A couple of months ago we gave you all the low down on what to look for when buying a BCD, and we got some great feedback. So we thought it was a time for another equipment related blog, and this time we are focusing on regulators. Again, it’s a hotly contended topic, and you’re sure to get a whole array of recommendations depending on who you ask.
Most dive pro’s and regular recreational divers list their regulator, dive computer and mask as the most important pieces of equipment to travel with. Ultimately the reg set that is right for you will come down to what is most practical for the type of diving you do, and the environments you dive in. But here are a few things you should consider…
Some Advice About Price
As your lifeline and breathing source underwater, a regulator is up there in terms of the most important purchase you’ll ever make as a diver. And once you have your own, it’s very difficult to go back to diving with rental regs. It’s a big investment, but with such an important piece of gear our advice is to buy the best you can afford. Many divers who err on the side of caution and take a more basic regulator set end up regretting it as their dive skills, qualifications, dive travel and general requirements expand. Even budget regulators can offer high performance though, so don’t worry if you can’t stretch to the highest specifications. Prices vary, but to give you a general idea a basic first stage, second stages and gauge set like the Aqua Lung Calypso retails for just over 19,000THB. Typically you’ll have dived with regulators like this before as it’s the work horse of a large number of dive centres. Exploring into the mid-range, a set like the Aqua Lung Core retails for just over 27,000THB, while the Aqua Lung Legend at the higher end of the scale would cost just over 40,000THB.
Try Before You Buy
Just like with a BCD, you should ideally try out a regulator before purchasing it. Perhaps you have a friend who already uses the model you are looking at? If not, many retail stores do have demo/try before you buy models. As an Aqua Lung Partner Centre, we have access to a full range of try before you buy options for both Aqua Lung and Apex brands through Koh Tao Aqua Master.
Unbalanced or Balanced
Balanced regulators provide assistance at depth and resistance in the shallows, so that every breath of your dive is comfortable and consistent – even when your tank pressure is lower. An unbalanced regulator does not assist or resist breathing, so typically they breathe a bit harder on deeper dives and when running low on air. Given that it is within budget, we’d always recommend selecting a balanced regulator. But certainly if you regularly dive below 18m or in harsher conditions such as cold water or currents, it’s the way forward!
Here at Master Divers our rental regulators are the Aqualung Calypso (unbalanced) which are perfect for regular use on shallow dives such as PADI Discover Scuba Diving programmes and PADI Open Water Courses. However we also have a stock of Aqua Lung Titan (balanced) sets for use on PADI Advanced Open Water courses and Deep Specialty courses etc.
The Aqua Lung Micron is a popular choice for both Koh Tao waters and beyond, as it is both balanced, and very light due to its compact design, making it ideal for the travelling diver.
All regulators technically provide enough air, however what is ‘enough’ air from one diver to the next is admittedly variable. So if possible, choose a regulator that has the option of adjusting the air flow on your primary air source. This technology was first developed by Aqua Lung, and is now common in many regulator sets. For your alternate air source/octopus, it’s a good idea to select a regulator with higher breathing resistance, so you can avoid it free flowing during your dives. The specification of your alternate doesn’t need to be the same as your primary, as it is designed as a back-up, therefore you’re better off investing more in the hose you’ll be breathing from on a regular basis, rather than the one that will seldom be used. However, it may still be used in a stressful situation in a low/out of air scenario so it does need to perform correctly and comfortably.
DIN or Yoke
Depending on where you dive in the world, this may not need to be an active consideration as you may have very little choice! Yokes are the most common fitting – especially in temperate climates – and they attach over the valve of the tank itself. DIN (Deutsche Industry Norm) fittings screw into the tank valve so are more streamlined and because the connection is inside the neck of the tank itself, making it less prone to seizing in colder water. It also means there is less chance of entanglement when diving in overhead environments. For these reasons, DIN regs are normally the preference for cold water divers and Tec divers.
Many Tanks accept both Yoke & DIN fittings, and here at Master Divers we have a number of tanks for customers with DIN regulators. For locations where no DIN tanks are available, divers use Yoke adapters instead. If you only dive in warmer waters then as a general rule, a Yoke fitting should be all you need. Do bear in mind when making your selection though, that it is much easier to convert a DIN to Yoke than the other way round.
The norm is generally to have a shorter primary air source so that you are streamlined in the water, and a longer alternate/octopus so that it is both easily stowed and makes air sharing feasible. It may be worth having your hose length altered to suit your set up though, so do take a little time to work out exactly what you want to ensure both comfort and ease of use. For example, you may want a shorter high pressure hose if you are using a clip mount to secure it rather than a slide through pocket on your BCD.
Aside from the standard configuration, you could also look at a tech set up. In a typical tech configuration the primary second stage is longer than the alternate/octopus, which is secured round the neck using a bungee cord, and it is the primary that is shared in an out of air scenario.
If you are a regular diver or dive traveller, you may want to consider ‘miflex’ hoses, rather than the standard rubber ones. Whilst there is nothing innately wrong with regular rubber hoses, they are thicker and therefore heavier, and also more prone to cracking. Miflex hoses on the other hand, are more flexible, cope with heat better and are much lighter.
While it is important to look for a comfortable mouthpiece, don’t let it be a deal breaker in your selection process. You can buy a variety of mouth pieces separately, and simply swap it out with the original. Alternatively, many divers prefer to mould their own mouthpieces. Mouldable mouth pieces cost a little more, but last for years, and provide unrivalled comfort on your dives.
All first stages will have one high pressure port guaranteed, but ideally you should select a regulator with 2, as this way you have the option of integrating a transmitter for your dive computer as well as a high pressure hose with analogue depth and air gauge.
We hope this has helped to give you the low down on the variety of options available. If you have any more in depth questions by all means do let us know. We’re happy to answer your questions in advance via email, however a better solution would be to take a store visit with one of our experienced and knowledgeable staff, so they can advise you based on your requirements. So just let us know on arrival if this is something you’d like us to arrange for you.
Happy Shopping! 🙂