The Prime Scuba


Do I Need a Reel?

Reels can be helpful in a variety of underwater situations, and they are especially helpful (maybe even essential) for wreck divers, cave divers and technical divers. A reel to a diver is like a safety rope to a mountain climber. They can help you get back to your starting point safely, so you don't have to worry about wasting precious air to find your way.

Here's how it works: Let's say you're exploring a cave. You would anchor the line just outside the cave opening and let it unravel as you explore. It's the same idea as leaving a trail during a hike, so you can find your way back. When you're ready, just follow the line until you're back at your starting point.

There are a lot of reels on the market, and some seem to have helpful features, but keep in mind that the more moving parts the reel has, the more chances there are that something can go wrong. All you really need is a spool, handle and line.

The Lifeline
Most reel lines are made of durable, braided nylon, so they are strong and unlikely to break when met with sharp edges (as will happen underwater. If the line you're looking to purchase is made from a different material, just be sure it is as strong.

You'll have a choice of four sizes, #24, #26, #48 and 1/8-inch. The reel you choose will dictate the size line you will need. As you might have guessed, 24 is the smallest. This size is only used when length is of the utmost importance because you will sacrifice some strength. The largest line is 1/8-inch, and it's mostly used for technical diving. As the lines get thicker, they get shorter, and they also get heavier.

5-Inch Reel

800 feet of #24
550 feet of #36
425 feet of #48
250 feet of 1/8-inch

Reel Control

Your reel should be easy to wind when you're under water with gloves on, which means that you should test it out with your diving gloves. If you tend to wear thick gloves, you may find winding knobs easier to control than a finger spool.

Tension Control

Tension control keeps your line from unwinding off of the spool unintentionally. Divers who use a reel with tension control usually do so to help control the rate that their lift bag surfaces.