What are waders

The waders main function is to keep you dry and comfortable during a whole day of fishing, but what should you choose. It is a jungle of models, materials and sizes. Read here how you pick the perfect pair.

They are the one clothing piece you will never leave without, when going on a fishing trip. The thin layer is the only barrier between the cold water and your legs. Manufactures use words like water column pressure, breathability, stockingfoot, cleated sole or felt sole. There are enough choices, but what is it that separates one from another and how do you pick the perfect size. These are all factors you have to consider, when buying a pair of waders. In order to keep your waders lasting longer, it is also very important that you take good care of them. If you do not treat them good, the waders will not even last a season on the water.  

Types of waders

There are mainly two types of waders that we use today. Breathable and neopren waders. Neopren is a rubber material with small air bubbles inside. The quality of waders are determined by how much neopren are actually in the wader. If the wader have a low percentage of neopren it will easilier get pierced by thorns and hooks. A more pure neopren wader will also add comfort as it is more stretchable. Neopren waders are almost only used for cold conditions and not very good for active fishing. They are not breathable and therefore, if you move too much you will sweat more. That is why manufactures developed breathable waders, which today are more popular than neopren. Breathable waders are better for more active fishing and way more comfortable. They allow air to escape through a membrane, which will be explained a bit further down. This ability makes them way more comfortable to wear during a whole day of fishing.


Felt or cleated

This is a question many don’t even ask themselves when they buy wading shoes, but it is indeed a very important one. When choosing weather it is one or another, it is crucial to determine, which terrain you spend most of your time fishing. The two things you have to consider, are if you spend more time jumping on hard rocks or walking along a grassy and muddy bank. A cleated sole is made with a deep pattern that is designed to grab deep into soft soil. When stepping onto a hard surface like rocks, the cleated sole will not have so much grib and you are in a greater risk of sliding or falling down. On the rocks, it is much better to choose the felt sole. The felt consists of hundreds of small threads that grab onto the hard surface. On the other hand, the felt sole is a very bad choice when walking on grass. A felt sole is all flat and has no grib. So what if you are fishing both. Do you have to buy two different ones? Off course not. The best choice, if you want to fish on both hard and soft underlay is to go with the cleated one. If you want to add more grip. Spikes or studs can be screwed into the cleated sole and provide you with a bit of extra grip.


The cleated sole (left) is perfect for soft soil and grassy bank. The filt sole (right) is better when jumping from rock to rock. It grips onto hard surface and make sure you don not slip.

Stocking or boot foot

When you choose a wader, you often have the option between stocking foot or boot foot. When choosing a stocking model, you have to buy a pair of wading boots next the wader. When choosing a boot foot model, the shoe is an integrated part of the wader. The stocking foot model is the best option, when a lot of walking is required. A laced wading boot will always make a better fit and be firm around the foot. Though, it takes a bit more effort to get into – First you have to get into a pair of waders and then lace your wading boot. The boot foot is the quick solution often made with a rubber boot. A boot foot wader is easier to get in and get out of. The boot is often not having a tight fit and therefore it’s not made for long walking trips, but rather shorter trips along the river. It’s a great choice when you want to change spot often and do not want to wear your wader in the car.

What is a membrane

Breathable waders most often consists of a membrane, which is protected by a layers of polyester. The combination of these two materials allows air to flow through the material. So how does it work without you getting wet. A membrane is a high technological fabric with microscopic holes. Water molecules are to big to penetrate the membrane while steam molecules are smaller and can pass through the material. This is how the waders obtain the breathable abilities.

To fully understand a membrane, water column pressure also have to be taken into consideration. An easy way to understand this, is to imagine putting a tube on top of the membrane. If the values are 10.000mm for example, the membrane will be waterproof until you fill the tube with 10 meters of water. When the column exceeds 10.000mm, the water will slowly start to flow through. The breathability is also characterized by numberized values. The higher values of both of them, the better quality membrane do you get. One thing that also affects the waterproofness is how many layers of polyester, which is being used to protect the membrane. A 3-layer wader means that there is a protective layer on the inside, a membrane and a durability layer on the outside. If you apply more layers, this will increase durability, but also decrease breathability. Therefore, most manufactures only apply more layers on exposed areas that are vulnerable. This is done to gain higher durability.

Neopren is best when the water is cold and keeping warm is essential. Left is the Scierra NEO-stretch. In the middle is the bootfoot model, which is easy in and fast out. On the right is the breathable stockingfoot, which is perfect for long days where a lot of walking is required. 

Taking care of waders

Waders can last for a long time, but there is a few essentials you have to follow in order to get the best out of your waders. The most important thing you have to do, no matter what, is to dry them after every single fishing trip. Moist and wet waders are the biggest waders killer. If you do not allow your waders to dry, mold can form on the inside and outside of your waders. Mold is slowly destroying the membrane and the wader will soon be with small holes around the affected area. If your wader gets mold, most probably the manufacture will not process it as an error and you can lose your right to complaint due to a lacking of maintenance. The best way to dry them, is to hang them, so air can flow freely around and into the wader. The ideal way is to turn them inside out when the outside has dried in order to dry them completely. Did you spend your fishing day in saltwater, wash your wader in freshwater. Salt accumulates in the material and makes the wader breathe less. The last thing thing worth mentioning is that waders are made of a thin polyester that easily can get pierced by thorns, branches or other pointy objects. Most waders have extra layers applied to the lower parts, this to increase durability and avoid puncture - still you have to think smart and not walk through dangerous areas. 

What is the right size?

Finding the right size is not hard. With these tips, you will be able to choose the perfect fit for your body shape.

Too small

All seams, taperings and joints are screaming, because they are getting torn from each other. If you squat down, the material will be tight across your knees. It is only a matter of hours before water starts to zeep inside. If your waders are leaking around the groin area after a short use, it’s more often a sign of too small waders than a poor quality.

Too big

They are not comfortable to wear, they are folding and there is a lot of air around your body. The material is touching and scraping towards each other, when you walk next to the water. This will wear your waders thin faster and the result is a leaking membrane. Furthermore, the breathability will decrease, because it is not generating overpressure.

Perfect fit

You have a great freedom to move around. The wader have a snug fit and when you squat down, the material is lightly stretched across your knees. When you do a long step, the crotch does not stretch remarkably. It important that they have comfortable fit and is not tight round your legs or being too loose. Now, you will have waders for several seasons.


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