What is a scuba diving regulator and how does it work?

The scuba diving regulator supplies oxygen from your air tank to your body through a hose and mouthpiece.

First stage: the part that connects to the air tank
Second stage: the part that connects to the mouthpiece
Octopus: an alternate air hose
BCD inflator hose: supplies air to your buoyancy control device

How to choose a scuba regulator

Safety considerations

Major brands have high safety standards for scuba regulators. In order to be put on the market, each make and model of regulator must withstand rigorous testing. This is important because an expensive regulator doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a safer or better option. The price of a regulator is influenced by many things, but safety is not one of them.

Basic regulators are perfect for recreational divers in warm water. The special features apply more to dive professionals, cave divers, cold water divers, and those looking to push the limits of what their equipment can do.

Cold versus warm water diving

Different scuba diving regulators have different thresholds when it comes to water temperature. When the water is cold, around or below 15°C, it can lead to a freeflowing regulator. If you think you might be diving in cold water, it’s best to pay a little bit more for a regulator that can handle the cold temperatures.

Coldwater regulators are sealed to withstand low temperatures – but they also are best for divers in murky environments, where the regulator could be prone to collecting tiny debris. The same sealing that protects the regulator against cold also keeps particles out.

Balanced versus unbalanced

In general, balanced regulators are better – but they are of course, pricier. An unbalanced regulator breathes more unevenly when divers share air, at depth, or when the tank pressure decreases. Unbalanced regulators also typically cost less to service.

A balanced regulator breathes evenly throughout the dive, no matter the other variables. If you plan to technical dive or dive at more serious depth, it’s worth investing in a balanced regulator.

Piston versus diaphragm

A piston has only one moving part attached to the first stage, so it is easier to service. However, this set-up allows some water into the first stage, so it requires more frequent care to prevent against corrosion. They are also slightly more durable than diaphragm regulators.

A diaphragm regulator is made up of more parts, but is a top choice if its environmentally sealed. A sealed diaphragm regulator tends to last longer in cold water or silty water compared to a piston diaphragm. The issue is that diaphragm regulators tend to be more expensive to service.

Tank mount types

There are two types of tank mounts that vary between regions.

Yoke: This is the most common type of air tank mount. This is the most common type of mount in the world..

DIN: This type of air tank mount is popular among tech divers and cave divers as it tends to have less drag and is more secure. They are also more compact.

Many tanks accept both regulator mounts. If you purchase one type but want to cover your bases, invest in a tank mount adapter.

Breath flow

It might help to think of your regulator like a faucet. Some regulators have an easy, solid airflow. Others have more resistance. Some regulators are adjustable, so you can control the flow of air as you like.

Octopus and hose length

Most regulators are set to have the primary hose and the octopus hose be the same length. Some regulators don’t have an octopus (secondary hose) and some hose lengths are adjustable. More flexible hoses are great if you travel, as they are easier to fold and stow away.

Dive guides and instructors might feel more comfortable diving with a longer second stage should one of their divers need it. Others, like technical divers, might want to focus on being as compact and hydrodynamic as possible.

Mouthpiece comfort: Is the regulator comfortable to carry in your mouth? If it seems heavy at first, remember that it will be weightless underwater. Some mouthpieces are made to allow you to have a natural bite – but they don’t fit every mouth.

The best scuba diving regulators for 2018


The Beauchat V-First is one of the most affordable regulators on the market and is great for traveling divers thanks to its small size. The Beauchat V-First was designed for dive centers as an affordable yet durable regulator that can handle heavy use. DIN and yoke connection available. Piston first stage.

Pros: Very comfortable, lightweight, great value, easy to maintain
Cons: Purge valve is stiff
Price checkLeisure Pro


Ideal for travelers and those wanting a lightweight set-up, the Apeks Flight is the most compact regulator on the market. Despite its small size, it maintains stellar breathing performance and is a favorite among divers worldwide. Available in pink.

Pros: Lightest regulator in the world, comfortable, durable.
Cons: Not suitable for cold water diving — must be used in 10 C and up.
Price check: Amazon | Leisure Pro


Another regulator that’s great for traveling divers, the Aqua Lung Mikron is the smallest regulator from Aqua Lung. The new ACD feature keeps water from entering the first stage inlet and the regulator is environmentally sealed. Available in DIN and yoke. Warranty qualifies for free parts for life. Comes with extra mouthpiece for those with a smaller bite.

Pros: Ideal for travelers, comfortable, great value.
Cons: Not as durable as standard sized models.
Price check: Amazon | Leisure Pro


The Atomic ST1 is the ideal regulator for sport divers and is made from stainless steel and titanium. The grade 316 stainless steel is twice as strong as brass and resistant to corrosion. The Atomic ST1 has a 5-port swivel turret 1st stage, 2 year service interval, and adjustable flow. Comes in six colors. Limited lifetime warranty.

Pros: Extremely durable, disperses bubbles away from line of vision, breaths easy.
Cons: Can be sensitive to freeflow, high price point.
Price check: Amazon| Leisure Pro


You might notice that this regulator makes a frequent appearance among dive instructors and guides. Easy to maintain, the Cressi Master T10-SC is also environmentally sealed and resistant to corrosion. Adjustable breathing effort.

Pros: Extremely durable, smaller than average regulator, directs bubbles away from vision, comfortable for everyday use.
Cons: Priced higher than many similar regulators on the market.
Price check: Amazon| Leisure Pro


The Oceanic Zeo is a pneumatically-balanced regulator that can handle serious depth without changing airflow. Its main appeal is its emphasis on comfort, with a mechanism that helps recirculate moisture into the throat. The mouthpiece also moves easier to prevent jaw fatigue.

Pros: Ideal for cold water divers, smooth breathing, environmentally sealed, compact.
Cons: Air flow adjustment can be challenging to gauge.
Price check: Amazon| Leisure Pro


Deep 6 is a smaller brand that is starting to gain a cult following — who flaunt their noticeable orange-accented gear. Their signature model regulator offers easy breathing that punches above its price point. Many divers have dropped their brand loyalty to other larger brands in exchange for Deep 6.

Pros: Free service kits and service workshops, great customer service, great value.
Cons: Air flow adjustment can be challenging to gauge.
Price check: Deep 6


Comfortable, easy-breathing, and lightweight, the Aqua Lung Legend LX Supreme is an ideal regulator for petite women. The regulator is fitted with an auto closure device that prevents corrosive water from entering the first stage inlet. Available in DIN and yoke. Comes with a lip shield for added comfort and warmth.

Pros: Free parts for life, mechanism in place to prevent dry mouth.
Cons: Heavy, if you want cold-water model, opt for Glacia.
Price check: Amazon | Leisure Pro


The popular workhorse among regulators, the Scubapro MK25 EVO A700 is a top-of-the-line regulator that can handle serious depth, cold temperatures, and breaths easy in nearly all conditions. If you want a regulator that can keep up with even the most intense diving, this is a clear winner. Some specs include a air balanced piston first stage and anti-freeze construction.

Pros: Can handle all types of conditions, a top-notch workhorse reg, sleek, a favorite among coldwater divers.
Cons: High price point — too advanced for a recreational or casual warm water diver.
Price check: Amazon | Leisure Pro

Disclosure: The Salt Sirens is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We are also an affiliate of LeisurePro. 

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