No matter what type of breathing system you're looking for, these tips will help you find the scuba regulator that best suits your needs — and dive style.
Scuba Regulators: Get the Right Fit for You!
• Scuba regulators have two stages — the first stage (attached to the tank valve) breaks the high-pressure air down to intermediate pressure.
• The second stage (in the diver’s mouth) reduces the intermediate pressure to ambient pressure — what you need to breathe comfortably underwater.
• First stages are either piston, which are open to the water, or diaphragm, which are closed.
• Piston regs have fewer moving parts, usually making them easier to service, typically less expensive, and more compatible with swivels for easier hose routing.
• Diaphragm scuba regulators are better for use in very cold or dirty water, which also means they can potentially be serviced less often than piston regs.
• Second stages come in various sizes and configurations; make sure yours is appropriate to your diving conditions — e.g., have a large purge button if you generally dive in thick gloves or mitts.
• Second stages can be user adjustable, most commonly with a “Dive” or “Pre-Dive” setting.
• Changing settings allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the airflow, making it harder to free flow, which is particularly useful in a strong surface currents.
Scuba Regulators: What You Need To Know
• First stages are either balanced or unbalanced. In simplest terms, a balanced scuba regulator means it breathes the same regardless of tank pressure.
• With an unbalanced reg, it becomes more difficult to breathe as tank pressure decreases.
• Generally, all regs today are compatible with Enriched Air/Nitrox, up to 40%, right out of the box. Be sure to check manufacturer’s recommendations first.
• Scuba regulators need to be serviced once a year, even if they haven’t been used, but especially if they haven’t been used — being dry can affect O-rings, leading to reg failure.
• If the air in the reg tastes like the air in your grandmother’s house, it’s time to service the reg.
For tips on maintaining your scuba regulator, click here
To see the scuba regulator that made our Editor's Pick for 2011, click here, and click here for the 2012 Editor's Pick (both still on store shelves!)