Likeable David Parker started making BCs in his garden shed because he wasn’t satisfied with the sort of horse-collar-style models available in those days. He soon discovered that he had to give up his day job, because everyone wanted one. He later moved production to a purpose-built unit in Cornwall.
Sadly, David is no longer with us but his wife Angela is, and I’m sure she keeps an eye
on what her little boy Martin gets up to.
He’s the prime mover behind Parker Diving, otherwise known as AP Valves now, along with associate company Ambient Pressure Diving.
My wife and I have had more than a couple of Buddy BCs in our possession for nearly two decades now, but they don’t get as much use as we’d like recently because we usually opt to travel with something lighter to keep baggage weights limited.
As you might imagine, I got quite excited when I was told that AP Valves had a lightweight travel wing in production.
Well, it might be lightweight compared with other Buddy BCs, but it still weighs about 3kg, which is about 50% more than any similar product from other manufacturers.
That’s not to deny that it’s intended as a travel wing. It’s called the Buddy Commando Escape Sub Three Zero.

The Wing
Commando by name and commando by nature, the Escape Sub Three Zero is a very robust affair, with a doughnut-style wing that is wider at the bottom than at the top.
The idea is for it to give plenty of support when fully inflated at the surface, and the
upper part might be clear of the water and contributing nothing to buoyancy at this time.
There are three ways to dump air, including a valve operated by pulling on the corrugated direct-feed hose.
Another valve on the opposite side is operated by a toggle at the end of a very long cord threaded through the front of the harness, so that it falls easily to hand close to the waist.
A lower dump is useful during head-down descents from floating at the surface. This too
is operated by a cord finished off with a toggle.
A word about these toggles; they are huge spheres, each measuring 4cm across, and there is no difficulty in locating the one you need. Their valves also act as over-pressure relief.

The Harness
A semi-rigid backpack is faced off with a thick self-draining cushion. The buoyancy cell or wing is attached to this, threaded through loops in the harness at the top and attached by a Velcro-covered elastic loop through a metal D-ring at the bottom.
One cam adjusts this to suit if you’re using a single tank, to stop the wing flapping when empty. I’m pleased to say that the backpack has four slots so that two tanks can be set up using Buddy Twinning Bands and Blocks, a lightweight solution to twinning-up tanks when travelling.
Metal D-rings are attached firmly and securely enough to give you the option to side-mount two tanks if you really want to, or simply side-sling a tank with a rich deco gas.
The right-hand side has two small D-rings that would serve this purpose, or you could relegate them to use for dangling items.
A safety strap goes round the neck of a single tank and goes some way to providing extra stability for it.
The waistband is formed of a wide cummerbund with an adjustable 5cm-webbing strap over it. Both this and the shoulder-straps are fixed with chunky pinch-clips.
A sternum-strap prevents the shoulder-straps from straying apart, and as usual I tucked the corrugated hose under it so that it didn’t flap, and was always where I expected it to be.

Integrated Weights
The waistband also comes with a large metal D-ring that proves useful when hauling it up into position. I say this because it carries the integrated-weight system, which can be quite heavy when loaded with enough lead to counter the buoyancy of the suit and perhaps a couple of aluminium tanks.
This system is composed of one large pouch either side that is closed with huge helpings
of Velcro folded in layers. The weight-pockets installed within them are each retained not only by this but by a length of webbing fitted with a handle-shaped toggle and a pinch-clip. These pouches can each hold up to 5kg of lead.
Dispensing with the weight-pockets altogether, these side-pouches unfold to become very useful self-draining cargo-pockets, and are certainly big enough to contain a sizeable winder-reel on one side and a large SMB on the other. There is a useful retaining D-ring within each.

In The Water
The Escape Sub Three Zero worked well, although I had to experiment by putting my small lamp in one side-pouch alongside a weight-pocket.
This seemed to work and, thanks to two extra layers of Velcro and the webbing with pinch-clip, I could tug open the top flap of the pouch to access the lamp without danger of losing the lead.
Using a single tank, the wing did tend to wrap around it, even with the side elastic pulled as tight as I could get it. However, there seemed to be no problem with air getting trapped in it when I didn’t want it to be.
Without a simple zipped pocket, I had to stow the Neoprene cap from my dome-port by stuffing it down the neck of my wetsuit, but I’ve done this before and it was no real imposition.
I like to have the cap covering the acre of glass both when I enter the water and when
I hand my expensive camera housing up to a helpful boat crew, who may not appreciate how vulnerable it is at this time.

At the Surface
The wing is designed the right way up – its widest point is low down and provides plenty
of surface support when it is fully inflated.
It has a maximum lift of 14.5kg, but all that is down where it’s needed, so it proved very comfortable to wear while I was waiting to
be picked up at the surface.

Oceanic Biolite, £390
Cressi Air Travel, £287
IST Dolphin Tec, £430

PRICE £345
MAX LIFT 14.5kg
WEIGHT 2.6-3.3kg
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