Patagonia Women’s Spring River Waders ReviewFebruary 18, 2014
- Fit is outstanding
- Booties are extra-warm
- Breathability is above average
- Drop-seat feature is tricky to operate
The fit is dialed and the features are smart on Patagonia’s first-ever pair of women’s waders. They strike the ideal balance between performance and practicality. No doubt, these are premium waders at a premium price.
Smart fit and features characterize the Spring River Waders, which represent Patagonia’s first offering for female anglers.
The Spring River makes it clear that Patagonia’s foray into women’s fishing gear is no afterthought. With a cut that’s trim but un-confining, this model scored best in test for fit. It’s full-featured, yet isn’t baroque about its details: its built-in conveniences make perfect sense on the water, with nothing extraneous or fussy. The Spring River exemplifies basic tools made right, and is likely to become the trusty workhorse for diehards and dabblers alike.
The Spring River achieves full freedom of movement with a low-bulk fit. Yes, it’s trimmer than the burlap-sack styling that waders have typically offered. And it uses a bevy of darts and seams to achieve that tailoring: Four stitch lines, in addition to the main seam up the back (where it’s protected from all forms of abrasion except sitting) shape each leg. The resulting cut conforms to the body with minimal bagginess—and zero impingement. High-stepping onto snowbanks and boulders, I never felt restricted by these waders.
The booties are curved to fit right and left feet, and offer just enough slack to accommodate thick socks without so much extra fabric that it gets balled up in a wading boot. The high bib extends to the underarms for full protection in deep, cold water, and also proved useful for keeping water out when I slipped and fell in shallow conditions. But the suspenders should offer a greater adjustment range. Even cinched to their shortest length, they’re too big to hold the bib securely on me, though an easy, at-home sewing project could remedy that fit problem in 10 minutes.
The four-layer construction uses Patagonia’s proprietary H2No waterproof/breathable membrane and a polyester face fabric treated with Schoeller NanoSphere, an unusually tough, long-lasting DWR technology. The combination strikes a comfortable balance between durability and breathability: Although strenuous hikes did create clammy conditions in these waders, their ability to move moisture kept pace with most activities (especially in the cooler temperatures I experienced during the test). Most tellingly, taking them off after a session of fishing never felt like relief. I felt dry enough that it didn’t much matter to me whether I took them off at the river, or after I got home.
The Y-shaped suspenders offer two nifty features. Unclipping the bib from the two front straps (which remain in place on your shoulders) lets you push it down to waist-height. That convertability is most welcome on hot days and on shallow water that doesn’t require shoulder-high protection.
And unbuckling the bib from the strap in the back lets you drop the waders for backwoods bio-breaks. This feature did a great job of keeping my suspenders out of the stream (a feat that does require some attention when using standard straps). I found it easy to reach between my shoulder blades and re-attach the buckle, but I also know that thanks to yoga, I enjoy better-than-average flexibility in my shoulders. I suspect that most folks may have a harder time making that reach, and for them, the feature may be less than useful.
There’s an exterior zippered pocket on the chest, along with a handwarmer lined with microfleece that felt more wicking than warming: In my perfect world, this insulation would be a bit higher-pile. There’s also a large waterproof internal pouch that holds a wallet and phone. Handy as this is, I wish it were removable, because it inhibits breathability across a large portion of the chest.
But the slam dunk of the feature set is the wool-lined booties. This addition to the 3mm neoprene makes an appreciable difference in warmth. In fact, testing these waders side-by-side with other models in 38-degree air and 50-degree water, I found this to be the only pair that actually kept my feet warm. Generally, I have to wear neoprene socks to prevent numb toes in such conditions, but the Spring River was the first I’ve found that let me skip that insurance policy. I know I’d also appreciate the booties’ outstanding insulation in summer, when I fish tailwaters that are every bit as icy.
The Spring River’s above-average breathability and easy conversion from chest to waist-height waders makes them ideal for warm summer days. But the durable, four-layer construction and the bib’s protective cut also lends it to harsher conditions. If (like most anglers) you don’t have the luxury of owning a quiver of waders, this offers an excellent do-it-all option.
It significantly more expensive than most of the women’s waders on the market—double in some cases—but it’s not the priciest (Simms’ G3 Guide Stockingfoot takes that honor). But overall, its performance seems proportional to the investment. In other words, you get your money’s worth with the Spring River.