Best SMB for Scuba Diving: Never Dive Without One

Dive Accessories

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A Surface Marker Buoy, SMB, or Safety Sausage can easily be overlooked as an essential piece of dive equipment. It's basically an inflatable marker buoy or signal device that indicates to your boat or other boats in the area of your location in the water.

Some are small enough to role up and fit into your BCD pocket, while others are built for pure size. 

Many new divers and even more experience divers sometimes forget all about SMB's and how it can be used to save your life.

That's why you will find many dive destinations and liveaboards make diving with an SMB mandatory. This is so you don't get separated, lost, or ran over by a boat.

In this article, you will find out  why you should own an SMB and why you should never dive without one, the difference between an SMB and DSMB, the best SMB available on the market today, and what to look for when buying a new SMB.

Let's get started...

Comparison Chart: Best SMB For Diving

Product Name

Price

Length 

Inflator

Reflector

Valve

$$

5ft

Oral/Power Inflator | Open-Bottom 

Yes

Yes

$

?

Oral inflator

No

No

$

4ft

Oral inflator

No

No

$$

6ft

Oral/Power Inflator | Open-Bottom 

Yes

No

$$

?

Oral Inflator

No

No

What is an SMB?

A surface marker buoy, or SMB for short, is an inflatable device on the surface you can use to attract attention. They allow people at the surface to keep track of your location below and let other boats know to stay away.

A standard SMB has a very simple design with no pressure release valve.  You can inflate before the dive and tow them using a real or spool. Some can be inflated after the dive to get the attention of your dive boat to come to pick you up.

Surface Marker Buoys come in many shapes and sizes but are always brightly colored so they are easily seen — even in rough conditions. 

What is a DSMB?

An SMB and DSMB (Delayed Surface Marker Buoy) are very similar and pretty much have the same function. The difference is, a DSMB can be inflated underwater and attached to a real to mark your position — hence the term delayed in the name.  

Many divers also referred to them as safety sausages because of their cylindrical shape. 

5 Reasons Why You Need To Get A SMB?

Do I really need to dive with an SMB? This is the question many divers ask when asked about surface marker buoys. Below are five reasons why we don’t dive without a surface marker buoy and why you shouldn’t either. 

Safty

It can save your life — that should be reason enough for you to dive with an SMB.

Using an SMB lets boats know that there are divers below the surface and to keep their distance.  If you are in an area with heavy boat traffic, it’s always a great idea to deploy a DSMB on your safety stop to alert passing boats of your location.

You can’t always expect boats to see your bubbles. An SMB also allows boat captains to follow your movements on drift dives.  Sometimes your dive bubbles cannot be seen clearly on the surface – especially in rough seas. 

Signaling Tool

If you are lost at sea or in the event of an accident, using an SMB can easily be used to signal your dive boat to find you and render help. 

You can wave it around to get your captain’s attention if you have a muscle cramp, fatigue, or just need some assistance.  A bright color contrast against the water is more easily seen than your bobbing head on the surface. 

Doubles As Redundant Buoyancy 

An SMB can easily be used as a flotation aid in the event you have a broken valve on your BCD. It can also be used to provide additional support and control when waiting for the boat to pick you up. You can easily hand it off to another diver that’s having trouble staying buoyant at the surface. 

Not Expensive

They are also relatively cheap. They generally cost between $20 – $80, so there is no reason for you not to get one.  You could get one in every color and for every dive condition. 

Not Easy To Rent

If you’re someone that dive travels, you’ll soon find out that they are not easy to rent. Many dive centers around the world don’t have SMBs available for rent. The reason for this is unknown, so don’t rely on a dive center to provide one for you, you should have your own.

How to Deploy an SMB and DSMB?

The method for inflating an SMB at the surface will differ slightly depending on the type of SMB you are using.

Best Dive SMBs Reviews

Below you will find reviews of our pick of the best SMBs available on the market today. They are not organized in any order. The type of SMB that is best for you would depend on your personal preference and the type of diving you’ll be doing. 

continue reading below to find out what to look for when choosing the Best SMB for scuba diving.  

Seafard 5ft Open-Bottom SMB

Seafard 4th open bottom SMB
  • Highly visible design
  • Durable construction and material
  • Includes finger spool and bolt clips
  • 2 Inflation methods

 I like that this SMB  have two ways to inflate it . The open-bottom also makes it pretty easy to dump air. Nice color and the reflective tape is great for night visibility. All in all, its great!

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This Seaford SMB is a great choice if you’re looking for an SMB that’s of decent size and made from good quality material. 

It also has everything you would need in an SMB. It features an oral/BCD inflater, a fluted open bottom, a pressure release valve, and a reflective strip on both sides at the top for added visibility. A weighted bottom also ensures that it stays upright on the surface. 

The accompanying spool is very durable and made from corrosion-resistant aluminum.  Plus the real comes with 98ft of braided nylon,  which is more than enough line for recreational diving,  and stainless steel double-end blot clip to firmly attach it to your BCD. 

It’s also lightweight and compact, this makes it a great choice if you are a traveling diver. 

ScubaMax Inflatable Dive Flag Float

Best SMB for Scuba Diving: Never Dive Without One 2
  • Highly visible with dive flag
  • Great value for money
  • Heavy duty construction 

 The float work great.  Aired it up and added some wait to the bottom. The flag stayed upright while diving. My wife watched from shore, about 100 yards out, and she was able to track my movement the entire time. works great, no issues. 

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This SMB is easy to inflate and highly visible due to the 12″ x 15″ Dive Flag. It’s constructed from heavy-duty PVC so it should last a long time. 

While it does not come with a line and spool, it does have a place on the bottom to attach a tow line.  There is also a place on the bottom to add weight to keep it upright in the water.  There is also a plastic rod to keep the flag stand as it looks in the pictures.

This is a great choice if you’re diving in heavy boat traffic and needs to be seen all the time.

Scuba Choice 4ft Open-Ended SMB

Scuba Choice Scuba Diving 4' Neon Yellow Surface Marker Signal Tube with Plastic Clip
  • Durable Material
  • Good Price
  • Lightweight and compact

Very bright, easy to inflate, and the inflator is very effective at closing it off and holding the air in. Good product, good price. Give it a try.

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This closed-end SMB is a great choice if you’re on the surface and need to get the dive boat’s attention. 

It’s made from durable nylon and features an easy to use oral inflator. The included plastic clip can also be used to secure the SMB to your BCD for safekeeping. 

It’s lightweight, compact, and can easily fit in your BCD pocket — a great choice for traveling.

DiveSmart 6ft  Open-Bottom SMB

DiveSmart 6ft Open-Bottom SMB
  • Tow Inflation Method
  • Includes Spool and Clips
  • Great for all weather conditions

This is a great safety sausage and reel.  You can inflate it two ways by mouth or by open bottom inflation. Both methods work well.

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This SMB has a surprisingly compact design,  although it’s 6ft long, it rolls up small enough to fit into a large packet or easily strapped to your BCD.

Inflating to a large size and weighted bottom to ensure that it stays upright on the surface, this SMB can be seen for miles away. Featuring reflective band, flashlight /strobe light velcro strap, and attached whistle ensures you get attention — whether it is day or night. 

Inflation is made easy as well with an open bottom design that uses your regulator spare second stage to fill underwater. You also have the option to use the optional oral/power inflator to quickly inflate it on the surface.  

It’s equipped with a 100ft spool, that more than enough for recreational diving, and fits within the SMB pouch so you don’t have to carry the spool separately in your BCD.

The DiveSmart 6ft Open-Bottom SMB is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an SMB that works great in all dive and weather conditions. 

Scuba Choice Inflatable Float and Flag Buoy

Scuba Choice Inflatable Float and Flag Inflatable
  • Sturdy On the Surface
  • Great Visibility
  • Multiple attachment points

It works well so far.  It's basically a donut with the bottom closed.  With weights in it, we had no stability problem in breezy, or wavy conditions. towed easily.  The line around the perimeter is great to hold on to while on the surface.   

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The 22 inches buoy base provides excellent stability while towing or in rough water when weighted properly. It’s large 16″ x 20″ horizontal flag mount makes it easy to see from a distance. 
 
It also defeats quickly, and the flag poles can be disassembled to store in your dive bag. 
 

Choosing an SMB for Scuba Diving?

When it comes to choosing an SMB, you will soon realize that there are many different types, features, and brands to choose from. The best SMB for you would depend on your dive environment and your personal preference.

This quick buying guide should give you a basic idea of which features will work best for you.

Size of SMB

Knowing what sea conditions you plan to dive in will help determine what size SMB you should be looking for. In calm conditions, smaller SMBs are perfectly adequate however in choppy or rough seas, you’ll need a bigger and longer tube to be clearly seen from a distance.

Color

While they typically red in color, SMBs can come in a range of colors. The color you choose will depend on the purpose for which the SMB will be used,  as well as the environment. So it’s best to get the one that’s the right color for you.  

  • Red – This color is generally used to mark your location in the water.
  • Yellow – It is bright and contrasts greatly against water, but in some parts of the world yellow can signify an emergency. 
  • Black – This is the newest color on the market. Surprisingly,  it contrasts well against water, especially in bright conditions.
  • Muli-color – These can have different colors on either side.  It creates a bit of a flashing technique that draws your eyes to them. They work great for signaling your dive boat.

Inflation Method

There are many ways to inflate an SMB. The type of inflation will depend on how you will use the SMB. However, many SMBs may use a combination of different inflation methods. 

  • Open-ended – These can either be inflated with your exhalation or your second stage octopus. Because the bottom is not sealed, you need to keep tension on the line or they will deflate on the surface. Some are weighed down at the bottom to keep them upright on the surface. 
  • Fluted – These are also open-ended, but has a flute at the bottom that traps air inside the SMB when it is fully inflated.
  • Oral Inflator Nozzel – These are general closed-end and are sealed all the way around. It is inflated by blowing into a one-way oral inflator Nozzel. 
  • Oral/power Inflator Nozzel – These are closed-end and can be inflated orally or with your BCD inflator hose. There is no catch on the nuzzle, so your hose will just slip off when it’s full. 

Line and Real Attachment

Some SMBs have a line and reel attached so you can deploy it at depth and follow it to the surface. You don’t want to send up a safety tube in a strong current, for the dive boat to arrive at the scene and find that you have drifted miles away! Some SMBs come with a spool or reel attached while others you may have to purchase separately.

A double-ended clip is used for attaching the DSMB to your gear and preventing the line from unraveling.

Overpressurize Value

These are generally found on many DSMBs or closed-end SMB. It allows air to escape to avoid damage from over inflation.  As the SMB shoots up to the surface the air inside will expand due to the pressure change. A dump valve will allow any excess air to escape, preventing the SMB from bursting.

Reflective Tape

Although SMBs are brightly colored,  some have reflective tape on them to increase visibility. If you’re going to do most of your diving in low-light or at night, it’s best to choose an SMB with large enough reflective strips to be seen from a distance. 

Communication Pockets

These are transparent pockets generally found at the top of the SMB. This allows you to slot in a light Stick, light, or strobe on night dives. If you plan on doing night dives, and your SMB does not have reflective tape, then you should definitely find one with this feature. You can also you this pocket to send messages to the surface.   

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