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Wader Buying Guide

Waders are a necessary piece of equipment when fly fishing, especially here in the west where many lakes and rivers stay very cold year-round. You won’t necessarily need them every day you fish, but if you fish or plan to fish outside of the summer months, you will want to invest in a good pair of waders. In the hot summer, you can “wet wade.” More on that topic later.

Most waders today are made from one of two main types of materials: coated-fabrics or membranes...

  • Coated-fabrics: These are created by treating fabric with a chemical coating which creates a waterproof/breathable layer. Examples of these would be trade name fabrics such as Toray, eVent, MemBrain, etc...
  • Membranes: These fabrics are themselves physically waterproof and breathable. The most notable and popular type of this fabric is Gore-Tex.

The biggest differences to note would be…

  • Coated-fabrics wear out faster. The chemical coating that creates the waterproof/breathable layer can be damaged and ruined by things like gasoline, sunscreen, body sweat and oils, etc. However, these fabrics are cheaper to produce than their membrane counterparts. So products made from these are typically cheaper.
  • Gore-Tex is an inert material, meaning the above mentioned chemicals will not break down or damage it. This means a longer lasting and more robust product, but a more expensive one. Gore-Tex fabrics even come in different flavors (such as 3-layer, 5-layer, Proshell, etc…) so Gore-Tex fabrics can differ in how light they are, how robust and puncture resistant they are, and how breathable they are – these difference effect costs)

When shopping for waders and deciding which type of material you want, take into account: how often you fish, how hard are you on your gear, your budget, are you exposed to a lot of the above mentioned chemicals that can affect coated fabrics?


Waist-high or chest-high?

Most anglers prefer a chest-high wader. This gives you the ability to be protected up to about the middle of your chest. While crossing a river at that depth is not recommended, this style will keep you dry if you need to do so. The higher chest is also helpful protection against splashes or in case you tumble and fall into the river. In the winter, it also adds an extra layer to trap your body heat.

Waist high waders, also called pant waders, are a good option if you are going to be doing very minimal wading in small streams. They’re also a good option if you mostly fish in the summer as the pants are a cooler option in the hot summer months.