I went on a two hour sea kayaking tour around the islands of Helsinki. It was my first time in a proper kayak and I used the opportunity to conduct a test drive of the Anfibio Packsuit Basic. Below is a video of the trip. As you can see, my action camera technique still has a lot of room for improvement. Read on for the packsuit basic review.
In short, the Anfibio Packsuit Basic is possibly the cheapest real drysuit on the market today. The suit is fully watertight (at least if you opt for the latex cuffs and not the more comfortable neoprene neck) but features a two-layer material that is less breathable than the 3-layer suits (that Packrafting Store also offers)
I went for the basic model because it was by far the cheapest drysuit I could find, but also because I wanted to review the basic model. There are not too many reviews available for the packsuits, and I figured I could do the community a real service by giving the cheapest version of the suit a run for it’s money.
Unless you order a suit configuration which Packrafting store already has, each suit is tailor made by your order in Germany. They promise delivery times of a few weeks, but my delivery was significantly delayed. I believe this may very well be a one time delay but if you are in a hurry, I would double check the schedule so as to not miss an opportunity because of delays in manufacturing. I was ok with the delay and have previously received excellent service from Packrafting Store in issues that were not even their fault, so I was not unduely peeved.
Material and construction
The construction of the suit feel durable and robust, but still very light. I ordered a no bells and whistles suit and that’s what I got.
I ordered the suit with latex neck, hand and foot cuffs and opted for no extra zipper on the pants (for easier toilet breaks), so the only zipper goes from side to side on the chest. The zipper is truly heavy duty, so it takes some strength to operate (at least initially). Make sure the zipper is fully closed if you are going to immerse yourself.
The suit is quite easy to put on and take off, there’s only one step (getting the second arm inside and getting the first arm out of the suit) that requires some flexibility and maneuvering.
I had to cut off some of the latex from all of the cuffs to make it fit. I’m not sure if mere stretching would have been enough, I did not have time to find out.
My rationale for not opting for any extras was to keep the price low. This was a deliberate choice. If I were to add any extras to the suit, then I would probably also opt for the better fabric.
The basic packsuit is marketed as less breathable than the best membrane fabrics. I wanted to see how much of an issue this is and wore the suit already when leaving from our office to the kayak rental. A short car trip and some walking did not cause massive perspiration but did leave me feeling a little damp inside the suit. This was about what I expected. The inner lining did feel a lot more plasticy than my 2-layer Helly Hansen light membrane shell clothing. Of course I expect only the other to hold me dry in case I submerge.
After the two hour kayaking, my sleeveless cotton shirt was soaked from sweat. Technical under layer would probably have stayed drier, but this was the worst case scenario.
During the kayaking, I did not feel the moisture and it did not cause any problems. Of course it was quite warm, the weather was about +12-15 celsius but it was also quite windy at times.
I sweat so much that I don’t think I could have made it with a dry cotton undershirt even if I was wearing some more breathable shell clothing, but this was indeed the worst case scenario. My merino undershirts are at least as wet after a day of pulka / sledge hauling on winter trips and that causes no trouble even in freezing temperatures, so I’m quite happy with the results.
After the test, I would say that Packrafting store characterises the breathability in a very fair manner. If you intend to use the drysuit mainly for packrafting, kayaking, sailing or other water sports, then I would not hesitate to choose the basic model (and just wear merino wool underneath that stays warm even if it is damp).
However, if you intend to hike significant stretches in the suit, then go for something more breathable. But in those cases you would also probably want to select the more flexible options like the SplitSuit
At the end of the kayak tour we did something that was meant to be a short rescue drill to test the waterproofness of the suit. However, we had some unexpected factors in the drill which meant I ended up spending 8 minutes in the suit immersed in about 10 degree celsius sea water. At no point did the suit let in any water and I also stayed plenty warm (except may toes started to get a bit cold, but that was with thin neoprene socks).
So I would say that with latex cuffs, you can consider it fully waterproof and would not hesitate to rely on it to save me in cold or white water.
The suit caused no restrictions on the paddling. The latex cuffs were very comfortable. In fact, I’ve had a neoprene neck chafe my neck quite severely during an hour swim in a wetsuit, so I would probably opt for the latex, unless you want some breathability from a neck that can be opened.
Despite the moisture inside, it was very comfortable for a two hour paddling tour. It kept me dry (if we leave the perspiration out of the picture). So in my opinion, it did it’s job admirably well.
I consider the price of 299€ a very cheap price for the power of the suit. Now, for just a little more you could of course have the more breathable and more feature packed suits that are probably more comfortable in many ways. But drysuit is something that can save your life, so I consider it very valuable service to the community for Anfibio to have the suit available at the pricepoint it is.
If you do whitewater or cold water kayaking and packrafting and $300 is something you can afford but over $400 is out of your range, don’t hesitate to go with the Anfibio Packsuit Basic. It is unbeatable value for your money.