Unless you choose to fish solely from dry land or out of a boat, for most anglers waders are an inevitable investment and an essential part of the inventory. There’s no wading around it (boom boom…). We created this section to guide you through the different types of waders, and to try to give you an idea of what to look for when you’re in the market for a new set.
When rubber was invented in the early 1900s it kickstarted the waders industry as we know it today. Now, new technologies and waterproofing methods have the waders market flooded (sorry) with great products and it is up to the consumer to decide what is best for their needs.
- 1 How do you choose the right waders for you?
- 2 How should my waders fit?
- 3 What to look for when purchasing new waders
- 4 Wading boots
- 5 Wading belts
- 6 Best wader brands
- 7 What are the best waders on the market today?
- 7.1 Best neoprene chest waders
- 7.2 Best lightweight chest waders
- 7.3 Best thigh waders
How do you choose the right waders for you?
To start the process of wader shopping, ask yourself this initial question: how many days a year will you step foot in a river, lake, ocean or stream? Is it less than, let’s say, 30 days a year? Or more? Are you an occasional wader or a fanatic?
For those of us in the first category, who don’t use waders for more than a few days or weeks out of the year, the waders described below are an ideal investment and not so hard on the wallet. Like most general rules of thumb on investments, don’t spend more than you need to. If you are one of those people who’s out fishing at every opportunity, on the other hand, or if you tend to fish in remote, bushy environments that beat up waders faster than you can say duck tape, it’s probably worth spending some extra money for something a bit stronger and harder wearing. Fabrics used in high-end waders and in professional lines of wader brands are often reinforced and able to take more abuse.
Waders are usually made from neoprene, rubber or a blend of high performance, lightweight fabrics. Neoprene works great in cold environments, where anglers must fight off the heat-sapping temperatures of chilly waters, but you won’t find anyone caught dead in neoprene where it’s hot. So while they’re as common as a sockeye salmon in Alaska, they’re a pretty rare sight in the Baja Peninsula or Seychelles. Waders that are not neoprene use an array or high performance fabrics, and almost every year the leading brands seem to come up with something newer, thinner and usually more expensive!
How should my waders fit?
Waders should be comfortable – more snug than loose but not so tight that they rub or restrict blood flow. They can be a little forgiving in the leg and around the waist, but it’s important that they have a good quality boot. We’ve learned the hard way – a full day or week in poorly fitting waders is a fate worse than death… almost. What’s more, loose waders can be dangerous. In high or fast flowing waters, anglers need to be surefooted. Going in with the fishes is nobody’s idea of a good result and the thought of your waders filling up with water or snagging on underwater obstacles fills many anglers with fear. This being said, waders will never fit perfectly and extra space is often needed in the cold months when you require extra layers to fend off the chilly winter conditions.
To enable you find the right fit, most wader manufacturers provide a handy measurement guide. Simply take your chest, hip, waist and inside leg / inseam measurements before you buy and match them to the closest fit. Petite, short or extra long are common options with many brands so don’t settle for something too ill-fitting.
What to look for when purchasing new waders
Each angler’s personal preference and price range will be unique, so the best thing to do when purchasing waders may be to start with several things in mind: the price that you are willing to pay, where you typically fish, and how cool or warm the water is. As mentioned above, buy neoprene if you fish chilly cold water, and lightweight, breathable waders if you tend to frequent warmer waters. Before investing in a pair of waders, research and check to see if the manufacturer has a good guarantee program: do they stand behind their product or offer a free replacement service? Do they provide a puncture repair kit or give advice on how to look after your waders to prolong their life? Many do.
One thing to look out for is the fact that some waders come with boots while others are supplied without. If you need to buy your boots separately, you need to budget accordingly, as boots can be expensive!
Waders sold with separate boots are often the preferred style for guides and anglers who spend many days in the water, because the boots tend to offer better comfort, foot support and grip. Other waders have inbuilt boots, which makes them far more practical for slipping in and out of. When using this style of integrated wader, I find myself slipping in and out of them regularly throughout the day – for a snack, for a cup of tea, or whatever. My boot-wearing friends, on the other hand, tend to keep their waders on. They’re slightly less convenient to get in and out of, which is often just enough to make anglers not bother! If you don’t think you will be spending too much time in waders, waders sold with attached boots are the most practical, economical option. The only real downside is comfort and the fact that they are not as adjustable. I see a place for both and it’s really a matter of personal choice, but if you fish a lot, you might consider having a paid of each.
When purchasing chest waders you might notice that some are fitted with a wading belt. This is a fairly new feature in chest waders, which was developed primarily for reasons of safety. Wading belts are your security against drowning in your waders, as they help prevent water from going down into the leg part of the wader if and when you find yourself underwater. They’re not watertight, but they can have enough of an effect to make a difference, which can sometimes be the difference between a quick dip and something a lot more serious. Always wear your wading belt snugly, especially when you’re in high or fast-moving water… We’ve all crossed that stream that was a little deeper/faster/scarier than we expected!
Best wader brands
As a general rule, you won’t go far wrong with brands like Caddis, Dan Bailey and Redington. They all produce high-quality, well-made waders, which are invariably comfortable and practical yet still more affordable than the premium brands.
If you’re in the UK, we love Airflo’s Airtex Zip waders, which come with a handy zip down the front, which makes a tricky task much easier! If you don’t care about the zip, go for the standard Airflo Airtex stocking foot chest waders – they’re awesome. Sadly it seems they’re not available in the USA.
Patagonia, Simms and Orvis, on the other hand, are generally considered the best of breed. For that reason they remain popular among professional anglers and guides both sides of the Atlantic, despite being perhaps a little expensive for many infrequent anglers or beginners. If you want to look like the pros, go ahead and buy tried, tested and approved waders such as Simms’ G4 Pro Waders or Patagonia’s Rio Gallegos. They’ve been developed in conjunction with experienced fishing guides and are among the best on the market (typically the higher the price on the waders, the thicker, tougher and better-made they will be, and you’ll probably find they’re supported by a solid manufacturer guarantee or superior customer service). If your budget doesn’t stretch to these brands, fear not – there are plenty of other great products out there that are almost as good (just as good?) without breaking the bank. Read on…!
What are the best waders on the market today?
We’re going to break this section down into three parts: neoprene chest waders (for cold water/weather), lightweight chest waders (for warmer weather) and thigh waders, all of which you can find below with at least one recommendation.
Best neoprene chest waders
There are of course many more options available, but here’s our pick:
Titanium Advantage Wetlands Neoprene Camo Waders
These Titanium 600g waders are said to reflect warmth back toward your body, keep you 20% warmer than other waders. They’re also easy to slip on and off, with an in-built boot, sturdy, quick-release buckles and a good deep front pocket. If you fancy a pair of camouflage chest waders, these are a great bet.
Allen Company Rock Creek Neoprene Waders
These were only just pipped by the Toggs waders below, simply because we prefer our neoprene waders with a built-in boot. If you like a stocking foot, on the other hand, these Allen Company waders are hard to beat at this price – warm, comfortable, well-made and sturdy. Try them with the Allen Company Blue River Wading Boot or, if you’re prepared to mix and match, you could opt for the highly rated Frogg Toggs Anura Sticky Rubber Wading Shoe, Olive/Camel (just don’t come moaning to us when you get teased about the clash of green and brown!
Toggs Amphib 3.5mm Neoprene Boot Foot Wader
These are extremely comfortable, slip-on / slip-off, bib-style waders. They’re a good shape, meaning they fit well, sit quite high up your back and provide excellent insulation, even in the coldest water. The boots are in-built and have very grippy “Chain Track” soles, which offer great traction. An excellent pick.
Best lightweight chest waders
Frogg Toggs® Hellbender Waders
Frogg Toggs® Hellbender waders are a great option for the more serious fisherman. They come in an ultra-tough outer shell, incorporate 3 or 4-ply waterproofing technology and feature reinforced knees and shins for extra puncture protection. There are plenty of pockets and loops for attaching nets and accessories, plus unusually they can be folded down into hip-length waders. There are a few to choose from, but we like the Stout version shown here.
Caddis Breathable Chest Waders
Caddis offers a great range of waders, which are designed to fit people of most body sizes and shapes. Their stocking-foot waders are their most popular and possibly most comfortable offering. They work well in most weather conditions: the breathable material provides decent insulation and allows perspiration out without letting water in. Unlike some stocking-foot waders, you will need to buy your boots separately (so that obviously adds to the price), but with double knees, high quality adjustable suspenders, plenty of pocket space and seams that are double-taped, glued and stitched, these lightweight breathable waders offer great value for money.
Redington Sonic Pro Chest Waders
Redington Sonic Pro Waders are a great choice if you’re looking for top-of-the-range quality without the Simms price tag. They incorporate four layers of breathable ‘DWR coated fabric’ and have been manufactured using double taped, sonic welded, articulated seams for super reliability, durability and increased mobility (that’s a lot of “ilities”!). Plenty of well designed pockets and features make these our waders of choice.
Simms G4 Greystone Pro Waders
If money is no object and you want the best of the best, try these. Simms is one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of fishing clothing, and their waders are no exception. The company offers a lifetime warranty on all its waders, all of which are made from the same/similar materials and with an equally impressive eye for detail. Try these Greystone G4s or the more affordable Headwaters. The 4-Layer Toray® QuadraLam™ Technology fabric is soft and comfortable and unlike other waders, Simms use unnoticable seams in the front of the leg to prevent chafing.
Simms also offers some slim, nicely designed waders for women, including the reasonably priced Headwater waders.
Best thigh waders
Allen Company Black River Thigh Waders
We’ve already recommended one of Allen Company’s waders above, and these thigh-length boots are of a similar standard. Featuring 2-ply ‘Endure’ polyester uppers and a sturdy insulated boot with grippy cleated sole, they’re all you really need and, at this price, they offer good value.
Frogg Toggs – Bull Frogg Waders
It’s not just the name that we love about these Bull Froggs – we also appreciate the fact that they’re very dry and very comfortable. The heavy-duty 3-ply canvas uppers are unusual but very effective and the “Rip-Track” cleated sole gives the reinforced, cushioned boots exceptional grip.
Wenzel Hip Waders
If you’re looking for a summer boot, you won’t go far wrong with these Wenzel waders. They’re lightweight, easy to get on and off, comfortable and very durable. These waders have quite a loyal following, so they get a lot of repeat orders. The only downside is the lack of insulation. If you’re intending to use them in winter, you may want to pay the extra for a pair of LaCrosse (see below).
LaCrosse Trapline Thigh / Hip Waders
A little like Simms chest waders, LaCrosse are the brand to go to if you’re not constrained by budget. These Traplines are warm, very rugged, comfortable and dry – some of the best heavy duty thigh boots you’ll find anywhere. Alternatively, check out the LaCrosse ZXT Irrigation; or, if you want something a little lighter, more classical and easier to get on and off, go for the Big Chief. You can’t go wrong with any of these boots.