From icy mountain streams in Colorado to lazy rivers in Arkansas, trout anglers take to the water with waders and fly tackle, looking to land a big one. But to access the water, nothing is as effective as the best wader.
Brush-busting, waterproof, and goat-footed on slippery rocks, good waders are essential fly angling gear. But it can be hard to know what to look for in fly fishing waders, which brands to trust, and which features really matter.
Have questions? We have answers! If you’re new to fly angling or just looking for a new set of waders, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of best fly fishing waders, followed by a comprehensive buying guide.
Best Fly Fishing Waders Available Today:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Material: 4mm neoprene
If you don’t mind looking like a duck hunter, Foxelli’s neoprene waders are a very good buy for the avid fly angler. Built tough and warm, they’re priced right and work well.
Foxelli makes these chest waders from 4mm neoprene, providing excellent insulation against frigid water while still allowing free movement. Warm and dry are the keywords here, and you can count on both!
This neoprene is plenty tough, but it’s just not a material I’d push through the woods. Instead, I’d pack these waders with me and put them on at the stream.
Expect nice extras like a few D-rings and some carabiners to attach equipment, as well as a spacious outer pocket and a small mesh inner pocket.
The boots that come attached to these waders are solid, but they tend to run slightly small. I recommend that you order one size up, and like the Rama II, consider an aftermarket insole if you find that they don’t provide enough cushion.
The costs of fly fishing add up fast, and for anglers on a budget, this sport can definitely feel like a rich man’s game. But the Rana II hip wader puts icy streams in reach for the rest of us, offering reasonable performance at an incredible price.
The Rana II is constructed from PVC, and unless a seam fails or you punch a hole in them, they can’t leak. In my experience, these waders are dead-tough, and unless they leak when you buy them, they’ll be good for years. Ideal for long walks, tough brambles and thorns, and warm weather, these are my favorite hip waders bar none.
The fit is true to size. If you wear a size 10 shoe, order size 10 waders.
The boots on these hip waders are decent, but an additional insole can help cushion the bottoms of your feet if you start to really feel the rocks.
Overall, as long as you don’t expect breathability and can tolerate clammy legs, these are an awesome choice for cold water and hot weather.
Material: 4- and 5-layer Cordura Nylon shell with ePTFE layer
Orvis is a name synonymous with fly fishing. It’s also a company dedicated to quality.
Orivis’ Pro waders are as good as it gets, but they don’t come cheap. Clad in tough 4-layer Cordura nylon on top and 5-layer Crodura below the waist, they can take a beating. Beneath this tough exterior, you’ll find an undisclosed ePTFE layer that works like a charm to wick away sweat vapor. Against your clothes, you’ll find a durable nylon tricot liner.
Waterproof, breathable, tough--what more can you ask?
It seems Orvis knows!
On the sides and front, you’ll find a nice array of zippered pockets, providing plenty of storage space for your wallet, keys, or phone.
The fit on these waders is excellent, and from well-designed sock-like booties that fit well in wading boots, to integrated gravel guards, to a fly patch on the front bib, pretty much anything a serious fly angler is looking for can be found in these waders.
For icy water and cold weather, I’d recommend layering with modern polypropylene and/or fleece to stay warm, but in anything but the heat of summer or truly warm climates, these waders are unbeatable.
Of course, expect to pay for this quality!
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Material: Toray QuadraLam (2-ply nylon outer layer with ePTFE sandwiched between an inner layer)
The Freestone wading pants are a very, very high-quality option--exactly what you’d expect from Simms. Ideal for warmer weather in which chest coverage will roast you alive, these are the wading pants I’d spend my own money to buy.
Constructed from Toray’s proprietary QuadraLam fabric, expect complete waterproofness and reasonable breathability. Not quite on par with Gore-Tex, Quadralam will nevertheless keep you dry while wading in warmer weather.
Essentially wearing like normal pants, the fit is excellent. Just be sure to consult Simms’s sizing chart carefully, studying inseam and waist. If you have especially large feet for your height and size, order up.
Expect excellent attention to detail. These wading pants feature two front pockets, integrated gravel guards, and anti-microbial neoprene booties.
These are tough-wearing waders, ideal when you’ll be walking quite a way to your stream. Should you manage to damage them, Simms’s customer service is awesome.
Material: 4-ply nylon outer with ePTFE breathable layer
Frogg Toggs knows wet weather outerwear, and it comes as no surprise that they produce a well-respected range of fishing waders, too. Their Canyon II chest wader is an excellent buy, offering great performance at a price point pretty much any angler can afford.
The Canyon II waders are constructed like standard rain gear, sandwiching a layer of breathable ePTFE between a tough outer layer and softer inner layer against your skin or clothes. Unless you tear a hole in these waders, or a seam fails, they’re 100% waterproof.
Reasonably warm, I’d probably layer in icy water, but for most anglers, most of the time, these waders should be sufficient over normal clothing.
In warmer weather, the ePTFE should help vent sweat vapor, but Frogg Toggs isn’t revealing which product they’ve included, so I can’t give you a more precise account of just how well it’ll wick moisture.
In hot weather and warm water, these waders will start to heat up.
The Canyon II includes a nice waterproof zippered pocket mid chest, providing a great place for your wallet or phone.
Follow Frogg Toggs’ sizing guide, and the fit should be spot on.
The weak point on these otherwise excellent waders is the 4mm neoprene stocking foot. They can occasionally fail, leading to leaks, and Frogg Toggs’ customer service is not what it should be.
That said, these are excellent entry-level breathable waders, and for the price, it’s well worth giving them a shot.
Hip - Typically the least expensive option, hip waders offer coverage up most of your leg.
The lightest, easiest to pack option, they’re at their best in warmer, shallower water. In colder streams, the chance of getting water over the top is simply too high, and unless you enjoy standing in ice water until your feet go numb, I recommend you save this option for water you’d be willing to swim in.
Pant - Pant waders are basically waterproof pants, and they’re as easy to use and as comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans.
Usually more expensive than hip waders, but cheaper than chest waders, anglers who fish cold streams in warm climates often select this option. The reasons are simple: they provide insulation where you need it but leave your upper body free to shed excess heat.
If you’ve ever worked a stream where the water was bone-chilling but the air was stifling, you know exactly why these were invented!
The downside? They don’t offer as much waterproof protection as chest waders, even though they’re nearly as heavy and bulky.
Chest - The most expensive - and by far most popular - option for fly anglers is the venerable chest wader.
Offering plenty of protection from cold water, chest waders will keep you dry to about your mid-abdomen (or perhaps a tad higher depending on your build). Ideal in cooler climates and colder water, these are a great option year-round if you pick the right pair for your conditions.
But they’re also the heaviest, hardest to pack option.
Stockingfoot - Stockingfoot waders end in waterproof booties over which you wear additional boots.
This design allows for some customizability, as you can pick the boot that fits you best and even change your boots to match your needs.
That matters more than you might think.
To allow bootfoot waders to slip on and off, the boot fitting needs to be pretty loose. That creates some slide and shift at the ankle and sole for most people, which can lead to insecure footing.
One downside to stockingfoot waders is that you’ll need to spend additional money on wading boots, making this the most expensive option by far.
Bootfoot - Bootfoot waders include a built-in pair of waterproof wading boots, making them a cost-effective option for anglers on a budget.
But as I mentioned above, to allow you to slide your feet into these boots, they’ll need to be a little loose at the ankle--and typically in the foot as well. This can allow shifting and sliding underfoot, and after-market wading boots generally offer a better fit.
PVC - Polyvinyl chloride is plastic that can be made to be quite flexible, almost like fabric. Completely waterproof and darn tough, its primary drawback is that it doesn’t breathe, keeping sweat vapor trapped against your skin.
Nylon - Nylon is inexpensive material, measured in Denier to denote its thickness. Higher Denier counts mean greater durability (as well as stiffness).
Easy to coat with plastics, nylon can be made waterproof pretty easily, but it doesn’t offer very much--if any--insulation against cold water. Of course, you can layer up with thermal underwear or fleece pants beneath an inexpensive nylon wader.
Typically reserved for entry-level fly fishing waders, if you’re on a tight budget and fish in warmer water, they can be an acceptable option.
Neoprene - is a synthetic rubber, and in waders, it’s typically about 4mm thick. Thicker waders will be warmer, while thinner waders won’t offer as much thermal protection.
Combining excellent insulation with complete waterproofness, it’s easy to see why neoprene is a common choice in mid-range waders.
Neoprene has a couple of drawbacks, though. First off, it’s not breathable, and sweat vapor will build-up inside, leaving you clammy and damp. It’s also a very warm material, which is great when you need it, and terrible when you don’t.
If you regularly fish very cold water, neoprene can be great. But take a dip in warm water in neoprene waders, and you’ll roast yourself!
Finally, when you inevitably damage neoprene, it’s not very easy to repair.
Breathable fabric combinations - ePTFEs like Gore-Tex and eVent are essentially the same material as the Teflon coating in your skillet, just stretched into a thin layer that forms a lightweight, porous membrane. And though it’s dotted with billions of holes per square centimeter, they’re so small that the surface tension of water won’t allow it to seep through, while air--and sweat vapor--can escape.
ePTFEs combine waterproofness with breathability, making them an outstanding choice for fly fishing waders. They’re typically paired with tough nylon and other hard-wearing fabrics to protect them from abrasion and cuts.
It’s commonly said that chest waders--indeed that any wader--will fill with water and drag an angler down to his or her death.
But it is a myth, despite being believed and repeated endlessly.
Sherri Russel, an avid fly angler knows what she’s talking about:
“It starts out like any other day on the river, with the water high and cold. You set out, one foot in front of the other, the current swirling first around your knees, then thighs, then waist. Halfway across, it happens. A rock shifts under your boot, you lose your balance, and before you know it you're being washed downriver, feet first. As the icy cold of the water knocks the breath from your lungs, you have a brief, terrifying epiphany: you're wearing chest waders, so you're going to drown.
Actually, you're not. Not because of the waders, at any rate. Despite the age-old and ongoing belief that waders increase the risk of drowning, it's not any more difficult to swim while wearing them than it is to swim in regular clothes.”
Don’t believe her? Check out these videos of duck hunters putting this myth to the test:
The truth is that waders won’t magically defy physics and drag you to the bottom.
But if you’re not wearing your safety strap, it’s pretty easy for chest waders to fill with water, and because they can catch the current, you can be dragged--rapidly accelerated--to the speed of the current.
And if you panic, you may well drown.
Remember: don’t fight the current--swim with it and to the bank.
Your waders will not cause you to sink--but they may catch the current briefly.
The best fly fishing waders are the ones that meet your needs and match your budget.
If you’re a fly angler in warmer climates, tough hip waders might be just your thing, allowing you to trample brush and thorns, stay dry, and fish all morning. In colder weather and icy water, thick neoprene is the way to go. And for everything in between, there’s an option that’s just right.
We hope that this article has helped you pick your new--or next!--pair of waders, and if it has, we’d love to hear from you!
Please leave a comment below.