Fishing waders have undergone some exciting changes over the past few years – and men aren’t the only ones to benefit. Companies are now investing significant time and money into designing women’s waders that fit female proportions and perform as well as the men’s gear.
Our testing concluded that the Patagonia Women’s Spring River Waders offer the best women’s fit. It’s genuinely flattering, and uses come complicated tailoring (involving multiple darts and seams) to achieve that feat: Each leg features four stitch lines in addition to the main seam up the back. Even the feet fit great, because the booties are anatomically shaped to match the curve of the right and left foot. These waders are offered in petite, regular, and full sizes, which caters to everyone but tall anglers. And at $399, they cost a full $100 more than the newest women’s models from Redington and Orvis, which performed as well as the Spring River, and almost equaled its figure-flattering fit.
The Redington Women’s Sonic-Pro is quite comparable to the Orvis Women’s Ultralight Convertible Wader. Both cost $300; both offer a flattering, low-bulk fit that accommodates women’s curves while allowing for full freedom of movement. Both represent an excellent value in all-around performance and appearance: They’re crowd-pleasers that meet the needs of dedicated recreational anglers.
But in our tests, the Redington edged out the Orvis in terms of fit. We like the elasticized panels on the bib, which accommodate breasts, make these waders easier to pull on over the hips, and create a trimmer top that doesn’t gape open. The Sonic-Pro’s booties also deliver a trimmer, more foot-hugging cut (the booties on the Orvis are excessively roomy). However, the Orvis Women’s Ultralight Wader offers some truly handy features that the Redington lacks. Clever buckles on the shoulder straps make it easy to lower the bib and wear these waders like pants—a real boon on hot summer afternoons. A tool patch on the chest pocket keeps essential gear at the ready and coordinates effectively with sling packs that store equipment behind the body. And the Women’s Ultralight Convertible Wader comes in more size options than any other wader we tested: 14 choices, ranging from XS through XL short and Small Tall.
The Simms Women’s G3 Guide Waders are offered in nearly as broad a size range—13 options, including short, tall, and full cuts—and it, too, provides female anglers with a flattering, functional fit: We found that the updated 2018 version delivers improved freedom of movement over previous models. Like the Patagonia, Orvis, and Redington waders we tested, the Simms trims away saggy fabric and looks great on a variety of women’s body shapes. Its key difference is durability. It uses thicker, heavier fabrics in its four-layer construction, and is the only women’s wader to use Gore-Tex instead of a generic waterproof/breathable membrane (The G3 uses Gore-Tex Pro Shell, the company’s most durable, longest-lasting product). Thus the G3 is more breathable than you’d expect, given the thick, abrasion-defying construction. Yet the heavyweight build and lofty price ($500, because not only are the materials top quality, but it’s also made in the USA) makes the Simms best-suited to guides and other pros who wear waders as their work uniform.
Occasional anglers or first-timers who’d like to dabble in the sport might consider the Cabela’s Women’s Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Waders with 4MOST DRY-PLUS. It’s approachably priced and perfectly functional: Although the fit is baggy and unflattering (especially compared to the more tailored cuts offered by Patagonia, Simms, Orvis and Redington), it proved to be waterproof and moderately breathable. It offers basic performance.
The LL. Bean Women’s Emerger Breathable Super Seam Waders offer better performance and more features than the Cabela’s. It comes with a true wading belt (the Cabela’s waders do not) as well as a zippered chest pocket and fleece-lined handwarmer pouch. The fit is also superior to the Cabela’s: Although the baggy-cut Emerger Waders aren’t as flattering as this test’s frontrunners, the legs do use articulated seaming around the knees to reduce bulk. The leg seams are also placed away from key abrasion areas, which promises improved durability over the Cabela’s. All told, the L.L. Bean is a great option for not only beginners, but all budget-minded anglers who want solid construction and performance for the lowest possible price.
Women are still fishing’s minority gender, but that gap is closing – and companies are increasingly catering to women by producing gear they’ll actually want to wear.
The trend in waders for both sexes is to move away from the excessively baggy fit of yesteryear. Partly, that’s because neither men nor women enjoy being saddled with bulky fabric (or the double-wide silhouette). But mostly, streamlining waders’ fit improves their durability: Leaks are most likely to occur in those creases and folds, which abrade the fabric over time.
For both sexes, most high-end waders now use a slimmer cut than they once did, and articulated seaming (rather than extra material) allows for full freedom of movement when hiking or stepping into a boat.