Regulator

  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

    Modern divers don’t know how lucky they are. An example of all the equipment sold in Ocean Leisure has been used and evaluated by someone on its staff and we are confident that it will all do what it promises. However, only twenty years ago there was a lot of diving equipment on the market that was not as good as it might have been. CE regulation and market forces have seen the products for diving mature and the bad old days are long gone but as a scuba diving journalist working for the leading diver’s magazine at that time, I took it upon myself to identify the good, the bad and the downright unattractive! I upset a lot of retailers at that time by promoting a regulator made in the UK by Apeks Marine Engineering. The company had little or no reputation for making good regulators at that time but it came up with a world-beater and I took pleasure in telling the world about it! I took a group of divers to 50-metres deep breathing off a single first-stage. The rest is history.

    Apeks regulator test Apeks world-beating regulator test back in the early '90s.
    Products were not always good. At the same time a manufacturer with a strong reputation came up with some new fins that were patently ineffective. I told the world. They were soon taken off the market.  There were plenty of other products that proved not to live up to their promise: A curved mask that gave distorted vision; a regulator that gave a wet breathe; a full-face mask that had some design defects that were quickly rectified by the manufacturer after I travelled over to Italy to dive with its boss and chief test diver. Then there was the computer that promised more bottom time. It was positively dangerous! The list goes on. There were even some BCDs that exhibited obvious defects once they were under water. You won't find any of those BCDs for sale at Ocean Leisure. Although there was plenty of good stuff too, the list of the less good seemed never ending back in those days and I didn't make myself a favourite with any of the manufacturers. I tried to make comparison tests as fair and objective as possible, for example taking computers on deco-stop dives attached side-by-side on the same rig. I even tested fins with teams of divers using underwater speedometers that I had especially made for the job.
    Underwater speedometer for comparing the performance of different diving fins. Underwater speedometer for comparing the performance of different diving fins.
    I'm pleased to report that all the diving fins offered for sale at Ocean Leisure did very well in the tests and most of those that did not have sunk without trace. So now when customers are confronted with a choice of similar products we can have the confidence to say that the right one is the one that suits you! The people at Ocean Leisure have masses of accumulated experience and they are happy to pass it on to you. Come in for a chat.

  • Choosing a Regulator

    Scubapro S600 Titanium Scubapro - Good for any SCUBA depth.
    Choosing a regulator can be a bewildering if not a harrowing experience. There are so many on the market, it’s difficult to choose yet it is probably the most important piece of diving equipment you’ll ever buy. After all, it’s what supplies precious breathing gas to you while you are under water and without it you’d drown! There was a time when some regulators were simply not up to the job and I was considered the scourge of the diving industry. I used to employ panels of expert divers breathing from multiple regulators at depths in excess of 50-metres backed up by the scientific record provided by an ANSTI breathing machine to gather data for magazine exposés and comparison tests. Some regulators in those days were not suitable to be taken past 18-metres. That’s all changed. Today, thanks to EU regulations all regulators must perform to a standard (set out in EN250 et al) and so all can provide you with the air you breathe, certainly to the maximum depth you are certified to breathe it. At Ocean Leisure, we only supply the best, but there is still a choice. What tank fitting suits you best, what type of first-stage and what do all those external controls on a regulator second-stage do? There are two basic types of first-stage. The piston-style is usually credited with the ability to give vast amounts of gas when needed while the diaphragm-type is usually preferred for reliable use in water colder than 10°C. Diaphragm-types can also be supplied dry-sealed which makes them especially suited for use in polluted water and they often come with heat-sinks designed in to take whatever little heat there may be in the water to the much colder depressurized gas coming from your tank. When it comes to pollution, remember water can also be polluted with such as fine sand stirred up in rough seashore entry. A-Clamp tank valveDIN tank valveThen there is the choice between International A-clamp and DIN tank connections. The first used to be the most popular and is still extremely popular in the American sphere of influence. The yoke of the A-clamp is offered up to the tank valve that has a replaceable sealing O-ring, and the clamp is tightened to keep it in place. The DIN connection of a regulator so equipped has its own captive O-ring and is simply screwed into the tank valve. Some people swear that DIN is best whilst others say they have trouble doing up the screw thread. yolk-dinThe truth is that both systems work well and nowadays most tanks at dive locations have convertible valves and can be used with both types of connection.
    Dive/PreDive switch and breathing resistance adjustment knob. Dive/PreDive switch and breathing resistance adjustment control knob.
    The second-stage is the part you offer up to your mouth. Some have an adjustment knob on the side. This is used to tighten up the spring on the second-stage valve lever making it use more effort to ‘crack’ open for each breath. It is often called the ‘breathing resistance adjustment’. It does not affect the overall supply of gas. Normally one would leave this wide open but should the inter-stage pressure of your first-stage creep up due to a need for servicing, causing the second-stage to weep air slightly, it can be used to resist that happening, which can be useful if you are a long way from home. Otherwise, I suggest if you want less air you inhale less forcefully! Second-stages for use as octopus rigs don’t normally have this feature. In order to give the user as effortless a breathe as possible, the designer tries to give as clean an air-flow as possible through the valve. They aim to get what’s known as a Venturi effect. As you probably know, the pressure-sensing diaphragm at the front of the second-stage is pushed in by the water pressure and via a lever opens the second-stage valve in such a way that the pressure of the gas inside the body of the regulator matches that of the surrounding water. Alas, if there is a sudden rush of air caused by a sudden increase in ambient pressure, the flow of air can be so fast that the pressure behind the pressure-sensing diaphragm can be reduced rather in the manner of the air passing over the wing of an aeroplane, so that the diaphragm is pulled more than necessary – causing even more gas to flow. The effect is exponential and that is what causes that sudden free-flow so often experienced by divers when the regulator first hits the water.
    Mares bi-pass tube Mares with bi-pass tube
    The solution to this is to interrupt the Venturi effect and this is done either by temporarily positioning a simple vane in the path of the airflow or rotating the orifice of the valve so that the airflow is directed via the internal wall of the second-stage. The control so provided to facilitate this is called the Venturi+/- or PreDive/Dive switch and is found on the side of the regulator, often alongside the breathing resistance adjustment knob. You simply set the regulator control to PreDive or Venturi – before entering the water and switch it over to Dive or Venturi+ once you are submerged. One manufacturer (Atomic) has designed in an automatic depth-sensing Venturi adjustment. Another manufacturer (Mares) uses a patented bi-pass tube as a design solution and no such controls are supplied.
    Apeks Flight Apeks Flight super lightweight regulator.
    The other thing to consider is the overall weight of your regulator. Ocean Leisure has stocks of super-lightweight regulators to suit those traveling by ’plane. Tell the knowledgeable staff what your requirement are and you’ll go away with the ideal regulator for your needs. Some regulator first-stages are entirely made from titanium. It’s an expensive metal but extremely resistant to poor handling and corrosion. Finally, don’t get hung up on mouthpieces. If the regulator you like doesn't have the mouthpiece you like it's usually very easy to swap it for a different one!

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