How to Choose the Appropriate Hunting and Fishing Waders

May 17 2016

In recent years, there has been explosive growth in the equipment options for waterfowlers. Compared to just a few years ago, the availability and variety of calls, clothing, shotguns, ammunition, chokes, and accessories for waterfowling is truly awesome.

Waders are no different. A few years ago, waterfowlers were limited to a couple of weights of neoprene or rubber and canvas waders. These days, advancements in fabric technologies have provided several great options for waterfowlers. However, along with multiple options comes confusion on which waders do what. Hopefully, we can help clarify what each wader does well and make the decision process a little easier.

To do this, we will break the waders down by fabric type and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each type.

Rubber Waders:

Rubber waders are about as “old school” as you can get. They have been around forever and for years were a staple of the waterfowlers gear list. Several years ago, when neoprene became widely available, rubber lost some of its favor among waterfowlers. Even though they are not the best option for any situation, they do have their place and work great as a utility or all-around option if you are working with a budget.

  • Pros:
    • Inexpensive
    • “Old School” cool factor, especially in a throwback camo pattern
    • Widely available
    • Tough
    • Dries quickly
    • Easy on and off
  • Cons:
    • Little to no insulation
    • Heavy
    • Can be uncomfortable
    • Plain – no accessories or pockets
  • Uses:    
    • Good all-around wader for early season or southern climates and quick trips to the tank or pond for an early morning or roost shoot
    • Tough enough to pull double duty as a working wader if needed
    • Inexpensive enough to use hard without concern for having to replace them if they get damaged
    • Great option for those who are waterfowling on a budget

 

Neoprene Waders:

Neoprene fabric waders are the most varietal of all the wader fabrics. Neoprene is the “new old-school” wader. Becoming widely available to hunters in the early 90’s the neoprene wader has been around long enough to see some real innovation in the design and embellishments available to consumers. Available in two main fabric weights of 3.5mm and 5mm, the neoprene wader was a Godsend for many waterfowlers. It’s insulating properties were raved about by northern hunters, or those who spent their day’s waist deep in near-freezing water. There is no doubt that the comfort that neoprene brought on those brutal days was worth the price paid in dollars and in sweat.

  • Pros:
    • Warm – great insulator
    • Comfortable to wear in blind or flooded timber
    • Different fabric weights available
    • Most models have pockets and accessory items
    • Widely available
    • Variety of boot insulation available
  • Cons:
    • Bulky and difficult to store/transport
    • Weight – 5mm neoprene waders average between 10-14 pounds depending on accessories and fabric coatings
    • Does not dry quickly
    • Difficult to get on and off
    • Durability and puncture issues – uncoated waders are lighter, but can be punctured by sharp sticks or other objects relatively easily
    • Not breathable – once they get wet on the inside, they stay wet on the inside
    • Weight and bulk make them impractical and uncomfortable for long treks or exertion (think putting out 3,000 snow goose rags when it’s 45 degrees).
    • Expensive
  • Uses:    
    • Great option if you are hunting a static location like a fixed blind or flooded timber hole and decoys are already placed or you are using a small spread where not much work is required.
    • Really cold days when you are going to be exposed to the elements for a long period of time and you won’t be moving much.
    • Standing waist deep in cold water for extended periods (timber hunting or pass shooting a roost)

 

PVC Waders:

PVC waders are the “new rubber” wader of today. They are inexpensive, lightweight, easily stored and packed, and are becoming widely available.

  • Pros:
    • Inexpensive – even less expensive in most cases than rubber
    • Lightweight – Usually as light as a breathable wader of the same size
    • Good durability and longevity
    • Easy on and off
    • Dries quickly
    • Packs and transports easily
  • Cons:
    • Limited performance history
    • Limited current availability
    • Little or no boot insulation
    • Limited feature sets
  • Uses:
    • Inexpensive choice as a limited use / backup wader, just in case
    • Keep on hand for guests or friends that don’t have waders
    • Short, light duty trips to the farm pond or for trekking to and from the blind in flooded fields – cost effective option to keep you dry in the wet spots

 

Breathable Waders:

Uninsulated/Standard Breathables:

These are the “New School”, “Cool-Kid” waders of the current market. Tough, light, comfortable, easy to find, and BREATHABLE. These guys are the Cadillac of the current wader market. You owe it to yourself to get a pair of you don’t already have some – Trust me. You can thank me later.

  • Pros:
    • Tough and Durable
    • Choice of boot insulation
    • Lightweight and comfortable
    • Easy on and off
    • The best option for early season and southern climes
    • The best option for the mobile hunter that has to run-and-gun to fill a limit
      • Dries quickly
    • Easy to transport and store
    • Pockets and accessories
  • Cons:
    • No insulation in the upper – have to layer clothing underneath
    • Cost – Similar to high-end neoprene, but SO worth it
       

Insulated Breathables:

OK, if breathables are everything you could ever want in a wader, but you get cold just looking at pictures of winter, then have no fear, the insulated breathable is here. This is the culmination of everything a serious waterfowler wants and needs in a serious, go-hard hunting wader. This wader is a serious piece of kit for the hardcore waterfowler.

  • Pros:
    • Everything about the standard breathable except the part about early season
    • The weight of a breathable with the insulating properties of a neoprene, with breathability thrown in for good measure.
    • The best cold-weather wader you can own, in this guy’s humble opinion
    • It’s so warm you could hunt naked, and so comfortable you’ll want to.
  • Cons:
    • Umm, it may be too warm for early Teal/Goose/Wood duck?