Picking a set of waders can be almost as difficult as picking out a rod and reel setup. The design has come a long way since your grandfather’s waders that looked liked a scuba suit, minus the glass mask. It’s not one set standard anymore like it was back when one company held a monopoly on wading gear. With the improvements in materials and how light and durable waders have become, the possibilities are endless. It’s all about finding a pair that fits your needs by considering how you fish and the stream or creek you fish the most.
To kick it off, we will jump into the old, true and faithful hip waders. These were your dad’s or grandfather’s go-to waders. Back when they had these waders, they were made out of rubber, and ProLine still has rubber options. If you are a spring creek trout angler, these do a fine job because most of the time the deepest water comes up to your ankles. With companies like Frogg Toggs and Chota making leaps and bounds in hip waders, they have come a long way. Both brands now have stockingfoot versions of hip waders, with breathable, nylon uppers instead of rubber to keep you cooler during the warmer months. If you find yourself not wading above shin level, hip waders fit your style of fishing.
The next style is waist-high pants. These waders go on like pants and pull up to your waist. Most of these are stockingfoot, so you are able to pick the wading boot style you prefer. These are typically made out of a layered nylon-like material, making allowing them to be waterproof and breathable. These can be very useful during the summer if you are walking and moving around often. Brands like Simms and Patagonia have released products that are heavy in the leg area to allow you to move through brush with ease and no snags or rips. Waist-high wading pants are a little higher up than hip waders, which lets the wearer kneel if you want a stealthier approach. These can also be worn in the winter and do a decent job of keeping you sealed up from the elements. Waist-high wading pants are a good choice if you hike a lot or just want something a little higher than hip waders.
The next waders are chest waders. These can be broken down into two categories: neoprene and breathable. If you have ever fished in the winter or when the water is colder in late fall, you have seen at least one angler wearing neoprene waders. These have been around for a long time. Neoprene will keep you dry, warm and, depending on if you get stockingfoot or bootfoot, the bootfoot style can have added insulation. The concept behind these was to make a set of waders that would help keep you warm in the winter, with different thicknesses (3.5mm or 5mm) to fit your preferred fishing style. Neoprene chest waders do a great job keeping the warmth in, but during the summer they can be a burden. Just think about wearing a winter jacket in July, that’s when it feels like. If you’re a serious winter or cold water angler these could be a great option for you.
Breathable chest waders are my favorite style for year-round fishing. They are designed to look like neoprene chest waders, but are constructed out of a layered nylon-like material. These are great for use in the summer and, when properly layered, can also be used in cold water, too. I find breathable chest waders to be the most versatile waders in the chest wading category. With numerous options for breathable materials, there are pairs of breathable chest waders for any angler, regardless of budget.
At the end of the day, you have to identify the type of angler you are. Whether you’re a small stream angler that only needs hip waders or you are deep wading so chest waders might be necessary, they all do a great job in keeping you dry when used properly.