Part of the experience of becoming a new scuba diver is learning about equipment and selecting the equipment which is best for you. One of the first pieces of equipment that is a must-have is a properly fitting mask, as it is imperative to the dive. The second item that we recommend is a dive computer, as it keeps you informed about the status of your dive, your nitrogen absorption and remaining no-decompression time. In previous blogs we have talked about how to select the mask or dive computer that is best for you, and you can see those, as well as some other posts, here. After you are outfitted with these two pieces of equipment, the next step is to select your own regulator. A high-performance regulator which you own and maintain will ensure your comfort and keep you breathing easy! The remainder of this article will help you to decide which type of regulator is best for you.
One factor in selecting the perfect regulator for you is where you want your diving journey to take you. There are many different factors that go into choosing your regulator and several of those factors are dependent on your current or future certifications.
Balanced vs. Unbalanced
One of the first considerations is what depth you are certified to, and to what depth you anticipate to be certified to in the future. This decision affects selection of either a balanced or unbalanced regulator. Unbalanced regulators are usually less expensive and become more difficult to breathe from the deeper you dive and as your tank pressure reduces during the dive. Meanwhile, balanced regulators are suitable for any depth and provide lower breathing resistance with depth. They make deeper diving, diving in cold water, and diving with currents much easier. If you intended to pursue a Deep Diver certification, we recommend selecting a balanced regulator.
Yoke vs. Din
If you intend to pursue the path of a technical or cave diver, you should consider the regulator’s first stage connection to your tank. There are two options: DIN or a Yoke. Yoke connections are most commonly found in North America and clamp onto the tank with a yoke screw. With yoke attachments, the O-ring that creates the seal is contained in the valve. In the DIN style, which is more commonly found in Europe and is better suited for technical and cave diving, the regulator screws directly into the valve. Generally, DIN is preferred by this community due the more secure connection. The O-ring which creates the seal is a contained in the regulator fitting. It is possible to change a yoke regulator into a DIN regulator and vice versa, though you have to purchase a conversion kit and have the parts professionally installed.
Another consideration when choosing your regulator is whether to choose a diaphragm or piston regulator. All first stages reduce tank the pressure from a high pressure to an intermediate pressure – the design is secondary. You may want to choose an environmentally sealed diaphragm regulator if you dive in cold or murky water. These regulators have many moving parts in them and are easier to produce, making their initial cost lower.
Other factors that you need to consider include whether or not you will become Nitrox certified. If you choose to pursue this certification, you will need to make sure that your regulator is Nitrox ready. You also will want to consider if you will want to become Dry Suit certified. If this is a certification that you wish to pursue you need to make sure that your regulator has extra low-pressure ports for the drysuit inflator hose.
Rent vs. Own
Have you ever kissed a stranger? If you are using a regulator from a high-volume boat operation – you have now. Many dive companies who rent regulators, particularly high-volume boat charters, do not take the time necessary to completely clean out their regulators between uses, which can expose the user to potential risks which they might not expect. Another problem with rental regulators is that you never know if they are being serviced to the schedule recommended by the manufacturer. Most regulators need to be serviced once a year, but if they are heavily used, they generally will need servicing more often. When you own your own regulator, you know when and where it has been serviced, which can provide some peace of mind to the diver.
A final thing to consider when it comes to regulators is cost. On average a regulator can cost between $400 and $700 to own, while rentals are usually around $25 a day. At this rate if you plan on going on more than twenty-eight dives, it makes financial sense to purchase your own regulator.
Jonathan Breeling, 20,000 Leagues Master Tech: From the tech’s perspective, MK17 G260 is the perfect choice. If you take care of it, it will last for a very long time. It is an easy breathing regulator and is durable. In addition, it is environmentally sealed and balanced at both the first and second stages, meaning that it will be suited for most divers in almost any diving situation.
Marshall Goldman: For the beginning diver, the Sherwood SR2 is a great choice. This regulator is balanced in both the first and second stages resulting in very easy breathing at all depths and in any diving position. As a photographer, I often find myself looking under ledges while inverted – and this regulator feels sometimes as if I am breathing at the surface. In addition, its light weight second stage results in zero fatigue.