Waders are an important piece of equipment for fly fishing and pretty much any activity that involves hanging out in cold water for any length of time. Waders started out pretty simple, but in the past couple of decades the selection has expanded tremendously. Now the sportsman must not only decide whether to buy waders, but also what height and style and material and brand to buy. There huge selection ensures that there is a wader option for pretty much everyone out there, but navigating the wader aisle can be a nightmare. Here are some of the basics to help you decide what is best for your needs.
There are two different types of waders: hip waders and chest waders. Both of these things are wonderful inventions that allow you to venture into the water without getting cold and wet. Hip waders are boots that go all the way up to the tops of your thighs and allow you to wade almost crotch-deep into the river. Some also convert into knee-high boots. The big downside to these things is the big, cold surprise you get when you step in just a little too deep. If you go with hip waders, try to stick to water that isn’t any deeper than your knees. Try to overestimate; you’ll be happier looking a little silly in chest waders than you will be going home early because you tipped your hip waders.
Chest waders are a whole world unto themselves. These are basically a waterproof cross between overalls and footy pajamas. Chest waders will keep you dry up to your armpits, and you can wear a belt around your waist so that your lower regions stay dry even if you do tip them. There are two types of chest waders, bootfoot and stockingfoot. Bootfoot waders have build in rubber boots at the bottom of them. They are simple and easy to get into, but can be clunky if you plan on doing a lot of moving and climbing. Stockingfoot waders have waterproof socks on the bottom to keep your feet dry and the water out, then you have to wear a special pair of fishing boots over them. Buying separate boots can be a positive or a negative, depending on what you plan to do in your waders.
Always ever more complicated, once you settle on a style of chest waders, you’ll want to choose a material. This is a big consideration, as different materials work best in different environments. The cheapest waders out there are made of rubber or another non-breathable material. These are not very warm and not very breathable, but you can wade in them. You can wear long underwear underneath rubber waders for extra warmth, but there’s not a great way to make them comfortable if you start getting hot and sticky. Neoprene waders are another choice for those who will be in cold water. Neoprene is durable and warm, but will keep you wet if you work up a sweat. Breathable waders are made of Gore-Tex or something like it, and are the most expensive kind out there. You can add layers under them in cold weather, or wear them in cold water when the air temperature is sweltering.