The 6 Best Fly Fishing Waders Reviewed ( 2019 Hands-on Guide )

Wader Heights 

Water waders are available in three heights:

  • hip waders
  • waist waders
  • chest waders

Hip Waders

hip wadersHip waders are the shortest of the three since they only extend from the ankles to the hips. They resemble a pair of pants legs that are held up by a single strap on each leg that attaches to the angler’s belt.

They are the coolest to wear during a warm weather but due to their short height, they prevent an angler from wading in water deeper than the middle of their thighs.

 

Waist Waders

waist wadersThere are waist waders which resemble a complete pair of pants — they extend from an angler’s ankles to their waist. While they are cooler to wear than chest waders, they also prevent an angler from wading in water much deeper than their crotch.

 

Chest Waders

chest wadersChest waders resemble a pair of fishing overalls — they extend from the ankles to their chest. Although they are the warmest type to wear, they also enable an angler to wade in water that is above their waist in order to reach those distant trout lies.

 

Types of Materials 

Waders are generally made from one of two different materials consisting of neoprene rubber and fabrics such as nylon to which a breathable membrane has been laminated. Each material has both advantages and disadvantages as well.

Neoprene

Hodgman Caster Neoprene Boot Foot
Hodgman Caster

Neoprene is a very stretchy material.

Neoprene waders provide anglers with greater freedom of movement than breathable waders do. It is also a wonderfully insulative material, making it an excellent choice for fly fishing during the winter months when the water is freezing.

But because neoprene does not “breathe”, it does not allow an angler’s perspiration to escape.

So neoprene waders can cause your pants or long underwear to feel moist after even wearing them for a a short period. They can also become excessively hot unless an angler is continuously immersed in icy water.

 

Breathable Waders

Daiwa Lightweight Breathable Wader
Daiwa Lightweight Breathable Wader

Breathable waders, on the other hand, do not stretch. They can feel somewhat restrictive when climbing over obstacles such as fallen trees or boulders.

Because the outer layer of fabric to which the breathable membrane is laminated is relatively thin, they have minimal insulative qualities.

But, at the same time, both the outer layer of fabric and the breathable membrane allow an angler’s perspiration to escape so they do not cause an angler’s clothing to become moist. Consequently, experienced fly fishermen often choose breathable waders.

 

Comparison

man comparing waders

Furthermore, it should be noted that neoprene waders are available in different thicknesses and breathable waders are available in various fabric deniers.

Neoprene waders are often available in thicknesses ranging from 2.5 mm to 5 mm; breathable waders are available in a:

  • lightweight fabric
  • medium weight fabric
  • heavy duty fabric

Therefore, different thicknesses of neoprene waders are chosen depending on the amount of insulation an angler needs while different deniers of breathable waders are selected depending on the level of durability an angler needs.

In the case of neoprene waders, the thinner the neoprene is, the cooler the waders are, and the thicker it is, the warmer they are. For breathable waders, the thinner the fabric, the less durable it is; and the thicker the fabric, the more durable it is.

Different thicknesses of neoprene waders are chosen according to both the ambient air temperature as well as the ambient water temperature.

While the thinnest neoprene waders are suitable for the somewhat warm weather and warmer water temperatures, the thickest neoprene waders are best suited for winter weather and freezing water temperatures.

On the other hand, breathable waders of any denier provide an angler with very little insulation so different deniers of breathable waders are chosen according to the level of wear that they need to endure.

 

Wader Quality

angler fly fishing with waders in water

A good quality pair of waders can enhance an angler’s experience whereas a cheap pair can detract from it.

For instance, inexpensive waders are often made from substandard materials and usually employ inferior manufacturing techniques to reduce the cost of manufacturing them.

Substandard materials are more prone to failure than high-quality materials — not only do they tend to show signs of wear much more quickly, but they are also less durable. They are more prone to tear when traversing rough terrain.

Plus, inferior manufacturing techniques often cause inexpensive waders to develop leaks much more quickly than high-quality waders.

Some of the most trusted brands of high-quality waders are Simms and Orvis while Cabela’s, Fishpond, Patagonia, and Chota tend to represent the middle of the quality range with Hodgman and Herter’s representing the least expensive range.

 

Wader Safety

Scierra CC3
Scierra CC3 waist-high waders

Water weighs eight pounds per gallon so if a fisher falls into a stream while wearing a pair of waders, they can fill with water and weigh the angler down to the point where they are unable to reach the surface to breathe.

While hip waders are both convenient and cool to wear, they present the highest degree of danger to an angler.

The tops of the legs are often designed to fit loosely around the thighs in order to accommodate anglers of different statures. This makes it very easy for them to fill with water when submerged too deeply.

On the other hand, both waist waders and chest waders include a nylon wader belt that can be cinched tightly around the waist which prevents water from flowing into the legs of the waders and thus, weighing a fisherman down in the event of a fall.

Consequently, waist waders are the safest type to wear because even when wearing a wader belt, the chest cavity of chest waders can fill with water in the event of a fall.

 

Care and Maintenance

AquasealAlthough wader care and maintenance have nothing to do with choosing a pair of fly fishing waders, it is an aspect that should be mentioned nonetheless.

Note that regardless of the type, height, or material you choose, all waders should be turned inside out and allowed to sit for a couple of days after use to prevent them from acquiring an odor similar to that of a gym locker room.

Besides, even if you choose the best quality waders on the market, they are likely to acquire a leak eventually if you use them long enough; and if you wear them while fishing in rough terrain, they may acquire a tear.

Fortunately, there is a quick fix for both problems called Aquaseal which is a flexible, waterproof glue that is designed explicitly for wader repair.

To reseal leaky seams, all you need to do is:

  1. Turn your waders inside out.
  2. Smear a bit of Aquaseal along the entire length all of the seams.
  3. Allow it to dry before using your waders again.

In the event that you happen to tear a hole in your waders, most breathable wader manufactures provide a small piece of wader material along with the waders to serve as a patch which can be cut to size and then adhered to the outside of the waders using Aquaseal.

It can also be used to reseal the edges of a tear in neoprene waders.

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