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Best fly-fishing waders

Don't let leaky equipment put a damper on your trip.

Fishing waders have come a long way since the rubberized chest and hip waders of the past. Although you can still find those products in some discount stores, a good pair of neoprene or breathable waders can be worth its weight in gold if you spend ample time in the stream.

Compare some of the best fishing waders

NameAverage priceMaterialTypeWaist- or chest-high?Purchase
Simms G3 Guide$550Breathable Gore-TexStockingfootConvertibleShop at Backcountry
Patagonia Gunnison Gorge wading pants $299BreathableStockingfootWaistShop at Patagonia
Orvis Encounter $279Breathable layered nylonBootfootConvertibleShop at Orvis
L.L. Bean Kennebec with Super Seam$269Breathable, stitchless fabricStockingfootChestShop at L.L Bean
Simms Tributary$180BreathableStockingfootChestShop at Amazon
L.L. Bean Emerger $159Breathable with polyester shellStockingfootWaistShop at L.L Bean
Cabela’s Premium stockingfoot waders$130Breathable with nylon shellStockingfootConvertibleShop at Cabela's
Data obtained September 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

Types of waders

Neoprene vs. breathable material

Neoprene and breathable waders are the two main types of waders on the market today. Neoprene’s waterproof and heat-insulating qualities make it suitable for fishing in extremely cold water. But for any water conditions above 40 ºF, breathable waders are generally more suitable.

As good as neoprene is in the cold, it’s that bad in moderate and warmer weather. Body sweat has nowhere to go, thanks to the airtight neoprene walls, so it stays stuck to your skin — from your chest down to your toes!

But breathable waders, made of lightweight fabric layers, are designed to keep water from permeating the outer layer. They also allow sweat to exit the interior fabric. Many fishermen choose to add fleece socks, pants and a shirt under breathable waders to make them more suitable for colder conditions.

TypeBest forProsCons
NeopreneFishing in extremely cold conditions
  • Completely airtight
  • Ideal for fishing in very cold water
  • Can be uncomfortable in mild or hot weather
BreathableFishing in warmer conditions
  • Can be more comfortable than neoprene
  • Ideal for fishing in warm conditions
  • Not designed for cold conditions without added clothing underneath

Stockingfoot vs. bootfoot design

Both neoprene and breathable waders come in two designs: stockingfoot and bootfoot.

Stockingfoot waders come with neoprene booties attached and require separate wading boots on top. Bootfoot waders come with the boot firmly attached as part of the unit, so you won’t need separate wading boots.

TypeBest forProsCons
StockingfootStream fishing
  • Can be more comfortable than bootfoot waders
  • Can customize with your preference of wading boots
  • Sand and other debris may enter your boots, especially when surf fishing
BootfootSurf fishing
  • Ideal for fishing in the ocean
  • You don’t need to buy separate wading boots
  • Not as comfortable or customizable as stockingfoot waders

Hip vs. chest waders

Fishing waders generally stop at the waist and resemble a pair of pants, or cover the chest like overalls. Knee waders are also available, but these are less common.

Waist-length breathable waders are held up by an extra-sturdy wading belt, while chest waders stay on thanks to built-in shoulder straps. Some brands like Orvis now make convertible chest waders that allow you to lower the chest portion if you get too hot. The excess chest material either folds down and is tucked inside of your wading belt or simply hangs at your waist.

TypeBest forProsCons
Waist-lengthFishing in warm, shallow conditions
  • More comfortable than chest-length waders in warm weather
  • Not ideal for wading in deep water
Chest-lengthFishing in deeper water and float tube fishing
  • Keeps water out when wading in deep water
  • Can be uncomfortable in hot weather

How to compare fishing waders

Consider the following when comparing waders to find the best fit for your fishing style:

  • Price. Fishing waders can range in price from $50 to over $500. Find a comfortable style within budget that’ll stand up to the conditions and how frequently you fish.
  • Material. Neoprene and breathable waders each have their pros and cons. Use the information above to help you decide which is right for you — or if your budget allows, grab one of each for hot and cold weather.
  • Stockingfoot vs. bootfoot. Many anglers find that stockingfoot waders are more comfortable than bootfoot waders. But bootfoot waders can be more economical, since you don’t have to buy wading boots as well.
  • Seam quality. If opting for breathable waders, pay attention to the seam quality. Double-stitched waders are less likely to leak. Some models even have taped stitching, and some brands make seamless options as well.
  • Durability. Make sure your new waders will last by looking for a durable yet comfortable pair. Many breathable waders have reinforced legs or knees to make the fabric sturdier and less likely to rip.
  • Comfort. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be uncomfortable while you’re out on the water for hours on end. Find a mix of comfort, durability and affordability. There’s currently a trend toward more comfortable lightweight waders, but keep in mind you may sacrifice some reinforcement for comfort.

What wading accessories do I need?

Before heading out in your new waders, make sure you have the necessary accessories for successful fishing.

  • Wading belt. A wading belt not only keeps your waders snug, but it can also act as a safety device if you fall into the water. Because it keeps air from escaping out the top of your waders, they’ll retain buoyancy underwater, helping you stay afloat.
  • Wading socks. Your feet will thank you for stocking up on plenty of warm, breathable socks for wading in cool water for hours. Choose socks specifically designed for use in waders to help prevent bunching and blisters.
  • Wading staff. Carrying a wading staff can help you navigate rocky or steep terrain — and keep your balance in deep or fast-moving currents.
  • Wader repair kit. Most wader manufacturers sell their own repair kits that you can toss in your fishing vest in the event of a snag or tear while fishing.
  • Wading boots. If you chose stockingfoot waders, you’ll need a good pair of wading boots to complete the ensemble.

Bottom line

The right pair of waders keeps you cool, comfortable and dry while you fish — whether for an afternoon or a weeklong trip. Choose a pair that fits within your budget, design preferences and fly fishing style to find the perfect match.

Ready to buy? Compare top fishing waders

Need a pair of wading boots to go with your new waders? Check out our list of the top wading boots for fly fishing before you buy.

How did we choose these products?

We considered the price, material, design, durability and overall features of some of the most popular waders currently available when choosing our picks for the best waders. We also factored in third-party reviews and our own personal experiences with these products.

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