There are not many things we are picky about. Our standards for comfort aren’t very high. But when it comes to the waders we live in and work in during the summer season, we choose wisely.
A good pair of waders can mean the difference between comfort and misery.
There are few things that will put you in a bad mood faster than pulling on waders that are soaked through on a rainy morning.
There are two main categories of waders, Simms and Patagonia versus everything else. Both the Simms and Patagonia Waders are considered professional-grade fly fishing waders.
Although they are both their respective manufacturer’s top-of-the-line waders, they both come in a very different price point:
They are durable, have a lot of features, and have good warranties if something goes wrong.
Ultimately, if you put any wader through the wringer of intense guide work and long days, they will all leak eventually.
Our goal is to make it through a full season on just one pair of waders. Both Simms and Patagonia have accomplished this feat.
Simms Waders Review
Once you get past the price tag, there are a lot of pros to Simms waders. The five layers of Gore-Tex really come in handy.
The multiple layers of Simms take a lot of abuse, and we have had several pairs last multiple Alaska seasons.
The zipper is a bomber, and there are a lot of pockets on the chest for stashing everything you will need throughout the day.
An item that has undergone radical development and transformation over the last few years is the wader. Waders were OK in the 90s.
Fit and finish were starting to be addressed by some manufacturers. By 2000 – 2005, reduced weight and functionality were part of the game if you wanted to be taken seriously as a maker of waders.
Over the last 5 – 8 years, leaps have been made in durability, usability, and – to a certain extent – breathability.
The best examples will set you back several hundreds of dollars, with some models approaching the thousand-dollar territory.
The Simms wader is what I consider to be the most feature-rich. As you’d expect, all the bells and whistles are there, and they combine to make up a supremely comfortable, flexible, and durable wader.
When you put them on, you’ll note that the Simms wader is designed, cut, and built to provide a near pant-like fit. It’s this next-level tailoring that results in superior fit, and superior fit equals superior comfort.
Simms maintains that their rugged 5-layer GORE-TEXPro Shell technology enhances internal A/C capabilities by upping breathability considerably.
Breathability is an important factor even on a short stint on the water but becomes crucial when you’ll be spending the better part of a day in them.
Also, the Pro Shell technology means that the waders slide very easily over other layers – a nice touch.
Those bells and whistles, large zippered chest pockets plus a flip-out tippet tender to keep all your river main stays in order — comfortable lined hand warmer pockets with room for heater packs for quick/easy hand warm-up; and a built-in retractor and fly patch.
Cons of Simms Waders
i). Breathability: The material these waders are made with is not the most breathable that Simms offers.
Though they are not uncomfortable to wear, on a very warm day when out on the water for hours at a time, there’s a good chance that you will end up a little sweaty.
Simms does offer waders made with GORE-TEX, a similar material to Toray waders, but with a little more breathability.
ii). Handwarmer Leak: A product defect that one user identified has to do with the reach-through handwarmer.
If water gets into the handwarmer area, it will leak into the front pocket of the waders, which can be uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Patagonia Waders Review
This wader is the result of Patagonia’s obsessive drive to reduce construction panels to the bare essentials while keeping fit and performance at the top of the agenda.
An improved upper-body fit, articulated legs, streamlined gravel guards, and anatomical booties take this wader to a new level of comfort, performance, and durability for the most dedicated anglers.
Quite a bit for a wader to live up to, but after extensive testing, you’ll note that it’s all in the details and that these materials, fabrication processes, and technologies together make up one of the most highly tweaked waders in the industry.
They are very light, and probably the most stow-able multi-layer waders available.
Patagonia’s tightly controlled factory processes ensure that varying weights of waterproof/breathable microfiber are strategically placed according to specific breathability and toughness needs.
The result is durability and flexibility without resorting to excessive, heavy layers.
Single Seam Construction also factors in the overall weight reduction, but Patagonia didn’t stop there: there are no interior or exterior leg seams – only one up the back of the leg – and it is strategically positioned out of the wear zone.
Additional features include anatomically curved knees (with removable knee pads), merino wool-lined 3mm neoprene booties, and an innovative internal suspension system that allows easy conversion to waist height and quick relief without having to remove your jacket or fight sticky zippers.
There is ample storage for tippets, and nippers, as well as an interior, welded pocket to provide waterproof security for cell phones, cameras, and keys.
The 3mm neoprene booties are lined with a merino wool grid, providing the same warmth and better breathability as standard 5mm neoprene.
You can spend 8, 10, or even 14 hours on the water. On days like that, the quality of your waders will be a central factor in how enjoyable that day is.
Pros of Patagonia Waders
For a few hundred fewer bones than the G4Z’s, you can get yourself into the Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Wader from Patagonia. This is a proven wader that has passed the full-season field test several times.
The 4-layer H2No breathable fabric stands up to hopping in and out of rafts, breaking up logjams, and short wind-sprints.
The removable foam kneepads are a lifesaver when hammering on tent stakes or releasing fish.
Both internal and external pockets provide enough room for gear with hand warmer pockets for chilly days.
The flip-out waterproof internal pocket is a nice feature for keeping licenses dry or shielding a cell phone from the elements (if you happen to have a reasonable-sized phone).
Cons of Patagonia Waders
If you have Patagonia waders then you have a convertible suspension system that allows you to drop your waders down to waist height.
On the (RG) zip fronts, the zipper is thick and keeps the waders from rolling down easily (and staying down) around your waist.
We routinely carry pliers, a knife, and bear spray on our wading belts. The new Rio Zips only have one belt loop in the back, which means you need to clip your wading belt together when unclipping your belt or your gear will end up scattered on the ground.
The many layered designs mean more “stiffness” and less comfort and flexibility. There are fewer seams, so less likely to fail, but it makes doing a cartwheel a little tougher.
And jumping in and out of boats isn’t exactly a picnic, at least until the waders are worn in.
Buying one size up in these bad boys goes a long way towards crouching over to grab that fly box you dropped.
Again, the price of these things can be hard to swallow, but with good care, they will last many seasons.
There are some choices to make when considering your next pair of waders.
But for your Alaska float or if you plan on heavy use on your home river, it is worth it to invest in a pair of high-quality waders that will last you for years to come.
Whether you choose the Simms or the Patagonia Waders, you can rest assured that they are durable, reliable, and comfortable.