The Importance of Good Waders
In A Coast to Coast Walk, author Alfred Wainwright famously said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing.” This saying is often applied to outdoor gear, and it is never more accurate than when discussing waterfowl waders.
Hardcore waterfowl hunters know that some of the very best hunting occurs at the same time as the very worst weather. Because of this, choice of gear is crucial.
Many hunting days have been abbreviated because the conditions got the best of the hunter. Lots of waterfowl hunting scenarios call for the hunter to spend part or all of their day standing in cold water which makes wearing quality waders crucial.
A variety of factors will contribute to which waders are the right choice for you:
- how far you walk
- type of territory you hunt in
- how many times a year you hunt
If you make the wrong wader selection for hunting in muddy conditions, you can pretty quickly pull your stockingfoot waders right out of your boots when they stick in the mud. Breathable waders exposed to thorny brush can tear or develop pinholes and leak.
Selecting waders that are not well-enough insulated from the conditions is another commonly made mistake.
While there are a lot of ways that wader selection can go awry and be the cause of an uncomfortable day in the woods, the right choice can be warm, dry, durable and unrestricted.
Picking the Right Waders
When it comes time to make your wader selection, consider the following questions and answers guidelines:
- How often do you plan on hunting?
Several wader options on the market are affordable because the manufacturer sacrificed product durability and longevity in favor of lower price.
In many cases, these waders are suitable for a handful of trips a year over a few years but not the abuse of multiple trips on a weekly basis. A couple of the very best waders from this affordable category are reviewed above.
Some products are designed for more avid hunters and many of those come with some warranty protection.
The peace of mind that your waders are designed for heavy use and come with manufacturer product support is a distinct value to the right buyer. Waders that fit into this category are discussed as “The Best of the Best.”
- Do you plan on hunting warm or cold weather/water?
For this question, make sure you consider not just the air temperature, but if you will be required to stand in cold water. Apparently, some hunters spend their time in flooded fields where waders are helpful but the hunter is not paying their day in the thigh-deep water.
If you will be hunting in cold weather and water, a thicker neoprene wader is preferable. Also, attached boots may be a good choice because they are offered with thick insulation.
As a rule, rubber boots with thick padding and space for both warm socks and air will be warmest.
Wearing super warm waders on hunts in warmer weather or where lots of moving is required can be as bad as being too cold. Profuse sweating can lead to being very uncomfortable.
If you plan to be in warm weather, consider a breathable wader or a wader with at least breathable uppers. With lighter waders, layering underneath for warmth is possible. You are more stuck in the situation if your waders are too warm for the conditions.
- How much will you be moving around?
Some hunting requires driving an ATV or boat right to your blind, and some require wading, hiking or paddling to a spot. Many hunters have dogs to retrieve their down birds but some must wade or use a boat to recover them.
You might be a hunter that avoids the blind altogether and simply hikes to ponds and jump-shoots waterfowl.
The answer to this question will turn up similar results as the weather conditions question. If you are going to be doing a lot of sitting with minimal movement, a very warm wader will probably be needed to keep you comfortable.
On the other hand, if you will be moving around a lot, a cooler, breathable wader will be necessary to help you ventilate and regulate your body temperature.
If covering ground or lots of wading is required, a stocking-foot wader with a good pair of lace-up wading boots is a smart choice for comfort and traction. When much sitting is required, the warmer attached boots are likely better.
- What environments do you hunt in?
A few environmental factors that come into play when considering which waders to choose are thorny bushes, ice on the water and thick mud.
Both thorns and jagged ice edges while wading are hard on waders, particularly those made of breathable materials. If you plan to spend much time encountering either, you need waders that are reinforced to deal with the abuse or neoprene waders that are at least more durable.
The type of surfaces you are required to walk on will be a significant factor in whether you go with bootfoot or stockingfoot waders.
If the conditions are muddy, you need a stockingfoot wader that can be tightly laced to stay on your feet instead of staying in the mud.
Many have made the mistake of wearing loose-fitting bootfoot waders in thick mud and have continually struggled to pull their boot from the mud instead of removing their foot from their boot.
Crawling through the mud to keep from walking out of your waders is an unpleasant scenario you should try to avoid.
- How much money are you willing to spend?
Because wader price varies so significantly, the price is likely to play into your selection. There are some great values on the market, and some of those are reviewed above. However, for the most part, the very best waders are going to cost you some coin.
If you are not willing to shell out for the best available, determine your priorities for what you need in a wader, and that will show you where you can compromise to find something in your budget.
These questions represent some of the basic parameters for making your wader selection. As you answer them, you may find that your answers do not point you to one particular wader.
Like many kinds of gear, if you often hunt and in a variety of situations, more than one pair of waders may be required to do the job right. In your own experiences, you might find other contributing factors to future wader purchases.
Depending on when you are reading this article, some products reviewed above may no longer be available. In many cases, the products heralded as the best are made by a brand that has made industry-leading products for a long time.
Whether you are looking for an alternative to a product that is no longer being produced, or you are looking for other options that may be suitable for your needs, consider the following brands.
As discussed in the “Best of the Best” wader section, USIA has not been historically known for making hunting waders. However, they are very well known for making dry suits, dive suits and survival suits for a variety of military and government applications.
If a brand is trusted to create products that keep professionals alive, they can be trusted to make a product that keeps recreational waterfowl hunters dry.
In almost any product category, “custom” manufacturers typically sell less volume than a brand selling stock waders off shelves all over the country. However, USIA has plenty of customers that are beyond satisfied with their products.
It is a sure sign that a product is superior when the price is on the high end of the spectrum, but the product is still viewed as a good value by its consumers. Such is the case with USIA products.
They stand behind their products and offer excellent customer service should you run into a problem. Their waders are made custom in the USA.
USIA products, background, and business model are all unique to the market, but certainly worth consideration if you are searching for top of the line hunting waders.
Depending on the product, or who you ask, Cabela’s waders are said to be made for Cabela’s by a variety of different brands.
Some of their waders are sourced from factories overseas that are likely the same factories that produce same or similar products for big name brands. What is clear is that Cabela’s offers a wide variety that are of comparable quality to the competition at lower prices.
Cabela’s is unique because they most likely offer a wader that matches your needs, regardless of what they are. While many brands are known for producing a specific style of wader, Cabela’s has an offering in almost every category.
They are also known across the market for having excellent customer service and a reliable warranty policy. In many situations, they apply a “no questions asked” policy, where you simply send them in for replacement if you have a problem.
If they have this policy on your purchase and you take the time to go through the process, their waders become an even greater value.
Whenever you come across a company that has been in business for over a century, you know they are doing something right.
In 2017, LaCrosse celebrated its 120th year in business, a clear cornerstone of the boot and wader industry. Adding to that is their merger with Danner Boots which has been in hunting boot business since 1932.
With over 200 years of combined history in the market, it is not hard to see why they are renowned for quality products.
You can reasonably expect LaCrosse to have a product on the market that is at the leading edge of advancement. They continually strive to be market leaders, and they stand behind their product as the best available to consumers.