Need a Dive Regulator? Here’s What You Need to Know


A regulator is about your most important piece of scuba gear as it enables you to breathe safely underwater and connects to other parts of your gear. You should consider buying one if you don’t own one already.

Why? Because if not well-maintained, regulators are prone to failure. You’ll know if yours is well-maintained, but what about those ones that are used over and over in rental shops around the globe?

However, the wide diversity of styles, shapes, and features out there can bring a sort of paralysis of choice. We’ll help you figure it out in today’s post!

Basic Regulator Anatomy

  • First stage: The first stage connects directly to your tank valve and regulates the pressurized air as it leaves your tank and routes it to several hoses such as to your BCD, pressure gauge and mouthpieces.
  • Second Stage: This contains the mouthpiece and purge valve. It delivers air on demand at a comfortable breathing pressure and releases bubbles when you exhale.
  • Alternate Air Source: This is the spare mouthpiece, making it safer and easier to share air with another diver.

Balanced vs. Unbalanced

  • Balanced regulators deliver consistent airflow regardless of how much air is left in the tank or how deep you go. You have the option to buy just the first stage balanced or both the first and second.If you’re an advanced or technical diver, you may want to consider a reg balanced in both stages as their balanced rates make it easier to dive at deeper depths. As with anything with more bells and whistles, these tend to cost the most. Check out this Atomic Aquatics T3 with components precision-machined from solid titanium billet.
  • Unbalanced regs will begin to breathe more stiffly at deeper depths and as the tank empties near the end of a dive. Unbalanced regs tend to be cheaper and easier to maintain, and can be a great option if you mostly dive no deeper than 80’. Check out this affordable but high-performance Oceanic Alpha 8 Sport Regulator.

Piston vs. Diaphragm

You have two options in first stages, either a piston or a diaphragm to control and reduce air pressure from high to moderate pressure. Both designs work equally well, but there are a few differences:

  • Piston: These have minimal moving parts, are very durable and are less expensive to maintain. They can support high air delivery rates so are preferred by demanding sports divers and professionals.
  • Diaphragm: These regs are environmentally sealed, meaning no water can get into the inner mechanism. If you dive in cold or contaminated water, you’ll want a diaphragm design so the inner metal parts are protected and less likely to fail.

Number of Ports

Most regulators have four or five low pressure ports and one or two high pressure ports. The first four usually attach to the hoses connected to your second stage mouthpiece, alternate air source, BCD inflator and a dry suit inflator.

The high pressure port is for your pressure gauge and if you have two, your dive computer. Consider your diving needs before you buy to make sure the regulator has the sufficient number of ports.

Nitrox Ready

Even if you aren’t diving with Nitrox now, that may change so you should consider a reg that can handle Nitrox. Fortunately, many on the market today do, and they aren’t necessarily going to max your credit card. Check out this Hollis 500SE with a variety of features, including Nitrox compatibility.

Regulator Must Haves = Fit Your Needs and Your Budget

Yes, all of these technical specifications are important but the most important factor is comfort and ease of use, as buying equipment you can’t enjoy and use comfortably is fruitless. That being said, if you find a regulator you really like but the mouthpiece isn’t comfortable, it’s easy and inexpensive to switch it out for a more comfortable one.

Figuring out what features to pay for and what features you can pass on isn’t easy. Think about your typical diving conditions and how many accessories you may want to attach to your regulator.

We covered the basics here but there are other features to consider. Your best bet is to talk to an expert before you lay down any cash.

Contact us at Scuba Toys and we can walk you through finding the best regulator for your needs, either in our online inventory or come by our shop in Carrollton, TX.

Call us 972-820-7667 or visit us online!

What did you wish you knew before you bought your first regulator? Let our readers know in the comments section below!

Article Name
Need a Dive Regulator? Here's What You Need to Know
A regulator is a crucial piece of diving equipment. We sort out the options and features so you can buy a reg that fits your needs and your budget.

3 responses to “Need a Dive Regulator? Here’s What You Need to Know”

  1. Antonio says:

    I’m in the market for a regulator right now, but it’s so overwhelming to find the right one. Thankfully, when my buddy comes in a couple of weeks, he’s going with me to help pick one out.

  2. Steve says:

    I’ve always assumed the rentals should be reliable because they would otherwise be a liability.

  3. W.S. says:

    Steve, you’d be surprised. I would much rather have my own, than bank on a rental. At least I know it hasn’t been abused. There are some things I’m not willing to take a chance on.

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