Choosing Regulators, BCDs and Dive Computers with Experts

Maria Goncharova Eqipment, Tips & Tricks Leave a Comment

Снаряжение для дайвингаLife support devices like regulators, instruments like pressure gauges and dive computers must be extremely reliable, made by verified, well-established brands. Your health and life depend on the quality of these devices. How to understand the intricacies of the selection of the equipment and don’t overpay?

Regulator and Octo

  • Mares Prestige 12S She DivesMares Prestige 12S She Dives

  • ATOMIC T2x TitaniumATOMIC T2x Titanium

  • Apeks XTX200Apeks XTX200

Despite the fact that a regulator is the most important part of the equipment, ultimately it makes it possible to use air from an air cylinder, it’s not difficult to choose a regulator.

Three main criterion to choose a regulator for scuba diving:

  1. First stage design (piston, diaphragm, balanced).
  2. Level of reliability.
  3. Type the first stage (DIN or YOKE).

First of all you need to figure out where you are going to dive. Now and in a few years. Is it going to be just warm tropical water or cold north water as well? Most divers prefer tropical seas. In this case any type of regulator is ok.

Martin: For cold water you can use only a diaphragm or balanced regulator, a pistol design doesn’t work for cold water because a moving piston can freeze when it contact cold water, so “free flow” effect is possible. There is no a big difference between diaphragm and balanced regulators. The only thing worth mentioning, balanced controls make it easier to breathe, especially on the back.

As for reliability, it’s all about brand. The most reliable regulators are Atomic and Apeks. But the price is pretty high. Is it worth it? You decide.

Martin: Proven brands: Mares, Aqualung, Cressi, ScubaPro.

Oksana: Atomic. It’s the only brand that officially recommends maintenance every two years or every two hundred dives. It’s lightweight and very comfortable. The breathing is good and easy, it’s so for all models I tried. With a proper care it will serve you for many years.

My choice: Mares Prestige She Dives as regulator and Mares Rover as octopus. I didn’t faced to any problems in terms of breathing. But I broke mouthpiece in the very first trip, so I had to replace it urgently.

I recommend to save a little money when you choose an octopus. You can take a good enough, but not an expensive option. In most cases octopus will not be used by anyone.

DIN or YOKE?

It is believed that DIN is more reliable. I took DIN taking it into account. Whatever you choose, it’s better to buy an adaptor as well. There may be a problem with DIN to YOKE adaptor in a dive center. YOKE to DIN adaptors sometimes have issues with the installation and tightness.

Anatomical mouthpiece

Dive shops offers anatomical mouthpieces for regulators. The idea is to use a mouthpiece that has been created specifically for your mouth. I talked to several people who have used them. Usually people say “nothing special”. A mouthpiece that you get along with your brand new regulator is comfortable enough.

Do I need a special mouthpiece, if I wear braces?

As a person who wears braces, I answer: “No”. In case of strong currents sometimes I feel that the mouthpiece is about to fall out. I just hold my regulator by my hand, that’s it. No particular discomfort.

Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)

  • Tusa PassageTusa Passage

  • Cressi Back JackCressi Black Jack

  • Hollis SMS50 Sidemount

    Hollis SMS50 Sidemount

As the name implies, the main task of buoyancy control device is to control buoyancy. All non-defective BCDs can handle this task if you don’t overload it.

Martin: Recently divers prefer to combine dive trip with a tour around the country, and pay attention to the size and weight of the equipment. So they prefer lightweight and compact BCD model. For example Tusa Passage is pretty light and you can fold it in half, which is very convenient for transportation. Sidemount BCDs is another one very small and light option. The main feature of this type of BCDs is that an air cylinder is mounted on the side of the body. The main disadvantage is a lack of pockets. But this problem can be solve by shorts with attached pockets or by using D-rings to attach equipment like a buoy or a light.

Jacket or wing style of BCD?

BCD wing type

Wing design of BCD

Martin: If a diver have to take a lot of equipment and air cylinders, mainly in technical diving, jacket BCD style is not comfortable. Because there is no place to connect two or more air cylinders, and the jacket design doesn’t provide a necessary lift capacity. Also wing style is great for underwater photographers, because they can provide a more stable position in the water. But I don’t recommend wings for beginners.

My choice: I use Mares BCD. I don’t remember the model, but looks like Mares Dragon. I chose this model because of the large discount in a store. But now I would not take it. this BCD is very comfortable, provides protection for my back, sits well, large pockets, integrated weight system, but it’s very heavy and large. As soon as you put it in a suitcase, it looks like there is no place anymore. There is also another problem. Somehow after a few dives it’s filled with plenty of water. I don’t know why. And then the water splashing in the jacket, lift capacity is reduced, it warps to the side and other inconveniences. This problem can be solved be pouring the water through the inflator or valves, but it’s very unpleasant. And yet another problem with pockets which are zipped. One day a light fell out of his pocket during a dive, because pocket zip just opened. So I recommend pockets with tapes.

Weight System

The main question is: “What is better an integrated weight system or a weight belt which may be with or without pockets?”.

Martin: Integrated weight systems help you to avoid unnecessary pressure on your back, especially in case of a lot of weights. I don’t know any special problems of this type of weight systems. Sometimes pockets with weights can be lost, but usually it’s due to incorrect fixation on the BCD. Forgot to snap a weight pocket in a proper way, for example, and the pocket dropped.

My choice: I also use an integrated weight system. I like it. There are only two problems: too heavy to lift scuba due to the fact that the weights are in the BCD already. And the second one is that it’s not very convenient to apportion an odd number of weights. You put one kilo on the air cylinder, but I don’t feel comfortable in this case.

Dive Computer

  • Suunto D4iSuunto D4i

  • Suunto ZoopSuunto Zoop

  • Oceanic Atom 2Oceanic Atom 2

  • Mares SmartMares Smart

  • ScubaPro AladinScubaPro Aladin

  • Mares ICON HDMares ICON HD

Dive computer for a diver is as a clock for a man. It’s not only an instrument, but also a status symbol. The computer is designed to protect you from mistakes during and after dives, as well as provide information about dives. The most important thing that a dive computer should be able to do is to calculate decompression in a correct. The easier it is to use a computer – the better. Expensive models allow features you most likely will never use. So does it make sense to overpay?

Console computer or a computer on the wrist?

I believe that computer on the wrist (like a clock) is much more convenient. I’ve had both. The first computer I bought was Uwatec Alladin. It’s a pretty massive console, but it’s directly connected to the regulator first stage and pressure gauge is no longer needed. This is a kind of “all in one” device, even a compass. But it’s very uncomfortable and a pressure gauge in the computer is not a bonus at all. Calculate the remaining time depending on current pressure “by eye” is not difficult. My Suunto D4i is a watch size computer and it’s much better. As for the price, there is no huge difference.

How to choose a right model of a dive computer?

If you don’t know what you need and you are going to use a dive computer only for recreational diving several times per year, then take the simplest model, Suunto Zoop for example. In case you would like to wear a computer like a watch, you can choose something more “cool” like Suunto D4i, Suunto D6i or Mares Smart. Price does not say much about the quality of the computer as an instrument for calculating decompression. The price depends on additional features, materials, design and innovations. Many models are expensive because they are suitable not only for recreational diving, but also for technical diving. If you don’t want to try technical diving, then there is no point to buy a computer which is 2-10 times more expensive.

Do I need a transmitter?

In most cases, the transmitter it’s a kind a trick to show your friends how cool your dive computer is. Pressure gauges works well and there is no problem to look at them from time to time. There is an issue with reliability in addition to a high price of transmitters.

Martin: In case of shaking air cylinders sometimes transmitters lose their connection to dive computers. It’s very sad to watch when divers have to reconfigure transmitters urgently just before dives.

Do I need Nitrox mode?

Yes, certainly. Even if you even haven’t heard about it yet. Sooner or later you’ll need this mode. All modern computers make let you to switch to Nitrox. But if you buy a used computer or take it as a gift, it’s better to pay attention that Nitrox mode is supported. My Uwatec Alladin didn’t have this option. I dived a few days with “Air” mode, not paying attention to constant signals. On the fourth day my computer shut down for 48 hours (computers shuts down for 48 hours, if decompression reached some critical value). It was not cool at all, I tell you. I was lucky that our dive guide gave me Suunto Zoop instead.

Do I need a conservative computer or vice versa?

I would not recommend a conservative computer. They are all conservative. Dive stop at 5 meters for 3 minutes is a safety net, very often it’s not really necessary. In addition, you are not going to be a favourite guy in a dive group, if you need extra time every safety stop, so all others have to wait for you just because your computer is too conservative. Another point that make sense: do not choose more conservative mode as default, unless you are 100% sure that it’s necessary. I heard dive guides complains for it several times.

Martin: Every brand specializing in diving equipment offers dive computers: Mares, Cressi, Aqualung, Tusa, and others. In case of recreational scuba diving, almost all of them, including Suunto, use on the same algorithm RGB . So you can choose a dive computer of any established brand. These computers do not break if you change a battery in time. I personally prefer the computers with large screens, it’s just more convenient, especially for technical diving. But technical diving is completely another story, more requirements and you need two computers.

Oksana: I always say that the number one thing you need to buy for scuba diving is a dive computer. For your own safety the computer must be your own. You need to know how to use it and don’t ask about all the details just before a dive. It’s your life and health. Why Suunto? Above all it’s reliability. I repeatedly saw when other computers shut down underwater because of low batteries, were “buggy” under water, or show information in an ugly way. Suunto devoid of these shortcomings. And they have an additional very convenient option – many models are quite aesthetically pleasing to use on the surface as usual watches.

My choice: Suunto D4i. I didn’t consider other brands except Suunto. There were only two options for me: Suunto Zoop and Suunto D4. I took D4 because of freediving mode which is not available in Zoop. Also now I usually wear it as a sports watch, but I wouldn’t use Zoop in everyday life.

Measuring Devices (Pressure Gauge, Depth Gauge, Compass)

Depth Gauge

Despite the fact that all dive computers show the depth, it will not be superfluous to insure with measurements from the depth gauge on a console.

Pressure Gauge

An indispensable tool. Information about the number of remaining air is required to make timely changes in the dive plan. Please read above about transmitters for dive computers, in short: it’s more fun than convenient.

Compass

Martin: It is better to use a compass, which is worn on the wrist or an option with a rope that is attached to a BCD. If a compass is on the panel, it’s not very convenient to use, because the hose from the panel is under pressure, it’s not flexible. A compass is necessary to be positioned horizontally. Mechanical compasses have a problem when a needle sticks to the glass and does not rotate anymore, so a diver swims in the wrong direction. There is no such issue with digital compasses.

My choice: I use Mares console with pressure gauge and compass. It works pretty well. That’s it. :)

And the very last advice. A BCD, a dive computer and a regulator are investments that should last for several years, so don’t sacrifice quality and comfort for price.

Thanks for help in writing the article.

Оксана Вильф

Oksana Wilf. PADI Master Instructor. She started to dive in 1998 and became an instructor in 2008. Oksana always finds creative ways for the learning process, she is always happy her students new achievements, works with them over the outcome, pays great attention to the psychology of behavior under the water, because she knows that often it is the key to success. Oksana dived in seas and oceans around the world, so it’s not easy to surprise her. Nevertheless, she always finds something interesting in every dive. I myself received Deep and Drift specifications with Oksana, learned the art of swimming with fins, and joined her at a few diving trips. Oksana is a wonderful person and instructor. If you need to improve your diving skills in Moscow, Oksana is the best instructor to do it.
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Photos from trips on Picasa.

Мартин СлишансMartin Slisans started diving in 2003. Since 2009 lives in Moalboal in Cebu, works and actively engaged in diving in the Philippines. PADI Staff Instructor, Speciality Instructor (nitrox, deep, night, wreck, sidemount, peak performance, search and recovery), Emergency First Response Instructor, TesDeep instructor, Technical Sidemount Instructor. Martin helps people to get any diving certificate, from Open Water Diver to IDC Staff Instructor. Together with his wife Laura, Martin regularly organizes diving safari in the Philippines. I myself didn’t joined Martin’s courses, but I know many people who did. All respond with gratitude and appreciation. I can say that Martin is a very responsible person with a creative approach to learning. He genuinely enjoys the success of his students and becomes their friend for many years.
Personal site: http://phildiving.com

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