WHICH SCUBA REGULATORS ARE BEST?
A good scuba regulator is a vital part of any dive gear, reducing the high-pressure combination of helium, nitrogen and oxygen in the tanks so it’s breathable by the diver. Not all regulators are the same, however, so we’ve put together a concise buyer’s guide to help those new to the sport decide which is best. We’ve also made a few recommendations at the end of this article. Our top pick is the outstanding Scubapro MK25 EVO/A700 Diving Regulator System, a combination that provides safety and easy breathing for experienced divers wherever they go and whatever conditions they encounter.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY A SCUBA REGULATOR
Scuba regulators are divided into first stage — which takes tank pressure down from a couple thousand pounds per square inch (psi) to around 140 psi — and second stage, the mouthpiece, which offers fine pressure adjustment for comfortable breathing. You may also have an octopus or a standby second regulator for emergencies.
The first-stage regulator is more complex. They are either diaphragm or piston operated. Diaphragms are more complicated but are actually cheaper to make. They’re often preferred for cold waters. Piston models are more expensive because although simpler they need to be made with greater precision. Piston regulators can handle higher air flow than those with a diaphragm. It can be important for professionals, though makes little difference to most leisure divers. The downside is that they’re slightly more likely to free-flow in cold water (a situation where pressure control is lost).
Regulators are also described as balanced or unbalanced. A balanced regulator will always try to maintain an even pressure, regardless of body position in the water, how full the tanks are or the difference in depth. Unbalanced regulators don’t do this, so it’s possible to experience difficulty breathing at times. However, effects are moderate at depths less than 100 feet and beginners don’t generally go beyond about 60 feet.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY SCUBA REGULATOR
How easy the controls are to access and operate is a major factor. Entry-level regulators tend to offer fewer controls so the diver can enjoy the dive without distractions. More experienced divers want greater control but will have become more accustomed to making changes anyway.
Connections are either din or yoke. The two are not directly compatible. You can get a din to yoke adapter, but it’s an addition to your rig you could do without. If you already have tanks it’s easier if the connectors match. Multiple ports on the regulator (hose attachment points) allow added flexibility so you can custom fit your gear how you prefer it.
A purge valve in the second stage allows the diver to force out water that may have accidentally entered the system. You’ll likely be wearing dive gloves, so you want something that’s easy to operate.
Mouthpiece comfort shouldn’t be forgotten — it can be an annoying distraction if the fit isn’t good. Fortunately, it’s neither difficult nor particularly expensive to change. They’re often silicone, which is flexible but also tough. They are frequently hypoallergenic too.
HOW MUCH YOU CAN EXPECT TO SPEND ON A SCUBA REGULATOR
There’s considerable variation in scuba regulator prices, so it’s important to understand what you need. Entry-level stage one and two combos start at around $150, but you’ll probably want to upgrade to a more flexible system once you gain some experience. You’ll likely spend anywhere from $200-$700. Advanced divers looking for the very best scuba regulators will pay $800 and up.
SCUBA REGULATORS FAQ
Q. Do I need to buy first- and second-stage regulators from the same company?
A. No. Experienced divers will often mix and match equipment. However, if you’re relatively new to scuba diving, getting both from the same source guarantees they’ll work well together — something that can be a challenge if you buy separately.
Q. Do my regulators need regular maintenance?
A. Yes. The manufacturer will give instructions, including a recommended service interval (dive centers will usually do this for you). The most important task is to rinse your regulators in clean, fresh water after every dive. Although designed to work in salt water, it will still corrode them if not washed out. Leave to dry naturally, out of the sun.
WHAT SCUBA REGULATORS ARE BEST TO BUY?
Top scuba regulator
Our take: Precision-made professional outfit suitable for all water temperatures.
What we like: Exceptional build quality delivers high performance for experienced pro and sports divers. Choice of pressure adjustments. Responsive air delivery even on low tanks. Anti-freeze protection.
What we dislike: Functionally nothing, but it’s expensive and more than many divers need.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Top scuba regulator for the money
Our take: Frequently recommended for beginners, it comes with a surprisingly low price.
What we like: Well-made, no-frills model allows users to focus on the dive. Sealed first stage prevents corrosion or contamination. Big, easy-to-use purge button. Excellent value.
What we dislike: Rare free-flow problems or first stage leaks.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: A good low-cost regulator, ideal for travelers because of its compact size.
What we like: An excellent all-rounder both for beginners and more experienced divers. Reliable and very durable. Simple to adjust. Easy breathing. Comfortable second stage mouthpiece.
What we dislike: Very little. A few squeak when new. Some would prefer longer hose.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon
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Bob Beacham writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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