Best Scuba Regulators

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

24 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
308 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best scuba regulators

Last Updated September 2020

Since humans cannot breathe underwater, to participate in activities that require extended periods of time being fully submerged, we invented the self‑contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba). While there are many key components that comprise scuba gear, arguably the most important one is the regulator. Without a scuba regulator, there would be no way to get the compressed air from the tanks into your lungs.

When shopping for a scuba regulator, you'll need to keep a few things in mind. Comfort and convenience are important factors, but functionality is obviously paramount — the regulator needs to work.

If you would like to learn more about scuba regulators, including how to clean them and how often they should be inspected, as well as which features you need to consider before buying, keep reading. If you just stopped by this page to get a quick recommendation on which scuba regulator to buy, consider the models spotlighted in this article.

If you plan on diving, it is important to check your insurance to see if any accidents or injuries resulting from the activity would be covered. In most cases, scuba diving is not covered under the typical plan.

Understanding the function of the different regulators

The job of a regulator is to take the roughly 3,000 PSI of pressurized air from a tank and step it down in two stages so it can be comfortably breathed by the diver.

First stage regulator: The first stage regulator connects directly to the air tank and reduces the pressure to approximately 140 PSI.

Second stage regulator: The second stage regulator is the one with the mouthpiece. This regulator further reduces the air pressure, so it is safe and comfortable to inhale.

Octopus: A backup second stage regulator, called an octopus, is also attached and ready to go in case of an emergency. An octopus usually has a bare minimum of features because it is not the primary second stage regulator.

Operation

The most significant differences in regulator operation are seen in the first stage regulator. This can either be an unbalanced or balanced regulator that works with a piston or a diaphragm.

Unbalanced: With an unbalanced first stage regulator, the tank pressure helps facilitate breathing. Because of this, breathing will require more effort on the diver's part as the air gets used up. In depths that are less than 100 feet, this shouldn't pose a problem. However, a diver who is swimming at deeper depths or against a current might feel a noticeable difference.

Balanced: A balanced first stage regulator is designed to have consistent performance throughout the dive, no matter how much air is in the tank. Because of this, a balanced regulator will cost a little more, but it is worth the price if you do a lot of deep diving.

Piston vs. diaphragm

Both piston and diaphragm regulators rely on reduced pressure to open a valve so the air can be released. However, the way they accomplish the task is drastically different. With a piston regulator, there is one moving part, which makes it more durable. However, the piston design relies on water to operate and may not function well in dirty or cold water. The diaphragm design has more moving parts, but water does not enter the regulator, so these models are better for use in murky or extremely cold water.

EXPERT TIP

It can be a good idea to purchase a regulator while you are still taking classes, so your instructor is on hand if you have any questions.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

While there are many nuances that can make a diver prefer one regulator over another, all the factors come down to two broad categories: comfort and convenience.

Comfort

The mouthpiece is the easiest part to replace on a regulator. How the mouthpiece fits and feels is definitely a component of comfort, but how it delivers the air is far more important. Unfortunately, you can't predict how a regulator will perform until you are actually using it in the water. Aspects to pay attention to are how consistently it functions in different swimming positions, if the pressure is comfortable for you, and how dry the regulator breathes. Additionally, you will want to have a model that doesn't produce an irritating noise, doesn’t create a stream of bubbles that obscures your vision, and is easy to purge.

Convenience

When thinking about convenience, consider how many ports (where hoses can attach) the regulator has and where they are positioned. Even though you may be thinking you don't need extra ports, they can come in handy, so look for one with at least two high-pressure ports and four or more low-pressure ports. Additionally, having a first stage swivel can help allow the hoses to find their most natural orientation.

An octopus is a backup second stage regulator that is only used in emergencies. Because of this, most are very basic models that are devoid of bells and whistles.

Accessories

Before purchasing your first regulator, you'll need to participate in a certification class. To take that class, you'll need three basic items: diving mask, swim fins, and snorkel.

Diving mask: Kraken Aquatics Snorkel Dive Mask
This snorkel mask is manufactured using leak-proof flexible silicone and tempered glass that resists scratching and shattering. After class, you can continue to use this mask for scuba diving.

Swim fins: FINIS Long Floating Fins for Swimming and Snorkeling
These highly rated swim fins are made of soft, natural rubber and have a buoyancy that helps support the legs for proper positioning. The long blades deliver more power per kick.

Snorkel: Cressi Standard Bore Tube Snorkel
This snorkel features a large-diameter tube for ease of breathing. The soft silicone mouthpiece is comfortable enough for extended periods of use.

Scuba regulator prices

Regulators can be costly. They range from less than $200 to over $1,500. All regulators will do what they are designed to do across all price ranges. The difference is the ease and comfort with which they operate and a few bells and whistles that add convenience.

Inexpensive: If you are looking in the $200 range, you are probably going to find an octopus regulator. This is a very basic model that doesn't have a great many features. It is not meant to be the primary second stage regulator; it is used as a backup breathing option in the event of an emergency.

Mid-range: From $300 to $800, you will find quality regulators. These models will be sufficient for even avid divers. They are designed to deliver air comfortably into the lungs with a smooth and even flow. Some important features in this price range include the regulator being equipped with a hose that is a decent length and having an exhaust port that doesn't obscure your field of vision with bubbles every time you exhale.

High-end: Once you move beyond $800, you've begun the ascent into somewhat luxury models which may offer a greater variety of ports and a first stage swivel as well as a little style, status, and self-expression.

EXPERT TIP

When diving, never travel further than 1/3 of the air in your tank will allow you to go. Use the second 1/3 for the return trip. The final 1/3 is for emergencies.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

When scuba diving, something as seemingly innocuous as holding your breath while ascending to the surface is extremely dangerous. Following is a list of safety guidelines to follow whenever you are scuba diving. By no means is this a complete list; it is merely an introduction to help you learn some of the precautions you will need to take when using your scuba regulator.

  • Get in shape. Scuba diving is physically demanding. If you are not in good physical condition, you will consume air faster, and your level of exhaustion may lead to panic and accidents.
  • Know your limits. This not only applies to knowing what kind of dives you are capable of but also paying attention to how you feel that day. If you are not at 100%, you can't dive at 100%.
  • Learn dive signals. You might not think of this until it's too late, but you cannot talk when you are underwater. There are a number of different dive signals, so make sure everyone is in agreement as to what they mean before you go under.
  • Inspect your gear. Each and every time you go underwater, your survival depends on how well you inspected your gear. Be proactive when it comes to this vital step.
  • Always swim with a buddy. One of the most basic rules whenever you enter water, even a backyard pool, is to swim with a buddy. Even a tiny mishap can leave you unable to save yourself, so a partner is a necessity.
  • Never hold your breath. The deeper you dive, the greater the pressure the water exerts on your body. As you rise to the surface, that pressure decreases, which allows the air to expand. Holding your breath as you swim to the surface can cause your lungs to rupture.
  • Ascend slowly. The compressed air that you breathe underwater contains nitrogen. If you ascend faster than 30 feet per second (roughly the speed of the tiniest air bubble), the nitrogen will not have a chance to be absorbed by your body and will form bubbles in your blood, which will make you sick.
Always remember to exhale through your regulator before taking your first breath. This helps clear the second stage regulator, so you do not breathe in any lingering water or sand.

FAQ

Q. How should I clean my regulator?
A.
After every dive, your regulator should be rinsed with fresh tap water to get rid of any saltwater, minerals, or chemicals that could potentially corrode your equipment. This should be done as soon after the dive as possible, so the materials do not get a chance to harden. Most dive centers (the base location for recreational divers) will have a dunk tank to clean your regulator after a dive. After rinsing (or dunking), hang your regulator up to dry —  but not in the sun, as UV rays will cause the regulator to deteriorate more quickly. It is important to be careful when rinsing or dunking the first stage regulator because the dust cap may not be waterproof.
 

Q. Can I purchase my first and second stage regulators separately?
A.
While regulator stages are available for purchase separately, it is important to remember that different types might not function optimally together. If you are new to diving, it is better (and safer) to purchase the first and second stages together to be certain that you do not run into any unforeseen complications.
 

Q. How often should I inspect my regulator?
A.
You should inspect your regulator before each dive to be certain nothing is cracked or has any visible signs of damage. You can ask the dive center for help, if you prefer, and a member of the staff will assist you. More importantly, regulators need to be inspected and serviced at an interval that is recommended by the manufacturer. Often, divers do this at the end of the season to be sure their gear is properly cleaned and serviced before storing it for an extended period of time.
 

Q. How do I breathe when using a regulator?
A.
It is important to remember to keep breathing when underwater — no breath holding! Additionally, a slower, deeper breathing rhythm will not only help conserve the air in your tank, it can help calm you if you experience any unease.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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