Buying your first regulator can be a daunting task, but with some really simple advice it is in fact quite easy.
The first thing is to establish what you are buying, a regulator traditionally comprises of four elements: the first and primary second stage, an octopus (alternate air source), low pressure inflator hoses for a BCD and drysuit and instruments.
We wrote a good post a while ago on regulator selection which goes over different aspects of regulators and I suggest you read that now; Choosing The Best Regulator For You.
You need to decide what type of diver you'll be. If you'll only be diving in warm tropical waters than you can focus your search on some light weight regulators that are specifically made for the travelling diver. If you'll be diving in colder waters then you need a heavier regulator and keep your eye out for EN250A ratings.
Ok, the awkward question, what's your budget? You are investing in life support equipment and this is the bit you will breathe through so like all good things in life, the more you pay the better it gets and you don't want to skimp on what's keeping you alive underwater. Ideally go for the best that you can afford at the time as a good regulator can last you a good 10-20 years if you look after them properly.
All in you can get a great set of regs for around £600 and you can adjust certain parts to allow for a better primary. Once you've found your price range and what type of regulator you have your eyes on you need to decide on instruments. Do you want just a pressure gauge, two instrument combo (air pressure and depth gauge or compass) or triple gauge (air, depth and compass). Personally I would recommend the triple as even if you are diving on a computer which will do depth far more accurately than a gauge, having a backup is very wise but you will only discover this when you need it! A bit like an insurance policy, all the time you don't need it, it is a waste of money but when you do you appreciate it.
So if your budget is tight maybe you go for an air gauge only, £60 eg Apeks Contents Gauge. Looking at a double gauge as some analogue redundancy then you're looking around £110 eg Scubapro Double Gauge. But if you want to know what direction you're facing too then go for my advice and look for a triple £150 eg Suunto Double In Line Triple Gauges.
While you can pick a custom regulator and choose exactly what you want the manufactures and us have come up with the most popular choices either as Stage 3 Regulators that combine a regulator and Octo or a Stage 4 Set that includes an Instrument too. Check out our packages section here as it may save you some time deciding as well as some money...
Alternate Air Source
If you really want to pick your own first and second stage and octopus then you have to stick with the same brand and ideally complementing products as mixing brands can void EN testing. For example choose the matching octopus to the second stage you purchase. Many people see buying the cheapest octopus as a way to save money, however in an out of air emergency your buddy will not be thinking straight and will be on the verge of panic, if they put a poor performing or leaky octopus in their mouth and it is difficult to breathe from they will grab and take your primary second stage straight out of your mouth, leaving you with the job of locating the octopus and breathing from that. Trust me when I say having your regulator pulled from your mouth is rarely expected, and never welcomed. Get a decent octopus it will almost certainly get you out of a fix or more importantly avoid you getting into one.
I think it is worth adding that buying a regulator here in the UK is a bit like buying a new car. Nowadays you can't really buy a bad one, they all come up to a very high minimum standard and they can't be sold in the market unless they meet certain standards. However just like cars, you can pretty much always buy an even better one if your budget permits!
If you're ever in doubt you can always visit us in store and we can recommend the best combination and we can even put them together for you.
I hope you found this advice useful but if you have any comments please post them here on the blog. If you have any questions or require specific advice please feel free to contact us here at Simply Scuba.