The Regulators


DID YOU KNOW THAT PERU GROWS MORE THAN 200 TYPES OF POTATO It makes popping out for a bag of chips in that country more complicated than you might have thought.
When faced with the plethora of regulators available to scuba divers, we identified more than 15 brands, each of which offers a range of models. The Diver Gear Guide lists more than 120. How do you choose
Regulators used to be very variable in performance. Some of the examples we used to test were unsuitable for using deeper than 20m. When we first revealed this alarming state of affairs, the Editors desk soon filled with lawyers letters from manufacturers.
We were resolute. Then in came CE certification, to which all manufacturers had to adhere if they wanted to stay in business.

Imitation and flattery
We cant claim that it was our campaigning using deepwater tests and ANSTI machine findings that changed things. Statutory regulations made a lot of difference. But we have been doing this for a long time.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and since we started doing these side-by-side regulator tests, other magazines, both in the UK and throughout Europe, have tried to do something similar.
So what makes Diver comparison tests more meaningful than others First, our panel of test divers is chosen carefully to get professionalism, consistency and a non-partisan approach. They must approach each regulator with an open mind and not be afraid of voicing their opinion.
My job is to provide the level playing field - to ensure that each regulator is used in a parallel way in identical conditions, and that the divers have enough time with each one to base their opinion on sound experience. We want more than a superficial result.
As usual, we did these tests in deep water. The pressure difference at 6 bar (50m) soundly tests the ability of regulators to deliver. By using air, the densest gas to use at that depth, we took them to the limits expected of them.
We needed deep water in easy reach of shore, in conditions that would allow us to dive repeatedly in the same spot day after day.
We were testing each regulator for its ability to deliver sufficient air to two heavily breathing divers at that depth, so two second stages were provided with each first stage.
We wanted to know how well they would breathe, even if used in an emergency, with the second stage inverted by a panicking out-of-air diver. We simulated this. There was no panic!
Our test divers needed sufficient time to go back and retry those regulators about which they had doubts. The test took a week of concentrated diving.

  Full back-up
At the Taba Hilton, in the Gulf of Aqaba, we were hosted by the Aqua-Sport dive centre, owned by Canadian Craig Budden. Craig has helped us before and Huw Watson, his centre manager, has been a test Diver for us.
We expected full back-up for this important project, and we got it.
AP Valves provided us with Buddy Trident wings equipped to carry twin independent cylinders, so that each diver could carry two sets of regulators and each buddy pair could compare side by side at depth four different regulators on each dive.
Buddy Tridents are easy to put on and off - under water if needs be, thanks to the uncluttered harness. Their buoyancy control is superb, because the dump valves are mounted at the very upper part of the buoyancy chamber (something some other wing manufacturers would do well to take a close look at) and their twinning bands are a secure yet lightweight method of carrying two independent tanks.
We dropped sling tanks of nitrox 32 at 25m and returned to them using a winder-reel and line. In this way we added safety by breathing nitrox to help off-gassing in the shallows.
We suggested to the distributors that they send the regulator of their choice, pointing out that price is a very important aspect when it comes to consumer preference and that a very expensive regulator will be expected to perform better than a cheaper one.
After reading this, you might decide that you spent too much on the regulator you own, even though you are otherwise very satisfied with it.
Few people get to try a number of regulators side by side at around 50m. After six days diving, two dives each day, we felt we had valid results. The regulators were then sent to ANSTI Test Systems to be scientifically tested to CE standards.
Its a pity that a couple of the regulators supplied proved faulty, but how does a buyer determine if a valve is OK before he finds himself in deep water

WHAT IS THE ANSTI TEST
The ANSTI machine simulates a diver breathing heavily at depth in a controlled and repeatable way. It breathes a tidal (lung) volume of 2.5 litres with a ventilation rate of 25 breaths per minute at a water pressure equal to 50m of seawater (European Standard EN250: 2000) and produces a telling pressure/volume diagram and a figure for the total work of breathing that should not exceed 3.0 Joules/litre to meet CE certification criteria.


THE TEST DIVERS 

Jayne Howard , at 36 the baby of the group, was new to our team. An Education Manager with Hertfordshire County Council, she is a BSAC Advanced Diver, TDI Trimix and Trimix Inspiration CCR diver and has been diving for eight years.

Gerry Gooch, 51, is an engineer from Nazeing, Essex and has been diving for 26 years. He is a BSAC Advanced Instructor, First Class Diver and Instructor Examiner. A TDI Trimix OC and Trimix Inspiration CCR diver, he took part in our ground-breaking deepwater regulator tests of 1993 and both our last drysuit comparisons.

Tim Bradley, 41, is a Metropolitan Police Acting Inspector from Hertfordshire. He is a BSAC Advanced Instructor, TDI Trimix OC and Trimix Inspiration CCR diver. You may recognise him from our last drysuit comparison test. He has been diving for 15 years.

Nigel Wade, 48 , is a Watch Commander with Surrey Fire Service, and Director of Training at Wraysbury Dive Centre. A PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, TDI Advanced Trimix diver and Inspiration CCR diver, he has been diving for 14 years. He always has a lot to say so we gave him something to talk about!