Disclaimer
I need to make it clear from the start that I’m a huge fan of Buddy BCs. I own an original Buddy Commando that has been with me on thousands of dives, and although it looks beaten to death it’s still going strong.
I first encountered a prototype called the Buddy Escape on a group test more than four years ago, and took it for a short spin in a swimming pool. I fell in love with it and subsequently bought one.
Unfortunately, my personal dive gear was stolen while on a recent trip to the Caribbean, including the Escape. It’s testament to this love affair that I immediately replaced it with the latest version.

The Design
The Commando Escape is lightweight at under 3kg, and APD says it was born in response to customer demand for a high-quality travel jacket.
It’s constructed using a bespoke 800-denier fabric commissioned by APD and called OceanSeal 800. High-frequency welded and double-stitched, it provides an extremely robust yet lightweight product.

The Escape has a single bladder with cleverly positioned air-cell studs to improve the airflow and ensure that there is no problem with trapped air when it comes to ascending.
It also features four huge pockets. Two are capacious enough to take reels, DSMBs, spare masks, large torches and camera accessories, while the smaller ones are more suited to slates, thumb-spools and back-up lights.
They all have zips that open from the front, small D-rings for securing the contents and grommets for knife attachment.
The low-profile power inflator is secured to the shoulder harness with a quick-release polycarbonate clip.
This features an elbow dump at the rear, where it connects to the jacket.
Two more dumps positioned at the top right and lower left are activated by pull-cords. Cleverly the large knob attached to the shoulder-cord is negatively buoyant, while the one on the kidney dump is positive, enabling them to be found quickly.
The cylinder is attached using APD’s own Super Grip cam-band system, holding it securely with the aid of a rubber pad to prevent slippage.
There is also a cylinder-mounting strap at the top to keep the jacket close to the wearer’s body. Twin tanks can be configured using accessory cam-bands and spacer blocks.
The BC’s rigid backplate is made from lightweight plastic with a padded mesh cover for comfort, and has a useful carry-handle.
Another clever feature is the telescoping, elasticated cummerbund, which provides a constant snug fit as pressure-changes alter the diver’s profile.
A double adjustable-webbing waistband with a large trident clip and adjustable shoulder-straps with trident break-points keep everything secure.
A sternum-strap is fitted at a height that doesn’t interfere with a drysuit inflator and keeps the bladder at the hips and waist from gaping.
The BC has four strategically positioned, large aluminium and four plastic D-rings. It is finished in black with hi-vis yellow panels and reflective silver piping, with tasteful embroidered livery.
Maximum lift varies with the size of the BC. The one featured is size L and offers 19.3kg of buoyancy, weighing in at 2.87kg.

In Use
Everything about the Commando Escape seems to suit my style of diving. The jacket configuration holds me on the surface with no tendency to shove my face forward, which makes it ideal for surface split-level-type photography when my feet are floating.
The lack of an integrated weight system means that trim can be fine-tuned quickly simply by repositioning weights on a belt.
The elasticated cummerbund stays snug and prevents the jacket riding up as it auto-adjusts for suit squeeze on descent.
Inflation or deflation is made very easy by the ergonomic design of the power inflator and the perfect positioning of the dump-valves.
Air migrates easily around the air-cell, always finding the highest point without the hint of a trapped bubble. The large pockets are easy to access, and hold a surprising amount of gear.
The D-rings are positioned perfectly. My preference is to clip the gauge and alternative regulator to the two large aluminium rings at the front of the pockets, streamlining the hoses and making the instruments easily accessible.
I have regularly dived in Egypt with the Escape and a twin-cylinder configuration; the massive amount of lift offered by this BC makes this a safe exercise, especially at the surface.
In the comfort department, this BC has few equals. It doesn’t squeeze when it’s fully inflated and it’s padded in all the right places without being puffy. For easy transportation, it packs away into a compact package with the help of the sternum-strap and an extra external clip.

Conclusion
It’s a Buddy (renamed a Commando), what’s not to like about it? The Commando Escape is a tough, comfortable and above all lightweight BC that does its job without drama or fuss.
At first glance it may look basic, but take a closer look and you’ll find that it has features that subtly conspire to make the diving experience enjoyable and safe.
There is only one problem – the colour. Most people I’ve bored with the finer attributes of this magnificent product have stopped the conversation dead by asking: “Does it come in all-black?”
I wonder if those Cornish pixies have a sombre-hued version in the pipeline?

PRICE £270
SIZES S, M, L, XL, XXL
LIFT CAPACITY S 11.2kg, M 17.3kg, L 19.3kg, XL 21.4kg, XXL 27.5kg
DRY WEIGHT S 2.63kg, M 2.78kg, L 2.87kg, XL 2.99kg, XXL 3.26kg
D-RINGS 4 aluminium, 4 plastic
POCKETS 4 zipped
CONTACT www.apdiving.com
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BC APD Commando Escape All Black

IN THE APRIL 2015 DIVER TESTS I delivered a 10-star review of the Commando Escape Sub Three Zero BC from Ambient Pressure Diving. In the conclusion I wrote: “Most people I’ve bored with the finer attributes of this magnificent product have stopped the conversation dead by asking: ‘Does it come in all-black?’”
I’m pleased to report that those Cornish pixies at APD have listened to my request for a “little black number” and are now in a position to supply them as a special order.
This All Black BC has the same specification, features and price as AP Diving’s standard black and yellow Escape.

Spec
PRICE: £270
COLOUR: Black
SIZES: S, M, L, XL, XXL
D-RINGS: Four aluminium, four plastic
POCKETS: Four, zipped entry
CONTACT: www.apdiving.com
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