Maybe you’ve landed here after reading all about SMBs and reels in our previous blog or perhaps you just need to know what you should be taking with you on your next dive trip. Whatever the reason, here’s a nice simple breakdown of the best SMBs and reels to suit the type of diving you’re doing:
Warm water and occasional diving
If your diving is limited to a few shallow dives a year whilst on holiday somewhere tropical like the Red Sea or the Maldives then an SMB and reel is probably just going to be used in the unlikely event of an emergency. For this type of diving then the Mares all in one is a very popular choice as it comes with a spool meaning you can deploy it from a shallow depth if you need to.
Other basic options would be the Scubapro SMB or the Mares Standard Inflatable buoy, both of which will do the trick for surface deployment. Add something like a basic spool or AP Valves pocket reel and you'll have a simple inexpensive set up.
More advanced diving: Liveaboards, deep diving etc
If you’re going to be diving deeper, doing drift dives or any kind of dives where they may be strong currents you’re going to want a decent DSMB and reel system. This means one that’s easy to deploy and with enough line to be able to send up from depth to provide a reference if you’re ascending in the blue. If you’re travelling a lot then you probably don’t want anything too heavy though. For spools, a decent length, 30m or so, and a stainless steel boltsnap will make a difference: The Diverite or Hollis finger spools are good as are the popular Apeks Lifelines. If you want a reel then the Custom divers compact reels or the Beaver Puffin reels are small whilst still being usable.
For an SMB, the Mares SMB gives you the option of oral inflation or 2nd stage inflation. The Hollis SMB is purely for oral inflation, whilst the ever popular AP Valves SMB is reliable choice for 2nd stage inflation.
Cold water and technical diving
For cold water some divers prefer a heavy-duty reel whilst others still prefer spools. SMBs should be large enough to be clearly visible. One of the major requirements is being able to operate both pieces of kit with thick gloves.
The AP valves SMB is a big popular SMB for cold water diving whilst the Apeks SMB has a very easy to use oral inflation tube which makes it great for cold water when your lips are a bit numb! Both are large enough to be clearly seen in poorer conditions.
If you like spools then the Apeks lifelines, again, are a great option with a nice raised area to hold with gloves. For those who prefer reels then the classic MDE is a chunky and popular choice.
Check our SMB and Reel pages as we often have bundles on popular products. It's also worth investing in a decent boltsnap to clip the reel away to your gear as well.