The kind of waders you’ll want to buy depends on the water depth you intend to wade into. It’s also a good idea to add an extra 6 to 8 inches to that measurement, because "tipping" your waders is no fun and can ruin your day pretty quickly. There are three main categories available: hip waders, waist-high waders and chest waders.
Hip waders are intended for water no deeper than knee-level. These are designed in two separate pieces, one for each leg. Each side attaches to your belt with straps to prevent them from sliding down, similar to chaps. Hip waders have several advantages:
- The lightest option.
- Easiest to put on and take off.
- The most comfortable option in hot weather.
- Ideal for smaller streams and shallows.
- Easy to pack and great to have on hand for activities like launching and trailering boats, digging for clams, or hunting in boggy terrain.
Waist-high waders fall in between chest waders and hip waders. They have the same general style as a baggy pair of pants and are designed for water no deeper than mid-thigh. Like pants, these waders have belt loops to hold them up, but can also be worn with suspenders, if you prefer. Waist-high waders have a few advantages:
- More coverage than hip waders, but not as restrictive as chest waders.
- Upper body is left completely exposed for comfort and breathability in warmer weather.
The most versatile option, chest waders provide maximum coverage so you can venture into everything from ankle-deep streams to waist-deep river pools. Chest waders utilize suspenders to keep them securely positioned on your body, and are usually cut baggy for extra room (especially handy when you need to layer warm clothing underneath). The added coverage provided by chest waders can really be an asset when you run into unexpected problems like hidden holes and drop-offs, faster currents, rogue waves, stubborn fish landings or other situations where it becomes easy to tip your waders. There are several key advantages to owning chest waders:
- Versatility and height for the widest range of water depths.
- Your only wader option if you plan to use a float tube (belly boat) or pontoon boat, since you'll be so low in the water.
- Ideal for wading in rivers with stronger currents and deeper pools.
- Maximum protection from wind and rain in very wet weather.
Quick Tip: For safety, always wear a wading belt when using chest waders to prevent flooding them in an accidental dunking.
Wader construction is very important when your comfort level is concerned. For example, waders that are built for cold, winter conditions will be much too hot to use in the summer.
Most insulated waders for colder conditions are made of neoprene, the same material used to construct wetsuits. The neoprene in waders is very warm, waterproof, stretchy and durable, making it perfect for cold-water wading. Neoprene waders may come in various thicknesses, offering different degrees of warmth. Neoprene waders are generally less expensive than other waders. One drawback of neoprene waders is that they are not breathable. If you start working up a sweat, the moisture will be trapped inside. Thicker neoprene of 7mm or greater also makes you more buoyant, which can be awkward for walking through deeper, fast-flowing water. For these conditions, you may consider breathable waders insulated with Thinsulate or another synthetic fiber insulation, which won’t increase buoyancy.
Uninsulated, Breathable Waders
Uninsulated, breathable waders are much more lightweight than neoprene waders, and allow some body moisture to escape. These waders are generally constructed of nylon or polyester with a waterproof breathable Gore-Tex or similar membrane that blocks outside moisture and allows moisture from perspiration to escape. Breathable waders are ideal for warm and moderate weather. This style is also the most versatile for multiple-season use. In the summer, breathable waders can be worn with a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. In colder weather, you can wear them with a wicking base layer for more warmth. Since the material on breathable waders is less durable than neoprene, these often have reinforcements at high-stress areas, like the knees and seat.
Non-breathable, uninsulated waders are similar to breathable waders except they do not allow moisture to escape. These waders are generally very inexpensive and not ideal for hot weather.
Many waders have some rubber or PVC in their construction, which provides 100% waterproof protection and added durability. The boot components of most neoprene waders are essentially galoshes built with PVC or rubber. Some hip waders are still constructed entirely of rubber, although virtually all higher-coverage styles utilize other materials in addition to rubber.
Wader Features and Technology
- Wader Belts (included with some chest waders) prevent significant water entry if you take a momentary spill.
- Gravel Guards are like aquatic gaiters. They’re essentially sleeves on the cuffs of stockingfoot waders that prevent gravel and dirt from entering your wading boots.
- Welded Storage Pockets keep essential items close at hand and protected from water.
- Handwarmer Pockets are a life-saver on colder days or when you continually dip your hands in very cold water.
- Cordlocks on wader torsos allow you to snug the fit for better mobility.
- Reinforced Knees enhance durability.
A Note on Wader Seams
Stitched seams on good-quality waders are always sealed or welded to prevent water from leaking through the needle holes. Over time, these seals can break down, so you should inspect your waders before each use. Some leaky seams can be re-sealed using an aftermarket sealant designed for waterproof outerwear.
Waders with built-in boots are called bootfoot waders, or sometimes barefoot waders. If you choose this style, you won’t need to buy a separate pair of wading boots. However, you'll still want to wear a comfortable pair of socks. Bootfoot waders are quick to pull on and off. The main a drawback of most bootfoot waders is that there are no laces, which means you can't tighten or loosen them for a customized fit.
For optimal traction and stability, some fisherman prefer stockingfoot waders, which are designed to be worn with wading boots. Instead of built-in boots, stockingfoot waders have flexible neoprene booties. Although the wading boots will get wet when submerged, the seamless stocking and wader construction will protect the feet and legs from water. A key advantage of wearing this style is that the boots offer a better fit and more customization. However, you must purchase the wading boots separately.
There are four main types of wading soles: felt, rubber, hiking and studded felt. These soles appear on both bootfoot waders and the wading boots used with stockingfoot waders.
- Felt Soles: Excellent traction for crossing slick, rock-covered river bottoms. Not ideal for muddy bottoms or long shore walks.
- Rubber Soles: Great for wading in muddy marshland and easy to clean. Not ideal for slick, rocky river bottoms.
- Hiking Soles: Usually found on wading boots designed for stockingfoot waders. Very durable and ideal for anglers that walk long distances while fishing.
- Studded Felt Soles: Superior traction on very slippery river bottoms with algae-covered rocks and boulders. Less ideal for muddy terrain.
Quick Tip: Avoid using studded felt-sole waders if you’ll be using a boat. The carbide studs can scratch and damage the boat deck.
Men’s waders may be sized according to a variety of measurements, including waist or girth, inseam and shoe size. Women’s waders may be sized according to chest size, waist size, hip size, inseam and/or shoe size. Below are sizing charts for some of our most popular brands:
Patagonia Men's Wader Size Charts
SHORT X-Small Small Small-Medium Medium Medium Wader / Large Bootie Large Wader / Medium Bootie Large X-Large Wader / Medium Bootie X-Large XX-Large Girth* 34-35 36-38 - 39-41 - 42-45 - 46-48 46-48 - Inseam 30 30 - 30 - 30 - 30 30 - Shoe Size 7-8 7-8 - 9-11 - 9-11 - 9-11 12-13 - REGULAR X-Small Small Small-Medium Medium Medium Wader / Large Bootie Large Wader / Medium Bootie Large X-Large Wader / Medium Bootie X-Large XX-Large Girth* 34-35 36-38 36-38 39-41 39-41 42-45 42-45 46-48 46-48 - Inseam 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 - Shoe Size 7-8 7-8 9-11 9-11 12-13 9-11 12-13 9-11 12-13 - LONG X-Small Small Small-Medium Medium Medium Wader / Large Bootie Large Wader / Medium Bootie Large X-Large Wader / Medium Bootie X-Large XX-Large Girth* - - 36-38 39-41 39-41 42-45 42-45 46-48 46-48 - Inseam - - 34 34 34 34 34 34 34 - Shoe Size - - 9-11 9-11 12-13 9-11 12-13 9-11 12-13 - KING X-Small Small Small-Medium Medium Medium Wader / Large Bootie Large Wader / Medium Bootie Large X-Large Wader / Medium Bootie X-Large XX-Large Girth* - 40-42 - 43-45 - 46-48 46-48 49-51 49-51 52-54 Inseam - 31.5 - 32.5 - 34 34 35 35 35 Shoe Size - 7-8 - 9-11 - 9-11 12-13 9-11 12-13 12-13
Note: Measurements refer to body size, not garment dimensions, and are in inches, unless otherwise noted. Inseam measurements are from crotch to floor. The adjustable suspender and belt system can customize the fit +/- three inches in torso width and height. *Largest girth (chest, waist or hips)
Patagonia Women's Wader Size Charts
PETITE X-Small Small MS (6-7) Medium Large-Medium (8-9) Large X-Large Chest 32-33 34-35 36-37 36-37 38.5-40 38.5-40 42 Waist 25.5-26.5 27.5-28.5 29.5-30.5 29.5-30.5 32.5-33.5 32.5-33.5 35.5 Hip 34.5-35.5 36.5-37.5 38.5-39.5 38.5-39.5 41-42.5 41-42.5 45.5 Inseam 30 30 30 30 30 30 30 Shoe Size 6-7 6-7 6-7 8-9 8-9 9-10 9-10 Height up to 5'4" REGULAR X-Small Small MS (6-7) Medium Large-Medium (8-9) Large X-Large Chest 32-33 34-35 36-37 36-37 38.5-40 38.5-40 42 Waist 25.5-26.5 27.5-28.5 29.5-30.5 29.5-30.5 32.5-33.5 32.5-33.5 35.5 Hip 34.5-35.5 36.5-37.5 38.5-39.5 38.5-39.5 41-42.5 41-42.5 45.5 Inseam 32 32 32 32 32 32 32 Shoe Size 6-7 6-7 6-7 8-9 8-9 9-10 9-10 Height up to 5'9" FULL X-Small Small MS (6-7) Medium Large-Medium (8-9) Large X-Large Chest - - 38-39 38-39 - 40.5-42 44 Waist - - 32-33 32-33 - 34.5-36 38 Hip - - 40.5-41.5 40.5-41.5 - 43-44.5 46.5 Inseam - - 32 32 - 32 32 Shoe Size - - 6-7 8-9 - 9-10 9-10 Height up to 5'9"
Note: Measurements refer to body size, not garment dimensions, and are in inches, unless otherwise noted. Inseam measurements are from crotch to floor. The adjustable suspender and belt system can customize the fit +/- three inches in torso width and height.
Redington Men's Wader Size Chart
Size Chest Waist Inseam Shoe Size S 35-37" 28-30" 30-31" 7-8 M-Short 39-41" 32-34" 30-31" 8-10 M 39-41" 32-34" 30-32" 8-10 M-Long 39-41" 32-34" 32-34" 9-11 M-King 43-45" 35-38" 30-32" 8-10 L-Short 43-45" 35-38" 30-32" 9-11 L 43-45" 35-38" 32-34" 9-11 L-Long 43-45" 35-38" 34-36" 10-12 L-King 46-48" 38-41" 32-34" 9-11 XL-Short 47-49" 39-42" 30-32" 10-12 XL 47-49" 39-42" 32-34" 10-12 XXL 51-53" 43-46" 32-34" 12-13
Redington Women's Wader Size Chart: Willow Fit
Size Bust Seat/Hips Inseam Shoe Size S 35-36" 38-40" 29-30" 6-7 M 37-38" 40-42" 30-31" 7-8 M-Long 37-38" 40-42" 32-34" 9-10 M-Queen 39-41" 42-44" 30-31" 7-8W L 39-41" 42-44" 31-32" 8-9 L-Long 39-41" 42-44" 33-35" 10-11 L-Queen 42-45" 46-48" 31-32" 8-9W XL 42-45" 46-49" 32-33" 9-10
Redington Women's Wader Size Chart: Marilyn Fit
Size Bust Seat/Hips Inseam Shoe Size Size 6-8 39-40" 39-40" 29-30" 6-7 Size 8-10 40.5-41.5" 41.5-42.5" 30-31" 7-8 Size 8-10 (Tall) 40.5-41.5" 41.5-42.5 32-34" 8-9 Size 10-12 42-43" 42-43" 30-31" 7-8 Size 14-16 44-45" 44-45" 31-32" 8-9
- Always hang your waders out to dry thoroughly after each use.
- If you used your waders in salt water or brackish water, rinse them with fresh water before letting them dry. This will prevent salt deposits from forming.
- When storing waders, be sure they are totally dry before hanging them up in a cool, dark place with no direct sunlight.
- Don't leave your waders sitting in the sun for extended periods of time.