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There was a time when wearing waders in warm weather was as bad as a witch’s curse. Any old-timey angler will tell you that it would make them sweaty on the outside and dehydrated on the inside.
That’s because those waders, while effective in being waterproof, were heavy and made moving around in the water quite the task. Thankfully, now there are a lot more options in the market that will help you avoid getting cooked while you’re fishing.
Waders are no longer heavy, rubber-y and made of non-breathable materials. Today, it’s almost like wearing a jumpsuit and heading out to fish. But even so, you need to pick the one that’s right for you. And that’s exactly what we’re here to help you with.
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
Best Waders without Boots
Waders have been in commercial production since the 1850s. That’s because they are a great way for anglers to stay dry while spending, possibly the whole day, in water looking for fish. They are also a great way to keep your feet from getting affected which is to be expected when you spend such a long time in the water.
But if you are already covered on the footwear front, here are five waders to save you from the rest of the grief that comes with staying in water for an extended period of time…and then some.
And if you’re not sure how to pick one, well, we have a buyer’s guide for you right under the choices. Take a look.
Our first choice is this chest wader from Lurkwolfer. These are 100 percent waterproof waders but they are also breathable. At less than 2.5 pounds, they are ultralight because they are made of PVC nylon materials. It allows your sweat to get out but keeps the water from the outside right where it is supposed to be, keeping you bone dry. These waders are great for hot weather.
These waders also have reinforced elastic nylon suspenders which are adjustable. There is a two-inch belt too with a quick-release buckle which makes wearing it and moving around the water rather easy. They are made of three-layer polyester material which makes them tough and resistant to wear and tear.
The waders also have loops on the body which are great for the gear you want to carry along with you.
These fishing waders feature a waterproof zippered pocket in the center and a reversible pocket to keep your essentials dry and safe.The high-quality mesh storage bag helps your waders dry quickly, chest pocket doubles as a hand warmer so you can stay warm, dry and comfortable.
With the advanced material and technology this product offers, the company also offers a 30-day no need to replace service where you’ll be offered a 100% refund or a replacement if a manufacturing defect is found in the product.
What We Like
- Adjustable suspenders with elasticity
- Loops on the body of the waders for gear
- Ergonomic design
- Zippered pockets for essentials
- Mesh storage bag to store the waders after you’re done fishing
- Chest pocket which also works as a hand warmer
What We Don’t Like
- Not great for those with a small body and large feet
Our second recommendation is from Frogg Toggs and is called the Amphib Wader. This is also a chest wader and has a high back which was designed particularly for those who are likely to go into deep waters for a big game. It is made of neoprene which is a synthetic polymer like rubber. It is great for tough weather conditions and is oil- and heat-resistant.
The wader is 3.5-mm thick which makes sure that you don’t get wet when you wade into those tricky waters. The knees of this wader are reinforced just in case you’re in dirty waters.
The suspends on this wader come with an adjustable hook and the pockets can be used for both storage and to warm your hands. Now, this wader comes with neoprene booties that have gravel guards but they are a stand in for your actual wading boots. And they are not hard to find.
What We Like
- Pockets also work as hand warmers
- Wader is thick enough for deep-water wading
- The high back makes it a good choice for deep waters
- Made of neoprene which can resist oil, heat and tough weather
What We Don’t Like
- Weighs about 5.5 pounds which isn’t exactly lightweight
- Comes with stand-in booties which means you have to fit your footwear to its dimensions
Our third choice is also a chest wader from Frogg Toggs but this one is called Hellbender and is made of 4-ply nylon. The knees on this wader are also double reinforced and the chest is oversized. So that allows you to stay hands-free while giving you a storage option. The other pockets are zippered which is perfect for fishing and hunting.
Whether you are in the water for a long day or several short days, this wader will keep you warm and dry throughout the trip. All the waders are vetted and tested in the field to make sure it lives up to your expectations.
What We Like
- Comes with an oversized pocket that has more than one use
- Horizontal zipper on the pocket makes it a great storage option
- Has two zippered handwarmer pockets
- Is made of a nylon shell which makes it breathable and durable
- Micro-textured tricot inner layer which is soft and smooth cool
- Resistant to abrasions
- Waterproof middle layer meant for long-term fishing
What We Don’t Like
- A bit pricey
- Customers have complained of leaks
Our penultimate choice is this chest wader from Simms. It’s a men’s stockingfoot fishing wader that is made of three layers on the upper end and four layers at the bottom. It is made of breathable fabrics and is waterproof. These chest waders are made to make movement in the water easy in case you want to go deep into the river.
These waders are great throughout the year because of the suspenders which have adjustable buckles that make it easy to adjust the waist when it is warm outside. The pockets have a fleece lining which makes them hand warmers too. And a great choice when it is cold in the water. The waders are made of neoprene which makes them comfortable to wear.
There are two belt loops and a 38-mm waist belt made of nylon. There is a front pocket that is zippered, keeping your hands free, making room to store tools. They also have a gravel guard and an elastic bottom which makes moving around easy.
What We Like
- Made of breathable neoprene
- Waterproof and lightweight
- Zippered pocket for tools keeps your hands free
- Gravel guard designed such that mobility is unaffected
- Great fit for all seasons
What We Don’t Like
- Does not have an inside chest pouch
- The adjustable nylon belt isn’t always comfortable, depending on your measurements
Our final choice is this chest wader from Compass. It is made of premium four-layer fabrics which make it water resistant and breathable. The entire fabric has a durable water resistance or DWR coating which makes it extra safe. The knees and shins are double reinforced which makes it an excellent choice.
This chest wader has a contoured fit and is double taped. The booties are 100 percent neoprene which keeps you flexible and warm in the water. They also come with gravel guards that are abrasion resistant which is a bonus when you are in rough waters.
There is a zippered front pocket and a storage pocket inside the wader. On the body, there is a belt that comes with a quick-release buckle and some loops to hang your gear. The suspenders are elastic and adjustable. The only thing you need to remember is to hang the wader by its suspenders and let it dry completely before you take it back into the water.
What We Like
- Multi-functional pockets that keep you hands-free
- Adjustable suspenders that make movement easy
- Abrasion-resistant gravel guards
- Made of premium-breathable fabrics
- Comes with a DWR coating
What We Don’t Like
- A bit expensive
- Contour fit means you might want to get a size bigger than usual
How to Choose the Best Waders without Boots
If you weren’t sure what kind of waders suit your upcoming fishing trip, here’s what you need to know before you go shopping.
The first thing to figure out is whether you need a wader at all. But this one is quite simple. Experienced anglers can get away even without a wader but that might not always be the case.
- Those who are fishing in warm waters tend to avoid waders. This is the case if you know what you’re doing and you are sure you won’t be stung by anything in the water.
- Those who are fishing in shallow or cold water can do with just wading boots and neoprene socks designed for cold water.
- Those who are going to fish from the boat only can also do without waders.
But if you’re none of these, you need a good pair of waders and here’s how to pick one.
- Durability: You are likely to be wearing the wader all day long. You might even hike from one fishing point to another on this day. So, you want to get a wader that is durable and fit for both walking around in the water and on land. You need the material to be resilient.
But a lot of good waders are also heavy. So, you must find the balance between tough and lightweight. You need the waders to last long not only in terms of number of trips but also in terms of the long hours in water.
- Comfort: This is a factor not just because you will be wearing it all day but also because you need to move around easily in the water if you have to. Every brand has its own size chart. Make sure you go through it carefully before you make the purchase. If you’re uncomfortable buying it online, you can check some chest waders at a local fitting store and then buy them online.
Check the inseam length, shoe size (when applicable but not for the above-mentioned products) and maximum girth size (chest, hips or waist). If you get a small wader, it might put pressure on the seams and will cause leaks while you’re in the water. And if you get one that’s too big, the material will weaken and tear over a period of time.
- Breathability: Waders are meant to be worn when you are underwater. That’s why they are all waterproof. But if they are not made of breathable fabrics, you will feel hot and sweaty even in cool waters. That’s only going to make you want to take them off which means the wader has failed in serving its purpose.
Also, if you’re sweating underneath, they don’t stay dry which is another point against waders. So, make sure the fabric is breathable in a way that even if you sweat a little it can let the moisture evaporate but does not let outside water in.
The best ones of course keep you from sweating. That’s the ideal scenario. So, you need to balance the breathability and warmth factors. When a wader is thick, it is warm but not as breathable. They are great for cold waters but are also heavy when you pack.
A Word about Nylon and Neoprene Waders
Fishing attire is highly subject to weather conditions. So, when you are fishing in rough and cold conditions, neoprene waders are an excellent choice. In fact, they are better than breathable waders.
These waders are also durable and can be used for hunting activities. That’s because you will end up walking quite a bit on a hunting trip and will encounter sharp objects like sticks and even swamps if you are hunting for ducks. Neoprene will keep you flexible, more than nylon waders. And they are comfortable too.
Neoprene waders are also waterproof which makes them a good choice for deep water fishing. When compared to wetsuits, their density is higher and your legs will be completely dry which is exactly what you want.
This is a great asset in winters too when you need extra insulation.
Neoprene waders which are 3.5 to 7 mm are considered to be excellent options in such weather conditions. The thicker ones provide more insulation which means they are not the best option for warm weather conditions. In that kind of weather, you will end up sweating and the wader doesn’t stay dry as you’d want it to.
Neoprene waders have also kicked rubber waders out of the market for a couple of good reasons. When compared to rubber waders, the ones made of neoprene are lighter and more durable.
They also keep you relatively warmer. If you are using them in winters, you will most definitely find them a better option vis-a-vis nylon waders too.
Author Note: Neoprene waders also have more buoyancy compared to nylon waders. This makes them float-y. So, if you want a little bit of that, you must pick one with 3.5-mm thickness. As the thickness increases, remember that the buoyancy might get annoying.
Plain nylon waders, on the other hand, are a bit cheaper and are less focused on breathability. So, a little mix of nylon and neoprene is what you want. Otherwise, you will be trapped in your body heat and sweat profusely.
Waders made of plain nylon also don’t tend to last a long time which is why they are not the hot favorite for the purposes of fishing and hunting.
Q: How to Determine the Best Size?
A: This factor affects both comfort and the duration you will be able to use those waders. Before buying a wader, make sure you check these three measurements:
- Largest Girth: This could be your chest, waist or hips.
- Inseam: This must be from crotch to floor measured in inches.
- Shoe Size: You might want to make sure your wet socks or thick socks don’t make it uncomfortable.
Waders, no matter what material you pick, are not the cheapest items to buy. A good one can cost you a few hundred dollars and it’s a shame if you buy the wrong one.
Their main purpose is to keep you dry and protect your feet from any sharp objects in the waters. If your feet are wet for too long, the skin tends to rot and it leads to fungal infections.
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among anglers and it is called trench foot. Do you know the feeling of staying in wet socks for too long? Trench foot is a lot worse and something you don’t want to ignore.