Is Buying Cheap Dive Gear Online, a Mistake?

Cheap Diving Gear Sets on Special.

There are so many “specials” online and on Facebook these days regarding Hard Gear Sets labelled as Entry-Level. The Prices are so good in fact that it even makes seasoned divers question the prices they paid for their own SCUBA gear.

The question then becomes should you take advantage of these savings or are you making a mistake.
Of course we understand that it is sold as “Entry Level” as costs have to be cut somewhere, but they appear to be from a reputable brand so the perception is that it is still good gear…Right? Unfortunately the answer is no.

So the next thing we need to know is what do they mean exactly by “Entry-Level”.

What is an Entry-Level Set?

An Entry-Level Set means that they are selling you the most basic gear and technology available and it refers mainly to the technology within the Regulator. The BC maybe a simple jacket without weight integration as well.

This kind of set consists of an Unbalanced Piston First Stage and an unbalanced second stage.

This is the most basic Regulator Design using a simple piston system. Water comes into the moving parts and pushes against a Piston, thereby measuring the ambient water pressure. On each breath the piston moves allowing the air through from the cylinder. There is a High pressure (from the cylinder) and a low pressure (from the water) on either side of this piston, so it is a High-friction design.

Advantages

  • Cheap and cheerful
  • Cheap to repair and service
  • Most common┬árental gear

Disadvantages

  • No problem with most dives, but sharing air at 30 meters could be a problem
  • They get harder to breathe at about 70 bar as they are unbalanced
  • Water, sand and salt in contact with moving parts
  • No external adjustment
  • Needs yearly service

In conclusion, this is not a good regulator despite the brand advertised on the faceplate. The water in the moving parts causes corrosion which ends up with the regulator becoming unstable. The small orifice that is found in the first stage restricts the air at depth when the air becomes thicker. This will only become an issue under stress situation or when sharing an octo.
These regs are certainly not recommended for deep diving (anything over 24m).

Here at Divetek, we do not stock Unbalanced Piston Regulators and we DO NOT recommend them at all. Even at a bargain price – we still believe its not a good idea to compromise on your breathing and life support equipment.

How about starting with an Entry-Level Set?

You can start with an Entry-Level Set if you so wish. But once you move over to an Advanced Course and slightly deeper diving you will require a better performing regulator.

Also, remember that diving equipment has a life span of approximately 15 to 20 years. This means spending under R10,000 on an Entry-Level Set one year and 5 years later spending R15,000 for a top of the line set seems a bit of a waste.

The truth is that should you pay 20% more you can get a fully balanced first and second stage set with a BC that will last you 20-30 years without any need for an upgrade.

Is there a big difference between a Balanced and unbalanced regulator?

There is a HUGE difference between the two!

You cannot compare a balanced regulator to an unbalanced one. The ease of breathing is far superior on a balanced regulator.

Having said this, ask your diving friends what is a good regulator? The answers will vary depending on what diving brand they dive with. No mention at all about whether their own regulator is balanced or unbalanced! The truth is, They DONT know! They have made a massive investment into gear and they have no understanding of what they have purchased. ALL BRANDS bring in cheap unbalanced and unstable unbalanced Regulators as well as top of the line balanced regulators.

It is not the brand that counts but what is inside!

I don't want to spend too much as Im not sure how long I will dive...

Try and spend a little more and get the balanced set. If you are willing to make an investment into diving and diving equipment – make a good one.

Also if you decide not to continue diving, it will be far easier to sell a good regulator than an unbalanced one.

Alternatively rather look at second hand gear as you could get a fully balanced set for the same price as a new entry level set.
You can really get a high performance set at a better price than the cheaper “special” unbalanced deal.

Educate yourself and find out exactly what you are buying. Don’t look at just the Brand and the price – find out what is inside!