In August 2003, our reviewer had the opportunity to test a variety of PFDs while on a multi-day river trip down the Lower Salmon River in Idaho. The test turned ugly when a powerful rapid took our reviewer deep, and was in no hurry to return him to the oxygenated world (see the SNEWSÂ® Astral Buoyancy Aquavest 200 review at www.snewsnet.com/reviews).
While no fault of the PFD, which he genuinely liked and gave a strong rating to, it does underscore that lower buoyancy PFDs designed for play water just are not appropriate on big water. When our tester had another opportunity to get on the Lower Salmon he felt that in addition to his PFD, more floatation would be a prudent move, and quickly ordered an NRS Anti Gravity Shirt.
According to NRS's website, the Anti-Gravity Shirt will allow the wearer to, "Stay warmer - float higher. The Anti-Gravity Shirt is designed to supplement the flotation of your PFD, lifting you higher without restricting your mobility." The Anti-Gravity Shirt accomplishes this through ergonomically placed panels of gel-like polyolefin-foam. Â
While it looks like something that you would find on the set of Blade Runner, all who wore the Anti-Gravity Shirt reported that after a few strokes the added bulk was not even noticeable.Â What was noticeable, however, was the added warmth. The Lower Salmon, being a desert river, has the propensity to be mighty hot in summer. As such, while rowing a raft on a desert river in July, the Anti-Gravity Shirt is just not the right tool for the job. However, in a kayak, cooling off was just a roll away.
As for floatation, our testers reported that they floated so high in the water that they barely got wet. While this may be somewhat of an exaggeration, those who took a swim with it, while wearing their PFD, said that it was refreshing to be above the water's film instead of being slammed by waves and struggling to take a breath while swimming rapids.
For those wondering if the shirt might get ripped off in really nasty swims, rest at ease. The Anti-Gravity Shirt is so secure that in every case, assistance was needed from a second party to peel out of the garment. For those tempted to leave the garment on simply because it is easier, keep in mind that with the Anti-Gravity Shirt's black and silver motif, a trip to the burrito stand on your way home from the river might leave other patrons thinking that you are a Robo Cop groupie. This may or may not be a good thing.
Our testers also noted that those with generous armpit hair would be wise to take a set of grooming clippers with a No. 1 attachment to their pits before donning the Anti-Gravity Shirt.Â NRS's windproof Mystery material provides, according to catalog copy, "â€¦ a thermal layer that is comfortable next to the skin." Which is true. Once on, the garment is extremely comfortable. However, the same material also provides Velcro-like adhesion to body hair that adds a bit of hair-removable adventure anytime the garment is peeled off. Not exactly high on the pleasure-meter, we assure you.
Fit-wise the Anti-Gravity Shirt runs small. NRS's staff was able to correctly size our reviewer in an XL (the shirt is available in sizes XS to XXL).Â At 5 feet, 10 inches and 190 pounds and with a waist that was 32 inches (at some point in his life) and a 44-inch chest, a size large is the norm in most other manufacturers' lines. He reported that the XL fit like a glove with very little excess anywhere.
With 10 pounds of floatation, some would be temped to wear the Anti-Gravity Shirt as a super low profile, stand-alone, floatation device.Â NRS stands firm that, "This shirt provides supplemental flotation but is not a Coast-Guard approved flotation device. It is not intended to replace a life jacket."Â Coupled with most contemporary PFDs, the Anti-Gravity Shirt provides the wearer with over 26 pounds of floatation, and does so with a very minimum of bulk.
Most paddlers won't find it suitable as an everyday garment, but when tackling big, unforgiving water where a swim is a bad, bad idea, the Anti-Gravity Shirt provides a layer of security to ensure that your next swim won't be your last.
SNEWS Rating: 4.5 hands clapping.Â (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $125
For more information:www.nrsweb.com, 800-635-5202