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Buying a scuba diving regulator for beginners

Two divers checking air during buddy check.

By 8 Min Read
Scuba diver breathing through regulator underwater

In part 7 of my “Ultimate guide to buying scuba gear for beginners” series, I will give you tips, tricks, and recommendations on buying a scuba regulator when you’re new to diving.

Use the table of contents to read to the sections you are interested in most or jump to another part of the series.

Best scuba regulators for beginners

These are my personal recommendations for the best scuba regulators for beginners in 2022. I’ve used all of them before and only recommend what I would dive myself and with my family.

All of these recommendations are available in DIN and INT versions.

Apeks XTX200

Apeks XTX200

The best regulator for any diver

The Apeks XTX200 is the best scuba regulator for beginners and experienced divers.

Comfortable, coldwater-certified, indestructible, and time-proven, this regulator ticks all the boxes.

The Apeks XTX series is the best scuba regulator series out there and the XTX200 is its flagship model.

It has been around for a long time and seen some design changes, however, it is one of the most-sold diving regulators ever made for good reasons.

ALL regulators at Social Diving are XTX200 and we will probably never get anything else for our students or staff.

Coldwater, cave diving, dirt, scuba tanks, or being dropped out of a driving car, the Apeks XTX200 can do it all.

If you want the best regulator for any diver, get the Apeks XTX200.

HOG D3

HOG D3

Great value for recreational to technical divers

The HOG D3 is one of my favorite regulator sets out there and breathes super smoothly.

It looks cool, works in any environment, and will last forever. What’s not to love?

HOG makes some of the best “budget” scuba gear on the market and has long left the “secret champ” status. Their equipment is rock-solid, built extremely well, and will last you for years.

Their prices are very competitive, especially if you are from North America. The only drawback I see with HOG equipment is that replacement parts are hard to come by in other parts of the world.

If you are willing to bring your own small spare parts kit on a dive vacation, the HOG D3 is a super well-made piece of equipment for any beginner.

What is a scuba regulator?

The scuba regulator is the central piece of equipment that helps us breathe underwater from our scuba tank.

Every scuba regulator consists of at least a so-called first stage, a medium-pressure hose, and a second stage with a mouthpiece.

In addition, we need a submersible pressure gauge, as well as an inflator hose for our BCD in order to go diving.

Let’s look at all the pieces that make up a scuba diving regulator kit individually:

First stage

The first stage is essentially a pressure regulator (hence the word “regulator”) which is screwed into the tank valve and lowers the pressure from tank pressure (200 bar max) to medium pressure (7-15 bar).

All first stages feature several high and medium-pressure (HP) outlets through which we connect the other parts of our regulator setup to the tank.

Medium-pressure hose

The medium pressure hose connects the first stage through a medium-pressure outlet with the second stage and the mouthpiece.

Medium pressure is around 7-15 bar, depending on the regulator.

Second stage

The second stage is usually what most people have in mind when thinking about a scuba regulator, with its iconic mouthpiece and front-button design.

The job of the second stage is to lower the medium pressure from the hose to ambient (surrounding) pressure at each depth and provide us with air by breathing from the mouthpiece.

The purge button allows us to depressurize the entire regulator once we disconnect the first stage from the tank.

Octopus

The Octopus is a second medium-pressure hose and second stage used as a backup and for emergencies. It often has a different color than the main one, usually yellow or similar, but otherwise works identically.

Submersible pressure gauge (SPG)

The submersible pressure gauge or SPG indicates the current tank pressure and is connected to the first stage through one of the high-pressure outlets.

Inflator hose

The inflator hose aids us in inflating our BCD with medium pressure coming from the first stage.

BCDs usually ship with their own inflator hoses, so if you buy a BCD for beginners, you don’t need to get one when buying your regulator.

Why buy a scuba regulator for beginners?

A regulator kit is really the central piece of equipment and no matter where you dive, how often, or how experienced you are, you will need one.

Regulators can last for many years and the technology has essentially remained the same for ages now which makes it look like a no-brainer decision to purchase a diving regulator immediately.

However, there are some obvious drawbacks to buying a regulator as a beginner so let’s compare pros and cons:

Pros of buying a scuba regulator as a beginner

You always need one

No matter what, you WILL need a regulator in order to dive underwater. Therefore, this is arguably the most important piece of equipment to buy.
There is no “expert” option

Let me be fully honest with you here, despite what marketing might tell you: Most basic regulators from a manufacturer work the same as their premium offerings with only minor differences in cosmetics and build quality.

Therefore, you can buy one that fits your requirements and have the peace of mind that you don’t ever have to upgrade unless you feel like it. Just make sure to consider whether you will need a coldwater regulator, and which valve type you use more often.

Even if you ever upgrade, your old diving regulator can still serve as a backup.

Save rental costs

Similar to dive computers, regulators are often the most expensive rental pieces at every dive base. So in the long run, owning a scuba regulator can definitely save you money.

It is safer

Your life literally depends on well-maintained and functioning equipment, and none as much as the regulator.

Therefore, it is very obvious to me that owning my scuba regulator and making sure it is well-maintained is much safer than renting one at a new place.

Two divers doing buddy check at Social Diving
You always need to be able to rely on your scuba regulator, no matter what.

It is more hygienic

You put the mouthpiece…well…in your mouth in order to breathe from it. Of course, we always clean our equipment after using it, however, it is pretty obvious why it is much nicer to have your own.

Cons of buying a scuba regulator as a beginner

It can be expensive

Regulators can be expensive, especially if you want good quality. The high price tag certainly puts off many beginners when they check for scuba regulators for the first time.

When you consider the additional cost of SPG, replacement mouthpieces, or a second first stage for coldwater diving, this cost rises quickly.

Regular servicing required

Regulators need to be serviced every year or two in order to keep the manufacturer’s warranty and not void the insurance provider’s security.

If you aren’t a regular diver, I think it’s better to use the money on other pieces of your scuba gear.

Where to buy a scuba regulator for beginners?

These are my top picks for buying scuba diving boots for beginners online.

Dive Right in Scuba

Great for all divers

Dive Right in Scuba has a super large inventory, very capable support, and great shipping rates. A must check-out for all divers in the US!

Scuba.com

The largest scuba gear retailer

Scuba.com (previously LeisurePro) is the largest scuba gear online shop in the world and offers cheap prices and a large inventory. Price matching included.

Amazon

Perfect for electronics, cameras, and cheap scuba gear

Amazon needs no introduction and it’s a great place to buy cheap scuba and snorkeling gear, and electronics like cameras.

Tips for buying a scuba regulator for beginners

Now that we have looked at what scuba regulators do, and when it is a good idea to buy one as a beginner diver, let me give you a few more tips before listing my recommendations.

Pick a coldwater diving regulator

Even if you never dive under ice or in lakes at home, I recommend going for a coldwater certified regulator.

They are usually very well made, not a lot more expensive than their warm water siblings, and allow you much more flexibility if you do choose to dive at colder dive spots.

Choose a DIN valve

DIN is much safer and more convenient than INT regulators by definition.

If you are unsure what to use, pick a DIN valve and get an extra adaptor to connect it to INT or Yoke valves if necessary.

If you live in an area where INT is the type of valve available, of course, pick that.

Scuba tank at beach
INT valves like this one work fine, however, DIN ones are less error-prone.

Replacement parts available

This is important, especially for those in rural areas or regularly diving at exotic places.

Get a regulator that is well known and for which replacement parts are readily available. Apeks, Aqualung, or ScubaPro are well known around the world, whereas most dive bases do not have parts for Atomics, for example.

Don’t fall for hype

Go for what works for you and not for anyone else (including me).

Marketing is great and all, but look if you really need the marketed features or whether they even make sense…Looking at you here, integrated mouthpiece/inflator hose combo…

Set a budget

By any means, if money is not a limiting factor, go and buy that titanium regulator with diamond encasing now! However, it’s always a good idea to set a fixed budget +-a little buffer and stop yourself from looking in pricing tiers that are beyond your scope.

You do you

I personally have a great distaste for Poseidon regulators, for example. They are built like tanks and always work, however, they are really really uncomfortable, and releasing water from them is a pain.

If they are exactly what you want though, don’t be put off and go for it. You are the one who needs to dive with it and will feel much better if you selected something you are 100% convinced of.

Conclusion

This concludes this beginner’s guide to buying a scuba diving regulator in 2022.

If you have any questions or need help finding the right one for you, leave a comment below.

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Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃

Cheers

Julius

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