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There are a lot of people who like to scuba and find it to be not only a great hobby but a great workout as well. Going scuba diving is excellent for making amazing memories with friends and family, but it also requires a lot of gear. It’s crucial that you be familiar with all of your scuba gear before attempting to use it. The most critical piece to familiarize yourself with is the scuba regulator.
Once you have your C-card, you will be able to buy your scuba regulator. But don’t worry, we will help you through each step of the process.
What Is A Scuba Regulator?
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A scuba regulator is part of the scuba gear you will be wearing while you’re underwater. This is going to be part of what allows you to breathe while submerged. Your scuba regulator will have two pieces: the first and second stage.
The first stage of your regulator is the part that is attached to your scuba tank. This takes the high-pressure air and drops the pressure down to something more manageable. This is called “intermediate pressure,” and it moves on to the second stage. The first stage can be connected to your scuba tank with either Din or Yoke connections.
A Din connection is the safer of the two connections. It screws into the tank valve and traps the high-pressure O-ring so that it can’t protrude and air cannot escape. These are especially popular in the tech diving community and overseas. Din connections, or tanks that use Din connections, are not available everywhere, so you might have to look in a specialty shop.
Yoke fittings are seen more often used in recreational diving and are typically seen on the standard 80L aluminum tanks. The regulator is slipped over the top of the valve and then secured in place with a large bolt. These are still safe for use, however. Those who dive recreationally can still use these connections. Many find yoke fittings easier to handle.
The second stage of your scuba regulator is the part that typically gets referred to as the regulator. It is the part that goes directly into your mouth. Again, the air that is in the tank is brought to a lower, more ambient pressure so that you can comfortably breathe in the air. The second stage is going to have a purge button, a mouthpiece, and an exhaust valve.
The purge button will allow you to release and remove any water that is in your setup. The exhaust valve allows for exhaled air to escape. Your mouthpiece and its design will allow you to keep the regulator in your mouth securely. You will not have to hold on to the mouthpiece.
What Things Are Important
To Note Before Buying A Scuba Regulator?
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Like most technical gear, your scuba regulator will have different options available for you to use.
Pistons vs. Diaphragms
In both the first and the second stages, you will have either a piston or a diaphragm attached. Both of these will work fine for recreational divers.
Pistons tend to be simpler because they have the least amount of moving parts. This tends to lead to fewer maintenance costs. However, you will have to spend more time on post-dive care. Most of the first stage regulators allow water in, and so you have to care for your parts to prevent corrosion. Diaphragm regulators have more moving components and are not as durable as piston regulators. The upside is that they are usually cheaper.
You can get these either environmentally sealed or unsealed. If your diving is confined to the tropics, you can get away with an unsealed regulator. However if you’re diving in different environments, an environmentally sealed setup is better. For the recreational diver, environmentally sealed first-stage diaphragm regulators that have extended warranties make the most financial sense. Well-known brands will also carry spare parts in case a replacement is needed.
Balanced vs. Unbalanced Regulators
Simply put, a balanced regulator will allow your breathing to feel the same throughout the whole tank of air. For unbalanced regulators, the breath will feel stiffer as you get to the bottom of the tank. An unbalanced regulator will depend on the pressure surrounding the tank and the internal pressure to help it function.
In general, the balanced regulator is going to cost more on average. It tends to be preferred amongst technical or frequent divers because the breathing will feel more natural. However, if you’re a recreational diver, you can usually get away with a high-quality unbalanced regulator, and you will not notice much of a difference. It may save you money as well.
Number of Connection Ports
Most modern regulators will have enough connection ports to operate both stages. It will also allow you to connect your computer and your BCD as well. However, if you wear a dry suit or for whatever reason need more connection ports, make sure your regulator has all that you need before purchasing. In general, assess your needs along with your budget and comfort level before buying your scuba gear.
Seek Out Comfort
With any of your scuba gear, make sure you are physically comfortable using it and that you have the right fit. This goes double for items like the mouthpiece. If you feel like you’re clenching your jaw or you can’t relax your mouth, you may need to get fitted for a new one. The mouthpiece shouldn’t cause stress or pain.
Different brands will offer different warranties. Some only last a couple of years and some will be for the lifetime of the gear. However, it is important to note that most of these warranties will only count if you are regularly servicing your scuba gear.
Where Can You Buy Good Scuba Regulators?
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If you are new to scuba diving or just recently started to get into it, it might be difficult to know where the best places to go are for your gear.
There are going to be brands and parts that are not going to be available in retail stores, but that doesn’t mean you should have to settle. Catalog buying is still a favorite and easy way to shop, mainly if you can’t find what you’re looking for. You may even find what you need cheaper through a catalog. However, there are a few concerns when shopping this way. That includes:
- They should not sell dive gear that operates incorrectly
- They should not sell equipment without taking fit and function into account
- There is little support available by mail order
- Gear that isn’t purchased locally may not be able to be serviced locally
If you are going to buy via catalog, be thorough in finding out servicing and warranty information.
Private Party Purchasing
Buying used gear is easily the most affordable way to go about it. Used items are naturally going to be less expensive than brand new ones. However, purchasing gear this way means there are no guarantees. Unless you are incredibly knowledgeable or are a scuba equipment technician, you may not know if the gear can be serviced. There will also be a lack of performance data, so we tend not to recommend buying used life-support equipment from private sellers.
Retail dive stores (AKA stores that specifically sell and are knowledgeable in diving and scuba gear) are the most popular mode of purchase. They are the focal point of local dive support. They can provide instruction, fittings, rental equipment, local dives, and even inspection and repair services. This would also give you a chance to look at, feel, compare, and test equipment before you made your purchase. Retail stores will also have backup products or parts if the need should arise.
We tend to prefer dive stores over buying from a catalog or private seller because you can guarantee the gear and have more servicing available to you. The personal relationship you create with the workers of the dive store is an added value; you can find someone you trust since they would supply life support equipment.
When purchasing a scuba regulator or other scuba equipment, some non-dive retail stores can still help you out. Many sporting goods stores have scuba gear for sale. Some of them even have scuba departments and could be considered a dive store. However, most of them will not be able to provide the same amount of service and expertize that a regular dive store could.
Other than the prices, there aren’t any real reasons to buy from a non-dive store. If you were to go this route, you should know what you’re doing first so that you can be more comfortable in your purchase.
Your scuba regulator can be costly or affordable. The prices tend to range from $ to $$. There is no doubt that it can be an investment. But, it is an investment you should make. It can mean all the difference in the quality of your dive and your overall experience. Using this guide, consider your budget and look for the highest-quality scuba regulator you can afford.