Appeared in DIVER November 2007

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John John Bantin has been a full-time professional diving writer and underwater photographer since 1990. He makes around 300 dives each year testing diving equipment.

BC BUDDY TEKWING LITE

ITS NO COINCIDENCE that the AP Valves factory in which Buddy BCs are made shares an industrial estate with an Army-tank gun refurbishing company. The Buddy Tekwing Lite makes no concession to weight when it comes to its construction. Its built like one of those tanks parked across the road.
Buddy BCs are known for their strength and durability, if not always their style. There are still many divers using faded BCs that were originally supplied in a startling high-visibility Day-glo orange.
Last year the company abandoned its whole previous range - beloved of the many British divers who have never tried to get one into a bag to travel abroad - for a new, more restricted range of products.
With these, the company hopes to compete with the attractive-looking products from all the other foreign manufacturers that have trespassed on what it used to see as its invulnerable British dive-club market.
Among these new products is a wing-style BC called the Buddy Tekwing. It can be added to with a second buoyancy cell and twinning-bands to become a technical diving BC that goes the full nine yards, and it provides 26kg of buoyancy even with a single cell.
There is an optional integrated-weight system, or you can use the same pockets and quick-release buckles with clips provided to stow two SMBs, one red, one yellow.
Only a minimum number of big stainless-steel D-rings are provided, but you have the option to fit more.
A sub-model with slightly less lift is known as the Tekwing Lite. Note that Lite relates only to maximum lift - the BC itself proved weighty when I packed it for a trip away.

Comfort
AP Valves has put a lot of thought into the design of the harness and frame. But though it would like you to think of this product as sleek-looking, it is really a triumph of function over style.
A big cushion protects the wearer from the hard-frame backpack, and the harness seems to sit in exactly the right place. Waiting around to dive with some heavy tanks on my back did not incur any real discomfort.
Integrated-weight pouches mounted on the waist-strap meant that some effort was needed to fasten it even though, using a steel 15-litre tank, I had only 3kg of lead in each side.
Once fastened, the waist-strap was perfectly comfortable. There is also a sternum strap under which I could tuck my corrugated hose, and twin crotch-straps (optional to use) that fastened easily, did not put pressure where it was unwanted, and prevented a heavy set of tanks from falling over my head when head-down.
AP Valves is very generous with the webbing. There is enough in each strap of the harness to suit a very large person. I can imagine smaller divers taking a knife and lighter-flame to it before the excess trips them up.

Efficacy
Under water, this BC was perfect. There was no annoying tendency for the empty buoyancy-cell to wrap itself round my tank, and everything ended up where I expected it to be.
Testing the dump-valves ability to let air out without letting water back in the other way involves analysing the amount of water inside the wing after 20 hours or so of dive-time.
The Tekwing Lite gets 10 out of 10 here - there was no water inside whatsoever.

Control of Ascent
You can dump air either by pulling on the corrugated hose to activate the left shoulder dump, or pulling on the right-side cord and toggle to free air from that.
There is also a bottom dump with an easily found toggle for those who want to ascend while horizontal, or for quick head-down descents. Air was always released in a satisfying manner, although I felt I had to pull the right toggle a long way and distort the buoyancy-cell to get the valve to open.

Surface Support
With single-tank diving I believe you need only as much maximum buoyancy as you have weight on your belt, and 17.5kg was more than enough. As you would expect from AP Valves, this BC gave plenty of surface support low-down, where you need it to lift you high out of the water.
However, even with my deep keel (long legs), I tended to get pushed face-forwards at first. There are no trim-weight pockets, but perhaps it would have been sensible to have threaded a couple of 2kg blocks onto the single camband.

Ease of Removal
With normal large pinch-clip-style buckles at the shoulders rather than the old Buddy ones (which were both unique and difficult to undo for those unfamiliar with them), it was easy to slip out of the Tekwing Lite in the water.
The weight-pouches also ripped away easily when it was time to hand them up to the boat.
A question does hang over the optional integrated-weight system. I raised this question to myself as I felt a pouch drop away, released after contact with something un-noticed on the wreck of the Turbo, and tumble into the depths of an engine-room.
Luckily, I felt it go. I was deep enough not to have an immediate positive-buoyancy problem, and I was able to follow it down through its vertical passage and to spot it among the wreckage.
Ah well, it gave me the opportunity to take some photographs in a bit of the wreck I would otherwise not have visited.
Luckily I was able to reinstall the belt, because by this time I had incurred considerable mandatory decompression stops.

The developing Techwing
How do the new Tekwing and Tekwing Lite measure up to the older version
Back in 2000 I tried the original Techwing and reported on it for these pages. I confessed that my favourite wing at that time was a Buddy Trident, AP Valves first experimental departure from the conventional jacket-style BC it was so famous for.
I enthused about the Techwing then because it kept such Buddy core values as the tried and tested ABS backpack and good maximum buoyancy (22.5kg). I likened it to the (over-priced) lightweight Porsche 911 Carrera RS car, with its Spartan approach and absence of interior trim, compared to the well-appointed Trident.
I complained that I could have done with a second dump valve at the opposite shoulder to help get rid of the last dregs of air during the final phase of an ascent. I had to lift up the corrugated hose and open the oral inflation valve, letting water back in.
The new Tekwing has no such problem - who says manufacturers dont listen
No integrated-weight system was available, but otherwise the harness was similar. I said at the time that the Buddy Tek Wing met the requirements of the tekkie guru who insists that the chest area should be uncluttered.
But AP Valves was not aiming its wings solely at tekkies, who then made up only a tiny part of the diving market. It had learned from past mistakes, as when it put off potential customers by initially calling the Trident the Trimix.
So alongside the Tek Wing came the Travel Wing. This was a similar product but with a choice of smaller buoyancy cells (13kg or 16kg), ideal for those content to limit themselves to a single cylinder of gas - which is actually most of us. It was the equivalent of todays Tekwing Lite.
The Travel Wing offered a similarly unencumbered chest area and was a delight to use. There was less wing to pack and less wing to flap, but there was still more than enough to do the job.
If the ordinary Tek Wing was the lightweight Porsche, the Travel Wing was the Caterham Seven, but it was still as tough as any traditional Buddy customer would want it to be.
Youll have to ask an older person if you didnt understand my car analogies of the time but, like todays cars, the new Tekwing Lite is much heavier than its predecessor. Ill avoid saying that the new Tekwing Lite is more like a Porsche Cayenne!


Divernet Divernet
Right
Right shoulder dump toggle
weight-release
weight-release toggle
waist
waist band and crotch straps
dump
dump valve
The
The old model Tekwing

SPECS
BUDDY TEKWING LITE BC
PRICE From £275
STYLE Wing
DRY WEIGHT 5.4kg
OPTIONS Auto Air, auxiliary cylinder, integrated weights, twinning system, extra buoyancy-cell, extra D-rings
POCKETS No conventional ones
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Optional
D-RINGS 6
MAX LIFT 17.5kg
SIZES One fits all
CONTACT www.apvalves.com
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