Stage, Deco & Bailout
Choosing Stage/Deco Regulators
In many stage or decompression dives, you will be spending as much or more time on the stage and deco regulators than on the back gas primary. You are every bit as dependent on these regulators as your primary, because if they fail the dive quickly becomes unpleasant as you switch to your 'lost-gas' backup plan. Beyond the issue of reliability, it's misleading to assume just because you are shallow on a regulator that it's performance is no longer an issue. Improperly maintained or incorrectly tuned regulators can perform poorly regardless of how shallow the depth, and the differences are subtle enough that you might not even realize what is happening.
Despite these concerns, we observe that many divers seem to have a lack of respect for the regulators they use for stage, decompression and bailout applications. They often 'demote' an older primary and thereafter avoid performing proper routine maintenance. The reality is that all your secondary regulators deserve the same attention and respect as your primary. On the other hand, it is foolish to overpay for a big-brand regulator loaded with features and excessive performance that are inappropriate for a specific stage/deco/bailout application.