British technical dive-gear maker Apeks has taken this simple concept to a new level with its latest range of LifeLine Spools, as I’ve been finding out.

The Design
LifeLine Spools are machined from a solid billet of aircraft-grade aluminium, then given a smooth but tough anodised coating. The sides are flared to give more room for winding the line, and the edges have been knurled during the machining process to provide a non-slip grip when in use under water.
The line used is a flat tape made by rock-climbing specialist Edelrid. It has immense tensile strength for its size and is a fluorescent orange colour. At one end it’s been stitched into a loop, as opposed to a tied knot, to retain its integrity and reduce its profile.
A high-tensile nickel-plated marine brass swivel is attached to the Edelrid line to take care of twist, and the business end is finished with a hi-vis yellow, ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene Dyneema leader. This material is renowned as the strongest fibre available, and is extremely abrasion-resistant.
The 33cm leader is stitched into a permanent loop, with the stitch forming a 7cm stiff tab finished with a short length of shrink tube.
Each spool is supplied with a high-quality 316 stainless double-ended bolt-snap.
LifeLine Spools come in three sizes, each colour-coded. The smallest holds 15m of line and is purple, the intermediate green version 30m and the largest holds 45m and is blue.
The spools haven’t been over-filled with line, which keeps the holes round the circumference clear and accessible.

In Use
I’ve been using these LifeLine spools for a few months now, mainly for DSMB deployment. The smallest has seen the most use, especially on overseas trips. For me 15m is the ideal length of line for bagging off on ascent at the end of a dive before conducting mandatory safety-stops, and the purple spool proved ideal for this job.
The first thing I learnt was the optimal way to stow the spool. At first I simply clipped the bolt-snap through one of the holes around the edge with the leader loop through the clip and secured it to a D-ring on my BC.
I’ve since learned that this method of attachment can lead to the bolt-snap being forced open if it’s pushed to a 90° angle.
At best the leader will still be secured, but you’ll end up trailing all the line with the spool unwinding, eventually dangling on the end beneath you.
At worst, you could see your essential bit of safety kit disappear into the abyss.
The correct way to attach the spool is to pass about 12cm of leader through an edge hole and then wrap the leader around and through the bolt-snap. It’s easier to do than to explain (see picture).
Everything about the design of these LifeLine spools is geared for efficiency and safety. The centre hole has smooth rounded edges, which allowed the spool to spin effortlessly while held between my thumb and forefinger as my DSMB sped towards the surface. The centre hole is also large enough to use with gloved hands.
Wrapping the line back on the spool during ascent was an easy operation. The knurled edges really came into their own, providing much-needed traction, and the flared profile gave more room than the standard spools I’d used in the past.
The inclusion of the swivel proved to be genius, taking out all the twist caused when wrapping line. I’ve seen divers end up in all sorts of a mess with severely twisted lines in the past, and this is a problem with which I’m sure all spool-users have had to deal.
The leader was extremely easy to attach to my DSMB. You simply poke the stiff tab through the buoy strap, then loop the spool body through the loop.
The same method can be used to attach the leader to cave-lines or wreckage when it’s being used as a guideline in overhead environments, and the stiff tab makes it easy to remove the leader when you’ve finished.

Conclusion
Apeks has made the simple spool hi-tec by using the best available materials and design concepts. It says that technical diving provided the inspiration but it can be used in a variety of diving applications.
LifeLine spools ooze quality – they’re a joy to use, fit for purpose and, to me, are things of engineered beauty. My ratchet-reels will still have a place in my dive-bag, but I can’t see them getting an outing for anything other than deep technical or deep drift dives.
I’ve been intrigued to learn why travelling divers sometimes don’t take a DSMB with them abroad. The common answer is that they can save weight by excluding heavy and bulky reels, but now there’s no excuse – a purple LifeLine spool weighs a measly 91g, and takes up next to no space.
Being able to locate a diver from the surface should be considered risk-critical, and the simple DSMB does the job perfectly. I learnt my lesson the hard way, after being left adrift for two hours in mid-Channel some years ago.
Since that terrifying ordeal I wouldn’t jump in the water without one, and nowadays it’s likely to be attached to one of these Apeks bad boys.

Specs
PRICE: 15m, £43. 30m, £60. 45m, £70
MATERIAL: Anodised aircraft-grade aluminium
COLOURS: Purple, green, blue (size-dependent)
WEIGHT: 15m, 91g. 30m, 158g. 45m, 179g (without bolt-snaps)
LINE: Edelrid
LEADER: Dyneema
SWIVEL: Nickel-plated brass
CONTACT: www.apeksdiving.com/uk
DIVER GUIDE: 10/10

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