Welcome to our first ever wader shootout! Last year, in addition to our normal rod shootouts we conducted a tippet shootout. This year we decided to take a close look at waders, and compare what we feel are the best waders we’ve used and found on the market.
Apples to Apples
Right away we realized that testing wader performance (namely breathability and durability) was going to have far more variables involved than testing fly rods. While testing rods we are able to keep things constant by using the same line, and the same reel. By picking up one rod and making a few casts, and immediately picking up another loaded with the same set up, it was easy to tell the subtle difference in the rod’s swing weight, action, stiffness, power, line tracking and how well each rod casts at various distances.
Waders, on the other hand have proven to be much more of a challenge to test, and to come up with some valid answers. One of the major reasons manufactures can get away with claims that their newest fabric is 25% more breathable – is who’s going to dispute it? Each manufacture comes up with their own test results that “prove” their wader fabric is not only more breathable than the next, but also more durable. With all advertising hype, it’s nearly impossible to figure out which wader is better than another.
That’s where we come in. We’re going to find ways to cut through all this BS and propaganda that the manufacturers are coming up with and give you some straight answers.
Originally we wanted to run our own, non-biased MVTR (moisture Vapor Transmission Rate) test but we quickly discovered this was far too cost prohibitive. To test a single swatch of fabric you are looking at about $1000. At a bare minimum our lab bill would have been over $15,000 to professionally compare the breathability of each wader. More comprehensive tests (including both breathability and durability of various fabrics) would have cost a minimum of $25,000. We had to come up with a different and much less expensive method of testing.
Our real world tests for Breathability
We are certainly not going to take for granted the laboratory testing put out by Gore-tex® or other manufacturers. Few anglers want to take the time to wade through all this complex information. We decided we didn’t need an established ASTM test or global SATRA standards to tell us whether a wader should feel clammy or not. What we wanted was a real world test for breathability that anyone could easily replicate themselves. We also wanted to see if we could feel the difference from wader to wader. George came up with the idea to use a small hygrometer (like the one we use in our cigar humidor), drop it inside our waders, cinch up a wader belt and then after a few minutes, check it for the relative humidity present inside the waders. It worked perfectly! Better yet, anyone can run these tests by buying an Acu-rite indoor humidity monitor available on Amazon.com for $9.99, plus shipping and handling, (the model we got was the 00619). We’ve used hygrometers like this for years in our shop cigar humidor for years and have come to trust their ability to reliably read changes in temperature and humidity instantly.
Living in the waders
James felt that the best way to get to know all these waders was to pull them on at work, and wear each pair around the shop for an hour or two at a crack, everyday for about 2 weeks. This received more than a couple of puzzled looks from customers! Part of the idea was to become familiar with each wader’s particular fit, feel, storage features, suspender design, and ease of relief, ect. But the main reason was for testing the breathability with the Acu-rite hygrometer. By tying some 30lb. backing around the hygrometer and hanging it from each wader’s suspender, (dropping it down inside the wader, below the waist line and then cinching up the same wader belt), we were able to easily check how much humidity was building up in each wader. Jamie took several checks on each wader throughout a period of two to three hours. In theory, the waders that were more breathable would have lower humidity readings than those that were less breathable. This theory checked out when we saw the old Red Ball waders (that were polyurethane coated nylon and totally non-breathable) kicking out readings in the 79-89% range, while the Gore-tex® and other breathables were coming in as low as 32-40%. Most of this day-to- day activity was spent in front of the computer, but occasionally Jamie would walk around to rig up fly lines, sell fishing licenses, or work on shipping out on-line orders. We figured this wasn’t enough strenuous exercise to get a real feel for how hot each wader would feel in the summer, so we called in a favor and scheduled a wader workout…
We figured the best way to tell if a wader is truly breathable or not is to work up a sweat. We figured we could simulate a hot walk to Slough Creek by getting on a treadmill at our local exercise center. We’ll be the first to admit trying to keep the exercise a constant was a real challenge. We wanted to eliminate whatever variables we could, so to warm up, we did about 10 minutes of treadmill at 3 mph, before testing any of the waders. Then for each wader test, we got on the treadmill for 5 minutes each – James at 3 mph, and George at 2.5 mph (slower for seniors! Ha, ha). Then between each wader test we took a 10-minute break, which gave us time to write down our comments and change waders. At each break we would drink half a cup of water to try to keep our hydration levels equal. We even checked the first two waders again at the end of the test, to make sure that our output levels were remained constant, (since one could make the case that whatever wader you tested last would be probably read hotter than the whatever ever waders we tested first or second). As it turns out the readings were a dead on match!
After about 6 waders into the workout we threw on the vintage Red Balls, which proved to be an excellent base line in terms of a completely non-breathable wader. Within a minute of walking on the treadmill the inside of the Red Balls felt like a tropical rainforest. When we pulled out the Acu-rite hygrometer , the humidity inside the Red Balls read 99%! And as you’ll see in our video, Jamie was covered with sweat.
Another bonus of testing waders on the treadmill was that we were able to see how each wader’s stride felt. It’s one thing to feel the fit of a wader while standing there, but you get a really good feel for how the legs fit while you are walking. Waders that don’t fit well (Ex. with too long of an inseam like the William Joseph WST) quickly became noticeable and made walking less comfortable. (Not to mention more abrasion resistance which leads to extra wear and tear). Legs that were too short were also uncomfortable to walk in, (such as the Aquaz DryZip’s odd lower leg). Without the treadmill test this might have gone relatively unnoticed. Later you can read about which waders fit best in our “fit true to size” category. We used waders that were sized as closely as possible to James and George’s build. James wore a standard Large, while George used a Large Short or Med. King.
The base layer that you pick to wear underneath the waders makes a huge difference in comfort
One thing that we have found in the past is that what you wear under your waders makes a HUGE difference in overall comfort. One would think that wearing nothing would be the most comfortable, since there would be no extra layer for the moisture to pass through, (allowing the breathable fabric to directly draw the moisture through the wader). In reality however, this was one of the most uncomfortable ways to wear the waders, especially noticeable with the Red Ball, non-breathables. Not only did the fabric pull on your leg hairs, but also it made your skin feel clammier than a methadone overdose!
Next to nothing at all, the worst thing you can wear under your waders is cotton – like your favorite jeans. Cotton soaks up the moisture and does not allow it to vent out through the breathable waders. So forget about wearing your jeans under waders. If you are going to spend hard earned money on a pair of nice waders, take the time and money to invest in some moisture wicking long underwear that will allow the wader’s breathable laminate to work properly.
In this respect, our wader shootout almost spun off a layering shootout, much like our Tippet Shootout turned into a best knot shootout! For this wader comparison, we tried a variety of synthetic underwear from Patagonia’s Capilene and the Simms Waderwick to some of the new natural stretchy Marino wool base layer by Icebreaker that has been so popular with skiers.
In the end we had to pick one, and we felt that Patagonia’s Capilene was hands down the most comfortable and had the greatest “moisture wicking” performance of any base layer brand out there. Even wearing the Red Balls were relatively comfortable wearing a pair of Cap 3’s!
We chose Patagonia’s Capilene 3 for our testing, as this is what we wear most of the time under our waders in the Fall and Spring (when we most often wear waders), but we know from experience that during the hot summer months, the best layer to wear next to skin is Patagonia’s Capilene 1 Silkweight. We’ve been wearing this stuff and comparing it with comparable brands for over 10 years and can honestly say it’s the landslide winner. Here’s why…
The most important function for an undergarment (at least in our eyes) is how effective it is at pulling sweat and humidity away from your skin so that the breathable wader fabric can then allow your perspiration to pass through the wader. You could be wearing the most breathable pair or waders in the word, but if you’re wearing cotton jeans underneath them you are going to be miserable. On the other hand, we’ve found wearing the totally non-breathable Red Balls in the shop didn’t feel all that bad when wearing the best wicking base layer under them.
One thing that Patagonia really excels at (and where other companies need improvement) is giving you 4 different garment thicknesses in layering options that allow you to pick the perfect wicking and warmth factor for any given day. Keep in mind in order for to maximize wicking properties, the Capilene® must be close to your skin, hence Patagonia’s choice to have “slim fit” base layers. “Big-boned” anglers will want to size up accordingly…
Capilene® 1 Silkweight Stretch ($35) – Patagonia’s stretchiest base layer for hot summer wear. These puppies are what guides in New Zealand wear in the summer for sand fly protection. We’ve even used them in the blazing hot sun of Belize to keep away the no-see-ums. With 50+ UPF you won’t have to worry about getting burned through the fabric. Hands down the best and most comfortable thing to wear under your waders during the summer season.
Capilene® 2 Lightweight ($45) – Patagonia’s best base layer for cool conditions. These work in a wide range of temperatures, aside from late July and August these are exceptionally comfortable year round. With excellent wicking properties, Cap 2 will pull the sweat and moisture buildup away from your skin and keep you comfortable in your waders all day long.
Capilene® 3 Midweight ($49) – The most versatile base layer for cool to cold conditions. This is what we use 80% of the time under our waders, (since often in the summer we’ll choose to wet wade in shorts or Cap 1). This is the base layer garment that we chose as the ultimate “next to skin layer” for our wader shootout. Cap 3 Mid-weights are exceptionally comfortable and incredible at wicking away sweat from the body. They are also great for skiing and other fall / winter sports. Bottom line – buy some, you’ll love them!
Capilene® 4 Expedition Weight ($79) – The warmest, most breathable synthetic base layer for winter wear. These babies are warm when you need it, and are highly effective at wicking away sweat when you’re hiking hard, and comfy all day long. If you are doing some hardcore winter fishing or steelheading – this is THE layer to wear next to skin. It’s also our favorite for hiking the ridge at Bridger Bowl ski area since it keeps sweat away from the body while exerting yourself and keeps you warm as soon as you stop hiking.
Anti-Microbial / Anti-odor
Another thing we liked about Patagonia’s long underwear is their anti-odor properties, (and trust us, they weren’t always king of the mountain in this department). The tables have turned however, and now Patagonia utilizes Gladiodor® garment odor control in their base layers. According to Patagonia, the Gladiodor® treatment uses “molecular spears” to puncture the cellular walls of bacteria, effectively killing it. For trout bums who are camping in tents or for travelers who don’t have the room to pack 3 pairs of long underwear Patagonia’s Capilene® is the way to go.
If you are on tight budget, the next best wicking base layer would be Simms’ Waderwick Bottoms for $29.95. These only come in a thickness in between Cap 1 and Cap 2 and have a tighter weave to the fabric.
Merino wool (from Patagonia, Simms, or Icebreaker) is another option if you want to wear a natural base layer. The main advantage of wool is that is remains warmer than synthetics when wet. Unless you take a spill in your waders we thought this was a nonissue. The other plus is wool is less flammable. Unless you stumble into the campfire, while drying out, we figure this was a nonissue as well. The downside to wool is that it is slightly itchier than the synthetic materials, (despite what manufactures claim), it’s heavier, it’s less durable, and it’s nearly twice as expensive.
Along with base layers we tried out a variety of different socks combinations under the waders, including: Simms’ Extreme Sock, Simms’ Liner Sock, Patagonia’s old Liner sock, Simms’ Wading Sock, Patagonia’s Ski sock, Patagonia’s Midweight sock, and Ice Breaker’s Hike Mountain Mid-calf.
For James, the most comfortable sock was actually a combination of wearing the Simms’ liner socks with Simms’ thicker Extreme socks. The liner socks wicked the moisture and sweat (which was of significant amount, even for not exercising) away from your foot, passing into the thicker sock. The moisture would remain the thicker sock, allowing your feet to feel much less clammy or sweaty. If you have exceptionally sweaty (and stinky) feet like James, the ultimate combo to look at is 1. Simms Liner socks, 2. Simms Extreme wading socks, 3. Patagonia’s Rio Gallegos waders, (complete with their patent pending merino wool grid). One would think having thick socks and extra wool in the booty would be hotter, but in reality the thicker wading sock and inner grid system help to wick moisture build up away from the skin.
George preferred to go with a more simple and conventional one sock does it all – the standard Simms Wading Sock, which is 80% Marino wool, 18% nylon, and 2% Spandex.
After washing each of the socks, we found that they all shrunk a little (due to the high percentage of merino wool). Merino wool is key in terms of pulling sweat away and keeping it away from the skin as well as staying warmer when wet. However it does shrink – even up to one full size sock. For this reason we recommend buying one size up than your normal sock size. (It seemed like after the first wash the socks didn’t shrink as much as the initial wash). The other option would be to hang dry your socks, but we felt this wasn’t practical.
Another thing to keep in mind (since wading boot manufactures do not currently offer half sizes) is you can achieve a better fit by wearing either a thicker or thinner sock. In general, our recommendation is to buy larger boots, with thicker socks since when you are on your feet all day; your feet have a tendency to swell. A little extra room is always better than crammed toes. Here’s a quick cheat sheet in terms of each socks thickness:
Simms’ Liner Sock – thinnest on market right now
Patagonia’s Ski sock – nice medium / midweight sock. Like the Icebreakers, it’s a very tall sock
Simms’ Wading Sock – thick, but not as cushy as extreme sock
Simms’ Extreme Sock – second thickest next to ice breakers but with less shrinkage after washing
Ice Breaker’s Hike Mountain Mid-calf – Super plush and thick new but more shrinkage than Extreme sock after washing. A very tall sock, with a higher % of wool, these socks stink less than the rest.
Fitting into Wading Boots – what size do I buy?
Lastly, while we’re on the subject of boot sizing, we noticed that the neoprene booties from different manufactures vary somewhat in size, making it tricky to choose the right size wading boots for your particular wader. For example, the Simms neoprene booties are almost a full size smaller than the Patagonia’s. Hence if you bought Simms waders and Simms boots, you should get one size up from your normal shoe size (i.e. if you normally wear a size 10 street shoe, you should buy size 11 Simms wading boots). If you buy the Patagonia Rio Gallegos waders and want to go with Simms boots, we recommend you buy a boot that is 1.5 – 2 sizes larger to be more comfortable and less scrunched. Of course the best plan is to try on a pair of new boots with the exact pair of waders you plan to use at your local fly shop. If that’s not possible for some reason, here are some general guidelines to go by as we see it:
Wader Specs., Temperature, and relative Humidity Explained
Available Stock Sizes
Here we count how many sizes each wader manufacture offers in their stock program. Some wader companies (such as Simms) offer even more sizes through the custom shop program.
Weight in Size Large (in ounces)
First we put a small cardboard box on our postage scale and weighed it out to 4 ounces. Next we rolled up each pair of size large waders, stuffed it in the box, and weighed the box and the wader together. Later we subtracted the original 4 ounces to give you the figures shown.
Weight in Size Large (in pounds)
Same as above but converted to pounds instead of ounces…
Rank in Pack ability
While going through the trouble to roll each wader (in order to fit it in the box to weigh) we noticed certain waders were much smaller than others. Here the non-neoprene booty of the Red Balls did wonders – you can roll them up to about the size of a long sleeve t-shirt! Others such as Cabela’s Bootfoots or the William Joseph WST were much larger and wouldn’t fit well in a backpack.
Is Each Pair Factory Tested for Leaks?
Luckily for us, testing for leaks is now standard procedure. Each wader manufacture guaranteed us that every single wader is factory tested, approved, hung to dry, and then boxed to ship. Thankfully (unlike in the past) this means we should see almost no waders leak out of the box.
There are only two wader manufactures that currently offer custom shops, Simms and Patagonia. Both shops have the ability to put any size neoprene booty on their high-end waders. There is an extra cost for this process, as well as an extra 3-4 weeks time. Still, we think this is extremely valuable to the consumer since a very large angler with small feet (or vise-versa) can be comfortable all day. Simms has always had a killer custom shop, not only offering booty swaps, but also suspenders upgrades, pocket upgrades, or even a horizontal relief zipper.
Average Humidity in Shop (inside the wader)
These figures come from hanging the hygrometer off each wader’s suspenders, (below the wader belt) and wearing the waders in the shop. James took 10 readings, dropped the highest and lowest readings and averaged the remaining humidity readings.
Average Temperature in Shop (inside the wader)
Just like above, these figures come from hanging the hygrometer off each wader’s suspenders, (below the wader belt) and wearing the waders in the shop. James took 10 readings, dropped the highest and lowest readings and averaged the remaining temperature readings.
Treadmill Humidity – James
Here we hung the hygrometer in the same spot inside the waders and let James walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes at 3 mph. At the end of the 5 minutes we quickly took the hygrometer out to get the official humidity reading.
Treadmill Temperature – James
Just like above, we hung the hygrometer in the same spot inside the waders and let James walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes at 3 mph. At the end of the 5 minutes we quickly took the hygrometer out to get the official temperature reading.
Treadmill Humidity – George
The only difference from James was that George ran the treadmill at 2.5 mph (Slower is better for seniors)
Treadmill Temperature – George
The only difference from James was that George ran the treadmill at 2.5 mph.
Total Average Humidity
An average of all the humidity readings derived from James wearing each wader at work, James on the treadmill, and George on the treadmill.
Total Average Temperature
An average of all the temperature readings derived from James wearing each wader at work, James on the treadmill, and George on the treadmill.
Made in the USA
While Simms does manufacture some waders overseas, all of the waders tested in the shootout were made in Bozeman, MT. Interestingly enough all the neoprene booties are made here in Bozeman, and are then shipped to China for assembly on their non-Gore waders, (apparently so they can keep their booty fit secrets away from other manufactures). The Red Ball waders we tested were manufactured in the US, but they closed the doors long ago.
Our Testing Procedures/ Categories Explained
Easily worn as waist highs – 10 points available One of the quickest and easiest ways to control your body’s temperature is having the ability to wear your waders as a “waist high” wader. While some waders are specifically marketed as convertibles, we feel a good wader should be easily worn as a chest wader or a waist high. As such, a versatile wader allows you to wade deep when necessary, (perhaps to get a better drift, cast a bit further, or cross to the other side where there’s less fishing pressure), while also having the ability to pull down and wear at waist height, making general everyday fishing, drift boat fishing, or hiking in warmer weather nearly twice as comfortable.
Waders that took top honors in this category had internal suspender systems that were designed specifically for quick and easy waist high conversion. Waders that were too stiff to roll or pull down or used suspenders that would not clip into each other as a wading belt (see suspender category) took penalty points.
Style Points – 10 points available
Here you’ll see our opinions on which waders not only look good on, but which have that cool factor going for them. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, hence our highly subjective results. That being said, some of these brands have spent a lot of time, money, and effort to make their waders more attractive. Much of this success comes directly from the design side, (creating a better fit but, and consulting with fashion specialists) but also by building brand recognition through a wide variety of social media – magazine adds, sponsored film festivals, hosting guide parties/events, and supplying hi profile pros with free gear. Waders that fit best and looked the coolest received the highest points. Waders endorsing more of a stay-puffed marshmallow man look were awarded appropriately.
Seam Quality – 10 points available
Here we take a closer look at the inside of the waders. Are the seams taped? Is the tape used to cover the seam excessively bulky? Is it too thin? Do the connections have an extra cross patch? Are the seams located along the inside of the legs (which lead to more wear and tear) or do they run along an area with less potential for abrasion? Does the wader have a secure method of attaching the breathable fabric to the neoprene foot booty? Waders with one or two horizontal seams on the inside of the legs get knocked one point for abrasion. Waders with a vertical seam running down the entire inside leg get knocked 3 points.
Stitched –vs–Welded, what’s better?
Excellent question. Manufactures like Orvis, Redington, and Dan Bailey’s have substantial add campaigns suggesting the superiority of welded seems, (after all stiches make holes, and holes leak, right)? Manufactures like Simms and Patagonia who do not use welded seam technology claim they’ve tried it and have rejected its durability. Both Simms and Patagonia have a multitude of statistical data from “Killer wash” tests (basically putting your waders in the washing machine and washing them for 24 hours straight), which indicate stitched seams are significantly more durable than those with welded seams. We don’t really see a direct correlation between washing your waders for 24-48 hours straight and using them on the stream, but Simms says when waders are sent in for repair, customers fill out a form and answer how many days the waders have been worn. Apparently a huge number of day’s wear and tear seems to match the killer wash cycle.
We’ve worn the Bailey’s welded waders for over a year now, and as far as we can tell, both technologies work well. Who cares what wader will hold up for 100 heavy-duty wash cycles? All we are interested in knowing is do these different seam technologies work and hold up to normal wear? It appears that they do. For now our call is that both are satisfactory.
Gore-Tex vs other Waterproof/breathable coated fabrics – which is better?
While we’re on the topic of myth busters, we know that Gore has made a huge campaign over the years to convince everyone that Gore-Tex® is far more breathable than any of the other waterproof/breathable fabrics. From our experiences in the past and our breathability tests in our wader workout, we think that we can say with confidence that both technologies produce very comfortable and breathable waders.
In our Wader Workout, the relative humidity readings of almost all the waders were in the range of 55-70%. Our only totally non-breathable wader, the old Red Ball was at 99%, so this gives us the perfect baseline for a non-breathable wader. For all the other waders in our Shootout, drawing any valid conclusions on one fabric being more breathable than others was just not possible. Suffice it to say that the best waders were all very good in terms of breathability. The Patagonia and Dan Bailey waders (which do not use Gore-Tex®, actually felt marginally more comfortable and gave us lower averages in humidity during both the shop wear and wader workout tests.
Wader to Neoprene Booty seam?
The most important seam in a wader is the one that connects the breathable fabric to the neoprene booty. Once this seam fails you might as well recycle the rest of your waders into a breathable man purse. The waders that scored highest here had longer, wider seams that better dispersed the overall pressure. Waders that had skinnier, less significant seams here lost a point. Bootfoots by nature lost 3 points here, no matter how wide or secure the seam was.
Available Sizing – 10 points available
This one is simple – the models that offer the widest variety of sizes score the most points. Those who offer only core sizes (M, L, XL, XXL) scored poorly. One thing we like to see is a size Large wader offering two size booties to choose from, 9-11 or 12-13. This allows for a more customized fit, and this can make a huge difference in comfort for most anglers.
Another thing we take a look at in this category is the “custom shop.” Having the ability order any size booty on any size wader is something that separates Patagonia and Simms from everyone else. Without a doubt Simms has the best custom shop, allowing you to add custom boot foot sizes, add better suspenders, a tippet tender pocket, a camo-colored chest / hand warmer pocket, or even a horizontal YKK aquaseal zipper!
Storage Features / Hand warmer pockets – 10 points available
Waders have dramatically improved in this category. In this day and age, hand-warmer pockets have become almost standard issue, as have inside flip pockets and multiple zippered chest pockets. Brands who offer a flip-out waterproof pocket (for phones, cameras, and electric key sets) score well here and also score 1 point in our bonus feature category. Hand warmer pockets with zippers score higher than those without. Zippered hand-warmer pockets not only store fly boxes and other gear more securely, but they also help when rowing so your oars don’t get caught in your pocket(s). Waders who had several different pockets also scored better. In our mind, the more option for storage the better, especially for steelheaders who often wear their jackets inside their waders to wade deep.
Ease of Relief (for guys) – 10 points available
Another simple category, when nature calls how easy is it to answer? To our surprise, having a zippered wader does not necessarily make this process as easy as manufactures would have you believe. Both Patagonia and Simms have added longer zippers than previous models. Several non-zippered waders actually scored very high because either their suspender systems were designed to bring the wader down to waist height, or their suspenders were stretchy enough to leave them attached while we pulled down the waders. If you had to take off your suspenders (or at least unclip them and leave them on your shoulders got less points) to relieve yourself, and waders that were hard to pull down (like the William Joseph WST got the least points here.
Warranty Policy – 10 points available
How well does the manufacture take care of the customer if there are wader problems? How quick were they at replacing them? Was the manufacture being fair in the assessment in the wear of the wader? Did they fix the wader or give them a brand new pair? These are all factors we’ve learned over time, by being in business ourselves for 34 years.
Let’s face it; unless you fish in your waders one week a year, they’re eventually going to wear out. If you fish 25 or more days a year, asking your waders to last 5 years is like asking your Blizzack snow tires to get 100,000 miles. It’s not gonna happen, and you shouldn’t complain to the fly shop guy that they didn’t. If they leak out of the box however, clearly there needs to be some kind of warranty policy to take care of the customer. Nearly every company has a warranty for the “life of the product,” which of course is up to the manufacture’s discretion.
Aside from giving the customer a brand new pair of waders, Simms scored very highly with our questions above. To add to their warranty service, within one year of the purchase your fist repair at Simms is 100% free. That’s good news if you’ve ever tired to fix your own barbed-wire rip or the 150 pin hole leaks you got from walking through the brayer patch. Yes, that’s right – they’ll even repair all your pin-holes, absolutely free or charge. Perhaps the best warranty in the game however goes to Cabela’s which has a 30-day “no questions asked” return policy. You could literally shred them on a barbed wire fence, play tug or war with your lab, or shoot them with a shotgun for fun and get your money back guaranteed. You don’t even have to have saved the receipt so long as your transaction is in their computer system.
We’ve also seen great customer care, especially from Orvis, Patagonia, and Dan Bailey – where in most cases a defective product is immediately replaced at no extra cost. Now that both Patagonia and Bailey’s have repair centers here in the USA (Reno and Livingston respectively), we’ll probably see them optioning a repair over replacement. Either way, a no hassles whatsoever policy makes for a loyal customer base.
Here are each manufacturers wader return or repair policies and how we score them:
SIMMS – (10 out of 10 points available)
First 30 days – If a Simms wader leaks within 30 days of purchase Simms will replace it over the counter with a new Simms wader. Original sales receipt and Return Authorization number are required. They will immediately replace the wader or credit your account.
First 12 months – If a customer develops a leak in any Simms waders, for whatever reason, the first repair is provided free of charge by Simms. Original sales receipt and Return Authorization number required.
After 12 months –Simms stands behind their waders for the useful life of the product, which varies by use and style of wader. All waders returned for repair are thoroughly evaluated by the Simms Repair Center professionals.
Start here for your Simms Return Process.
Cabelas Gold Medal (10 out of 10 points available)
“The way we look at it, we have no business asking you for our next order unless you are satisfied with your last order. To make sure we meet your expectations, we back your purchase with a Cabela’s Legendary Guarantee.
You can buy with confidence, knowing that if you are not satisfied within 90 days of a purchase, we will provide a refund or exchange the item. In addition, Cabela’s brand clothing and footwear is guaranteed for the lifetime of the product under normal wear and tear, and against defects in workmanship. And, all other brand merchandise is guaranteed for one full year.
We’ve always believed the measure of our company is the way we treat our customers. So, with every order, we make this promise to you – the best quality, the best value, the best service. Guaranteed.”
Click here for more of Cabela’s warranty info and return forms.
ORVIS (8 out of 10 points available)
“While we go to great lengths to ensure that every Orvis wader is built to our high quality, waders will eventually wear out and fail, much like the tires on your car.
If you are not satisfied with your waders at time of purchase or if they fail for any reason within the first 60 days, we will replace them or refund your money, no questions asked. Beyond that, waders that fail due to manufacturing issues or defects will be repaired, replaced or refunded, at Orvis’s discretion, free of charge.
Damage or failure from normal use, wear and tear, or accidents is not covered under our warranty. There are several options and resources available to help get you back on the water. Each wader comes with a repair kit containing all the necessary items to perform basic repairs. Detailed instructions and links to purchase additional supplies can be found below.
If you would prefer to have one of our experienced wader repair specialists evaluate and repair your waders, please contact our Rod and Tackle Team at 800-778-4778 to set up a repair, or use our convenient wader repair request form. We will do everything possible to repair them for a reasonable fee and return them to you quickly. If your waders are not repairable, one of our team members will contact you to discuss replacement options.”
Patagonia – (8 Out of 10 points available)
“If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, you may return it to us for a repair, replacement, or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.
If you would like us to repair your waders for you, please send your washed /cleaned waders to the following address:
Patagonia Wader Repairs
8550 White Fir Street
Reno, NV 89523
Include a note with your name, a return mailing address (no PO BOX #’s please), daytime phone number, what you are sending in and why, what you would like to have happen, and if your waders have sentimental value.
Upon receipt, we will evaluate the condition of your waders, then contact you to discuss responsibility of repair or replacement. Our policy is straightforward. We stand behind everything we make. If you are not completely satisfied with your Patagonia waders at the time of purchase or if they fail due to construction, design, or materials, we may repair, issue credit, or replace them at our discretion, free of charge.
We are not responsible, however, for normal wear and tear, nor for accidents such as the occasional run in with thorns or barbed wire. In other words, if your waders fail prematurely due to a quality problem, we will fix or replace them free of charge. If they fail due to normal use in the field, we will charge for repairs or replacement. We cannot replace waders free of charge if they have come to the end of their normal, useful life. We promise to evaluate your waders thoroughly and fairly.”
(Patagonia wader warranty PDF coming soon)
Dan Bailey (8 out of 10 points available)
“Dan Bailey products are covered by a customer satisfaction guarantee. This is not a “lifetime warranty”, but a warranty that covers the normal life of products we produce and distribute on workmanship, materials, and performance. We gladly stand behind our private labeled products. In the event that a failure of the before mentioned should occur, we will repair or replace at our judgment free of charge. Our customer satisfaction guarantee does not include misuse, mistreatment, or the inevitable breakdown associated with extended use. We reserve the right to inspect products for misuse, mistreatment, or extended longevity breakdown. Repair, replacement, or other options will be done at our discretion. Dan Bailey is proud of the products we offer and wish to make all outdoor adventures as pleasant as possible.
All authorized return packages must be postage pre-paid. Product returned by any other means will be refused. Dan Bailey’s doesn’t assume any responsibility for shipping charges or any other charges occurred in return shipments. Retain tracking information on each package to assure a confirmation signature. Dan Bailey is not responsible for packages that the delivery cannot be confirmed in this manner.”
Warranty Return Ship To:
Attn: Warranty Dept.
120 South Second Street
Livingston, MT. 59047
Redington (7 out of 10 points available)
“We understand the importance of quality gear and you deserve products that perform. If you are not satisfied with any Redington product, you may return the product in accordance with Redington’s warranty policy.
Our Waders are covered by a one-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship. Any claim against this warranty must include a dated proof of purchase. This warranty is limited to repair or replacement of the product only, and does not cover direct, indirect, consequential, incidental or any other type of damage resulting from the use of the product. This warranty does not cover misuse, neglect, normal wear, fire, theft, loss, or intentional damage. Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of incidental or consequential damages, so the above limitation or exclusion may not apply to you. This warranty gives you specific legal rights, and you may also have other rights that vary from state to state. Redington reserves the right to determine whether to repair or replace any Redington Product covered by this warranty and the right to replace any discontinued models with the newer models when necessary. Colors may vary between original and replacement parts. In order to invoke this warranty, the original owner must send the entire Redington product, freight paid and insured to the Bainbridge Island address listed below. All waders and wading boots must be washed and cleaned prior to sending the product back to Redington. To service your Redington product, you must fill out the Warranty Service Form. Please follow the instructions stated below and be sure to include this form in the package. Thank you.”
Click here for Redington’s warranty info and Service Form.
William Joseph (7 out of 10 points possible)
River Wear Warranty: “Waders will be repaired or replaced at our discretion at no cost to you for the first year after purchase. After the first year, waders will be repaired at a reasonable price. If they cannot be repaired they will be replaced at the following rate( Drynamic: $80.00, V2: $50.00, WST: $100.00, RT Wader: $50.00). Additional shipping fees will be added.”
THE FINE PRINT: Hey there had to be some! A registration card must be submitted for clothing and waders with a copy of the sales receipt within 30 days of purchase. Warranty is only valid to the original purchaser.
Click here for William Joseph’s Warranty page.
Aquaz DryZips (8 out of 10 points possible)
Summary of Aquaz USA Warranty Service Procedure
- Protects the original user against defects in material and workmanship. – Warranty does not cover abused or misused products, or products used in commercial applications.
- Aquaz USA will repair or replace the product, or refund the purchase price in exchange for the product.
- In no event shall Aquaz USA be liable for any incidental or consequential damages arising from the sale or use of the product.
3 Easy Steps for Obtaining Warranty Service:
. Step 1. Call Aquaz USA at 800-501-6602 or file a Warranty Service Request Form online to start a case.
. Step 2. After an initial diagnosis over the phone, obtain a service case number.
. Step 3. Send the product to Aquaz USA Service Center by prepaid shipping with the service case number, $20 check for return freight and a copy of the receipt.
Your product will be returned to you repaired or replaced or you will be contacted for a refund.
Aquaz USA Warranty
“Aquaz USA stands behind the products we make and your satisfaction is important to us. We understand the importance of quality gear and you deserve products that perform. If you are not satisfied with any Aquaz product, you may return the product in accordance with Aquaz USA’s warranty policy.
Our waders are covered by a three (3)-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship. Any claim against this warranty must include a dated proof of purchase and it applies only to the original (first) owner. This warranty is limited to repair or replacement of the product only, and does not cover direct, indirect, consequential, incidental or any other type of damage resulting from the use of the product. This warranty does not cover misuse, neglect, normal wear, fire, theft, loss, or intentional damage. Aquaz USA reserves the right to determine whether to repair or replace any Aquaz Product covered by this warranty and the right to replace any discontinued models with the newer models when necessary. Colors may vary between original and replacement parts. In order to invoke this warranty, the original owner must send the entire Aquaz product, freight paid and insured to the Service Center address listed below. All waders must be washed and cleaned prior to sending the product back to Aquaz USA. To service your Aquaz product, you must fill out the Warranty Service Request Form. Thank you!”
Click here for Aquaz’s Warranty page.
Testing Procedures/ Categories continued…
Gravel Guards – 10 points available
In this category we take a detailed look at the form and function of each brand’s gravel guard (the gator-like fabric that hangs over the bottom of the wader and attaches to the laces of your wading boot, designed to keep gravel and debris from entering the top of your wading boot). Here we gave more points to gravel guards with better stretch, draining ability, and a well-built metal securing device. Crappy plastic securing devices that are sure to break or that are not designed to fit easily over your laces lose points. (Ex. Redington Sonic Pro) Same for Velcro straps that can be easily ripped of the wader.
Comfortable / well made booty – 10 points available
One thing we’re adamant about, if your feet are not comfortable while on the river, you’re not comfortable on the river. This category is perhaps the number one overlooked aspect by consumers. Waders that have bulky or non-ergonomic feet scored low, while brands that have spent more attention to detail scored high. Brands who use seams that do not intersect, score higher (one less place to leak later) than did brands with crossed seams at the heal). Brands with more dense or better quality neoprene on the bottom of the foot also got more kudos. Brands like Simms (who easily have the best shaped booties) and Patagonia (who have added R1-style checkered merino wool) take top honors here. Too bad Simms and Patagonia couldn’t team up here and more a booty that would blow everyone else away!
Suspender System – 10 points available
Suspenders have come a long way since the old red ball system. Suspenders which were comfortable and also enable the angler to easily wear their waders as waist-highs scored best in this category. It blew our minds to find that some waders did not have a reverse suspender clips that allow them to convert into a wader belt by clipping to each other. Simms had this figured out a long time ago. This is a big black mark for whoever let this simple and easily fixed design flaw slip through the cracks. Clearly the designers who came up with such suspenders need to get out and fish a little more often – call it a mandatory water conference and get those designers out there! We’re surprised the reps didn’t noticed this before production as well… too much time on the road?
Other flaws which we could easily fix on our own (such as being able to cut off the Rio Gallegos’ “back jabber” wader clip) were not punished as severely. Still, we question what were they thinking? Didn’t anyone notice the clip jabbing them in the back while they rowed one of the new popular high seats you see in driftboats these days? Or didn’t they notice it while they drove from one wade spot to the next in their car. Much like having a gravel guard with a clip too skinny to go over most laces, it seemed down right strange that this would get overlooked.
Fit True to Size – 10 points available
This is an important category. Wader companies who have been around the block for a while have ironed out the kinks, while up coming brands still need to do a little work to get things right. Finally, after years of growing pains, Patagonia has a wader that fits well in each designated size. (We heard a rumor that they bought every single Simms size available and copied them). While some might say this is doing it the easy way, we recommend that all wader companies currently struggling in this department to do the same. Simms has always had a lock on the best sizing.
Double and Triple points for important categories
As in past shootouts, we decided to award more points for categories which we felt had more importance when choosing a wader. Sure, proper attention to details makes a good wader a great wader, but to begin with, a wader needs to be breathable, durable, and comfortable. We also feel that price plays a major role in terms of consumer choice when selecting waders.
Price – 20 points available
We decided to keep this category simple, the waders with the least expensive price tags scored the highest points. In many cases we found that cheaper waders were made with less durable (and less breathable) fabrics, which compromised both the comfort and longevity of the product. Try not to let price be the determining factor when buying a pair of waders. When you take into account your level of comfort on the stream and how many days you will get out of your waders, often a more expensive wader ends up being a smarter buy.
Breathability – 20 points available
This category was a controversial one to say the least. Almost every manufacture boats the fabric they use in their waders is more breathable than their competition’s wader. They each provide a breathability test in which their fabric is superior, with statics and fabric analysis that only a scientist could understand. We also hear manufacturers boast that their new waders are up to 25% more breathable than past models. But we don’t take their word for it! We wanted to give you a real world test, that anyone can duplicate, that showed us the breathability levels of all these waders. In the end all these “breathable” waders proved to be pretty darn good.
Our solution? Use a cheap hygrometer that reads the temperature and humidity (often used in cigar humidors) and hang it inside your waders. We measured both day-to-day activity (by wearing waders to work) and also more strenuous exercise in our Wader Workout, (see above).
Longevity – 20 points available
This is our basic durability category. The more days you’ll get out of your waders, the more points we awarded. Unfortunately we cannot take the time to wear each wader 100 – 200 days. So we’ll take the word of some of our guides that have.
It’s not rocket science to figure out which waders are going to be more durable and last longer than others. Just take a good look at them and feel how heavy the material is. We also relied on comments from anglers and guides that we’ve sold the waders to in the past. Of course as we’ve found out, the heavier the material, the less comfortable the waders are to wear and hike in.
You need to make your own decision on how you want to balance comfort with durability. Fortunately the best waders we tested offer both. For example, you may see your guide wearing the Simms G-4 Pro, because he wants the most bulletproof wader out there, but we think you’ll be a whole lot more comfortable with the G-3.
The BUSHWACKER TEST
Bushwacker Durability – 20 points available
No one likes a sock-wringer at the end of the day. Aside from a gaping barbed-wire gash or manufacture seam defect, small pinhole leaks are the number one factor leading towards a wet sock.
So which waders seemed to give the best protection when bashing through our briar patch of wild rosebush thorns? Take a look at our videos to find out.
We do know that past Gore-Tex waders had more problems from thorns and thistles than some of the other waterproof/breathable fabrics that seem to self-seal once the thorns pull out. This is why Simms has gone to a heavy 5-layer fabric on the legs of their G-3 and G-4 waders. To us, the most bulletproof waders we’ve seen look to be the Simms G3 and G4 Pro, as well as Patagonia’s Rio Gallegos.
Overall Comfort – 30 points available
We all agreed, at the end of the day the number one important thing about your waders (aside from keeping you dry) is overall comfort. Do they fit well, and not bind at all when you are walking long distances. Do they breathe well on hot days, and do they have a pocket where you can warm your hands on the coldest and nastiest days? There was no question that the Dan Bailey Ultra Guide wader cleaned everyone’s clock in this category. These waders fit and felt so comfortable, it was like they weren’t even there. But with their lighter fabric, you’ll have to be a little more careful not to tear them up.
Extra Features Bonus – various points
Some waders had a little something extra here and there (like Patagonia’s removable knee pads) that give it the extra edge. However many extra features each wader had we gave them an extra point per feature. We decided that having the ability to order new waders with a custom neoprene foot on any size wader was worth an extra bonus.
SIMMS G3’s $499.95
Wader Workout – James: 62% / 79° George: 49% / 77° – base humidity in the exercise center was around 40-42%
Bushwacker Test – 20
Wader Workout notes – Very Good! Significantly more comfortable than G4’s. Lighter weight material in crotch throughout the upper body helped to make these more comfortable. Only Patagonia Rio Gallegos and Dan Bailey’s Ultra Guide felt comparable. These G-3’s gave the lowest humidity ratings of all waders for both James and George in the Wader Workout! The G3’s also provided a very comfortable stride on the treadmill. This is a good looking wader!
Right away we were surprised to see the hygrometer readings were a good 10%-15% less than on the heavier G4 models. One thing I also like about them is the hand warmer pocket goes over the actual wader fabric, which is to say it is attached to 3-layer gore rather than how the G4’s hand warmer pocket is attached to a non-finished wader fabric (only two layer). If you often find yourself wading deep, I think in this respect the G3 is better as there’s less chance of water coming through and eventually soaking your socks. With 5 layer legs and a 3 layer upper they were more comfortable, and for 90% of anglers (other than hard core steel headers) this would be a better wader.
26 sizes available plus more under Simms’ custom shop!
There’s a reason this is our number one selling wader. As soon as we added up the figures it blew everyone away! We asked Simms and it’s their number one selling wader as well… and for good reason. It’s exceptionally well rounded, a true 4-season wader that is impressively breathable and exceptionally durable. The seams are top notch, the fabric isn’t loud while walking, and the suspenders are stretchy enough that you can relive yourself without having to unclip them. The only improvements I can think of is a Nipper Zipper (see bottom of page under brainstorming), knee pads, a waterproof pocket for your phone, and some kind of moisture wicking grid on the inside of the neoprene booties, (Like the Rio Gallegos).
An extremely nice wader that has proven to be bulletproof. Absolutely the best fit and best bootie in the industry. Great gravel guards too. This was the most breathable wader in our test . You simply can’t go wrong buying this wader and these are going to last you a long time! I like the handwarmer pocket design better than the G-4’s.
Patagonia Rio Gallegos $499.95
Wader Workout – James 68% / 79° George: 54% / 77° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 20
Wader Workout notes – Felt WAY more comfortable than Simms G4 Pro’s. Night and day difference in walking and stride. About on par with the Simms G3’s. The new, revised fit seems perfect now. The neoprene foot is slightly thicker than most and a person may have to up in wading shoe size.
Hats off to Patagonia for bringing it hard! These waders impressed me on many levels. I was blown away with how breathable they are – especially since they relatively thick and super burly. The fabric feels less stiff than the Simms G3’s or G4’s which is nice when climbing up steep hills, sliding over rocks, or crossing barbed wire fences. The suspender system is awesome for wearing the wader as a waist high, also making it easy to “water the bushes.” However, the adjustment buckle on the back of the suspenders became a problem. Before I cut it off, it would jab the middle of my back, lower back, etc. which sucked for long car rides, desk jobs (haha), or sitting in a tall rower’s seat all day long. You’d think breaking it off would effect the wader when you wear them high, but as long as you wear a wader belt and pay attention to pulling them up if your are crossing some deep water, having no buckle in the back made no difference at all.
The knee pads are killer for sneaking up on fish, keeping your profile low, and taking low angle photos. I would say the only improvements would be to make a better fitting, more ergonomic foot like the Simms booties while still keeping their moisture wicking grid. As is, the booty tends to bunch up inside my wading boot, where the Simms booties slip right in and fit like a pair of old running shoes. Figure out a different back clip for the suspenders, (Orvis figured this one out), add a Nipper Zipper, and a slightly longer gravel guard (or at least one with more stretch). A jet pack would be nice…
Patagonia has done a great job with the redesign of the Rio Gallegos waders. Finally, the fit is just about perfect. These waders proved to be more comfortable for us than either the Simms G3 or G4 but seem every bit as tough.The Knee Pads are a terrific idea. You never know they are there until you have to kneel down on sharp rocks and then they are worth their weight in gold. They are removable too. Our only complaint about these waders is easily fixable, which is cutting or breaking the back suspender clip off. Patagonia needs to come up with a better system for this adjustment. All they have to do is to copy what Orvis has done with their Silver Sonic waders. These use somewhat the same type of suspender system, but their back clip lies very flat, and is perfect! We loved the totally waterproof cell phone pocket on the inside of the waders. This is the best one we’ve seen. The Marino wool inside the neoprene booties seems to allow less condensation build up than the Simms booties, but this was impossible to test and just our impression. These waders came in a close 2nd to the Simms G3’s, and you can’t go wrong buying a pair of these.
Simms G4 $699.95
Wader Workout – James: 70% / 81° George: 62% / 81° – base humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%
Bushwacker Test – 20
Wader Workout notes – Very comfortable stride and cut of fabric. They did feel relatively hotter than many of the other waders tested. Great fit in the foot. The 5-layer material is stiffer and not quite as easy to walk in as the Patagonia Rio Gallegos.
River warriors and guide workhorses take notice, this is one seriously bad ass wader. It feels like you could live in the middle of a briar patch when you’re wearing these bulletproof bombers. They fit exceptionally well and feel great as you navigate through the worst stuff imaginable. The 5 layer goes up higher on these than the G3’s, all covers up your butt, so if you are the type that is going to spend a lot of time sitting in a drift boat rowing seat, or you really abuse your gear and want to get the longest life out of it, the G4’s are the way to go. It’s also the only wader in the test with a D ring for your net. Like all the Simms Gore-tex waders, the seams run down the middle and back of the legs, slowing the process of seam abrasion. Pop the hood on these babies and you’ll find the best detailing of any wader in the test. Downsides? Despite Gore’s improved breathability, these are not going to be pleasant in the summer months. (That’s probably not a big deal for those who wade wet in the summer). The waders also feel stiffer than the Rio Gallegos or G3. I wish they had the same suspenders as the G3, as these will not stretch far enough down to allow you to relive yourself – the only option is to unclip the suspenders (which is a pain in the winter to get under all those layers). Also the hand-warmer pocket is not attached on top of the wader fabric, like the G3, so if you are wading deep and forget to zip up your handwarmer pocket, it is possible to get water inside your waders thru the much lighter two layer fabric inside the pocket. This happened to one of our guides wading deep for a few hours on the Missouri River. Knee pads might be a nice edition. The little trout “bug” started to peel off our sample, and the Gore-tex sticker fell off somewhere (probably in the thorn bushes). All and all this is one of the best waders money can buy, especially when it’s cold outside.
I’ve never liked the heavy 5-layer material of the G4’s running up through my crotch and up my back. It just doesn’t breathe nearly as well as the design of the G3’s, and it isn’t as comfortable to me while walking. These are certainly the most bulletproof waders you can buy and this is why you see a lot of guides wearing them. I cannot understand why these waders cost so much more than the G3’s. Seven hundred dollars for a pair of waders is crazy unless you are a guide and buying them at the Pro discount.
#4 ORVIS SILVER SONIC CONVERTIBLES – OUR WADER SHOOTOUT BEST BUY!
Orvis Silver Sonic $259.00
Wader Work out – James: 73% / 79° George: 52% / 79° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%
Bushwacker Test – 16
Wader Work out notes – Definitely felt hotter than Patagonia Rio Gallegos. Seems like stride was more comfortable in Patagonia Rio Gallegos.
A landslide winner for the wader shootout “Best Buy,” the Silver Sonics look and feel more like a $500 wader than a $259 wader. Think of them as a poor man’s Gallegos – they have a similar suspender system, waterproof pouch, great breathability, quality neoprene booties, and quality gravel guards. They don’t have a handwarmer pocket, and the durability isn’t going to be as good as the Simms or the Rio Gallegos, but at that price who cares! Major Kudos to Orvis in making a top quality product and not overcharging for it…
A very nice wader for $259.00! Almost the same exact functions as the Patagonia Rio Gallegos (minus the handwarming pocket, knee pads, and camo color suspenders). They were definitely lighter with fewer layers than the G4 or Rio Gallegos, and perhaps a little more comfortable, but there is going to be a trade off in terms of decreased durability. These are not the brushbusters the other waders are. Gravel guards have nice stretch and work very well.
#5 DAN BAILEY ULTRA GUIDE
Dan Bailey Ultra Guide $399.95
Wader Work out – James: 70% / 79° George: 55% / 77° Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 17
Wader Workout notes – Felt like wind pants, extremely light and comfortable stride. These waders are noticeably lighter than all others, and this would lead you to believe that they wouldn’t fare too well in terms of puncture resistance, but our bushwhacker test seemed to prove otherwise. The articulated leg design contributed to the comfortable stride on the treadmill.
I have to agree with the old man, these waders were incredibly comfortable. It all comes down the fabric used, which is incredibly light, flexible, and breathable. They literally felt like I was wearing Nike Air wind pants. I thought for sure my legs would come back bloody after the bushwacker test but to our amazement they held up great. Also it was the only wader in the shootout that you never have to worry about losing your wader belt! I’m always loosing those things – so for me, wearing this wader is often safer than others. They have a nice Velcro waist adjustment on each side. The neoprene booties fit very well, and I would say second only to Simms in terms of a perfect non-bunched up fit. With a little fine-tuning and detail work I think Dan Bailey is in the running for winning the next wader shootout. A couple things to improve would be a better suspender system, (I like how the Simms cross in the back) . The current suspenders can twist on you in the back, which takes time to fix. The Gravel guard straps can go away (mine did anyway when I pulled them clean off the wader by accident) but this doesn’t seem to be a big deal as they hook down to your wading shoes quite nicely. A stretchy gravel guard would be better, as the current one is a little too short. I like all the pocket options, which are similar to the G4’s, but the size of each pocket could be slightly larger. Nice work fellas!
This was hands down the most comfortable wader we tested. Walking around in the shop, it didn’t even feel like I had waders on! Amazing. A nice compromise between breathability and durability, Dan Bailey waders were a very pleasant surprise. The biggest improvement has been in the neoprene booties, which are now much more comfortable, and the second most comfortable behind Simms. The wader pocket is smaller than the Simms but still very functional with several options and zippers for storage compartment. Good hand warmer pockets. The seams are located on the outside and middle thigh rather than anything on the inside of the legs. These waders are built with a comfortable articulation in the legs, making for pleasant walking. Even though these waders are very light in weight, fabric wise, they proved to be quite durable in our Bushwhacker test.
#6 SIMMS HEADWATERS
Simms Headwaters – $349.95
Wader Workout – James: 74% / 81° George: 58% / 77° – base humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%
Bushwacker Test – 19
Wader Workout notes – Felt like one of the most comfortable stride wise, but not any better than the G-3’s. Great fit, and felt pretty cool until about 2:00 mark, then they got hotter. The color of these waders is very light – bone color, and it is going to show more dirt and stains than the G-3’s or G-4’s. Suspenders are good and you can clip them together to wear them waist high, like other Simms waders.
Another great pair of waders, these are very similar to the G3 in design and $100 less. I say spend the extra $100 and get the G3’s. You’ll get a better inside pouch for increased storage (there’s no inside pocket at all on the headwaters), a more breathable wader, and most importantly you won’t be wearing such a bright colored wader. (The designers at Simms thought the headwaters would absorb less light if they were a lighter color), and they are probably right, but I’d rather be half a degree hotter and be far less visible to the fish. If the light color doesn’t bother you, and you cut the inside pouch out anyway, then go for the headwaters and spend the extra money on flies or a new line…
A very good wader at a moderate price. We were impressed at how tough the 3-layer fabric was. It seemed almost as tough as the Simms 5-layer on their G-3’s and G-4’s. These Headwaters waders did surprisingly well in our Brushbuster tests too. I don’t like the all off-white color though as it is going to show a lot of dirt and stains.
#7 PATAGONIA RIO AZUL – (TIE)
Patagonia Rio Azul $279.00
Wader Work out – James: 78% 77° George: 75% / 79° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 16
Wader Work out notes – Nice relaxed fit, but felt hotter than Rio Gallegos. Stride was very nice. Fabric felt very lightweight, similar to Bailey’s, just a little heavier.
These waders look and feel cool. They’d be a great summer wader, (they’re super packable and not very hot). Unfortunately they’re not very durable and the big deterrent for me is the suspenders. Sure, you can tie your suspenders together and clip them back into the chest mounts but they’d make a much better wader belt with reverse clips. Also we noticed the quality of the neoprene booty was way off the Rio Gallegos, with a much thinner less dense neoprene. Still, for $279 it’s hard to complain…
A very good wader for the money. A simple, clean design but no hand warmer pocket and no Marino wool on the inside of the booties like the Rio Gallegos. Maybe the best light-weight, packable pair of waders you can buy. Like the Rio Gallegos, it has a terrific, totally waterproof inside pocket for your cell phone.
#7 REDINGTON SONIC PRO – (TIE)
Redington Sonic weld $299.95
Wader Work out – James: 76% / 81° George: 78% / 79° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%
Bushwacker Test – 17
Wader Work out notes – Foot felt very uncomfortable. I had to take waders off thinking there was something in the booty, but when I reached in there was nothing there – just bad seam work. Decent stride, not too hot. Terrible gravel guard clip.
If you are going Redington, I honestly feel the $99 Crosswaters are the way to go. They have a MUCH better gravel guard than the Sonic Weld, (almost on par with Simms in terms of nice stretch), and the gravel guard keeper is metal with a much wider gap, allowing them to actually hook into your laces. The Sonic Weld does have better storage however, and the color is better than the lighter colored Crosswaters. The neoprene booty could use some work so the seams don’t cross, and for this price I’d expect a fabric that didn’t feel like something I’d find in Walmart. I’d probably loose the logo “bug” too but that’s just my taste. Until they fix the clip on their gravel guards, these are a no go for me.
We’re not really impressed. For $300 you’re not getting nearly as much as you’d get in $259 Orvis Silver Sonic. The feet are not as good – the seams look like they will leak sooner than later, and they don’t feel very comfortable compared to the best waders. The gravel guard clip was nearly impossible to clip to your laces, and then once you did clip it in, it would not come off! This alone is a deal breaker. At least the outside zippers shut the hand warmer pockets, and you get an outside pocket as well as an inside flip station.
#8 REDINGTON CROSSWATERS – (TIE) and winner of our WADER SHOOTOUT’s LEAST EXPENSIVE QUALITY WADER
Redington Crosswater $99.95
Wader Work out – James: 77% / 77° George: 75% / 79° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 10
Wader Workout notes: Felt pretty darn good for less than a hundred bucks. They did leak a bit more than others after our Bushwhacker testing. Lots of pinhole leaks. No front hand warmer pocket or gravel guards, but if you want those, get the Sonic Pro.
Attention trout bums who need to stay dry and still pay rent, (that $50 a month to sleep on your buddy’s couch) THIS IS YOUR WADER. What’s the number one thing a wader should do? Keep you dry. Well these not only do the trick, they are comfortable as well. You might have to keep a tube of Aqua Seal handy to repair the pinhole leaks, but that’s no big deal. Yeah, the suspender clips are cheap and the color is bright, but at this price you can’t loose. Hands down the best inexpensive wader we’ve seen.
These actually felt pretty good for a $99 wader. But the breathability was not as good as the better waders. If you are looking for a cheap pair of waders, that will get the job done, this is your baby.
#8 CABELA’S GOLD MEDAL BOOTFOOTS – (TIE)
Cabella’s Gold Medal Bootfoots $199.95
Wader Work out – James: 80% / 79° George: 78% / 77° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 10
Wader workout notes: The boot foot waders did not give nearly as much as support in the boot foot than the stockingfoot waders and this was noticeable on the treadmill. Otherwise they felt pretty good. Super easy to get on and off.
Surprisingly, these boot foot waders didn’t feel very hot at all. Definitely less support in the ankle, not as confident in taking big strides like all others. More wobble from side to side inside the boot and very little support. At the time of ordering, these were the only bootfoots available on the market, other than Hodgeman. Both Orvis and Simms are working on new bootfoot waders, and we expect to see these sometime soon. I have to say these boot foots were actually quite nice – breathable, easily converted into a waist high, easy to water the bushes, and quick to put on. These were my lunchtime fish slayers until I tore a huge hole directly above the boot on day three. I wish I had known they had a “no questions asked” 30 day guarantee at the time, as I could have had a free new pair. I think I’d probably ask for one size foot down on my next pair as these were a little sloppy walking around the rip-rap. While the wader straps are insanely chinsy, they actually weren’t uncomfortable. Sometimes function over fashion just works.
They were comfortable enough, but I didn’t like the lack of support in the rubber boot. With a thick pair of socks, they would be nice and toasty warm in the winter though. I wouldn’t want to walk any long distances with these boot foot waders. Nor would I want to be wading in mud.
#9 WILLIAM JOSEPH WST – (TIE)
William Joseph WST (Wader Safety Technology) $299.95
Wader Workout – James: 94% / 77° George: 92% / 80° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 19
Wader Workout notes – Felt hottest next to the Red Balls for sure! Legs too long…
As they say, “Safety First!” Although these waders were super hot and very stiff, there’s a time and a place for everything – Namely crossing the Yellowstone in the dead of winter above the rapids or wading deep on the Kvichak river in Alaska where one slip could mean taking a seriously long swim.
I would say the only thing William Joseph needs to do is re-work their sizing. Since the inflatable air bladder takes up a lot of chest space you absolute have to jump up one size. The problem is then your legs are two inches two long. They need to revise this into more of a King size for normal wear. A more breathable fabric would be good too since these waders felt the second hottest and had the second highest humidity to the Red Balls.
The double zipper sided inflatable bladder is removable! Amazing that a company like WJ can make a wader for $299.95 that is cheaper than the others, yet nearly as good of quality AND have the ability to save your life.
As you’ll see in our Wader Workout video, this inflatable bladder may not be the best answer to wading safely. We feel that a better choice is to get yourself an Anglers Inflatable PFD from Outcast for $150. This is worn around you neck and has a better design to keep you floating with your head up, should you get knocked unconcious. And remember the best wader safety precaution of all is for you to wear a wader belt and cinch it up.
Check out William Joseph’s built in PFD in action!
#9 AQUAZ DRY ZIP – (TIE)
AQUAZ Dry Zip $339.99
Wader Work out – James: 91% / 79° George: 89% / 80° – Baseline humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 16
Wader Work out notes – Bottoms don’t feel like they are part of the top – Least comfortable stride, too short from knee down. Seems like a strange fit in legs. Felt hottest next to William Joseph or the Red Balls.
Right away the feet feel to small (I’m a size 11.5) and the large size zipper wader feels like they have size 9.5-10 booties tops. The rest of the wader feels pretty stiff and cheap. At least the zipper is long enough to easily relieve yourself (be careful not to pull a “There’s something about Mary, however). While the zipper is flexible enough to bring down to your waist, the suspenders don’t have a male and female end, making it impossible to clip together as a waist belt. They are too tight to tie around as a waist belt, so if you get hot the only option is just to unzip your waders. While the inside of the booties had the coolest color of the test (a nice vibrant green on the inside) they were way too small for a large and the legs felt too short as well. If I had to guess, I think they may have used Korean models instead of Americans for their sizing.
These waders look and feel junky. The inseam is too short, so knees feel very tight. The neoprene booties are way too small for a large, something that you would find on a small or medium. Maybe size 9 or 10 foot? The one plus I like is the zipper is not so stiff, allowing me to roll the waders down. I would like to use the suspenders as a waist belt, however, they don’t have reverse buckles.
#10 RED BALLS
Red Balls $49.95 (Last sold 1990-1992)
Wader Work out – James: 99% / 79° George: 99% / 81° – Baseline Humidity in the exercise center was 40-42%.
Bushwacker Test – 5
Wader Workout notes: These waders felt really hot and uncomfortable after 30 seconds on the treadmill! At the end of the treadmill test I was soaking in sweat.
Perhaps the perfect waders to lend to your mother-in-law or worst enemy. While these were the go to wader back in the day, today they might be considered a torture suit or perhaps a “make weight” wrestlers training suit. The suspenders were very flexible however, which was great for watering bushes and no zipper to get stuck on. The feet make you look like Ralphie from the Christmas Story, that or the boy from Where the Wild Things Are. A two-minute walk will make your skin feel clammier than a methadone overdose. Old guys like my dad remember how miserable these waders were to walk any distance in on a hot day. When I took them off after the treadmill test, there was clearly a layer of sweat and condensation clinging to the inside of the wader. Check this out in our Wader Workout Video. All said, if you still own a pair of waders this old school, you’re pretty pimp.
We needed a good baseline wader that was totally NON- BREATHABLE, and this was it! WAY hotter in both relative humidity and temperature than any wader we tested. Yeah, I can remember those days of hiking two miles into the middle of the Railroad Ranch and then having to peel off all my clothes and let them dry out for 20 minutes before I could fish! Thank God for breathable waders!
How many times have you been on the river and you can’t find your nipper? You then pat your pockets for your hemp-cuts but they’re nowhere to be found either. As a last resort you use your god given incisors (dentists cringe here) and bite through your tippet. This is usually no big deal if you’re fishing 3X or less, but when you are fishing streamers with 2X, 0X, 01X, or 15 pound maxima there is a little gnawing involved. If you are tying in a Stu Apt improved blood knot there’s lots of gnawing going on! Why not have a built in “Nipper Zipper” for your waders or outerwear? You could have the nipper be the actual pull tab on the zipper itself or you could have an even smaller nipper “stub” at the end the cord that is threaded through the zipper pull. Either way they would save the day (and your smile)!
We need your support!
We hope that you have enjoyed our first ever Wader shootout! With your support, we can continue to give you more shootouts and comparisons on tackle and equipment in the future. But this takes us a lot of time, so if you are in the market for a new pair of waders, a new rod or rod and reel outfit, or other flies and tackle, we would love to have your business!
Be sure to e-mail us your comments and any questions you have about the exact tackle you need for the fishing you are doing. We’ll be happy to help.
– James and George Anderson and the staff here at the Yellowstone Angler