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Need scuba gear, but have no Idea? Fear Not. Part 4: Regulators

Need scuba gear, but have no Idea?? Fear Not.

scuba gear

You regulators are an essential piece of Scuba Gear

Part 4: Regulators

Cost: €200-2000

Scuba Gear. What do I need a regulator for? What do they do?

Scuba gear regulators give us the air we need for scuba diving A regulator is the cool bit of gear that facilitates your breathing underwater. It converts the highly pressurized air from your cylinder directly, giving us breathable air at ambient pressure in just two stages. The first stage reduces the high tank pressure into intermediate pressure (from 200 bar to around 10-12 bar). The second stage (the bit you stick in your mouth) then reduces it again, from 10-12 bar to breathable pressure (ambient)

When divers talk about regulators they are usually referring to a complete set – a first stage, hoses, second stage, redundant second stage (octopus or alternate air source) and an instrument console containing, at the very minimum, an air gauge. All of these can be bought separately, but manufactures will usually preassemble elements that suit each other together to meet the requirements of the different diving environments worldwide. For example, the regs you need for warm, tropical diving are different to those that you would use in cold water. The great news is that over the years regulators have been perfected to the point that even the most budget reg will offer high performance. Be this as it may, it is always good to do a little homework before setting out to buy this vital piece of gear.

Scuba Gear Regulator Options:

  1.   First stages: There are 2 ways that your first stage can fit onto your scuba cylinder – DIN or A-clamp (yoke). The DIN system can handle higher working pressures of up to 300 bar and offers a more secure coupling to the cylinder as it traps the o-ring between the cylinder valve and the first stage. A-clamps are more common worldwide and can handle working pressures of up to 232 bar. Don’t worry if you are tempted by the DIN system but are worried that it won’t fit a cylinder while you are traveling – adaptors exist that can quickly convert a DIN reg to fit onto an a-clamp cylinder.

Another option for your first stage is the number of ports that it has. There are two types of port – the high pressure (HP) and the low pressure. You need both because your air gauge gives you an exact pressure reading from your tank – it lets you know how much air you have, and so it needs a high pressure hose from a high pressure port. The hoses that feed both you and your BCD require low pressure – as we will be breathing from here and don’t want to blow up like an angry pufferfish every time we take a breath or inflate our jacket. Some regulators have more ports than others – you will always need one high pressure port for your air gauge, but some divers want two. The second HP port can be utilized by a transducer – a cool little device that screws into the HP port of the first stage. It reads your cylinder pressure and then delivers this information directly to your dive computer in digital form. Pretty cool (although pretty costly)

Environmentally sealed first stages are for cold water diving. Cold water may interfere with the internal mechanical workings of your first stage making it prone to free-flowing. The environmental seal prevents the surrounding water from interacting with the internal mechanisms, allowing them to breathe smooth and easy in even the coldest of waters.

  1.   Second stage options are either balanced or unbalanced. Balanced second stages deliver consistent performance and flow rates regardless of depth. Unbalanced second stages will struggle to maintain a uniform performance at deeper depths.  Balanced regulators are more complicated than unbalanced ones and so cost a little more. Budget conscious divers beware, ease of breathing is a very, very good thing, but a decent compromise would be to take a balanced first stage with an unbalanced second stage. This combo delivers a good balance of performance at a reduced cost.

Second stages can also have an inhalation adjustment feature that alters the effort required to open the valve. These are great for deeper dives where you can turn the air “up” and breathe freely at depth and turn it “down” again before shallowing up (a comfortable resistance at depth may result in a freeflow at the surface.)

  1.   The Octopus or the redundant second stage is the most common type of alternate air source. Both the front cover of this second stage and the hose that connects it to the first stage are coloured a bright yellow, making it easily identifiable for an out of air emergency. The hose is generally longer than that of your primary one, allowing it to be donated to your buddy should they need it. The octopus doesn’t have to cost the earth either. Most people opt for one that is either the same model as their primary or a more basic option – with any luck, you won’t be using it that often.

Another form of a redundant second stage is one that combines an alternate air supply with the BCD’s inflator. The benefit of this choice is that you need one less LP port on your first stage and it is always readily available and easy to find. One disadvantage to this is that in the event of an emergency the donor diver needs to relinquish their primary second stage and switch to the alternate themselves. The hose for the primary is shorter too, meaning that both divers’ movements are rather restricted.

Scuba Gear. What am I looking for in a set of regulators?

  •         High performance: you want a reg that can deliver a high volume of air at depth, even under strenuous conditions with low tank pressure.
  •         Comfort: you want a mouth piece that sits comfortably in your mouth with hoses that are the right length for you.

Always test as many regulators as possible: breathing from a regulator in a dive store will tell you very little about what it is like to breathe with it underwater.

What do I use?

scuba gear

I adore my Aqualung Legend regulators. This piece of scuba gear has been my best friend for over 10 years now!

My favorite set of regulators are my Aqualung Legend LX. I bought them in 2005 and although I have bought a few more since then I always seem to go back to these. They breathe dry and true in any position and the wide exhaust tees minimize the bubble interference as I breathe out. Perfect in my book.

Whatever you choose, take your time. Talk with your local dive center. Ask your diving friends. Do a little homework to ensure that you find the perfect set of regulators for your budget. Dive as many as you can and read current review sites to get a feel for what’s out there. Once you have found your ‘new best friend’ then treat them well. If you service them annually, keep them out the sun and wash them after every dive then they will be your new best friend.



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