Patagonia Men’s Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders ReviewMay 30, 2018
- Great Durability
- Feature-rich design
- Bootie fit is excellent
- Fleece-lined booties can be too warm
- Moderate breathability
The Patagonia Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders earned our Best in Class honors in 2015, and we decided to revisit them this year to see how these top-performing waders performed among the new crop of products. The Rio Gallegos proved to fit as well as anything out there, and the general performance still impressed. But compared to the lightweight options and more breathable waders we found today, the Rio Gallegos slipped from its top spot this season.
The Rio Gallegos Zip-Front generally feature a well-tailored cut that stays close to the body without being overly constrictive for most users. One of our barrel-chested guides did complain a bit about the “pull through the crotch — I couldn’t bend forward too far without getting a ‘wader wedgy’.” The leg section lacks the excessive material frequently found on waders, and that helped cut down on noise while walking, on wear-and-tear, and on drag in the water. The Rio Gallegos also fit extremely well in the booties. While some of the brand’s early waders suffered from sloppy fits in the feet, Patagonia solved most of the issues of the poor-fitting booties. The anatomically shape of required significant engineering but they result in good fit and foot comfort. The single seam construction on the back of the legs was designed to prevent excessive wear on the inside of the knees but it also aids in flexibility and mobility. A drawstring cinch on the top of the waders allows anglers to tuck in on cold days or when venturing into deep water.
The Patagonia Rio Gallegos Zip-Front utilize the brand’s proprietary H2NO waterproof-breathable membrane a 4-layer shell. For the legs and waist area, Patagonia employs 8.8-ounce polyester while the upper body gets a lighter 5.5-ounce material. The H2NO membrane performs adequately, but Patagonia’s Middle Fork Packable and Orvis’ Ultralight Waders clearly shed sweat moisture faster and more efficiently, especially in hot conditions. In fact, in the feet and lower legs, the Rio Gallegos suffered the worst levels of “soggy sock syndrome” of any wader in the test. The 4-mm neoprene booties feature a lining of thin grid-pattern polyester fleece that adds general comfort and warmth during cold winter days but really collects sweat on warm spring days — not to mention hot summer days.
Rio Gallegos Zip-Fronts earns its name from the large water-proof zipper running down the length of the waders’ uppers. This zipper allows anglers to vent heat on hot days, but the real benefit for guys is that it allows them to void excess fluids more easily at any time. The zipper, though, stands as simply the most visibly obvious of the features offered on the Rio Gallegos. The venting potential of the zipper is amplified by the convertible nature of the uppers. Pop couple buckles and the chest-high uppers slide down the shoulder straps to pool around your waist. That gave us a bit of extra comfort on hot days. The waders also sport multiple pockets — two lined hand-warmer pockets, and two gear-friendly chest pockets. There is also a secure waterproof interior pocket and two interior ‘drop pockets’ for easy gear access. One feature that drew mixed reviews was the removable knee pads. While some users praised the padded knee — our initial test director said of them, “Waders don’t need to resemble Storm Trooper uniforms, but the padding is appreciated and only noticed when it is protecting your knee.” Others thought the feature an unnecessary bit of over-design and while it’s easy to toss the padded bits out and forget them, the testers didn’t like the thought of paying for a feature that wasn’t wanted, needed, and would never be used. Likewise, the fleece-lined booties drew equally mixed reviews. Steelhead and salmon anglers who used the waders during cool-to-cold weather conditions in icy cold Pacific NW rivers praised them as a great boon to their feet. Anglers focused more on trout and usually found themselves in cold rivers during warm (or even hot) days dreaded the pools of sweat that extra insulation around the feet generated.
The stout Patagonia Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders proved themselves among the most durable waders we’ve tested. Indeed, some of the samples from that initial review in 2015 are still outperforming more recent acquisitions. The heavy 4-layer material in the legs and waist area resist punctures and snags. Even getting caught up while climbing over a barbed-wire fence failed to puncture all four layers, leaving the waders leak-free. Testers found it necessary to occasional rinse off the front zipper and even give it a gentle scrub with a brush (an old toothbrush worked well) but that modest level of maintenance kept the zipper fully functional even after multiple days of use in the grit-heavy saltwater of Puget Sound.
The convertible nature of the Rio Gallegos, with the ability to drop the upper down to the waist belt, gives some relief on hot days, but the weight and limited breathability really limit these waders to cool-to-cold weather conditions. And the weight and bulk make them poor options for travel when compared to Patagonia’s own Middle Fork or Orvis’ Ultralight Waders. Anglers who want durable, highly functional waders for use on their home waters during fall, winter, and spring, will appreciate the performance of the Rio Gallegos Zip-Front Waders.
Dan Nelson- Managing Editor & Fly Fishing Editor
Dan Nelson is GearInstitute.com's Managing Editor & fly fishing editor. He is based in the Pacific Northwest.