• Saturday , 18 November 2017

Regulator Buyers Guide

If your going to breathe underwater, you need a SCUBA regulator. Regulators get their name because they regulate the high pressure air that is stored in your tank and break it down to a lower pressure so that we can breathe it on demand.

Getting the Best Scuba Regulator

When purchasing regulators the advice is to buy the very best scuba regulator that you can afford. Higher performing regulators tend to come with a higher price tag but we all have different budgets. If your budget is keeping you out of the water, be prepared to settle for less.

Unless you plan to dive in extreme environments or outside recreational depth limits, all SCUBA regulators sold by recognized SCUBA brands will get you on you way. Bare in mind that we are talking about life support equipment that allows us to explore an alien environment. If you’re looking to save money, regulators may not be the best equipment item to do that with.

The list below is order from the higher priced and higher performing to the lower priced.

Best SCUBA Regulators for 2017

ImageProductBalancedHP Ports/LP PortsMore Info
Scubapro MK25 S600 EVOScubapro MK25 EVO S600Our Review
APEKS XTX 200Apeks XTX 200Our Review
Oceanic Alpha 9 CDX5Oceanic Alpha 9 CDX5Check Price
Aqualung Legend LXAqualung Legend LXPrice Check
Mares Abyss 22 Navy 2Mares Abyss 22 NAVY 2Check Price

When divers talk about regulators or regs they can be referring to a single first or second stage regulator or they can be talking about the bunch of hoses that are connected to your tank (the regulator set). Before looking at regulator specifics, let’s have a look at the individual components of a regulator set.

The SCUBA Regulator as a Set

The first component of a reg set is the first stage regulator. It’s the part that connects to the tank valve. The first stage gets it’s name for very obvious reasons. It’s the first stage of breaking down the high pressure air in your cylinder.

The first stage has outlets (ports) on it’s sides where we connect the hoses that run off to the rest of our gear. The number and location of the ports can determine if a first stage is suitable for you or not, depending on how you set up your gear.

The second component of the reg set is the second stage reg (obvious right?) which can also be called the demand regulator or demand valve. As the name implies, this reg is the second stage in breaking down the pressure. From high pressuse to a pressure we can safely reath underwater.

The regulator set will usually have two second stages. Our main second stage is called the primary regulator and it’s the one we breath out of. The second is an alternate airsource and is colored bright yellow. This one is used as a an emergency reg for you or your buddy if things should go wrong during a dive. Old timers, like myself, still often refer to the alternate as an occy or octopus regulator.

Both second stage regulators connect to low pressure ports on the first stage and are worn on the right hand side of the body. The primary reg over the should and the alternate’s hose goes under the right arm and the second stage body is worn on your chest area so it can be reached quickly if needed.

Another key component of the reg set is a low pressure inflator hose. The LP inflator conects the tank to the inflator hose of your BCD. The hose attaches to a low pressure port of the first stage and routes over your left shoulder.

If you will be wearing a drysuit you will also need a low pressure port to attach the drysuit hose to. The drysuit hose is another LP inflator the same as your BC hose although it is usually longer so that it doesn’t restrict any diver movement.

The last piece of our regulator set is our information system. The can be analogue gauges, a computer or a combination of both. What is essential is that you can monitor your tank pressue and this is usually done with a submesible pressure guage (SPG) that conects to a high pressure port of your regulator. The High Pressure hose travels under your left arm and should be clipped away neatly on your BC.

Even if you are using an air integrated wrist computer, you will still need a high pressure port on your first stage to connect the transmitter to.

Connecting Your SCUBA Regulator Set to a Tank

First stage regulators come with one of two main types of connections to connect your regulator to a tank valve. It’s important to know which kind suits the particular tanks you will be diving with.

The Yoke connection, also referred to as an A-Clamp, is the most common in the USA and many diving destinations you may choose for your vacation. The yoke fits over a tank valve with it’s opening facing the opening of the tank valve which is surrounded yb an o-ring. With the first stage in place, you can tighten the yoke to fasten the reg to the valve. You need to be careful not to over-tighten the yoke as this could damage the o-ring seal, you’ll also need to pay attention that the o-ring is free from sand or grit which can also break the seal. Just finger tight is all that is required, meaning no force is needed for the first stage to remain in place.

If you purchase a yoke regulator, ALWAYS carry spare tank valve o-rings. Every weekend countless dives are spoiled by a part that costs a few cents.

The DIN fitting is less common for recreational divers but generally preferred for technical and commercial diving. The DIN fitting has a screw thread around the first stage inlet and the first stage is screwed directly into the tank valve. DIN which is more common in Europe is generally a stronger connection allowing the reg to operate on higher tank pressures (300 bar). It is also more stream line and less likely to be knocked out of place during a dive.

K valve, DIN valve, DIN/K Valves

Types of SCUBA Regulators

Regulator Performance

Balanced Versus Unbalanced Regulators

You will often hear of regulators being either balanced or unbalanced. The easiest way to consider each type is by the way they react to the tank pressure or water pressure they are operating under.

A balanced regulator is the more common type of recreational system you will encounter. These regulators compenstate for changing pressure and deliver an even amount of airflow no matter how low the air in your tank is getting or how deep your dive is.

The downside of balanced regulator is that they are often more expensive as their construction can be a little more complicated.

An Unbalanced regulator reacts quite differently to changing pressure. With this type of regulator the breathing resistance will increase the deeper you dive or as the pressure in your tank reduces or approaches empty. These regulators are often less expensive due to a simpler design.

Unbalanced regulators can be a good choice for diving in shallower water (less than 20m) and where a more robust regulator is required such as hunting and gathering, work situations or as dedicated decompression set ups.

Choosing a SCUBA Regulator

Like I said earlier, choose the best regulator that you can afford. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret. All the regulators that are on the market today are good. SCUBA regulators are life support equipment so there are no manufacturers that are going to sell a bad product that has the potential to fail. That would be catastrophic for a diver and for the manufacturer. So, the point here is don’t over think things too much.

If you’re buying a regulator through your local dive shop it’s a good idea to stick with one of the brands that they support. The dive shop is likely to get a better deal on these giving you more room to haggle when it comes to talking price. The dive shop is also likely to get better support from the manufacturer which they can pass on to you if you need after sales service or parts. Although, this is only useful to you if the dive shop provides you with good customer service in the first place.

The type of diving you do or aspire to will also help determine the best regulator to buy. Deep or technical diving requires high performance, balanced regulators such as the Scuapro Mk25. Sport diving well within recreational limits allows you much more choice in regulators and greater range of prices. Unbalanced regulators can be suitable here if you’re on a budget.

If most of your diving will be while traveling you may want to consider titanium regulators as they are much lighter. The downside of titanium regs are they can be more expensive and are not suitable for use with Nitrox where oxygen concentration is greater than 40%. If you use Nitrox regularly it’s probably better to avoid titanium altogether.

2nd stage occy or alternate

Caring for Your Regulator

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