Best Waders for Fly Fishing – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

The ultimate guide to the best fly fishing waders on the market: stockingfoot, bootfoot, breathable and best value waders.

In this ultimate guide we want to give you an overview of the best fly fishing waders out there. Of course “best” is not an entirely objective term but we will try our best to give you an idea of what to look for no matter what kind of waders you want to buy.

What are the best waders for fly fishing on the market?

Overview:

An Introduction to fly fishing waders

What to pay attention to when purchasing waders

Wader materials

Different types of waders: chest waders, hip waders, etc.

What size do I need for my waders?

Taking care of your waders

Reviews of the best waders out there

Men’s Waders

Women’s Waders

Kids Waders / Youth Waders

Jump right to our review of the best fly fishing waders out there

An Introduction to Fly Fishing Waders

Fly fishing waders are one of the most important pieces of gear when heading out to the water. Not only do they keep you dry and warm, they also protect you from the brush, animals like snakes and bugs.

A good pair of waders is worth the money if you are into fly fishing and want to keep up the sport. You only realize the value of the best fly fishing waders when you had a bad experience such as a leak that can ruin a great trip.

Depending on the conditions you fly fish in, you can choose from different kinds of waders: chest high vs. waist high (hip waders), Gore-Tex/Nylon vs. Neoprene and stocking foot vs bootfoot waders. Don’t worry if you are not familiar with these terms. We’ll explain all the details in this article.

If you are only fishing in very warm conditions you might not need a pair of waders but can do wet wading instead. The requirement for that are warm water and air temperatures.

The best fly fishing waders keep you warm and dry even in the worst conditions

What to pay attention to when purchasing waders

Price and warranty of the waders

Fly fishing waders can come in pricy. On the upside the most expensive waders often have the best warranties. Premium brands like Simms, Patagonia or Orvis offer great warranties and easy repair services – a factor you should not underestimate. In many cases it can worth investing a little more for a better pair of waders that last you longer and can hence even save you money on the long run.

Fit of the waders

The fit of your waders is one of the most important factors to have a good day on the water. Here again premium manufacturers like Simms, Patagonia or Orvis offer a wide range of sizes to literally fit any kind of physique. From experience I would say that Simms waders have slightly slimmer cuts around the leg and Patagonia for example offer a bit more room. You really have to try a pair of waders yourself to find the best fit. If you are unsure you can order two or three pairs and test them in your living room.

Breathability

Breathability is another crucial factor when choosing a pair of waders. It defines how well moisture can escape from the inside of your waders if you are sweating. Neoprene waders have less breathability since they are made for cold temperatures.

The premium brands have similar technologies and the most expensive waders are all highly breathable. Simms uses the world renown GORE-TEX membrane that has proven to be highly breathable over decades. Patagonia use their own membrane which offers breathability on the same level.

Durability of your waders

Generally speaking the more expensive waders feature more layers of fabric. Simms’ top model the G4 for example is made of five layers of GORE-TEX membrane offering an incredible amount of durability. A pair of these waders can last you several years even if you are a die hard fisherman. Another important feature of the best fly fishing waders are the seems. The better the seem quality the less likely your waders are to leak.

Fly Fisherman in the Water Fishing
A good pair of waders is a smart investment

Wader materials

Fly fishing waders can basically be organized into two categories: nylon/polyester and neoprene.

Nylon/polyester

Most of modern day breathable fly fishing waders are made of nylon/polyester. Depending on the quality of the waders they range from three to five layers. Nylon and polyester enable moisture from sweating to escape from the inside of the waders. The most advanced fabrics are membrane such as GORE-TEX featured in many Simms waders.

Neoprene

Neoprene waders are made of thick and pliable synthetic rubber that is mostly used in cold temperatures. It is not breathable and hence only advisable in cold water surroundings. It is also much harder to walk long distances in a pair of rubber waders than nylon waders.

What is Fly Fishing? Fly Fisherman in River

Different types of waders: chest waders, hip waders, etc.

Which type of waders should you get? You have to decide between bootfoot vs stockingfoot and chest waders vs hip waders (wading pants). Here is a closer look at the different options.

Bootfoot waders

Most of the times bootfoot waders are used in neoprene waders. A bootfoot wader is a pair of waders that has boot attached to the leg of the waders. There are also nylon bootfoot waders. Often these are used by guides that use a boot for a day of guiding. Some consider bootfoot waders easier to wear since you don’t have to put on wading boots separately. But they have deficits in terms of flexibility since you can’t use wading boots with different soles for different wading conditions.

An advantage of bootfoot waders is the fact that the rubber boots don’t hold as much water as wading boots. This means you can more easily keep them on when entering a store for example.

Stocking foot waders

In modern fly fishing stockingfoot waders are the standard. Stockingfoot waders feature neoprene socks at the end of the leg of the waders. You slide into a pair of wading boots with these neoprene socks just like a pair of hiking boots. You can use different kinds of soles with one pair of stockingfoot waders, such as vibram (rubber) soles, felt soles or cleated soles.

Chest waders

Chest waders are the most commonly used type of stockingfoot waders. This is because of their versatility. Chest waders allow you to wade deep. They also offer more comfort and warmth than wading pants (hip waders). A number of manufacturers offer chest waders than can be converted into wading pants and hence offer extra comfort on warmer days.

Fishing pant waders / hip waders

If you’re a minimalist pant wader – often also called wading pants or hip waders – might be a good option for you. For obvious reasons you can’t wade as deep with them but they offer more freedom of movement. Especially if you mostly fish in warmer regions and smaller rivers, hip waders could be a good option for you.

Fishing Wader Size Chart

Every manufacturer offers their own size chart for their range of fly fishing waders. Premium outfitters such as Simms, Patagonia and Orvis offer a vast variety of sizing options.

Taking care of your waders

Taking care of your waders is very important and will increase its lifespan by a lot. Here are the most important things to keep in mind:

1. Always dry your waders: as soon as you get home from a day on the water you should hang your waders in a place that is dry and about room temperature. The most common way to hang your waders is upside down. This way any moisture still left in the legs can emerge.

2. Don’t store your waders in the car: it might be a tempting thought to keep your waders in the car for a spontaneous trip to the river but it’s not a good idea. The seams and different layers of your waders will not like hot temperatures and direct sunlight.

3. Wash your waders every once in a while: it is always a good idea to wash your waders properly after each use just using water (no saltwater). Do it at least every few weeks to get rid of small particles, dust and stones that might cause abrasion.

4. Apply a water repellent coating: once your waders are clean and dry it is a good idea to re-apply a water repellent coating every once in a while. The initial coating wears off after time and hence a replenishing comes in handy.

5. Use a rubber mat when taking your waders off: the neoprene socks of most fly fishing waders are a sensitive part and especially exposed to abrasion. So when you take off your wading boots make sure you have a rubber mat or something similar to step on. This will prevent your neoprene socks from abrasion and will make them last longer.

6. Use a wader bag: if you want to make your waders last longer use a wader bag to transport them. Here is a selection of options for you:

Best Waders for Fly Fishing

We want to make sure you buy the best fly fishing waders your budget can afford. That’s why we broke down our waders’ review into three categories for men’s’ stockingfoot chest waders (the gold standard in fly fishing waders): premium waders, mid-range waders and affordable waders.

Best Entry Level Waders for Fly Fishing: under $250

Frogg Toggs Hellbender Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Wader

The Frogg Toggs Hellbender Breathable waders are a solid choice if you’re new to fly fishing and are not sure how much you are going to practice it.

The Frogg Toggs Hellbender Breathable are chest waders giving you a lot of flexibility when wading deep. They are made of a solid 4-layer nylon material and feature double-reinforced knees. A nice feature, since the knee region is often affected by increased abrasion.

A zippered chest pocket for your essential gear like fly boxes, tippets and a knife and hand-warmer pockets are great features in the Frogg Toggs Hellbender Breathable. Comes with a wading belt and adjustable shoulder straps.

GET THEM HERE

Redington Palix River Fly Fishing Waders

The Redington Escape Fly Fishing Waders are another great entry level option at around $200. Made from a 3-layer waterproof DWR coated fabric in the upper part and a 4 layer in the legs, they are a good choice if you are looking for breathable waders.

Like we mentioned in other gear reviews, it’s always a good idea to get an entry level product from a brand that also makes high-end products. You can be sure that their know-how trickles down into these products. The Redington Escape Fly Fishing Waders is no exception to this rule.

The Redington Escape Fly Fishing Waders can easily be turned into a pair of waist high waders, a handy feature when it’s hot. The large chest pocket and a flip out pocket on the inside give you ample room for storage. Hand warmer pockets keep your fingers warm no matter the conditions. Integrated tool docks and a D-ring in the back allow for the attachment of extra gear like a landing net. Great value for the money!

GET THEM HERE

Best Mid-Range Waders $250 – $400

Simms Mens Freestone Waterproof Stockingfoot Chest

The Simms Mens Freestone chest waders are one of our mid-range favorites and a really great pair of overall waders. For the Simms Freestone, the same thing holds true that we said about the Redington.

Simms Waders are definitely some of the best on the market. The Simms Mens Freestone is a great entry into the world of Simms and a pair of waders you can use hard and over several years. So even though you have to invest $299 in the beginning, it could pay off even economically if you can use the waders for longer.

The Simms Mens Freestone, made from Simms Toray Quadralam fabric, have all the features of a great pair of waders. Nylon waist belt, large chest pocket, very comfortable and adjustable shoulder straps and reach-through handwarmer pockets. Come with the great Simms warranty.

GET THEM HERE

Orvis Men’s Ultralight Convertible Wader

At the same price as the Simms Freestone, the Orvis Men’s Ultralight Convertible Wader are another great mid-range pair of waders. Their biggest asset is the fact that they can easily be turned into hip waders.

Made from a 4-layer waterproof and breathable nylon shell, the Orvis Men’s Ultralight Convertible Wader also feature a chest pocket which is a little smaller than the Simms one though.

The Orvis Men’s Ultralight Convertible Wader is a very light pair of waders and great for travelling. If you plan on fishing a lot in cold temperatures the Simms Freestone is the better choice since the Orvis does not feature handwarmer pockets.

GET THEM HERE

Best High-End Waders: over $400

Orvis Men’s Pro Wader

The Orvis Men’s Pro Wader are meant for heavy use over years. For extra abrasion-resistance the lower part of these waders from the thigh downwards is made of extra-durable 5-layer cordura shell.

The Orvis Men’s Pro Wader also feature removable knee pads when you want more freedom of movement around your legs. A number of zippered pockets, flap-out pocket, hand warmer pockets make sure you can store your gear and keep your hands warm in any conditions.

Elastic suspenders on the Orvis Men’s Pro Wader allow for easy conversion into a waist high pair of waders. Comes with the great Orvis warranty.

GET THEM HERE

Simms G4 Pro Wader

If money is not an issue, get the Simms G4 Pro Wader. Those are the toughest, most durable waders we’ve ever experienced. They feel a bit like elephant skin. That tells you how sturdy they are.

The Simms G4 Pro Wader are made from 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro Shell upper/4-layer GORE-TEX Pro Shell lower. They also feature compression-molded stockingfeet for extra comfort all day long.

The Simms G4 Pro Wader have a fantastic suspender system and come with a waist belt that is safely held in place by multiple belt loops. The micro-fleece lined, reach-through handwarmer pockets come in handy on cold days. The Simms G4 are also available with a front zipper for extra comfort: the Simms G4Z Pro Wader. No matter which version you get, the Simms G4 will serve you well for years.

GET THEM HERE

Best Hip Waders / Wading Pants

Chest high waders give you the utmost in flexibility. Yet, if you know you are only going to fish in warmer temperatures and won’t have to wade deep, a pair of hip waders often also called wading pants can be a good alternative.

Since they cover less of your body, you will profit from an increased level of breathability. A downside of hip waders is the fact that you have less pockets to store your essentials. If you decide to use wading pants a sling pack or backpack can be a good add-on to your fly fishing gear.

In case you are looking for a pair of hip waders, here are our top 3:

Redington Palix River...
Editor's Pick
Simms Freestone...
Frogg Toggs Hellbender...
Redington Palix River...
Simms Freestone...
Frogg Toggs Hellbender...
Price not available
Price not available
$102.14
Redington Palix River...
Redington Palix River...
Price not available
Editor's Pick
Simms Freestone...
Simms Freestone...
Price not available
Frogg Toggs Hellbender...
Frogg Toggs Hellbender...
$102.14

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Waders for Women

All the big manufacturers now make waders especially tailored for women. We have taken a deeper look at the best women’s waders out there in our “Guide to the Best Women’s Waders“. Make sure to check that out if you want to dive deeper into that topic. Here we’ll give you a quick look at our top 3:

Simms Freestone Z Women's...
Editor's Choice
Redington Women's...
Orvis Women's Pro...
Simms Freestone Z Women's...
Redington Women's...
Orvis Women's Pro...
$399.95
$299.99
$549.00
Simms Freestone Z Women's...
Simms Freestone Z Women's...
$399.95
Editor's Choice
Redington Women's...
Redington Women's...
$299.99
Orvis Women's Pro...
Orvis Women's Pro...
$549.00

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Waders for Kids / Youth Waders

If you are really into fly fishing, chances are you want to take your kids along to the river one day. Depending on their age they can of course start fishing themselves. In that case a quality pair of waders is essential. Like with all children clothes, the lifespan is usually short because the kids grow so fast.

Nevertheless you should invest in a quality product. Often these waders can be passed on to siblings or cousins. Here are our top 3 kids/youth waders:

Frogg Toggs 2731126-SM...
Clearwater Kids...
Editor's Choice
Redington Crosswater...
Frogg Toggs 2731126-SM...
Clearwater Kids...
Redington Crosswater...
$99.95
$179.00
$88.40
Frogg Toggs 2731126-SM...
Frogg Toggs 2731126-SM...
$99.95
Clearwater Kids...
Clearwater Kids...
$179.00
Editor's Choice
Redington Crosswater...
Redington Crosswater...
$88.40

Last update on 2021-06-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Conclusion on the Best Waders for Fly Fishing

As you can see from our review the options for a pair of waders are basically endless. There are so many factors that influence your decision. The most important ones are: how much am I going to use the waders, how tough do they have to be? To I prefer chest waders for the utmost in flexibility when wading deep or are wading pants enough? Do I take them on trips a lot, hence they should be light.

No matter what option you go for in the end, we hope this guide has helped you make a choice and get a better idea of the options out there. If you want to learn more about other wading gear make sure to read our other guides.

Notice: We take part in the Amazon Associates Program and earn a small commission at no extra cost for you if you end up making a purchase. We only recommend products we are convinced of and use ourselves.

Read more of our Gear Guides here:

Ultimate Guide: Best Wading Jackets

Buyer’s Guide Best Wading Boots

Top 6 Fly Rod Combos

Top 6 Best Fly Fishing Nets

A Guide to the Best Fly Fishing Starter Kits

Guide to the Best Fly Reels for Saltwater

Guide to the Best Fly Rod under 200