Wading Through Wader Options - A Fishing Waders Buyer's Guide
Author: Mark Boardman
With all of the available options, anglers have more and better waders to choose from than ever before.
Staying dry and comfortable while fishing are two of the most important factors that play into having an enjoyable day on the water. Being wet and cold or hot and sweaty is not only unpleasant, but can cause an otherwise good day of fishing to become miserable, and even worse, cut short. Luckily, with all of the wader technology advancements that have taken place in recent years, along with traditional models and materials, it is easy to find waders to match seasonal changes as well as angler-specific needs.
Waders come in three basic styles: Hip waders, waist high waders, and chest waders. Each style can be found in different material compositions that make it desirable for specific applications, seasons, or price. The most commonly used materials are rubber, neoprene, various waterproof and breathable laminates, and nylon. When it comes to the foot portion of a wader, you’ll sometimes have the option of a boot foot or stocking foot. All of the available choices have their advantages and after examining the features and benefits of each, it should hopefully be clear which wader is right for you.
Hip waders provide easy on-and-off convenience; wear easily with regular clothing and often times offer enough coverage to handle most wading tasks. They excel on smaller streams, and for activities such as launching and recovering boats, clamming, and big-game hunting in boggy terrain. This style of wader generally comes with belt straps to aid in holding them up.
Waist High Waders
Waist high waders wear like a pair of pants and bridge the gap between hip waders and chest waders. They feature belt loops and a belt to hold them up securely. This style of wader can give an angler that extra few inches of coverage often times needed to get where they need to go. They also leave the upper torso of the body completely exposed for warm weather comfort and increased mobility. This style of wader is ideal for moderately aggressive stream wading, getting in and out of drift boats while fishing, and any other wading activity where you need more coverage than a hip wader provides yet a chest wader might be overkill.
Chest waders are the most versatile of all the wader styles simply because they provide the most coverage. They are ideal for the aggressive wader that knows the likelihood of going chest deep in the water to reach a spot or standing in water over the waist to fish is going to be a common occurrence. Even if you don’t plan on having to wade very deep, they can really be an asset when the occasional situation arises when you need to. The waters we wade can be unpredictable at times. It is always nice to have the coverage of a chest wader when encountering unexpected holes, drop-offs, and debris such as logs, strong currents, and waves. I’m sure sheer clumsiness has accounted for a fall or two also although I’ve never experienced that type of scenario. And if you believe that... All of the afore mentioned hazards can send a person for an unplanned swim that would leave them much wetter if they weren’t wearing a chest wader. Safety should always be in the forefront of our minds when in the field. Always wear a wading belt when wading in chest waders. If a float tube or pontoon boat is going to be used, chest waders are the only way to go. On foul weather days they provide an excellent barrier to wind and rain, making them a great choice for the all-weather angler.
There is no perfect wader to match every season and application but a quality pair of breathable waders comes pretty darn close. Breathable waders are lightweight and extremely comfortable. They’re constructed with membranes that lock out exterior moisture while allowing your perspiration vapor to escape at the same time. This means that you’ll stay dry all day whether you’re fishing leisurely or covering water quickly in warm weather. In the spring and summer, they can be worn with a pair of light shorts and a tee shirt. When fall and winter roll around, just slip into a quality base layer, some fleece wader pants, and appropriate top layers and you can handle surprisingly cold temperatures. Breathable waders are definitely the most versatile and comfortable of all the material types. Knee and seat regions are generally reinforced with extra layers to provide additional strength and durability in these high stress/wear areas.
When the thermometer drops, it’s tough to beat the insulating qualities of a neoprene wader. Neoprene waders will keep your body warmer than any other type of wader material. Neoprene stretches and moves with your body, providing a fit-to-form feel and ease of mobility. This wader material is also extremely durable. One drawback of neoprene is that it is a non-breathable material. While neoprene is a great choice for cool to cold conditions, it can also be worn in warmer weather comfortably if you dress lightly.
Nylon waders are durable, and inexpensive. They can be constructed to be lightweight or heavy-duty. For the angler on a tight budget or for anglers that just can’t seem to justify the price of a breathable wader, nylon waders fit the bill. As mentioned previously, nylon waders are non-breathable. If it is hot outside, or you are engaging in activity, any perspiration that’s produced by your body is going to stay inside of the wader.
Rubber waders are tough, durable, and heavy. Today, rubber waders are pretty much limited to hip wader styling. This is due to advancements in materials that would make rubber an illogical choice for any other style.
Bootfoot waders feature an integral boot that is constructed right into the wader. The advantages of this style are that you don’t have to purchase a separate set of wading boots, you always know where your boots are, and they are quick to put on and take off. Most models are constructed without laces but a few incorporate them to provide a more snug fit. Boot foot waders will, in general, keep your feet warmer and in some cases come with a range of insulation choices to fit angler preferences. Bootfoot waders come with either a rubber or felt sole. Rubber soles are better in muddy conditions or when a lot of time is going to be spent walking out of the water. Felt soles excel in situations where extra traction is needed to keep from loosing your footing on slippery stream bottoms.
Stockingfoot waders are constructed with neoprene booties in their foot sections. They are made to insulate the foot and slip into the wading boots of your choice. Wading boots run the gamut from simple and inexpensive to high-tech and accordingly priced. When combined with today’s available wading boot options, stockingfoot waders are lighter than boot foot waders, provide better ankle support and in general, true hiking boot fit, feel, and performance. Wading boots made to be used in conjunction with stockingfoot waders, in most cases, feature a lace up design that delivers a snug fit and reduces friction, potential hot spots, and blistering on longer hikes or extended periods of wading. Wading boots often feature the option of felt soles, various hiking soles, or felt soles with metal studs. Some even have interchangeable soles allowing an angler to hike to his fishing location and then change soles for wading purposes. Hiking soles are durable and are ideal for anglers that walk long distances or have to navigate up and around obstructions to fish different spots. Felt soles deliver added traction on slick rocks in streams. On super slippery bottoms such as algae covered rocks and boulders, studded felt-soled boots might be the ideal choice. One thing to remember when choosing this style is that it is great for streams but murder on boats. If you’re going to be getting in and out of a drift boat, or any other style of boat for that matter, it is a good idea to avoid studded wading boots.
With all of the available options, anglers have more and better waders to choose from than ever before. Now all you have to do is choose the wader that best complements your outdoor passion and get out on the water.