The appeal of the Orvis Women’s Ultralight Convertible Wader is the way it does everything well: From fit to breathability to durability, this is a crowd-pleasing piece of gear that satisfies diehards but isn’t overkill for entry-level anglers.
This smart-fitting wader hits all the notes: It’s light but tough, affordable yet serviceable–a real crowd-pleaser that offers most of what most anglers need and want.
The Ultralight Convertible Wader isn’t sleek, nor is it baggy. It falls somewhere in between, offering unconstructed freedom of movement and plenty of room for bulky underlayers. Testers could wear fat, expedition-weight fleece pants beneath these waders and not feel pinched.
An elastic cinch cord that runs around the sides and back of the bib let wearers snug up the top and eliminate gaps. Articulated knees (using three darts) reduce fabric bulk and let testers hike and climb freely.
Our biggest fit complaint was with the booties, which are roomier than they really need to be. Our test sample should fit shoe sizes 6-8, but size 6 testers complained of to much fabric, which bunched and folded in their wading boots (a size small wader is more likely to fit the 8 end of the foot size spectrum).
A light but densely-woven nylon face fabric makes these waders tough, but not heavy: They kept clamminess at bay during mile-long approach hikes and short, steep climbs up cliffy banks. Waders who use fewer layers of fabric might find better breathability, but the Ultralight Convertible wader was impressively comfortable, given its four-layer construction. When we stripped off the Sonic-Pro after a half-day on the Yampa River, we found that our base layers were only faintly damp.
The Ultralight Convertible’s waterproof/breathable polyurethane membrane is sandwiched between three sheets of fabric. The lining is 100 percent nylon, to protect against abrasion from within.
The stitched (not welded) seams are placed on the outer leg instead of along the inseam, where they would be exposed to abrasion from walking. That should keep them drier over the long haul: We tested the Ultralight Convertible for three months (March through May) and experienced no durability issues, but buyers should expect leak-free performance for much longer. The only downside to this wader’s tough construction is the noisy fabric: Testers found it to be louder than most when they moved and walked.
This is where the Ultralight Convertible Wader really shines. Small details, from the booties to the chest pockets, make this model easier to use than most.
Neoprene gussets on the gravel guards let them stretch easily over wading boots and laces—while achieving a boot-hugging fit that doesn’t trap water while anglers hike. A fly patch and tool port on the bib’s chest pocket gave testers a handy place to stash the most frequently used tools (anglers who typically use a backpack or sling issued particular praise for this feature).
Chest pockets are particularly streamlined, which reduced unwanted bulk across the breasts. There’s no pass-through handwarmer pouch (which testers missed) but the two zippered pockets (one on the outside, one mesh version on the inside) gave us a place to stash our phone and car keys.
The most impressive feature might be the fixed shoulder straps, which use a clever latch system that unlocks to let anglers drop the bib and convert the waders into pants. It’s reliable and quick to operate. Plus, each shoulder strap has an additional tool patch. Testers liked the way that the tool features (on the bib and the shoulder straps) allow each angler to customize how they organize their gear. Tool storage is a highly personal choice, and the Ultralight Convertible Wader provides plenty of options that complement packs, slings, and chest pouches.
Roomy enough for cold-weather base layers, yet light and breathable enough for sultry summer days, the Ultralight Convertible Wader is one of the most versatile waders we tested.
Mountain-dweller Kelly Bastone became a writer so she could stop asking the boss for permission to take a powder morning, enjoy extra-long lunch breaks to fish or mountain bike, and clock out early when the hatch is on.