There are so many different options when purchasing a pair of fishing waders that it can be a daunting task (like most pieces of fly fishing gear, unfortunately!). The good news is, the basics can be pared down to a few key features to consider and look for when buying fishing waders.
In this post, I’m going to outline the different materials fishing waders are typically made from, and then follow up with a comparison on the different styles of fishing waders. By the end of this article my goal is to give you confidence in knowing what material and style of fishing waders best fits your climate and type of fishing.
Fishing Wader Materials
Rubber waders used to be the best waterproof solution for stream wading. The benefit of rubber waders today is that they are relatively inexpensive compared to other types. They are also a suitable choice if you only wade fish occasionally. However, rubber waders are stiff and heavy which makes them bulky for extended walks to remote streams. Rubber does not breathe, either, which makes for a hot, tiring day in most North American climates. Another con of rubber waders are that they are prone to cut/tear if you brush against glass, metal, or sharp stones underwater. That said, rubber waders are probably the least-favorable material to buy, although they will get you by on a shoestring budget or in a pinch.
Neoprene is another material that is a commonly used material for fishing waders and provides a fairly versatile option.Neoprene waders are a popular choice for both fishing and hunting, which may be an added bonus for some. Neoprene comes in varying thicknesses, which provide options of different weights and levels of insulation. It is a flexible fabric that holds up well to minor scrapes and is fairly warm for colder adventures. Neoprene is also fairly easy to patch if rips or tears do occur.
Fishing waders made of breathable materials that keep you dry while allowing moisture (i.e. sweat) to escape. These are made of proprietary materials that are lighter weight than rubber or neoprene and are a great all-around choice for milder climates. Breathable waders will keep you cool in the summer months, and still provide a good option for colder weather with a good insulating layer underneath in colder weather.
Styles of fishing waders
Above we discussed different materials that fishing waders are common made out of and we will continue our evaluation of fishing waders by covering the different styles of fishing waders. The three types of fishing waders to consider are hip waders, waist-high waders, and chest waders.
There are just a few more characteristics-styles of fishing waders-that you should be acquainted with before going shopping.
First, waders come in three different ‘lengths’. The shortest of all are hip waders. These are generally rubber waders with attached boots, and are only good for fishing shallow streams where you will typically not be going in above your knees. Waist-high waders are the in-between choice and are like a pair of pants. They can be either stockingfoot or bootfoot, depending on which you prefer. The tallest choice, (and arguably the most popular among fly anglers) is the chest wader. These are often made of breathable material and are worn with separate wading boots of your choice. Chest waders allow you to wade into the deeper parts of a river while staying dry, but, although breathable, can get hot during summertime. One way to give versatility to your waders is to buy convertible waders that can easily be worn as either waist-high or chest waders.
Most chest fishing waders are going to have the same basic features including gravel guards (if stockingfoot waders) and shoulder straps, but there are some ‘upsell’ features that may be of interest to you. One of my pairs of waders zip in the front, which honestly has come in handy on more than one streamside pee occasion! These have a waterproof zipper that typically starts at the chest and goes down to the crotch. This feature is not absolutely necessary, but, in addition to bathroom breaks, allows the waders to come on and off a bit easier.
Another feature of more expensive chest waders is the addition of built-in pockets or integrated fly boxes on the front of waders. These can range from a simple zip pocket or handwarmer pockets to full-blown detachable chest packs. The practicality of these features will largely depend upon your fly fishing style. If you like to go fast and light, an incorporated chest pack might be the ticket. I just bought a pair of Frogg Toggs Hellbender Breathable Wader and am really enjoying a pocket for my phone, license, and other little goodies I carry with me but don’t have to have in my vest.
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