What Size BCD do I Need? [Charts Included]

Author: Aziz Khan “Sinbad”
Last Update:
what size bcd do you need

I hate shopping for things that need measurements. Waistline, over the shoulder, weight, height – this is terrifying.

For this article, I decided to finally get over it and help you answer the question “What size BCD do I Need?”.

I spent half a day researching the different measurements needed to choose a BCD.

Unfortunately, there is no short answer to this question. However, I did provide all the information you’ll ever need to find the perfect size for you.

BCD Size Chart (Imperial / US)

SizeHeight (ft)Weight (lbs)Waist (in)Shoulders (in)
Extra Small (XS)5’0″ – 5’5″100 – 12530 – 4233 – 41
Small (S)5’2″ – 5’7″120 – 15530 – 4237 – 45
Medium (M)5’7″ – 5’10″150 – 16533 – 4540 – 48
Medium Large (ML)5’10″ – 6’0″160 – 19035 – 4742 – 50
Large (L)6’0″ – 6’2″180 – 21038 – 5044 – 52
Extra Large (XL)6’2″ – 6’5″195 – 24041 – 5346 – 54
Extra Large 2 (XXL)6’2″ – 6’5″230 – 27044 – 5646 – 54

BCD Size Chart (Metric)

SizeHeight (m)Weight (kg)Waist (cm)Shoulders (cm)
Extra Small (XS)1.52 – 1.6745 – 5676 – 10684 – 104
Small (S)1.58 – 1.7354 – 7076 – 10694 – 114
Medium (M)1.73 – 1.7768 – 7484 – 114101 – 122
Medium Large (ML)1.77 – 1.8272 – 8689 – 119106 – 127
Large (L)1.82 – 1.8881 – 9596 – 127111 – 132
Extra Large (XL)1.88 – 1.9888 – 108104 – 134117 – 137
Extra Large 2 (XXL)1.88 – 1.98104 – 122111 – 142117 – 137

How Do You Measure Your BCD Size?

When buying a BCD, you’ll need to know the following measurements:

  • Weight
  • Height
  • Waistline
  • Shoulder/Chest Size
how to take your measurements for a scuba diving bcd

How to Take Your Measurements?

If you haven’t taken your measurements in a while, now is the time to do that.

Over the Shoulder

To measure your over-the-shoulder size (or OTS), place the measuring tape across your left or right shoulder and read the distance between the top of the waist line on the front to the top of the waist line in the back.

For men, the waistline is measured at the height of the belly button, and not the beltline.

Waist Size

To measure your waist size, run the measuring tape across your waist. Start by placing the end of the measuring tape right above your belly button, and then run the tape across your waist.

Read the measurement at the other end of the tape.

Also Read: Does Scuba Diving Shorten Your Life?

How to Tell if a BCD Fits Perfectly?

A BCD fits perfectly when you have adjusted it and feel comfortable. There should be a bit of wiggle room left. It is important that you have some room to loosen or tighten your BCD depending on how thick your wet- or drysuit is.

The size charts provided by manufacturers are approximated. The measurements are built assuming that you’ll be wearing an average-thickness wetsuit. Always calculate an extra 2” or 5cm for thick suits used for cold-water diving.

If you adjusted your BCD and feel comfortable, one trick to further test it is to inflate it with your mouth. Sometimes, the BCD will fit you well on the surface, but when it inflates underwater it can be too tight.

How Can You Tell if a BCD is Too Small?

You can easily tell when a BCD is too small for you.

Here’s how:

  • The shoulder straps don’t have a lot of adjustment
  • The velcro strap across your stomach is adjusted to the maximum, but it doesn’t reach all the way across
  • The waistband straps don’t have room for adjustment

It will be a pain to use an inflated BCD in a wetsuit underwater if it doesn’t fit you in the shop.

How Can You Tell if a BCD is Too Big?

A BCD is too big for you if you adjust the straps all the way and there’s a lot of free space between your body and the BCD.

To be more precise:

  • If the shoulder strap is adjusted all the way and there’s still a lot of space over the shoulders
  • If the velcro strap is adjusted to the maximum and there’s a lot of excess material sticking out
  • If you inflate the BCD with your mouth and there’s still a lot of free space

Also Read: Does Scuba Diving Dehydrate You?

BCD Style

The type of buoyancy control device you go for will affect the fit. For example, an M-size Jacket-style can be too big for you, while a Backplate and Harness Medium size fits you perfectly.

It has to do with the way adjustment works on different types of BCDs. The backplate and Wings have more room for adjustment because of the versatile D-rings.

Let’s dive into some of the most popular BCD styles below.

Jacket Style BCD

A Jacket BCD is what you’ll be using as a beginner. They inflate around you, giving you the feeling of a hug.

The big pockets make them less adjustable, meaning that you will have to be careful when picking your size.

Backplate and Wing BCDs

Backplate and Wing BCDs are usually used by advanced and technical divers. The backplate consists of free elements: the backplate itself that holds the tank, the harness, and the dive wing that controls buoyancy.

Back-Inflate BCDs

As the name suggests, the air cell is positioned on your back. This gives you more free space in your front, thus being more versatile and easier to adjust.


In this article, I combined all the information you need to choose a BCD that fits you, on one page.

So, did you find your size yet?

Photo of author
Aziz Khan “Sinbad”
Aziz Khan “Sinbad” is a TV journalist and a documentary filmmaker by profession. He is a certified TDI-SDI instructor who is committed to sharing his passion and knowledge with those intending to venture into the deep blue.

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