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Waders and boots brand preference

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An interesting 2013 wader article.

 

FT

 

A Word About Waders

By Hale Harris May 31, 2013

If you’ve been fly fishing for many years, you’ve witnessed the evolution of chest waders. Back in the old days—by “old days” I’m referring to the 1960s and early 70s—most people wore boot foot waders made out of vulcanized rubber. You would think waders made by Vulcans would have showcased advanced extraterrestrial technology, but these waders were heavy, fit poorly, totally non-breathable, and had rubber-soled boots with poor traction. Did I mention that they fit poorly?

Anyway, this was what was available at that time. Of course, many people wore the hip boot version of this technology, which was probably smart because you could kick them off if you took a swim. With the chest waders you were in deep doo doo.

Then came neoprene waders. I was guiding in Alaska when these came out, and I had one of the first generation of James Scott waders. These were significantly better than what was previously available, and I spent the summer making fun of my fellow guides who wore the old stuff. But all was not well with the early neoprenes. They had no lining fabric on the inside, so you had to turn the waders inside out and literally roll them on. And since wet suits were made out of neoprene, wader manufacturers assumed that waders should have a similar fit, meaning tight. These early neoprenes tended to “lift and separate” in very unbecoming ways on full-figured people. On the other side of the spectrum, slim people like me resembled elves in brown tights.

Over time, manufacturers learned that they could make neoprene waders with lining on both sides of the fabric. They also figured out that since most of their customers weren’t built like Legolas and didn’t appreciate the gymnastics involved putting their waders on, they might rework the sizing. For a time, neoprene waders, especially those made by James Scott, Streamline, and Simms were quite comfortable and considered cutting edge.

It was around this time (early to mid 80s) that lightweight, stocking foot waders appeared. I think Red Ball was the first, followed by Hodgman, Seal Dri and others. I could be mistaken as to some of these facts, as my exhaustive research included a Wickipedia search, conversations with alcohol-fueled guides, and my own hazy memory. Anyway, lightweight waders were a step in the right direction, but breathable they were not. In the heat of summer one had visions, even actual hallucinations, of Amazon rain forests, while in winter you remained mildly hypothermic since high-tech, synthetic layering and insulating materials were just being introduced, and most of us wore cotton or wool long johns at this time.

I believe it was 1993 when the first Gore-tex waders came out. Simms introduced them and they were brown in color. I had a pair and they were a big step forward as far as comfort was concerned. However, the comfort level was reduced dramatically when they started leaking, which was fairly soon. Simms had problems with the seams. Despite early problems, Simms was on the right track.

In my opinion, the first truly great breathable wader was made by Simms just a couple of years later. I think it was called the Guide Wader and it sported a face fabric of microfiber material (with Gore-tex sandwiched in between, of course) that was very supple and comfortable. By this time, Simms, with the help of Gore, had figured a lot of things out in regard to sealing seams. Also, this wader did away with the lightweight fabric foot in favor of a neoprene one that was much more comfortable. The Simms Guide Wader was popular and proved to be very durable. Once in awhile I still see somebody wearing an old pair today.

Over time, many companies jumped into the wader business. I can understand the profit motive, but personally I’ve had nightmares about being a wader manufacturer. This is because there are two kinds of waders, those that leak and those that will leak. It’s the time factor involved that proves to be problematic. Human nature being what it is, people want waders that are breathable, inexpensive, and that will last forever. People also want to go to heaven without dying. Along with unrealistic expectations, people routinely abuse their waders, bushwhacking through jungles of thorns and thistles, climbing through barbwire fences, sitting on abrasive rope seats, and loaning their size Medium Longs to their fat brother-in-law. Of course, all these folks want the wader company or retailer to fix their leaky waders immediately and at no charge. Guides, and I’m one myself, are the worst abusers and the biggest whiners. “We’re professionals for God’s sake—companies should just give us waders.” Anyway, I could go on and on, but maybe you can understand the persistent nightmares. Zoloft has helped.

Back to wader history: I should mention that not all breathable waders are made with Gore-Tex. Waders with waterproof, breathable coatings began to appear. I wasn’t too impressed with the early generations of these waders, but now they approach the breathability and durability of Gore-Tex. In some cases I think these waders are a bit more comfortable, as the fabric is more flexible. Many companies produce these waders and the price can be very reasonable. A strong case could be made that Patagonia’s Rio Gallegos wader is currently the best wader on the market, and it is not a Gore-tex wader.

Also, keep in mind that not all Gore-Tex membrane is created equal. Some is geared towards aerobic sports (Gore-Active) and is highly breathable, while others emphasize durability and are less breathable. The backer fabric used in conjunction with the membrane plays a role in all this. Waders emphasize durability over breathability, and some of the premium waders are multi-layered, especially in the legs and seat. While this creates a durable wader, the glue required to keep the layers together also affects breathability. So we’re back to the “you can’t have everything” reality. The consumer has to decide what he really needs.

Lately, we’ve seen waders appear with a variety of zippered pockets, waterproof pockets, handwarmer pockets, and tippet-tender pockets. It’s amazing what you can stuff in these (camera, potato chips, machetes), and this allows you to get rid of your vest or fanny pack if you know how to organize. While all these features are very functional and handy, they do add bulk to the chest area. If you like to wear your waders rolled down in hot weather, they don’t work too well. Of course, this is when waist-high waders are an option to some, unless you need to wade deep.

Boot-foot breathable waders are the ticket if the water is really cold. The additional room in the boot traps warm air and allows you to wiggle your toes. Plus, they are easier to take on and off than stocking foot waders. Fly shops find them problematic to stock, as there are midgets with large feet, basketball players with small, and every combination in between. So finding the perfect size is not easy, and they are expensive. All that being said, they work great, and the guides especially covet them, especially in the liquid ice of tailwaters. But for a couple of years we haven’t been able to get bootfoot waders from Simms since they SAY they’ve had problems with the Muck Boot. I’ve NEVER had problems with the Muck Boot and nobody I know has had problems, so to avoid rioting in several fishing towns, companies had better introduce boot foot models again soon, even with that crappy Muck Boot that’s NEVER FAILED ME. Thank you. I feel better now.

Much more could be discussed. Chest waders should come up to your chest. Don’t get the inseam too short. Don’t get the inseam too long. Dry them out when you’re done fishing. Guides are famous for not drying them out, and later in the summer they smell like rutting mule deer. Zippered waders are nice if you want “ease of access.” Buy a pair with good zippers—like Simms and Patagonia. When you’re not using them, unzip them. Don’t keep them zipped and rolled up, as this can cause problems with the zipper.

There are some great waders out there and they’re getting better every year. Take care of them and they’ll serve you nicely.

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Remember when you could buy a pair of waders, you knew would leak, at Building 19? When those waders got back to my neighborhood, we would find the leak, and melt plastic army men over it. Blotchy, but it worked.

 

I just saw that my boots have cracked, on my neoprene waders. I thought I'll use that hanger they came with....why did I do that?

 

Now I'm looking to replace. Blech.

 

 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Hodgeman neoprene boot-foot worked well for me.

 

The Cabelas from what I'm seeing are priced right.

Never owned a pair.

 

There's quite a few out there to choose from.

 

 

Edited by SandSpike1

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Used to have Cabelas lightweights but they no longer have them...went over to LL Bean and happy so far after one season ...

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On 11/30/2018 at 7:59 AM, paddie said:

I'm guessing the price jump is going from toray material to gore tex. wondering if the gore tex is worth almost double the price.

 

Anyone here just use wading pants? 

I have a pair of Simms breathable sock-foot waist high waders that I like. Sent them back once for a leak and they replaced them. I fish mostly in surf, sand and rocks which is very hard on them. I can keep the sand out of my feet if I wear the Orvis Infinity gravel guards with surf booties, not fishing boots. Wading pants make it easy to drain your vein when necessary. On the down side, you can get a bit wet in the surf sometimes. Not a problem in rivers or still water. They are expensive, so most of the time I wear neoprene paddling pants and save the Simms for the coldest days of winter, or Alaska.

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On 1/2/2019 at 3:00 AM, DrBob said:

Hodgman H3 waders - $99 - I get a new pair every year...

 

Currently I really like the Hodgman Aesis boots too...

I suspect that if you want to stay dry... maybe we're gonna spend $100 per year in any case, whether its El Cheapos that last one year or $800 Premiums that last for 8 years. 

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On 1/2/2019 at 10:39 AM, smath said:

I've complained to Korkers about losing soles in muck and they replied with some good advice:

 

"Wading in deep mud. If you do find yourself in deep/sticky mud, it's important to NOT pull your foot straight up. The suction in this manner can pull the sole off of the shoe. It is better to roll forward on the ball of the foot slowly to release the foot from the mud."

Somehow it seems funny to me that you can't walk quickly through deep sticky mud in boots that were supposedly designed for fishing. Where are you supposed to be fishing anyway?  By the way, I wear high top Converse sneakers with my sock foot waders whenever I'm not fishing at the beach. I'm pretty sure they are more slippery on rocks than an actual wading boot, but then again, they only cost me $30, and they do the job. 

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FroggTogs waders are impressive and affordable. I had a pair that is going into its 3rd season. STP has Several Brands of waders including SIMMS and FroggTogg some on sale Chect it out. 

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The beach has been very hard on my waders. Next time,  I'm inclined to get some big, ugly, tough on-breathable ones with boots. I see that USIA will make them to custom order to your measurements, for only $250 which seems like a no brainer for beach use. Lots of options for colors, boots, pockets etc. Unless I change my mind, that will be my next pair. 

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On 2/12/2019 at 10:12 PM, Uncle Stu said:

I suspect that if you want to stay dry... maybe we're gonna spend $100 per year in any case, whether its El Cheapos that last one year or $800 Premiums that last for 8 years. 

That's exactly how I figure it...

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On 11/29/2018 at 3:26 PM, paddie said:

Finally decided on getting a set of waders and boots for cooler days on the river. I'm willing to spend the money if they are worth it. I like Patagonia Gallegos, plus I like Patagonia as a company. The other is the Sims G4 I think. Anyway they run close to $500, which is way more than I want to spend, but I don't want to dick around either. Also looking for a good set of boots to go with it. Any insight to what you guys prefer? I will be fishing Farmington river primarily with sporadic trips to Colorado when visiting in laws, so packing weight could be a factor. Thanks, Jeff

paddie: I was on the phone yesterday with Patagonia on another matter and the gal I was speaking to told me Patagonia is coming out with a new wading boot soon. She said they're "awesome". You might want to wait a bit to see what they look like.

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The G4s are $749.00.  I have not had good luck with Patagonia waders in the past 3 or 4 years.  The new boots are being made by Danner for Patagonia- they are running $385.00 I think....

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