Blackburn-based Apeks have redefined the regulator market, creating a lightweight travel-friendly unit that is also cold-water rated. Mark Evans took the XL4 for an exclusive first test in the chilly waters of Iceland
Apeks are past-masters when it comes to designing robust, high-performing regulators. The TX series was a classic, as was the ATX range, and the current XTX family is a solid favourite with cold-water divers around the world. The MTX-R pushed really cold-water performance to new extremes. And with the Flight, they produced the world’s lightest travel regulator.
However, the latter reg never quite hit the heady heights of its siblings. Yes, it performed more than adequately, and it ticked the box of being very light, but it just didn’t have the durable, bulletproof reputation that all other Apeks regulators enjoy.
The design team at Apeks have always wanted to remedy that, and with the XL4, they have created the travel regulator they intended with the Flight. When the Flight was initially being made, the team wanted it to be cold-water rated as well, but it just never came to pass. The XL4 from the outset was going to be a cold-water-rated, lightweight travel regulator, and after diving it in the chilly waters of Silfra in Iceland, I can say that they have well and truly achieved their goal. It never missed a beat, even when I breathed rapidly through it and also extensively purged it in 3-4 degrees C water. In fact, it was so good, I forgot I was diving a new regulator and not my usual MTX-R or Black Sapphire.
In looks, the second stage is reminiscent of the Flight, with a wide exhaust tee to direct the exhaled bubbles either side of your face, but the cover is very different, emblazoned with a large ‘A’ on the big purge button. It is a simple aesthetic, but it works.
The first stage is completely different to the Flight, being based on the tried-and-tested DS4 platform, and while being a solid metal unit, its compact design ensures that the weight is kept to a minimum.
Hose-routing is perfect, with everything falling where it should, and fully rigged for cold-water diving with primary, secondary, SPG, drysuit hose and BCD hose, it comes in at a luggage-friendly 1.90kg.
Thanks to its high performance and cold-water rating, Apeks are also promoting the XL4 as an ideal stage regulator.
With its simple good looks, wallet-friendly pricing and ability to handle warm and cold waters with aplomb, while also tipping the scales at under 2kg, the XL4 is sure to be another popular Apeks regulator for both hardcore UK divers and warm-water travel divers.
Apeks XL4 (SRP: £339)
- Compact machined first stage based on the expedition-tested Apeks DS4 platform
- Break-through, innovative over-moulded first-stage endcap and environmental diaphragm helps prevent ice build-up that can cause first stage freeflow in extreme circumstances, as well as protecting the first stage from impact damage
- Large surface area heat exchanger diaphragm clamp helps increase the gas temperature inside the first stage, resulting in improved cold-water performance
- Unique over-balanced diaphragm design – as the diver descends, the over-balancing feature allows the medium pressure gas in the hose to increase at a faster rate than ambient. This results in superior performance at depth
- Compact and lightweight second stage improves comfort and helps reduce jaw fatigue on long-duration dives
- High-performance pneumatically balanced lever-operated poppet valve
- Large, over-moulded self-flushing and controllable purge button
- Ergonomic venturi lever is easy to use and locate
- Flexible nylon-braided hose has better cold-water performance than traditional rubber hose
- Standard metallic hose connection for interchangeability
- Comfo-bite mouthpiece, with re-useable mouthpiece clip that makes it simple to change mouthpieces in the field
- Durable and flexible rubber exhaust tee provides excellent bubble diversion
Photographs by Mark Evans and Byron Conroy