The Best Men's Fishing Waders

On the surface, the category of Men’s Waders sees relatively straightforward. But wader designs have evolved considerably in the last decade. Happily, we no longer have to endure the discomfort of tight-fitting brown neoprene waders (unaffectionately known on many rivers as “sausage casings” for the skin-tight fit that exposed every belly roll and folds of flesh encased into the snug waders). Today’s waders tend to come in a wide variety of sizes to ensure a comfortable fit that avoids constrictions as well as bagginess. They also sport a host of features and design innovations to make them versatile and efficient in sealing out water, while letting sweat escape.

For this year’s test, our team took out the latest products from several different brands, and we include a re-test of the previous (2015) Best in Class winner. The general trend seemed to be toward lighter and more travel-friendly designs, without a lot of frills and add-ons. For instance, none of the newest waders for 2018 featured core zippers, super-durable knee pads. Instead, the waders we tested sought an efficient comprise between weight and durability, or packability versus versatility. Of the models we tested, we dropped one due to some core design flaws — seams failing after modest use. The other five survived our tests and their reviews are included here.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Orvis Men’s Ultralight Convertible Wader
89
Best in Class
2018
Fit 9
Breathability 9
Durability 6
Features 8
Versatility 7

Very lightweight & breathable

Great packability

Excellent fit through legs and torso

Lightweight design reduces durability

Minimal pockets

Booties are a bit bulky

MSRP
$298.00
BEST DEAL
Patagonia Men’s Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders
86
Fit 7
Breathability 6
Features 8
Durability 9
Versatility 6

Great Durability

Feature-rich design

Bootie fit is excellent

Expensive

Fleece-lined booties can be too warm

Moderate breathability

MSRP
$599.00
BEST DEAL
Simms Headwaters Convertible Stockingfoot waders
85
Fit 7
Breathability 6
Features 7
Durability 7
Versatility 8

Going topless was never so easy

Moderately priced

Finding the right fit requires a lot of tinkering.

Few extra features

Fit was a bit snug in lower leg/feet

MSRP
$399.95
BEST DEAL
Redington SonicDry Fly Waders
84
Fit 7
Breathability 6
Features 7
Durability 7
Versatility 7

Good feature set—a mix of the best features of the other models

Good breathability

The conversion from full waders to pants is not as easy as it could be

Snug fit

MSRP
$499.95
BEST DEAL
Orvis Silver Sonic Guide Waders
84
Fit 7
Breathability 6
Features 7
Durability 7
Versatility 7

Good feature set

Good comfort, storage and protection with breathability

Sizing is tricky

Not much of a convertible option

MSRP
$395.00
BEST DEAL
Simms G3 Guide Wader
84
Fit 8
Breathability 5
Durability 8
Features 8
Versatility 5

Good Durability

Wide range of sizes

Made in USA

Good use of secondary features

Modest breathability

Limited versatility

Expensive

MSRP
$500.00
BEST DEAL
Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Wader
84
Fit 8
Breathability 9
Durability 5
Features 5
Versatility 7

Very Lightweight

Great packability

Good fit of booties in all sizes

Modest durability

Limited versatility

No women's fit

MSRP
$378.00
BEST DEAL
Redington Sonic-Pro Wader
83
Fit 8
Breathability 5
Durability 6
Features 8
Versatility 6

Moderate Price

Good durability

Good fit through legs

Somewhat heavy

Moderate breathability

Lack of features

MSRP
$299.00
BEST DEAL
Orvis Men’s Ultralight Convertible Wader

The Orvis Ultralight Wader earned high marks for fit, comfort, and over-all performance, but the Ultralights really excelled in two situations: When used on fly-fishing travel adventures, and when fishing cold rivers in warm weather. The convertible nature of the wader’s uppers make them ideal for controlling temperatures, while their weight and packability earned high marks from testers when flying out to fishing destinations.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Backcountry.com

Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Wader

The Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Wader is the lightest and most compressible wader our testers have ever encountered, making it the hands-on favorite for backpacking and ultralight travel. But the Middle Fork gives up a bit in durability and versatility to earn that ultralight distinction. The Middle Fork Packable Waders excel in their specific niche, but aren’t ideal for general purpose use.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Tailwaters Fly Fishing Co.

Simms G3 Guide Wader

The Simms G3 Guide wader proved capable of handling rugged use (and abuse) in a variety of situations, prompting our team to dub them perfect for daily wear. The G3 Guides are a bit heavy, though, compared to the other models in this test — more than twice the weight of the Patagonia Middle Forks, and nearly 35 percent heavier than the Orvis Ultralights. They are also substantially less breathable than those other models, due in large part to their heavier materials used over the waterproof-breathable membrane. But weight and breathability aside, the G3 Guides earned our team’s respect for their functionality, durability, and feature-rich design.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Jans

Redington Sonic-Pro Wader

The Redington Sonic-Pro waders feature a clean design that performs well with minimal bells-and-whistles, keeping the focus function and performance rather than features and frills. The Sonic-Pro waders fit well and proved themselves to be highly durable and function in general cold-water angling applications. The lack of secondary features limits their appeal to on-the-water professionals and those who demand lots of pockets and gee-gaws, but the clean design makes them ideally suited to the casual angler who needs good in-the-water performance above all else.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at LeftLane Sports

See All Men's Fishing Waders Reviews

Men's Fishing Waders Review Results

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For the field work, our test team used these waders in a variety of conditions. We hit local rivers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado. We flew to destinations in Montana and Maine. Some of the waders were carried on backpacking trips in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon and taken on rafting trips down Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River and Oregon’s Grande Ronde River

Our team tested the waders for fit — and we ensured a good test here by putting them on a 5’8” game warden, a 6’2” writer, and four others falling somewhere in between. These testers — including two fishing guides, a wildlife biologist, and an old grey-bearded trout bum — evaluated the samples in a variety of river and weather conditions.

Fit

Though Simms offers a great range of sizes, the Orvis Ultralight Wader generally fit better on our test team members. The Ultralight Waders fill the middle-ground of fit perfectly. That is, they are not form-fitting, nor are they overly generous in cut. Testers who ranged in body styles from a slim 5’8” 160-lb runner to a 6’2”, 240-lb beer-swilling writer, found the Ultralights fit comfortably, without being excessively loose, nor overly snug.  The larger range of size options offered by Simms on their G3 Guide Wader really addressed the needs of anglers on the extreme ends of the size range — Small-short, and 4X King size, for instance. Patagonia’s Middle Fork Packable Wader also earned general praise for their fit, with the design of their booties drawing the biggest accolades. Patagonia’s Rio Gallegos Zip-Front — a previous Best in Class Winner — also earned accolades for fit from most testers, though some felt a bit constricted in the seat and inseam.  One core set-back for both models from Patagonia regarding fit was the lack of women-specific sizing. Testers liked the fit of the Redington Sonic-Pro, though the neoprene booties on these waders were deemed too big and bulky across the board.

Breathability

The Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders design focus on packability and travel usage helped achieve the highest-level breathability in this group, make them a great option for general-purpose hot-weather use. The Orvis Ultralights also excelled in breathability, with testers who used them in sunny, hot weather reporting no more sweat buildup under the waders than they had under their T-shirts. Simms and Redington both scored lower marks compared to the others. And the Patagonia Rio Gallegos with its heavy shell and fleece-lined booties drew the weakness scores on breathability. The G3 Guide Wader — the heaviest in the test — suffered from “soggy sock syndrome” (i.e. sweat pooling) faster and more frequently than the Orvis and Patagonia models. But testers said the Sonic-Pro Waders generated sweaty legs and feet more frequently than any other wader in the test.

Features

The Simms G3 Guide proved to be a feature-rich wader.  A multitude of pockets and features make the G3 Guide highly functional for anglers who need access to lots of gear. The guides and other on-the-water professionals on our test team proclaimed them extremely well designed for daily use. Likewise the Patagonia Rio Gallegos Zip-Front. The number of pockets and the ability to adjust the uppers via zipper and drop-panel options gave them good appeal to anglers who spend a lot of time on the water, especially in the colder months. The Orvis Ultralight Waders offer few secondary features, but what they do present well praised by testers: the convertible design proved to be the strongest features of the Orvis Ultralight Waders. The traditional chest-high wader design can be altered to a waist-high pant-style wader by simply unclipping the wader tops from the should straps and sliding the uppers down to the waist-belt. Patagonia’s Middle Fork Waders also have the ability to be converted from chest waders to waist-high protection easily. Redington, meanwhile, offers a few more pockets than the bare-bones Orvis and Patagonia models.

Durability

The Patagonia Rio Gallegos and Simms G3 Guide stood up to rugged use better than any of its competitors in this test. While wearing the Simms waders, our testers scrambled over sharp riprap rocks, pushed through tangles of scrub alder, devil’s club, and even blackberry briars. The Rio Gallegos, meanwhile, even won an encounter with a barbed-wire fence, coming away from the battle scratched but not penetrated. The Redington Sonic-Pro Wader also stood-up well to hard usage and the sonic-welded seams held up to some extreme stretching and contortions as we climbed in and out of boats, over and under logs, and through brush and brambles. The feather-weight Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Wader gave us the biggest concerns about durability, though heavy 4-layer fabric in the butt and upper leg areas gives the waders a little extra wear protection in high impact areas. Orvis found the best compromise between weight and durability in their Ultralight Wader. The waders held up well to every challenging environment to which they were exposed, with no failures reported by any test team members.

Versatility

At first glance, the Ultralight Waders from Orvis seem pretty one-dimensional. Lightweight and suitable for warm weather. But those characteristics open the Ultralights up to many applications, and the wader’s other features greatly expand their versatility. The weight makes them ideal for travel, and the conversion feature makes them equally adept at small stream usage and big river wading. Patagonia’s Middle Fork may be ideally suited to backpacking and adventure travel, but their functionality also proved them perfectly suited to hot-weather wading in icy cold rivers close to home. Every tester who wore them said the Simms G3 Guide waders were well made and suitable for daily use by river professionals, but not appropriate for warm weather conditions. Likewise, Redington’s Sonic-Pro waders perform admirably when wading cold rivers during cool to moderately-warm days, but they were a bit stifling when worn during days when the air temperatures climbed above the high 60s. The Patagonia Rio-Gallegos, meanwhile, drew mixed comments. Testers appreciated the zip-front and convertible upper design, but the modest breathability limited their comfort in summer months, and the bulk and weight made the Rio Gallegos less than ideal for travel.

Review Conclusion

By consensus opinion, the Orvis Ultralight earned the Best in Class Honors for 2018 in Men’s Waders. The Ultralight Wader drew high marks for its fit and versatility, as well as its compact, lightweight design. The Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Wader also drew praise for their unique design. The Middle Fork was the lighter than some old wading socks, according to our trout bum reviewer!

Methods

For the field work, our test team used these waders in a variety of conditions. We hit local rivers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado. We flew to destinations in Montana and Maine. Some of the waders were carried on backpacking trips in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon and taken on rafting trips down Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River and Oregon’s Grande Ronde River

Our team tested the waders for fit — and we ensured a good test here by putting them on a 5’8” game warden, a 6’2” writer, and four others falling somewhere in between. These testers — including two fishing guides, a wildlife biologist, and an old grey-bearded trout bum — evaluated the samples in a variety of river and weather conditions.