As with any adventure hobby, people that love scuba diving invariably love the gadgets that go with it!
Buying your first big piece of kit, such as a regulator set can be just as exciting as using it for the first time.
When it comes to spending our hard earned cash we want to make sure that we get exactly what we want. And good value for money too of course! So what should you look for when it comes to making this investment?
First things first, think about where you are going to be using your regulators. There is a big difference between diving in colder conditions, like European waters compared to fair weather diving in the tropical waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Which regulators match your dive destination choice?
Secondly, think of your budget. Spend as much as you can, without having to take out a second mortgage!
One of the first questions someone in the shop may ask you is ‘balanced’ or ‘unbalanced’. Don’t be scared by all the jargon! Basically this is just the difference you will feel in the ease of breathing at depth due to the way the regulator first stage has been designed. Typically shop regulators used mainly for introductory courses, such as the Open Water Course will be unbalanced, as you are not going deeper than 18m. Whereas for deeper dives, like your Adventure Deep dive or Deep Diver Specialty where the pressure is greater, you may feel more resistance in breathing with this type. The balanced regulator first stage helps to counteract this, making your breathing feel pretty much the same at any depth.
Another question they may ask you is DIN or Yoke – anyone remember the difference between these?! A DIN regulator screws into a tank valve creating a stronger seal, where a yoke regulator fits over the top of the tank valve and clamps onto it with a tightening screw. Most technical and overhead environment divers use DIN connections, whereas in recreational diving in warmer water (typically in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific) Yoke is most commonly used. If you do opt for DIN, you can always use an adapter to fit it to a yoke tank. This is not possible the other way around.
Another consideration is weight. There are many very good regulators with all the bells and whistles you would ever need, but how much excess baggage do you want to pay to get all this gear to your next dive holiday destination? With the ever increasing dive travel market many of the retail manufacturers are coming up with light weight versions of many bits of dive kit including the regulator.
As if all that wasn’t enough, another consideration to think about are your gauges – SPG (Submersible Pressure Gauge), depth gauge, and maybe even a compass or computer if you want them all console mounted too. Making sure you have an easy to read SPG makes your life a lot easier, but a smaller one saves on weight as is much more streamlined. The compass and computer choices are something we will look at in later blogs – so watch this space!
Have a think about what prices you are being quoted actually mean. Quite often the price you initially get given does not include parts like your SPG and console, or your alternate air source. Also the low pressure inflator hose (LPI) usually comes with the BCD not the regulators, so you may need to get one of those too. This may mean the initial price suddenly doesn’t look so wallet friendly.
If you are considering buying second hand, think of the total cost of your purchase. Not only will you be paying the asking price, but you should also make sure you get a full service of the regulators before using them. Get a quote for the servicing before making an offer on the regulators so you know how much your total spend will be.
Ultimately it all comes down to personal preference. Don’t be pressured into getting something just because it is the most expensive, or because your friend has it and says you should get it. The regulators you choose have to fit all your needs and budget. Make sure you seek expert advice. Find your local scuba retailer, go and meet them and ask! Even if you think it may be a silly question, ask it, the answer may turn out to be more important than you think. If you follow these easy steps, you can’t go wrong!