8 Factors To Consider When Purchasing Your Scuba Diving Regulator
by Andy Davis
Scuba diving regulators are one of the biggest purchases you will make as a diver. There are many factors to consider when deciding what is best for you. Don’t choose something you might regret later.
Here are 8 factors to investigate when making your diving regulator selection.
Different regulators have different costs. This may because of the features and performance of the regulator, it may be location biased (import duties, internet versus shop pricing etc) and it can be a factor of added $$ simply due to ‘brand value’ and manufacturer market placement.
The typical instructor advice is “buy the best you can afford”, but in reality; you should buy the best that you need…. unless, of course, you enjoy making high-end purchases for that end alone.
There is a difference between a ‘work-horse’ regulator and a ‘thoroughbred’ regulator. The types of regulator often used for dive shop rentals tend to be work-horse; cheap, reliable and easy-to-maintain. Thoroughbred regulators are high performance and, typically, require more complex service; and have more parts to go wrong. However, there are high-performance regulators on the market that also have a solid reputation for reliability.
Materials also play a large role in the lifespan of the regulator. Consider metal versus plastic. Chrome-plated brass versus titanium etc.
There is also the issue of regulator hoses – rubber versus nylon. Both have pros and cons.
Regulators are tested and rated on their ability to supply volume of gas and their work of breathing. Higher performance regulators can supply greater volumes of gas and have an easier work of breathing. Supplying higher volume of gas is typically only an issue when deep technical diving – due to the increased density of gas being breathed.
As such, it is not a factor that should overly concern most divers. The work of breathing, however, has a direct impact on dive comfort and stress.
Also, consider whether the regulator is balanced or unbalanced and if it is environmentally sealed; making it more or less suitable for cold water diving.
There are a number of factors to consider in regulator design. These include 1st and 2nd stage features.
Location and Number of HP/IP ports. These determine your options to refine your hose routing and, consequent, streamlining in the water. This is especially important for technical, cave and wreck divers…. but also something regular open water divers can also consider as an improvement to their off-the-shelf regulator. It is also important if you are planning to use a pressure sensor/transmitter, rather than a mechanical SPG.
DIN or Yoke. DIN is generally considered safer and more reliable. Yoke offers fewer headaches when travelling to dive; as many dive centres only offer yoke valve cylinders. You can buy adapters for DIN-to-Yoke conversion.
Ambidextrous 2nd Stages. These work when routed from either left or right side. There is no ‘upside-down’ issues with them. This is particularly beneficial if sharing air in an emergency.
Flow Control Knob. Some regulators come with a 2nd stage adjustment that influences the work of breathing (or ‘cracking pressure’). These allow instant adjustment for personal preferences. Some also have a ‘de-tuning’ adjustment which creates a vortex inside the 2nd stage and lowers risk of free-flow (especially on water entry/at-the-surface).
Color and Trend. Yes, this is also a factor for some divers… and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some manufacturers offer 2nd stage faceplates in different colours (like pink, for instance). Some look cool and modern; others more retro or basic….. or even cheap and plastic.
Universality. Some manufacturers use non-standard sizes for hoses, mouthpieces and other connections. This means you cannot make quick and easy replacements away from an authorized retailer. It also means expense because you cannot later opt for generic replacements.
After-Sales Customer Service.
Different manufacturers have varied standards of customer service. This is important if something goes wrong with the regulator. It also affects the generosity of any warranty given upon purchase.
Consider these factors also, if thinking to buy second-hand.
Peace-of-mind is an important factor, should your new regulators have a glitch. Choosing a ‘no quibble’ manufacturer often has an impact on the price tag – but can save you money in the long run.
Ease of Service/Maintenance.
Service/maintenance of regulators is typically only performed by manufacturer qualified service technicians. Manufacturers generally limit the availability of specialist tools and parts to the technicians they qualify; and those technicians usually have to be associated with the official, authorized retailers.
This means that access to timely service and maintenance on your regulators can be determined by the proximity of an authorized service centre. This can vary greatly on regionally and globally. Can you drop off regulators for service/repair on your way home from work… or will you have to courier them away. What is your repair service going to be like if a problem occurs with the regulators whilst on vacation?
Regulators can vary greatly in weight and bulk. They are often the heaviest item of your scuba kit (weights not included). This can be important if you will travel extensively with the regulators; especially if airline baggage weight allowances will be an issue.
Some manufacturers produce titanium regulators which offer considerable weight savings, but these regulators can have drawbacks – such as incompatibility with nitrox.
It helps if you have an idea on your future diving goals; especially if you might get involved with wreck, cave or technical diving.
The requirements for technical/overhead diving regulators are much more extensive than for open water recreational diving. These include the performance and design of the regulator; you will need DIN valves and the location/number of ports becomes an important issue. (BCD)
SEE ALSO: Choosing a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)
About the Author
Andy Davis is a RAID, PADI TecRec, ANDI, BSAC and SSI qualified independent technical diving instructor who specializes in teaching advanced sidemount, trimix and wreck exploration diving courses across South East Asia. Currently residing in ‘wreck diving heaven’ at Subic Bay, Philippines, he has amassed more than 9000 open circuit and CCR dives over 27 years of diving across the globe.
Andy has published many magazine articles on technical diving, has written course materials for dive training agency syllabus, tests and reviews diving gear for major manufacturers and consults with the Philippines Underwater Archaeology Society.
He is currently writing a series of books to be published on advanced diving topics. Prior to becoming a professional technical diving educator in 2006, Andy was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize and Cyprus.