The 6 Best Fly Fishing Waders Reviewed ( 2018 Hands-on Guide )

flyfishing for trout Umzimkulu river, Underberg, Natal.

Any angler who chooses to pursue the age-old art of fly fishing will inevitably discover that fly fishing tends to be a gear intensive sport.

Fly fishing gear can be divided into two different categories consisting of gear which is absolutely essential such as:

And non-essential, but extremely helpful, gear such as a fly fishing vest outfitted with all of the various accessories fly fishermen find useful and a pair of waders and wading boots.

The quality of a fly fisherman’s gear can either enhance or degrade their experience.

Thus, it is essential that fly fishers understand that there are kinds of water waders for different purposes made from various materials so they can choose both the type of waders and the material that best suits their individual needs.

For some fly fishers, the price of the fishing overalls that they choose becomes a status symbol just like the fly rods and reels that they purchase.

But for the average fly fisher who is simply looking for the best product to meet their needs, the process of choosing a single pair of fishing waders among the plethora of brands, types, and materials can be somewhat confusing due to the wide range of choices.

Most experienced fly fishers tend to have a distinct preference for stocking foot waders over boot foot waders for the reasons mentioned below.

Below is the selection of the best wader brands on the market with models ranging in price from moderate to relatively inexpensive that can enhance, rather than detract from, your fly fishing experience by providing you good durability without breaking the bank.

 

 

The 6 Top Fishing Waders For The Money In 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews

These are our top recommendations for:

1. Chest waders:

  1. Simms Freestone Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders
  2. Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders
  3. Cabela’s Men’s Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders

2. Waist waders:

  1. Simms Freestone Breathable Stockingfoot Wading Pants
  2. Cabela’s Men’s Premium Breathable Waist-high Waders

 

Best Chest Waders

ProductSimms Freestone Waders
Simms Freestone Waders

Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders
Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders

Orvis Encounter Waders
Orvis Encounter Waders

Cabela's Men's Premium Waders
Cabela's Men's Premium Chest Waders

Material4-layer TORAY QUADRALAM™4-layer nylon outer fabric4-layer nylon fabricwoven microdenier nylon shell
Inseam31 -32 in28 -30 28 - 3036.5
Foot Size7- 8 7 - 97 - 96 - 9
Cost Check PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

1. Simms Freestone Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders

 

Simms Freestone Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders

 

Although Simms waders are commonly considered the best of the best, some of their models are really expensive. Fortunately, their Freestone chest waders have a more moderate price but are still an excellent choice for the average fly fisherman.

Features

  • Toray lining rather than the Gore-Tex lining
  • made from QuadraLam fabric which is a heavy-duty engineered fabric with a microporous, waterproof coating that utilizes a 2-layer coated fabric, a single membrane layer and a tricot backer to provide improved durability
  • articulated patterning combined with center-leg seam construction to provide the ultimate in fit and comfort
  • reversible suspender buckles offer an easy means to convert them to a waist-high wader
  • reach-through hand-warmer pocket that is fleece-lined for comfort and offers secure storage for gear along with an internal zipper interface for attaching the Tippet Tender Pocket or Waterproof Wader Pouch which are both sold separately
  • available in both men’s and women’s models in sizes ranging from small to xx-large

 

 

2. Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible Top Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders

 

Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible Top Waders

 

Described by Orvis as “the most versatile welded waders on the market today”, the Orvis Silver Sonic series waders are equal in quality to the Simms Freestone waders listed above.

Features

  • Constructed using a durable, 4-layer, nylon outer fabric with a breathable membrane inside
  • Orvis patented SonicSeam Technology that eliminates thread and stitches holes
  • an innovative suspension system that enables an angler to convert them to waist-high waders without removing the suspenders
  • attached fabric gravel guards with quick-drain mesh panel keep annoying gravel out of your wading boots
  • a flip-out, interior, waterproof, pocket with touchscreen capabilities to enable you to bring your smartphone along on the stream
  • available in both men’s and women’s models in sizes small through xx-large with either short or long inseams

 

 

3. Orvis Encounter Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders

 

Orvis Encounter Waders

 

Described by Orvis as the new standard for value-priced waders, the Orvis Encounter series is built from a 4-layer nylon fabric that offers an optimum balance between durability and breathability.

Features

  • anatomically correct, sculpted, neoprene booties with attached, self-fabric gravel guards
  • kangaroo-style hand warmer pocket along with integrated belt loops
  • an adjustable nylon wading belt
  • interior velcro strip that accommodates their waterproof pocket which is sold separately
  • available in both men’s and women’s models in sizes ranging from small to xx-large with either short or long inseams

 

 

4. Cabela’s Men’s Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders

 

Cabela's Men's Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Fishing Waders

 

Well known by outdoorsmen around the world as a premium outdoor outfitter, Cabela’s products are top quality and their premium, breathable, stockingfoot waders are no exception.

Features

  • super-tough, tightly woven, micro-denier nylon shell and triple-layered knees combined with their 4Most Dry-Plus waterproof lining with taped seams, they are both comfortable and durable
  • 3mm neoprene booties that are shaped and contoured for all-day comfort
  • non-slip grippers on the bottom of the booties to keep them from shifting inside your wading boots along with nylon gaiters that have rubberized elastic cuffs and rustproof lace hooks
  • removable neoprene suspender system combined with a spacious internal pocket
  • nylon wading belt for safety
  • available in sizes ranging from small to xx-large in your choice of regular, stout, or tall

 

Best Waist Waders

ProductSimms Freestone Wading Pants
Simms Freestone Wading Pants

Cabela's Men's Premium Waist Waders
Cabela's Men's Premium Waist Waders

Material100% DWR coated nylonwoven microdenier nylon shell
Inseam31 - 32 in36.5
Foot Size7 - 86 - 9
Cost Check PriceCheck Price

5. Simms Freestone Breathable Stockingfoot Wading Pants

Simms Freestone Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders

 

Similar to the Freestone chest waders listed above, the Simms Freestone breathable stocking foot pant waders provide anglers an excellent option when fly fishing in warmer weather.

Features

  • Toray lining rather than the Gore-Tex lining
  • made from QuadraLam fabric which is a heavy-duty engineered fabric with a microporous, waterproof, coating that utilizes 2-layer coated fabric, a single membrane layer and, a tricot backer to provide improved durability
  • articulated patterning combined with center-leg seam construction to provide the ultimate in fit and comfort
  • an integrated waistband that provides on-demand adjustability
  • hourglass stockingfoot pattern eliminates excess bulk for a streamlined fit inside your wading boots
  • available in sizes ranging from small to xx-large

 

 

6. Cabela’s Men’s Premium Breathable Waist-high Waders

 

Cabela's Men's Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Waist-high

 

Features

  • super-tough, tightly woven, micro-denier nylon shell and triple-layered knees combined with their 4Most Dry-Plus waterproof lining with taped seams, they are both comfortable and durable
  • 3mm neoprene booties that are shaped and contoured for all-day comfort
  • non-slip grippers on the bottom of the booties to keep them from shifting inside your wading boots along with nylon gaiters that have rubberized elastic cuffs and rustproof lace hooks
  • include and a nylon wading belt for safety
  • available in sizes ranging from small to xx-large in your choice of regular, stout, or tall

Important Choosing Factors

Types

Waders are divided into two categories: boot-foot waders and stocking-foot waders, each having both advantages and disadvantages.

boot foot waders
Boot-foot waders

Boot-foot waders have a wading boot that is permanently attached to the bottom of each leg.

Stocking-foot waders have a neoprene bootie attached to the bottom of each leg so an angler must purchase a separate pair of wading boots to wear over the neoprene bootie.

But in the case of boot-foot waders, it is necessarily designed to slip onto and off of an angler’s foot without the need for laces.

It tends to fit somewhat loosely on an angler’s foot which many experienced fly fishermen find disconcerting because their feet tend to slide around slightly inside of the boot so it provides less secure footing and balance when wading on rocky stream bottoms.

Consequently, most experienced fly anglers have a distinct preference for stocking-foot waders over boot-foot waders.

stockingfoot waders

 

The neoprene booties provide insulation for their feet and they require a separate pair of wading boots to be worn over the neoprene booties which are then secured using laces or Velcro straps so they fit an angler’s foot more tightly which in turn provides much more secure footing when wading in rocky streams.

However, it should also be noted that because boot-foot waders are often frowned upon by experienced fly fisherman, they are often less expensive than stocking-foot waders even though the latter require a separate pair of wading boots.

Some fly fishermen who fish occasionally choose boot-foot waders over stocking-foot waders due to their cheaper cost while avid fly fishers usually go for stocking-foot waders despite their greater expense.

 

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

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.

 

Bill Bernhardt
Bill Bernhardt is a professional fly fishing guide and instructor with over fifteen years of experience. Also, he is a professional editor and outdoor author who has published eight books and written more than 1,500 articles and, he has contributed to both American Outdoor Magazine and Southern Trout e-zine.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here