar for dollar a better performing, longer lasting piece of equipment.


Recreational diver
A recreational diver in a horizontal position
The recreational BCD is built to keep a scuba diver vertical, which is comfortable for new divers since this is how our bodies are oriented on land, but counter-intuitive to effective diving.

When diving, the ideal position is a horizontal one, making you streamlined in the water, much like a fish.  This is known as trim.  Proper positioning reduces the effort necessary to propel yourself in the water.

If your BCD is pushing you into a vertical position, you will be expending extra effort to remain in trim, and thus using more gas and expending excess energy, leading to a shorter, less comfortable dive.

The reason this happens is simple physics, think of a see-saw on the playground.
Recreational diver in jacket BCD
The upward force will make a diver off balance by design

Your body will pivot on it's center of gravity.  When scuba diving, this will be the extra weight you are wearing.  In a jacket BCD, your center of gravity is near your hips, and your means of buoyancy is near your chest and shoulders.

A back inflate BCD, while a better option, ultimately finds similar pitfalls.

Enter the backplate and wing.  This configuration sandwiches your center of gravity between you and your BCD, and distributes it evenly, solving this problem.
Recreational diver in backplate and wing
The BP/W balances the diver naturally
 The backplate itself serves as your weight, eliminating the need to shuffle bricks in and out of  BCD pockets.

Also, placing your center of gravity directly above your lungs, the body's internal source of buoyancy, has the same effect, keeping downward force parallel with upward force.

I'll touch more on the benefits of a BP/W in another post, but if you are looking to purchase a backplate and wing setup, but don't know where to begin or your dive shop does not carry them, I recommend Deep Sea Supply.  Owner, operators, and manufacturers are a small, knowledgeable crew who will take the time to talk you through your purchase and ensure you get exactly what you need.

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