So you took the leap and bought the most important—and quite possibly the most expensive—piece of gear in your scuba system. Way to go! Your new reg is ready to boogie right out of the box, and you should definitely take it diving a few times in its “stock” condition to familiarize yourself with its functions and features. But while you’re doing this, pay attention to upgrades you might be able to make to better adapt your new reg to your individual tastes and diving style. Here are a few ideas that have worked for us and how to setup and customize.
Pimp Your Regulator
The best place to start personalizing a new reg is right where the rubber meets the road—the mouthpiece. How does that stock mouthpiece feel? Too big? Too small? Rock hard? Mushy? Are the bite tabs too long? Do sharp edges rub your gums raw? Does just putting the thing in your mouth trigger a gag response?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you definitely need another mouthpiece. But don’t despair. While the mouthpiece is the most critical component of a reg when it comes to comfort, if it’s not working for you, it’s also the easiest to replace.
Recommended Scuba Regulators by RDC’s Experts
Mouthpieces come in more sizes, shapes and styles than you might think. Some major regulator manufacturers, like Atomic Aquatics and Mares, sell special multi-compound and moldable mouthpieces, respectively, that are super comfortable. Aqua Lung offers a choice of mouthpieces on some of their mid-range to upper-range regulators by including both their ComfoBite mouthpiece as well as a standard mouthpiece in the box (the ComfoBite, while wildly popular with many divers, has a tendency to provoke a gag reflex in others).
But for the most part, the place to look for replacement mouthpieces is in your dive store. Accessories companies like Innovative Scuba Concepts and Trident Diving offer a variety of mouthpieces to fit just about any mouth size and shape. For from about $5 to $25, you can choose a mouthpiece made out of standard silicone, natural soft gum rubber or gell cell. For a few bucks more there are dual compound models, antimicrobial models, models that allow for overbites or underbites, and models with moldable tabs. And if none of these suit your fancy, for about $40 a company named SeaCure offers what they call a Hi-Flow Moldable Mouthpiece that will mold itself into a precise fit for your special teeth alignment and jaw shape.
it doesn’t matter how well your reg breathes; if your jaw gets sore and your gums get rubbed raw after only one dive you’re not going to be happy. If your mouthpiece isn’t working for you, switch it. There are just too many options out there for anybody to be putting up with mouth pain.
Second Stage Swivels
Once you get the mouthpiece thing right, chances are the bulk of your comfort issues will be solved. However, you can fine-tune the functionality of your reg even further with one of our favorite add-ons—a second stage swivel. Sometimes at depth, as you’re taking in all the sights, if you turn your head too sharply to the left or right your reg will tend to want to pull itself out of your mouth. By installing a swivel where your second-stage casing connects to the low-pressure hose, you increase your range of motion and field of view and decrease jaw strain. It’s an easy fix and takes the hassle out of fighting to keep the regulator in your mouth when you suddenly need to whip your head around to check out that passing bat ray.
There are some really first-rate—and pricey—swivels on the market. Atomic Aquatics has just about the best. It comes in a couple of versions, one specifically for Atomic-brand regs that sells for either $94 (brass) or $140 (stainless), and one “universal” version for $89 that will fit virtually any reg on the market. Both versions come permanently attached to an LP hose to eliminate points of failure. You can also find universal swivels in HollisGear, Scubapro and Mares product lines, and Oceanic and Aeris have one that can be retrofitted on their own regs (the second stage coupling must be changed to retrofit, but it can be done).
There are also a couple of no-name universal swivels made in Taiwan, but we’d recommend steering clear of those, for two reasons. First, regulator tests have shown that the narrow-neck design of these models restricts airflow to the second stage. While not noticeable under typical recreational diving conditions, when taken to deeper depths and subjected to aggressive breathing rates, a reg fitted with one of these cheap swivels will not breathe as well as a reg without it, period. And then there’s the fact that one of these no-name swivels was recalled a couple years ago, apparently after one came apart on a diver at depth. Talk about ruining your day.
So if you want to go with a swivel, stick with the name brands, and be prepared to spend a few bucks for it. If that’s not how you roll, in our view you’d be better off staying away from swivels altogether.
Other Cool Upgrades
Another upgrade option that’s becoming more and more popular these days is to switch out your standard low-pressure hose with a Miflex braided hose. These are lighter than standard rubber hoses by about 30 percent, and super flexible. XS Scuba distributes these hoses in the U.S., and they can be found in dive stores everywhere. It costs about $40 to $45 for a typical regulator-length low-pressure hose. For about $10 more you can also get a high-pressure Miflex hose for your console. The advantage to switching out both LP and HP hoses at the same time is that not only is it theoretically more convenient at depth, but the entire reg system will now coil into a much tighter, neater package for stowing and traveling.
Speaking of hoses, if your reg didn’t come with hose protectors, you should add those to your pimp list as well. These are the heavy rubber sleeves that are positioned where the hose(s) connects to the first stage. Hose protectors will extend the life of your hose and reduce wear at the fittings. Having a hose protector on the end of a high-pressure hose with a heavy console is especially important.
The only downside to using hose protectors is that you need to pull the sleeves back occasionally to visually inspect for corrosion and wear, but in our book the protection these sleeves provide is well worth this inconvenience. Hose protectors are standard aftermarket items and can be found on many dive store shelves from suppliers like Innovative Scuba Concepts.
Finally, hose clips, retractors and mouthpiece holders are usually sold along with BCs, so they can easily be forgotten when buying a reg. These accessories are designed to keep hoses organized and prevent them from dangling and possibly getting snagged on a reef. They also enable you to stow your octopus where you can reach it when you need it. A retractors hooked to a console lets you pull your gauges toward you for reading, then all you have to do is let it go and it retracts to your side.
It’s all cool stuff, designed to make your diving easier and the whole underwater experience a lot more enjoyable. Sure, your new reg is probably near perfect right out of the box, but what fun is that? Express yourself. We do it with our clothes, our cars, our cribs. Nothing says we can’t do it with our dive gear too.
I’ve been a diving addict since my 14th birthday when my parents took me to the Bahamas and had my first scuba diving experience. I’ve been an active diver ever since but in the last few years my focus shifted on sharing my thoughts and experience on diving gear, writing product reviews and gave up on organizing dive tours.