Are You Searching for the Best Waders for Fishing? Our Fishing Experts Compiled this List and Buying Guide to Get the Decision-Making Off Your Shoulders.
- Top 6 Chest Waders for Fishing
- Top 3 Best Hip Waders
- Fishing Waders Buyer’s Guide
- FAQs – All the Questions You Have About Fishing Waders
Only moments before he pushed the drift boat off the bar, our guide, Greg, told us he finally replaced his old hip boots with some new chest waders.
My fishing partner and I sat inside waiting for him to hop in and start showing us to the fish in one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier steelhead streams, the Hoh River.
Then, sooner than a fish can snap a leader, we suddenly heard “sh–––! Our guide had just torn his new waders at the crotch while trying to straddle the gunwale.
Fortunately, a wide variety of dependable yet affordable and waterproof waders dot the market, from the moderately priced to the pro-angler priced. If you fish waters requiring waders more than a dozen times a year, you might want to explore the waders in the upper mid-range and higher price bracket. If you are an occasional weekend fisher, waders hovering around a hundred bucks will likely suffice.
Whether hip waders meet your needs or chest waders are the ticket, you need to bone up on the best waders for your money, especially if you are a first-time buyer.
Check out our Buyer’s guide for more details on these features as well as the breathability of various waders. Meanwhile, reel in some shopper wisdom with this list of the top six stocking-foot chest waders on the market and the top three hip waders.
Top 6 Chest Waders for Fishing
Further, for anglers who refuse to leave the stream until dark sets in, no wader is comfy when the sun is blasting you with 80- or 90-degree Fahrenheit heat in midsummer. Stocking-foot waders allow you to shed the waders altogether and wade in shorts with sure-grip wading boots.
Editor’s Pick: Simms G4Z Stockingfoot Fishing Waders
Best for: The hardcore angler or guide; those who don’t want to replace their waders in four or five years.
- Great versatility for warm- or cold-weather fishing
- Durable, reinforced construction in areas most vulnerable to wear and tear
- Convenient dry pocket and retraction stations
- Convenient frontal zipper to answer nature’s call
- Plentiful pocket space
- Cost prohibitive for the less-serious angler
Above all the chest-wader choices below, our live-to-fish experts concur that the Simms G4Z stocking foot model outshines all for versatility, convenience and longevity, but at a price steered toward the professional or fanatic fisher.
Expect to release $700-$800 from your clutches. For this, you receive a five-layer, Gore-Tex Pro shell specially designed for breathability but durability as well.
Its two waterproof, zippered chest pockets, two stations for retracting tethers (one tether included), a conveniently located patch for hanging flies or a couple light lures, and dry pocket to store those items that must not risk a dollop of moisture (e.g., cell phone, bandages, dry cloth for cleaning sunglasses or eyeglasses) also make this the Cadillac of waders.
Built-in gravel guards at the ankles and lined hand-warmer pockets add to the G4Z’s luster. Suspenders and belt prove comfy and snug. Waiting for the coup de grace? The G4Z comes with a waterproof, chest-to-waist zipper—especially handy after finning back to shore in a float tube after one too many cups of java.
Want to save about $100? Get the Simms G4 Pro Waders sans the frontal zipper. In either case, you will be wearing these for countless seasons, avoiding repurchases of $100 waders every other year or so. The G4 and G4Z are really about more bang for the buck while compromising perfectly between warmth and breathability.
The Rest of the Pack
As with the editor’s pick, our angling authorities on and in the water base the following six waders on value for the dollar (i.e., durability and dependability), suitability to either warm- or cold-water fishing (or both) and fishing-friendly features. Our field testers spend countless hours in streams, boats, ponds, the surf and large lakes testing waterproof fishing gear.
Redington Sonic-Pro HD Chest Wader
Best for: Anglers using waders more than a dozen times a year; those who don’t need a lot of pockets or compartments for electronic devices.
- Made for either warm or cold climates
- Good reinforcement in places of vulnerability
- Durable but streamlined
- Hand-warmer pockets
- Anti-corrosive components
- Worth its noticeable price
- Still not in the thrifty angler’s price range
- Only two storage compartments
If your fishing budget eludes our Editor’s pick, you can still cast from inside more affordable yet durable, breathable and convenience-oriented chest waders with the Sonic Pro from another stalwart in high-quality gear, Redington.
Like our No. 1 pick, these chest waders feature waterproof, breathable fabric, but with four layers for cold temps rather than five, while 4mm of neoprene on the booty soles keeps your feet well-cushioned and warm.
The Sonic-Pro focuses more on simplicity to ensure durability, with its one chest pocket, built-in gravel guards and hand-warmer pockets with a flip-over interior pocket for your fly box, forceps, tippet coils or clippers.
Its waist belt, though trim and snug to keep water out, proves sturdy enough to attach a clip for pliers or even a wading staff. Anti-corrosive components make these waders suitable for casting to striped bass along coastal waters or to sea perch in a torrid surf. If you want to spend a few hundred less than our Editor’s pick, the Sonic-Pro is a great alternative.
Caddis 5-Ply Breathable Wader
Best for: Anglers looking for a mid-range price; those whose fishing habit often stretches from the coldest days of the year to the warmest.
- Good value on the dollar
- Versatile for warm or cold weather
- Convenient pockets
- No hand-warmer pockets
- Only two reinforced areas, seat and knees
Well known and trusted as a float tube manufacturer, Caddis recently stepped into the wader market without compromising its basic objective of providing a wide spectrum of prices, quality, bells and whistles.
Its 5-Ply strikes the perfect balance between all of these factors. Basically, if you want something comparable to the Sonic Pro but without hand-warming pockets and the extra $150-$200, this is your huckleberry.
Multi-layered yet breathable fabric with reinforced knees and seat, but attached fabric gravel guards, this thriftier set of waders does not compromise convenience despite its void of warming pockets.
To wit: The 5-Ply hosts a quad-pocket with waterproof zippers and one compartment dedicated to devices needing added security from moisture; three D-rings along the shoulder harnesses allow the hanging of a wading staff, net and another implement.
Hodgman H5 Stockingfoot Chest Wader
Best for: The working angler looking for some high-end features for a lower cost; wintertime or cold-water anglers.
- Versatile for varying climates
- Hand-warming pockets
- Good value for money
- Comfortable gravel guard
- Relatively difficult to adjust waist belt and shoulder harnesses
- Large, baggy appearance compared to higher-end waders
Known by baby-boomer anglers (and their fathers) for its hip waders back when a fishing license cost the same or less than a latte does today, Hodgman now offers a wide range of chest waders.
Its 5-ply breathable waders offer many of the amenities of higher-priced waders without the higher sticker tag or the eye appeal. The H5 lacks the form-fitting appearances of a Simms, Redington, Patagonia or even Caddis, but its waterproof design and construction place it among the hardiest of waders.
It boasts five layers on the legs and seat section while its upper sports only three layers to provide comfort on warm days. Hand-warming pockets, a flip-out storage pocket and top-loading external pocket with water-resistant zipper match the amenities of some higher-end waders. Its leg sections are seamless to minimize the possibility of leak points due to wear and tear.
These are tough, middle-of-the-market waders that match the budget of the working angler who doesn’t have time for a trip every weekend.
Frogg Toggs Pilot II Breathable Stockingfoot Wader
Best for: Anglers seeking value and features for their money; those who fish in cold and warm seasons.
- Strong construction
- Lighter top for ventilation
- Ample waterproof pocket space
- Corrosion-proof laces to keep gravel guards in place
- Good value for the money
- No hand-warmer pockets
- No knee reinforcement
- Only one D-ring on suspenders for attaching a net or other devices
The Pilot II earns our accolades for being lightweight and very durable at the same time.
Like the Hodgman listed here, these Frogg Toggs vary the layering between top and bottom: From the waist down you are kept warm by six-ply, breathable nylon to prevent tearing from long strides into a boat or onto an ascending bank from the stream; around the torso, the Pilot II sheds a couple layers to allow some sweat to wick away on sun-drenched excursions.
It uses DriPore2Gen fabric throughout for breathability. Like many of our picks, this wader uses fully taped and sealed joining to prevent leakage. The seat is reinforced for sitting long periods in a drift boat or on bank side.
The legs are designed to avoid contact with rod or reel. Moving down, the booties provide plenty of cushion and protection with 4mm nylon construction as well as double-taped seams.
For its affordability, the Pilot II refuses to cheat you on pocket capacity. A quad chest pocket intended for all the gear you need to store while in the current and two large side-entry pockets complement a flip-out internal pocket—all waterproof for any electronic gadgets, dry rags, or fly boxes. For a wader hovering around a couple hundred dollars, you get a lot for your money with this Frogg Toggs wader.
Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders
Best for: Cold and warm weather anglers; those looking for a fundamental wader that lasts, but one with enough panache to allow using a touch-screen device without removing it from the waterproof pocket.
- Convertible for extra-warm days
- Solid construction
- Cell-phone customized pocket
- Welded seams to ensure dryness
- Knee and lower-leg reinforcement
- Not a bad sticker price for Orvis
- No hand warmer pockets
- Only two top-entry pockets
- No seat reinforcement
Don’t always equate Orvis with ostentatious, especially in the case of these waders, which are designed to endure and serve the basic purposes of wading while accepting transport in something less than a Porsche Cayenne or Lexus LX.
The Silver Sonic uses sonic-welded seams on all joints to prevent any leakage, as opposed to stitched seams. Like many of our picks, multiple nylon layers (4) of breathable fabric keep you comfy in cold or warm conditions.
Attached gravel guards adequately keep debris from puncturing the 4mm, neoprene booties. Innovative quick-drain mesh keeps them from collecting water that weighs down your stride.
The Silver Sonic does not splurge on pockets, but still serves the purpose with a flip-out dry pocket for valuables, including your cell. Orvis even designs the flip-out pocket to accommodate touch-screen control without taking the device out of the pocket. There’s your touch of Porsche.
Otherwise, it features just one large chest pocket with only a top-side zipper. To combat extremely warm days, the Silver Sonic allows you to lower the torso section, essentially converting to a waist wader. You can stay cool but will have to compromise on water depth. In the sense of affordability and quality, the Silver Sonic shines.
Also check out our Top Picks in Inflatable Fishing Boats here…
Top 3 Best Hip Waders
With hip boots or waders you are buying a built-in boot design, not as ankle-supportive as in auxiliary chest-wader boots. You are also a type of angler who either exits and enters a boat in shallow water or uses hip boots mainly to launch and load your boat.
If you insist on hip waders for fishing various waters and bottom structure, we highly recommend carrying a wading staff for safety in rushing streams and choosing either lug, cleated or felt soles.
If your fishing territory is restricted to cold-water regions, you need not worry about condensation from sweat. If you get to your favorite fishing holes by trail (don’t confuse this with high-country trails for which you need hiking boots), then sweating and breathability become factors.
Given these variables, heed this list of our top 3 hip waders.
Editor’s Pick: LaCrosse Big Chief 600G Hip Waders
Best for: Those looking for good value on their money; with its top-down feature, anglers who walk a lot, especially in summer.
- Great grip
- Trusted brand
- Secure collapsibility for easy walking and hot weather
- Higher price than most hip waders
- Though light for rubber, still a bit heavy for long walks and packing
This reliable and renowned maker of hip waders since 1951 affords plenty of ruggedness and versatility in the Big Chief 600G, but at the cost of heft (weighing in at 7 lbs).
However, its versatility wins the day with nifty inside snaps and laces that allow you to securely attach the boots below your knee for long walks or very shallow water in extremely warm weather.
If you are as tall as your fly rod, you might call the Big Chief a knee boot when collapsed, meaning you should be in yet shallower water in this mode. Otherwise they are an easy snap back up should you use the device for dry-land comfort only.
Self-cleaning cleats resembling the bottom of some golf shoes, but integrated with heal lugs, provide a sure grip on varying stream bottoms and slopes. For a bit less, you can buy the standard Big Chief hip wader without the 600G’s Thinsulate Ultra insulation. Both sport high-integrity, hard-to-puncture rubber expected of the LaCrosse brand.
LaCrosse Trapline 32-Inches Hip Waders
Best for: Anglers in colder climates who want durable boots.
- Practically indestructible
- Comfy on the feet
- Great grip
- Handy pull loops
- Not for the budget-minded angler
- Can be too toasty for hot-weather fishing
Rate these toastier than its brother, the Big Chief 600G, and not much different in price range. These aren’t designed for long days of walking streamside but their wool-felt lining make them ideal for Pacific Northwest or Upper Midwest steelhead fishing, especially in winter, late fall or early spring.
A removable EVA footbed makes up for comfort lost to the sheer weight of these foot soldiers (6 lbs.). Made of the same premium, natural, heavy duty rubber as all LaCrosse boots, the Trapline will last for years without critical wear and tear.
A fully vulcanized, Trac-Lite outsole, practically inseparable from the boot, provides a sure-gripping lug pattern that sticks to all types of dry or wet terrain. Internal pull loops allow you to easily roll these boots up or down.
Frogg Toggs Rana II PVC/Nylon Hip Wader with Cleated Sole
Best for: The thrifty angler looking for a functional boot for a low price.
- Easy walking
- Good grip
- Convenient leash and buckles
- Not as durable as many higher-priced boots
- Chilly in cold-weather streams
- No frills
If you are a budget-minded angler, these durable, tough-enough nylon hip waders with cleated soles should please. Frills aside, the Rana II supplies anglers with usable features, including adjustable leashes with quick-release, locking buckles.
Winter fishing is not its forte, however. The boot size is true to your fit, unlike many other hip boots, and the light construction allows for long walks in search of a stream’s best drifts and pools—all for less than you would pay for a standard set of golf shoes.
Fishing Waders Buyer’s Guide
Any angler who buys a rod, reel, line, hooks, lures, flies, fly line or leader knows that all purchases are most wisely based on where you fish, how you fish and what type of fish you seek. By the time all gear is accrued, angling can be as expensive as any other pastime; you don’t want to waste dollars on gear that fails to suffice. Waders are especially no exception, especially when it comes to malfunctions that can risk your life or limb.
For example, what could be worse than your waders ripping wide open just before setting out on the water? A couple of things.
Waders lacking a secure waist belt, for one. In deeper, heavy running water, these can be life-saving devices, preventing water from flooding the legs of your waders and sending you tumbling into the rushing current.
To pose another dangerous scenario, over a longer period of time, wader legs could spring a leak from insufficient gravel guards around the boot ankles or poorly taped and seamed joints.
The reinforcement of knees, stockings and other portions of waders that receive frequent contact with hard surfaces, such as boat seats, play a crucial role in the longevity of your waders.
If you can’t decide whether to buy hip or chest waders, especially consider what type of fishing you enjoy. Know, however, that chest waders are not designed to place you in deeper water to extend the reach of your lure or fly. They are designed to keep you dry from splashes, waves and even rain while letting you wade a bit deeper than hip boots.
So, how do you know you are buying the right waders for your type of fishing?
Use the following criteria.
Different waders use different methods for sealing joints, mostly existing in the crotch area, inseams and pockets and sometimes the gravel guards or gaiters at the stocking. Stitched joints usually amount to a shorter wader lifespan while taped and sealed joints keep water out longer.
Breathable waders will consist of various blends of an outer layer over the neoprene or nylon. To make the wader breathable, the outer layer must consist of tiny, invisible-to-the-eye holes that are so small they repel water’s entry but allow water molecules from condensation inside to escape.
Some popular outer layers include Gore-Tex, N2No, Vapour-Tec and DriPore2Gen. The tighter and smaller the fabric’s holes, the better for keeping water in and sweat out—but not without paying a little more for it.
Built-in gravel guards are best, but many manufacturers devise equally protective guards with laces or heavy gripping elastic.
This greatly ties into the waterproof integrity of a boot. When a boot fills with water it burdens your ability to keep your legs from hitting rocks, logs or other structures along the bottom, should you fall into the current.
It also inhibits your ability to crawl back up onto dry land because of the excessive weight added to your legs. Therefore, look for chest waders with snug, secure waist belts and rugged shoulder straps. Also make sure the material consists of enough layers or plies to resist easy puncturing or tears.
The best way to not fall into a stream or other body of water on foot is to wear waders with secure traction. Make sure your hip waders or wading boots are equipped with either cleats, lug soles and sticky rubber or felt soles for safe gripping of various surfaces beneath and above waterline.
While on this topic, examine the heftiness of the sole. If it is extremely weighty, your agility in water will be accordingly restricted. If your type of fishing requires deft and stealth, opt for good-gripping soles without the heft of steel shanks or excessive layers.
If you are a hard-core, all-season fisher, you best opt for hand-warmer pockets in your chest waders. Those in hip waders best shop for the most lithe yet warm fishing gloves on the market.
Besides hand-warmer pockets, chest waders should be equipped with at least one dry pocket, the cubby especially made to protect expensive cell phones or those implements (read: flies or wiping cloths) that need to remain totally dry for a fun day on the water.
Some anglers attach a water-resistant fanny pack to the waist belt but nothing is better than an ample number of pockets high and dry on your chest to store you favorite fishing accouterments.
Make sure they are easy to reach, clip and unclip. Also examine their strength and ability to tether a net or wading staff, which can be extremely handy in the water.
Stockings or booties
The biggest consideration here lies in penetration: How easy is it for a pebble or stone to pierce the booty should one get past your gravel guard or you decide to leg it from your rig to outhouse before slipping on your wading boots? Multiply plied or thick (4mm in case of neoprene) stockings are best.
This component is all about safety. It keeps water from flooding the lower portion of your waders and subsequently disabling you from surviving the tumble downstream in a fall. Therefore, make sure your belt will remain snug but not uncomfortable. Make sure the clip to the belt is infallible. A double-pressed male end, much like those on a good backpack, minimizes any risk of unsnapping.
Overall, choose a wader that fits the climate and water temperature in which you usually fish, one that doesn’t hamper your agility on land or in water, ensures your safety as much as possible and fits your budget. The right one is out there waiting for you.
Our Field Experts also reviewed the Best Fishing and Wading Jackets here
FAQs – All the Questions You Have About Fishing Waders
Is rubber, nylon or neoprene best for staying dry?
Genuine, solid rubber can’t be beat for keeping water out, but other materials can accomplish the same feat without the awkwardness or non-breathability of rubber.
What is the best material to stay cool?
The best wader outer layers consist of breathable fabric or layers, such as Gore-Tex, N2No and similar manufactured blends. These allow optimal breathability when it comes to waders. Multi-plied neoprene or nylon without breathing layers usually produce more moisture from sweat or condensation.
Should I get chest waders or hip boots?
This all depends on whether you will fish in scenarios subject to splashes, waves, wet vegetation while walking or rain. If you want most of your body to remain dry, opt for chest waders.
If you can stay dry with other attire on you upper legs and torso, then choose hip waders. Also choose chest waders if you don’t want to soak a fishing vest but require the handiness of pockets to store fishing gear and warm the hands from time to time.
Should I choose chest waders with a built-in boot?
Though water repulsion is guaranteed with a solidly connected, built-in boot, you sacrifice some agility (i.e., safety) and versatility. A built-in boot usually offers little ankle support on rocky bottoms, which can lead to trips and falls.
Should you want to wade without waders at all on those extremely warm summer days, chest waders with wading boots allow you to do so, while attached boots do you little good unless you wish to wade barefoot.
In short, if you only fish smooth-bottomed lakes, ponds or tidelands, built-in boots work. Otherwise, default to the versatility and safety of auxiliary wading boots.
Do I need a waist belt?
These are essential safety items. They impede water from flooding your wader’s legs. Flooded legs keep you from avoiding rocks and threatening bottom structure should you fall into a significant current.
The weight of flooded legs also inhibits your ability to climb back to shore. Make sure your chest waders come with a functional waist belt. All of the brands mentioned in our “best of” article include waist belts.
How important are reinforced knees?
Extra layers on knees are especially essential if you spend a lot of time kneeling for a photo shot of your catch or hunching down to keep from scaring fish with your shadow. If you wear your waders around a camp, they also prevent eventual wear and tear. If you spend a lot of time sitting on hard benches in a boat, a reinforced seat in your waders also helps.
With these tips, insights and reviews, you should be able to start out on the right foot when looking for the waders that suit your purposes in and alongside the water. When they start feeling like a part of your skin (in its dry state), you will know you made the right choice. Part of the joy of fishing is the search for the fish. The same goes with gear and waders.
Further reading: Read this in-depth review of our Editor’s Pick Waders