As most of us know, there are three basic types of BCD’s; the traditional jacket style, the back inflate, and the backplate-wing combo.
There are several myths and misconceptions about the backplate-wing (BP/W) combo that I hope to dispel in this article and to help you see that your progression as a diver may very well benefit more from this type of configuration even if you never intend to move beyond typical recreational limits.
Myth 1: They push you facedown when on the surface.
Fact: With proper weight distribution this should not occur, adjust weight as necessary to get the proper balance.
Myth 2: Backplates are only for technical divers.
Fact: Every diver can benefit greatly from a backplate-wing system. You typically need less weight than with a jacket style. You can also tailor your harness to fit you instead of having to compromise with a poorly fitting jacket (something I had to do).
Myth 3: They are more expensive than a jacket.
Fact: While I will admit there are some expensive backplates and wings out there, you can get a quality no thrills backplate and wing for the same price or cheaper than a lot of jackets or back inflates on the market.
You still may be unsure about them at this point?
But you will begin to see the advantages here soon. Your standard backplate-wing is composed of three main parts; the plate itself that is usually made of aluminum or stainless steel; the harness, which is made of a single 15′ piece of 2″ nylon webbing and assorted D rings; and then the wing that provides the necessary buoyancy.
Now this is where things get complicated and expensive with them. With anything in life different companies have different spins on items. You can get an assembly with quick release buckles, shoulder pads, quick release weight pockets, back pads, and the list goes on for days about some of the gizmos that can be added, but is any of that a “necessity”?
We could argue for and against all of it but my suggestion would be to start off with a basic backplate like the one offered by DGX (Dive Gear Express) ($299) or one from Deep Six ($399). These basic backplates come with everything you need and nothing you don’t. They can also evolve with you and your mission in mind. Why order a backplate with integrated weight pockets ($130 by themselves) only to learn you don’t even need additional weight unlike when you used a jacket BCD? Are you a nimble young diver without shoulder problems? Chances are you may not need those quick release shoulder straps or shoulder pads. Those pads go completely unnoticed once you are in the water.
I will use myself as an example here;
after all, this is following my journey to help divers in the same… “Fins”?
I purchased a backplate and wing system from DGX (Dive Gear Express). After I received my order I assembled it and hit the water, at the time it was perfect for a single tank. Then 25 dives later I signed up for my Intro to Tech course where I will be using doubles. Do I need a whole new backplate? No, I don’t. I just remove the two bolts that hold the single tank adapter and wing to the backplate and put a larger wing and double tank adapter on to my current plate and harness. I don’t need to resize my harness, move my lights or other supporting gear onto a new harness, because it’s all already set up to me. The modularity of them is incredible!
To sum all of this up, you can buy a BCD that is tailored to fit you, helps you trim out better, help you become more confident in the water, and has the potential to grow with you as you progress into the technical realm of diving.
The decision is yours, and don’t just take my word for it! More and more recreational divers are becoming believers in back plates, so even if you don’t end up progressing into the technical side you have a solid BCD. Like anything dive related you should do a lot of research before making a final decision on what you buy.