Best Fly Fishing Waders

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

45 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
127 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best fly fishing waders

Last Updated August 2019

If you’ve seen A River Runs Through It, you’ve seen fly fishing at its most picturesque — a nearly invisible filament arcing over a river of molten gold. Montana trout the size of king salmon leaping on the line. And Brad Pitt. Alas, fly fishing isn’t always so idyllic. There are riverbanks tangled with thorns, rocky streambeds with treacherous footing, and icy currents that can knock you off your feet. All of these are good reasons to wear a durable pair of fly fishing waders.

While you can do other types of fishing from a dock or boat, to fly fish you often need to be right out there in the water, and that means you’re going to get awfully cold and wet if you don’t wear waders. The depth of the water and the season you fish in, as well as the surrounding terrain, are all things to be considered when determining the right waders for you.

We’ve looked at the available fly fishing waders and created this guide to help you find a pair with the features you need. Our recommendations include different types in a range of prices, too.

In about 200 BCE, Roman author Claudius Aelianus described fishermen casting a hook wrapped with wool and feathers to resemble a small fly in his book On the Nature of Animals.

Key considerations

Type

There are three types of fly fishing waders: hip waders, waist waders (also known as wading pants), and chest waders. There are various iterations of each type, but all of them share some basic characteristics.

  • Hip waders: These are two individual garments that you pull over your pant legs and clip to your belt. Some hip waders are essentially rubber boots that extend from toes to crotch. Lined with wool, this type is rugged and warm but probably overkill for most fly fishing situations. Hip waders that are more suitable for fly fishing are light and flexible and easy to pack, carry, put on, and take off. When wearing hip waders, you’re limited to shallow water, probably no deeper than your knees. Hip waders are also useful for people who work outdoors in wet and muddy conditions or who like to go tide pooling or clamming.

  • Waist waders: These are loose-fitting waterproof pants with an elastic waist that feel more like wearing sweatpants than fitted trousers. You can wear them with a belt or suspenders. These waders provide more coverage than hip waders and can be worn in water that’s a little deeper — about mid-thigh. Many waist waders are lightweight and so are more suitable for fishing in warmer weather. Not all wading pants have pockets, and some users miss having the convenience of the chest pocket you find on chest waders.

  • Chest waders: These waders resemble overalls and provide the most coverage, enabling you to go into water of varying depths from ankle to waist. Chest waders run the gamut from thin and lightweight to thick and insulated. They fit loosely so you can wear additional layers underneath in cold weather. The number and arrangement of pockets and compartments vary from model to model. Chest waders have shoulder straps, and some come with a waist belt to keep the waders tight to your body in case you fall in the water. Some also zip up the front, which allows bathroom-break convenience for men fishing far out in the backcountry where there are no bathrooms, but a zipper offers yet one more area where water can potentially leak in.

Size

The fit is important, particularly with chest waders. You don’t want to be tripped up by oversize waders or restricted in your movements by undersize ones. And bear in mind that not all manufacturers make waders specifically sized for women.

You’ll have the fewest size choices with hip waders and wading pants because the fit is less important. Chest wader sizes vary by manufacturer. Some come in standard garment sizes, such as 7 to king 13, while others range from small to XX large. For the most accurate fit, note your chest, waist, hip, inseam, and height measurements, as well as shoe size (for waders with attached boots).

Read online reviews to find out more about how the waders really fit. Some might be too tight through the crotch or too long in the leg. Questions and comments about sizing (good and bad) make up the bulk of the commentary.

Bootfoot vs. stockingfoot

Each type of wader (hip, waist, chest) may have either attached boots or neoprene socks.

  • Bootfoot: The attached rubber boots vary in height (mid-shin to knee) and flexibility. They can have any of the four types of sole you’ll find on wading boots you buy separately: felt, studded felt, rubber, or hiking. You can wear thin or thick socks with these boots, depending on the temperature of the water, but you can’t customize the fit the way you can with lace-up wading boots. Some boots may have a rigid toe cap and some arch support. Neoprene waders intended for use in cold weather have boots lined with an insulating material such as Thinsulate. If you opt for waders with boots, be careful with the sizing. If you have to wear very thick socks or your feet are very wide, you might have to order a larger size.

  • Stockingfoot: These waders have attached neoprene socks or booties that fit inside wading boots, which you’ll need to buy separately. Bootstrap clips on the pant cuffs attach the pants to the wading boots.
DID YOU KNOW?

You don’t have to go fly fishing to wear waders. Biologists, ecologists, other people who do field work in rivers, streams, or wetlands, even clammers and farmers — anyone who has to be out in wet or muddy conditions — will be grateful for dry, warm feet and legs and lots of easily accessible pockets.

Fly fishing wader features

Durability

The whole point of wearing waders is to keep you dry as well as warm in winter. If they can’t do that, you’re wasting your money. The construction and durability of the waders is of the utmost importance to your comfort, and it’s worth taking the time to find a well-made pair.

  • Layers: You can’t always walk into the stream right from the car. Many times, a fly fishing trip involves some hiking and even bushwhacking, and you don’t want to be wearing waders that rip with the first thorn you encounter (and there will be thorns). For that kind of terrain, look for waders with puncture-resistant multiple layers to protect you from thick brush, as well as reinforced knees and seat.

  • Seams: Unless you fall in the river (in which case the water will come in over the top of your waders), the seams are where water is most likely to enter your waders. Look for seams that are stitched, glued, and taped. Some wader legs are “single seam,” with no seam inside the leg. This minimizes chafing points and the risk of leaks. Some people take the precaution of adding a waterproof adhesive and sealant to all the seams before using their waders, just in case.

Material

Fly fishing waders, whether hip, waist, or chest, are made of several materials, including nylon, PVC, polyester, neoprene, rubber, canvas, and patented fabrics that are both breathable and waterproof, such as Thinsulate and Gore-Tex.

  • Nylon and nylon-reinforced PVC: You’ll find all three types of waders made of nylon. It’s inexpensive and lightweight, although it isn’t as breathable as some other options, and in hot weather it traps sweat inside. These waders aren’t as durable as others, such as those made of neoprene, and some fabrics don’t have much give. If you choose waders made of a fabric that doesn’t stretch, opt for a slightly larger size. The less-expensive versions of these waders might not last many seasons, but they are good waders for beginners.

    For fishing in warm weather, you can find nylon waders with a breathable membrane that allows water vapor (perspiration) to get out but keeps water from getting in. You can wear shorts and a T-shirt and your waders and be perfectly comfortable. In cooler temps, you can add an insulating layer for all-season versatility.

  • Polyester: There are insulated, breathable waders made of multilayer polyester microfiber that include a layer of Thinsulate or similar insulating material.

  • Neoprene: Most insulated non-breathable waders are made of stretchy, warm neoprene that ranges in thickness from three to seven millimeters. It’s durable and waterproof (it’s the same material wetsuits are made of) and ideal for fly fishing in very cold weather or water. The downside is the material isn’t breathable, and if it’s thick enough it can be buoyant, which could be dangerous if you’re standing in a deep stream with a fast current, but it’s a plus if you’re fishing from a float tube. Stockingfoot hip, waist, and chest waders have attached booties made of neoprene.

  • Rubber: Some hip waders are made entirely of rubber, which is waterproof and inexpensive but much bulkier and heavier than other materials. The bootfoot type of hip, waist, or chest wader has rubber galoshes attached.

  • Canvas: You will find some hip waders made of multi-ply canvas and PVC that can be worn for hunting as well as fly fishing.

Gravel guards

Many waders have built-in gravel guards, or gaiters, which are cuffs on stockingfoot waders that cover the top of your boots to keep out dirt and rocks. Some people claim that wearing a pair of boot socks over the neoprene booties works just as well.

Pockets

Pockets on your waders are a plus, especially if you don’t wear a fly fishing vest. You’ll appreciate the convenience of waterproof pouches for gear, and you’ll be grateful you have fleece-lined handwarmer pockets after dipping your hands in icy water all afternoon. The pockets might close with hook-and-loop fasteners (not waterproof) or water-resistant zippers. Some chest waders also come with a waterproof phone case.

Belt and suspenders

  • Belt: A wading belt, which may or may not be included with chest waders, fits over the garment and helps to prevent flooding the waders if you fall in the water. Some chest waders have belt loops, but not all of them do.

  • Suspenders: You’ll find these adjustable straps on chest waders and sometimes on waist waders. Stretchy elastic or neoprene straps are more comfortable and give you more mobility than inflexible ones. Quick-release buckles are a plus.

Fly fishing wading boots come with four different types of soles. Felt is good for walking on slick rocks. Studded felt gives even better traction on slippery rocks. Rubber is good for hiking in mud. Hiking soles are great if you have to walk long distances.

Staff
BestReviews

Fly fishing wader prices

You’ll find all types of waders (hip, waist, chest) at a wide range of price points. The difference lies mainly in the thickness and quality of the fabric — such as lightweight two-ply construction versus three- or four-ply material with insulation.

Inexpensive: For $14 to $60, you can find a variety of hip and chest waders and a few waist waders. These will be lighter, two-ply construction, and the seams may be taped (as opposed to sewn, glued, and taped). The chest waders may have fewer pockets, no included belt, and fewer size choices, as well.

Mid-range: In the $60 to $160 range, you’ll find a wide variety of each type of wader. Once you decide on the style (hip, waist, chest), there isn’t a lot to distinguish one pair from another other than durability and insulation. Here, the customer reviews are most helpful. If one customer gets a bad product that leaks, several others will rave about the same product’s fantastic waterproofing and sturdy construction. Pay attention to the responsiveness of customer service, too.

Expensive: Spend $160 to $550 and you’re paying for three- or four-layer Gore-Tex for superior waterproofing, antimicrobial neoprene booties, multiple waterproof pockets, handwarmer pockets, gravel guards, both suspenders and belt; and a fly patch (for attaching your flies so they can dry out).

Wading boots: If you opt for stockingfoot waders, you’ll need to buy wading boots separately, which can range in price from $46 to more than $250.

EXPERT TIP

In warm weather, you might be able to dispense with boots altogether. Fishing or wading sandals look like hiking shoes with sections of the upper missing. They protect your toes, and the thick, sturdy tread prevents slipping.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Don’t toss damaged waders. If you accidentally puncture your waders on a thorn, you might be able to repair them. Some manufacturers sell waterproof patch kits that include adhesive and fabric to match your waders.

  • Try on your waders with your boots when you first receive them. You don’t want to be in the wilds of Alaska when you find out the booties are too big or jam up against your toes, causing discomfort and perhaps blisters. Also put on the bulkiest clothes you plan to wear under the waders and bend and move around to check for mobility and comfort.

  • Be careful when wading. Rivers and streams have fast-flowing currents and rocky, uneven beds. Be aware of your surroundings and the water conditions. Feel the bottom with a wading staff before moving, walk slowly and carefully, and wear a personal flotation device if necessary. Don’t continue if your waders get full of water. Don’t panic if you fall — work with the current as you make your way to the riverbank. Finally, don’t wade alone.

  • Clean your waders after each use. Rinse them with fresh water and hang them up out of the sun to air-dry completely before storing. Some stockingfoot waders can be machine washed, but check the manufacturer’s guidelines before tossing them in the washer.

  • Beef up the waterproofing. If you’re worried about leaks, add a waterproof adhesive and sealant to all the seams on your new waders before wearing them for the first time.

Other products we considered

Our top picks represent a good selection of chest waders, but we wanted to give you a few more options. The Redington Palix River Pants come in four sizes and feature three layers of waterproof, breathable polyester, neoprene booties, integrated gravel guards, and a belt. The affordable Fishingsir Hip Waders, with several sizes for men and women, are made of waterproof two-ply nylon and knee-high rubber boots with deep treads that are easy to clean. These aren’t the most rugged waders out there, but at this low price they’re great for the occasional angler who fishes in mild weather. If you want to spend a bit more, the rugged, adjustable Frogg Toggs Bull Frogg Hip Waders are constructed of three-ply PVC canvas and vulcanized rubber. The rubber boots have a steel shank and hard toe cap and heel and are cushioned with foam. They come with outsoles of either cleats or felt, making these waders a good choice for hunters as well as anglers.

One of the most popular flies ever invented is the Adams, named after Charles F. Adams in 1922. By varying the size, color, and materials, the fly can represent many different insects.

FAQ

Q. How do I determine the right size chest waders for me?

A. You need to know your height, weight, and shoe size (for bootfoot waders). Also factor in the clothing you intend to wear under the waders, whether that’s a T-shirt and shorts or a thick sweater and long underwear. In stocking feet, measure your inseam from floor to crotch. Then

measure around the biggest part of your body (chest, waist, or hips) for the maximum girth. Compare your measurements to the sizing chart for that particular brand of waders.

Q. How do I know if I want felt or rubber outsoles on my boots?

A. There was a time when felt was the most popular material for boot soles. They aren’t ideal for hiking long distances or walking in muddy streambeds, but they offer great traction on slippery river rocks. But it’s now known that the felt can harbor invasive species, such as algae or parasites, that can then be transferred to the next river you fish in, with potentially devastating effects on stream ecosystems. Some states ban felt outsoles, so check the regulations in the states you’ll be visiting.

Rubber boots aren’t great on slippery rocks, but boots with deep treads are better for muddy conditions, and some are comfortable enough for hiking to more distant fishing spots. They’re very easy to keep clean and much less likely to spread invasive critters. Note that you can change the outsole on some boot brands, using rubber or felt depending on the conditions.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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