Regulators and BCDs, which one should I buy first?

Which One should I buy first?

This is a common inquiry we receive from newer divers looking to make one of their first significant equipment purchases, Which one should I buy first? Regulator or BCD?

I feel as though there are pros and cons to buying one over the other in the short term when making this decision.


Let’s start with regulators,

To a certain extent a regulator is a regulator, they let you breathe underwater, that’s pretty much it right?! This statement is not inaccurate I would say, the difference between the breathing performance from one regulator to another is going to feel very subtle if even noticeable for most newer divers so the type of regular you choose will be more often determined by the environment it is to be used in and whether they are intended primarily for local use (cold water) or for travel (warm water). 

For cold water use an environmentally sealed diaphragm type first stage is preferred as this sealing system keeps water out of the inner workings of the 1st stage which means it will not as likely be effected by the cold. The Apeks XTX50 (image below left) set is a great and popular example of this and is relatively compact for travel as well however for someone diving cold water but also traveling the Apeks XL4 OCEA (image below right) set would be a great option in a more compact set while not sacrificing cold water capabilities.


For those looking to progress their diving more towards a specific discipline such as Tech or Sidemount this could have a bearing on the type of regulator you would get in the short term “safe proofing” yourself so that it can be configured later for this more specific type of diving, the above mentioned Apeks XTX50 is again a great option as it can be configured for any type of diving.

All that being said, as stated above a regulator is a regulator in that a newer diver is not going to notice the difference and/or be affected in the way they progress in their diving by a different regular that they may use from place to place, shop to shop, rental to rental. This is where I feel a BCD may be the better first purchase for some divers, I will elaborate.

All BCDs serve the same purpose, providing control of one’s buoyancy while underwater and this is really the only similarity to each type/style (see, The BCD Conundrum). Each individual BCD is going to perform and feel a little different in the water and this might be a good reason for a newer diver to look at a BCD prior to a regulator. If you are a newer diver who is having difficulty really honing in on your buoyancy control using a different BCD everywhere you go could be hindering your progression. Maybe some shops have jacket type BCDs and others have back inflation, different BCDs are going to have slightly different buoyancy characteristics so switching from BCD to BCD might hinder your progression as you get “reacquainted” with a different BCD each trip/dive. Full inflation jacket type BCDs


A more recent argument for regulators,

In recent years we have definitely seen an increase in those choosing to make a regulator their next major equipment purchase. This at least in part I feel is due to the COVID pandemic in that regulators are a personal item and having your own ensures that you are the only person that has had it in their mouth for both hygiene and respiratory health reasons or concerns. Having your own regulator also gives you piece of mind knowing that it has been serviced and functions properly for safeties sake, it is life support equipment after all.

In summary,

Having your own BCD each time you get in the water you are familiar with its performance and buoyancy characteristics which means you are not getting reacquainted with unfamiliar gear each time you get in the water this will also help with your progression in your buoyancy skills and control. On the other hand regulators are “life support”, more travel friendly and very personal so I cannot discount the argument towards a regulator maybe being your next equipment purchase.

If you would like one of our professional staff to further help you make this important choice please feel free reach out we would be happy to assist you.