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Reliability is the key factor when choosing a scuba diving regulator. This is one of the most important pieces of dive equipment, as it is your main underwater breathing apparatus. You'll want to weigh a variety of factors when selecting diving regulators, such as your intended diving environment, frequency of use, comfort, and price range. Whichever factors are most important to you will guide your choice.
Nearly all diving regulators are suitable for general recreational diving, both in your favorite lake or shallow ocean water. Recreational diving is usually defined as no more than 130 feet in depth in calm waters. More advanced diving, such as cave diving, colder-water diving, extended-range deep diving to 198 feet, and diving in rough water requires a more complex scuba regulator.
Finding a scuba regulator to fit your specific needs depends on your preferred diving conditions. This may require basic background knowledge of how a scuba regulator works.
The first stage of a scuba regulator, which is the part that is attached to the tank, takes the high pressure air from the cylinder and reduces it to an intermediate, working pressure.
The second stage on a scuba regulator is located at the hose's end, along with the mouthpiece. The second stage reduces the pressure in the hose to a breathable pressure. A balanced second stage on a scuba regulator typically performs the best for the diver.
In addition to your primary second stage regulator, all scuba regulators should include a safe, second regulator known as an octo or an alternate air source. This alternate air source comes into play in the unlikely event of the you need to share air with your buddy, or something happens to your primary regulator.
Your octo, can come in a variety of styles. The most common style is your basic octo, which is a second hose connected to the first stage, and usually brightly colored so it’s easy to find. The other style is integrated into the inflator of your BCD, which allows the scuba diver to be more streamlined by combining the alternate air source (octo) to be the inflator of the BCD, thus eliminating an extra hose hanging from your body. This style is the preferred configuration for many instructors.
Another popular option is a complete Redundat Breathing System, like the Spare Air.