The Best Fishing Waders
Fishing waders are a must if you are going fly fishing. The weather might be nice and warm, but the water will still feel cold and will sap your body heat quickly if you stand in it for a length of time. On top of that, keeping your feet immersed in water is not great for your feet or the skin. The advantage of waders is that you can be closer to where the fish are and you don’t need to cast as far, this is especially important for wide river fishing, where a boat is not practical because of the currents and the fish are too far to accurately cast, or with fly fishing the need to keep casting to mimic the movement of an insect. Waders have been around for almost 200 years, the Hodgman company were manufacturing waders as long ago as 1850 and when galvanized rubber fabrics became available in the 1940’s waders have never looked back. As with everything advances in technology have changed how waders look and perform over the years, with breathable and non-breathable fabrics no available there is plenty of choice in which waders to use.
Our Top 3 Picks
6 Best Fishing Waders
Hodgman H5 Stocking foot
Hand warmer pockets: 2
The wader is also compatible Hodgman’s core INS removable zoned insulation system meaning that you can transform these waders from warm weather to cold weather waders with ease. The Core INS is not included but an optional extra which zips in place. Probably the most important thing to consider when buying waders after being waterproof is comfort. The H5 removed leg seems in high abrasion areas but allowing movement. The 5mm thick Neoprene booties are anatomically correct left and right footed to keep your feet warm in cold water and not feel uncomfortable with folds in your boot. The Gravel guard where the booty meets the wader leg is designed to stop river bed gravel from entering the stop of your boot and causing discomfort.
No inside leg seam eliminating leak points from abrasion
pointsBreathable 3-Layer upper for moisture vapor transfer
Micro- fleece lined hand warmer with water resistant zippers
Anatomically correct left and right neoprene booties
Flip out internal zippered storage pocket
Comfort Fit gravel guard design eliminates pressure points above ankle
Top loading external pocket with water resistant zipper
Waist belt and shoulder braces are not easy to adjust when wearing
Hand warmer pockets: 2
There are two fleece lined hand warmer pockets either side of the bib to keep your spare hand warm, these lack zips, but I find this a good point as with cold wet hands it can be difficult to operate a zipper, but being able to just slide a hand into the fleece pocket to keep it warm is easier. However not great for storage. The 4 layer waterproof and breathable fabric extends up the thighs and around the seat of the waders, giving extra protection and strength to the seat area of the wader. This is useful if you are sliding in and out of a boat, the seat is an area that often fails on waders due to this activity. The wader has been designed for all seasons, but if you are going to be fishing in cold winter conditions I would suggest a wader liner or fleece pants under the wader to help insulate. The sock or bootie are ergonomic 3.5mm neoprene with a 4mm sole.
Ergonomic neoprene boots with bottom thickness of 4mm increased durability
Flip out zippered storage pocket
Fleece lined warmer pocket
Corrosion resistant hardware
No net attachment or ring on back or front
Thin neoprene booties, meaning cold feet in winter
Caddis 5 ply breathable Wader
Hand warmer pockets: No
The knees and seat of the waders have been reinforced to protect these areas. As you know most waders wear quickest on the seat and knees. All the seams are glues, then stitched and finally taped to give them strength. The neoprene soles of the booties will keep your feet dry and warm. And gravel guard will help stop riverbed grave from getting into the top of your boots. All pockets are zipped with waterproof zippers. The waders also include a free wader belt and repair kit, although I don’t think you would be needing the repair kit due to the excellent construction of these waders. The shoulder braces have a D-ring at each of the attachment points on the front and rear, 3 D-rings in total, to enable you to hang landing nets and wading stick, or anything else you think you need to hang.
Caddis 5-Ply Breathable Technology
Reinforced Knees and Seat
Attached fabric Gravel Guards
Seams Taped, Glued and Stitched
Foot Taped inside and out
Quad pocket with waterproof zippered security pocket
Heavy Duty Neoprene soles
Free Wader Belt and Repair Kit
No hand warmer pockets
Frogg Toggs Pilot II
Hand warmer pockets: No
The legs are swing protected on both sides so as to protect against fishing rod and reel contact. The upper of the wader is a 4 ply breathable nylon to keep you cool and allow sweat vapor to dissipate. The upper of the wader features a quad chest pocket, this is a large chest pocket suitable for holding spare equipment, and flies, two zipped large side entry pockets again perfect for storage and a flip out internal pocket, all pockets and zipper are waterproof. The lower wader is 6ply for extra durability, the seat is reinforced and has extra padding. The booties are 4mm neoprene which have double taped seams, above the booties are nylon gravel guards with non-slip elastic opening and corrosion proof boot lace hook to hold the gravel guards in place. The shoulder braces have a D-ring for attaching a net to or other equipment you choose.
4-ply upper with taped seams
Custom chest pockets with water resistant zippered front and side entry
Elastic wading belt with quick-release closure and attachments for accessories
High density 4mm neoprene boot with waterproof taped seams
Durable gravel guards with rubberised opening and rust resistant lacing system
Reinforced, durable butt pad
Flipout chest pocket keeps gear secure with zippered opening
No hand warmer pockets
Orvis Silver Sonic
Hand warmer pockets: no
The gravel guards also feature a quick drain mesh to stop them from holding water and weighing you down. The upper wader contains the large chest pocket which it perfect for extra flies and other gadgets you may need to store, the internal flip out waterproof pocket can hold a cell phone and has a touchscreen capabilities meaning that you can use your phone without taking it out of the pocket, you can send the photo of the giant trout you just caught without risking taking your phone out and dropping it in the river, neat feature. The shoulder brace has a nice feature that allows you to lower the upper part of the wader changing them from a chest wader to a waist wader. This is great if you are feeling a little too warm and want to cool down without having to slip the braces or suspended off your shoulders.
SonicSeam construction eliminates the chance for stitching to come undone
Sturdy 4-layer outer material
The suspension system allows conversion from full waders to waist height without the need to remove the suspenders
Anatomically designed booties
Flip-out waterproof interior pocket, which allows use of touchscreen devices
Attached gravel guard with quick-draining mesh
No hand warmer pockets
No D-rings for attaching a net
Patagonia Skeena River
Hand warmer pockets: 2 hand warmer pockets
The upper of the wader features a very large mesh chest pocket is great for all the gadgets you need at hand, as well as having space for your phone or camera to take that all important photo of the fish you just hooked. To the side of the chest pocket is a reach through hand warmer pocket, to keep your free hand warm.
The entire top part of the wader can be lowered to form a wait height wader without removing the over shoulder braces or suspenders. This is very helpful if you are feeling just a little too warm and want to quickly cool down without having to drop the suspenders off your shoulders and getting them wet in the river.
H2No Performance shell provides a waterproof yet breathable defense
EZ-Lock suspenders offer secure fit with easy adjustment
Welded waterproof Interior pocket opens out for access
Upper exterior kangaroo type pocket and chest pocket
Anatomical booties have sock-like design
No D-ring for net
Criteria for Evaluation
Types of Waders
Booted vs Stocking Feet
Boot waders have the boot attached to the wader. It sounds like the best option, no need for extra boots, just jump in to the waders and wade into the pond. However, it is not really as great as that. The boot that is welded to the waders is really a rubber boot the type you might use in the garden, which are great at being waterproof but not the most comfortable of footwear. Also they are not great if you are wading on rocky and uneven ground as the boot is not as securely attached to your foot as a standard boot, meaning you may loose your footing. Also waders are sized for your leg length, the boot is not sized, if you have big or small feet you may find that for waders that fit your legs, the boot is too big or too small.
Stocking feet waders, have a, usually, neoprene sock welded to the end of the wader for your foot. With these waders, you need to wear a boot over the wader sock. It is best to have boots that are designed to be worn in water for a long time. These types of boot are similar in design to good walking boots other than the fact they are designed to be submerged in water. This means that they offer good ankle protection and better grip on rocky surfaces. Stocking feet waders give you more versatility, you are not limited to only one type of boot, you can change boots depending on the type of swim, the boots will be a better fit, and if the weather is hot, you can just skip the waders and just wade out in your shorts and boots. Also, you can put stocking feet waders in your washing machine, booted waders just destroy your washer. We prefer stocking feet waders for these reasons.
Hip Waders vs Chest Waders
Hip and chest waders refer to the height of the wader, either to hip level or chest level. Both will keep you dry, but with hip level you have to be aware or the water level and if there are waves. You don’t want water rising above the top of the waders as you stand the chance of your waders filling with water which will make you unbalanced and movement difficult. I prefer chest waders, not because you can wade deeper, that is not the reason and you should not wade deeper than thigh height anyway, as there is no need to, just cast to the deeper water. But chest waders just offer you that extra height of wader so that if there is a wave or you stumble a bit the chance of water getting over the top of the wader and into the wader is less. Also most chest waders have a handy pocket to store stuff in on your chest.
What Material Should You Choose For Your Waders?
This depends on when you will be using them. If you only ever fish in cold water and cold climates, winter fishing then non-breathable are probably best. If you are a 3 or for season fisherman then breathable. But what is the difference, you ask?
Non-breathable fabrics such as neoprene, PVC, nylon and even rubber are 100% waterproof and designed to keep you warm. They are great for cold waters and climates, but beware that if you are wearing non-breathable waders in spring, you will feel great whilst in the water but as soon as you leave and walk to the shore your will start to sweat and feel the heat. Non-breathable waders are generally less expensive than breathable and more durable, but not as easy and comfortable to walk in.
Neoprene is great for very cold waters and active anglers, it is a synthetic rubber, usually 5mm thick, it is waterproof and a good insulator. It is very durable and rarely rips or tears but if it does is actually very easy to repair. PVC and Nylon are a often more affordable than neoprene and lighter, but not as suitable for very cold waters, although you can always wear thermal pants under theses waders.
Breathable waders are in general more versatile and comfortable, and many fly fishermen swear by them in all seasons. For many reasons, then fabric is in general thinner than non-breathable fabrics which means you can wear them as you walk from your car to the fishing site, which sometimes is not as close as you would like. There are several different manufacturers of breathable but waterproof fabrics; Gore-Tex, N2No, Vapour-Tec to name a few, they all work on very similar principles.
Gore-Tex is the oldest and possibly the world leader in breathable waterproof fabrics, but other generics are now available.
All breathable and waterproof fabric work because they prevent or repel water from the outside but also allow perspiration vapor to escape allowing for the body to maintain a good temperature via the evaporation of sweat. To do this the fabric are coated or laminated. Coating are liquid chemical solutions which have been applied to the inside of the fabric, like painting the wall. Obviously these coating are super thin and a lot more flexible than paint. Laminates are another material, a waterproof and breathable membrane is applied to the fabric wall. Similar to covering your kids school books with sticky back plastic or a cellphone screen protector. The laminates are either a stretched PTFE (poly-tetrafluoroethylene), or Teflon to use DuPont the paint and chemicals companies brand name, PU (polyurethane) film or Polyester film.
Gore-Tex and many others use a PTFE membrane laminate. PTFE membrane under a very high powered microscope you will see millions of holes, Gore-Tex stated one square centimeter of PTFE membrane has around 1.4 billion holes.
Wait a minute, we are putting a membrane that is literally full of holes on a fabric to make it waterproof, well yes and it works because the holes in the membrane are too small to let liquid water molecules through, but large enough to let water vapor molecules out.
This means that the only ways in which liquid water can penetrate through a PTFE membrane is either the PTFE becomes contaminated or damaged in some way, or the water is pushed at high pressure onto the membrane, in excess of 13psi. The current of even fast rapids is nowhere near this level of pressure.
Caring For Your Waders
Non-breathable waders are a lot simpler to take care of. After use, you need to dry them inside and out, by turning then inside out. Once they are dry you should hang them in a cool and dry place.
Again you need to dry then inside and out. Take special care to dry the stocking feet of the waders as these are usually neoprene and will not dry as quickly as the rest of the wader. If left damp this could promote the growth of mold and this will, in turn, attach the glue and seams of the waders causing leaks and other failures.
Breathable waders need to be washed regularly with a detergent-free soap. They can, in most cases, be washed in the washing a washing machine. You should also periodically spray the outside of your waders with a water repellent spray. If you notice that when you walk out of the water your waders look darker than usual then that is a sign that they have absorbed water and need to have a water repellent coating reapplied. Store your waders in a cool dry and dark place.
Wading takes skill, and it takes time to learn, and even then the most experienced waders slip and fall. Unfortunately every year people died in accidents related to wading, don’t become one of these fatalities and follow these common sense rules and do not take unnecessary risks, it is after all only a fish and as they say there are plenty more fish in the sea.
- There is really no need to wade any deeper than thigh deep. Thigh deep is deep enough for most fish and wading deeper you will in fact be scaring more fish away. Wade to a spot where you can cast to the water deeper than thigh deep. If you can stay in the shallows and cast to the deeper water do so, for one its safer, and two you will not be scaring away the fish you are trying to catch.
- The deeper you wade the less effective your cast will be, this is due to hip movement, without realising it you cast with your hip, the deeper you are hip movement will unbalance you, and so affect your cast.
- Do over rely on a wading stick. They are useful in testing depth and to lean on if you need some extra balance.
- Wear a life jacket. If you get knocked over you may need something to keep your head above water. Automatic inflating life vests are the best, if you get knocked out you wont be able to self inflate it. And get your life vest serviced regularly.
- Don’t wade in to fast water. Beware of the water at the end of the pool, it usually moves fast and will wash the ground from under your feet.
- Keep your clothes secure, don’t have anything that if you fall could get caught on the rock making it impossible for you to get up.
- Have a dry spare set of clothes.
- Don’t fish alone, have a fishing buddy and watch each other’s backs.
- Don’t take risks for a fish. There is always another, bigger fish to catch.