There are many different types of fishing waders that are useful for specific types of fishing. Whether you’re an experienced fly fisher or just looking to get started into the sport, there might be some products you aren’t familiar with. This article will help you figure out what all of the different types of fishing waders are so you can get the most out of your trips!
Some of the differences in these types of fishing waders I’m going to cover might be small, but all are unique and provide different benefits. The major types I’m going to write about include chest waders, hip waders, lightweight, insulated, breathable, neoprene, PVC, stockingfoot, and bootfoot waders.
Fly fishing chest waders are the most common type of wader you’re going to find. As the name suggests, they fit all the way up to your chest, allowing you to fish into deeper waters while still staying dry. You’ll be able to adjust the fit to suit your needs easily with the suspender straps. Depending on the type of chest wader, the boot type will differ. These types of chest waders will be covered in their specific categories below.
Best uses: Can be used in all fishing environments, but best suited for deeper fishing spots.
Pros: Allow for use in a wide range of fishing spots. Suspender straps allow for adjustments and secure use, typically have waterproof storage pockets
Cons: Bulkier than hip waders. Depending on weather conditions, could be either too hot or too cold.
Now that we know chest waders go up to your chest, it makes sense that hip waders just go up to your hips. If you like to fish in calm and shallow streams, hip waders will be a more convenient wader type for you. They are secured to you by using the included elastic straps that attach around your belt. Hip waders are easy to store in your vehicle so you can easily explore new fishing spots!
Best uses: Shallow and calm waters, known fishing spots where your boots don’t get stuck easily, quick fishing trips, tall grass with lots of dew.
Pros: Lightweight, easier to get on/off, more economical than chest waders.
Cons: Water is more likely to fill your boot. Limits the areas you can access.
Stockingfoot waders are designed to be used with a separate wading boot. The “stockingfoot” part is like a waterproof sock that will be able to slide into any wading boot of your choice. Being able to customize your gear more to your liking is a big selling point for these. An added benefit of the stockingfoot design is it is able to be packed up into a smaller space since it doesn’t have a built in boot. This makes these ideal for traveling.
Best uses: If you prefer a separate pair of wading boots instead of built in.
Pros: Great for customizing your gear a little bit more to your liking, great for traveling.
Cons: Requires you to keep track of more items (boots) for a trip.
Bootfoot waders is just the fancy name of saying “fishing waders with boots”. They use an attached boot, making your whole setup a one piece suit. This is convenient for keeping all of your gear in one spot and not making the stupid mistake of forgetting your boots!
Bootfoot waders can also come in a variation with cleats on the bottom. In these cases, you’ll usually find them named “cleated foot”, “cleat outsole” or something similar. Just like sports players use cleats, they’ll give you extra traction on a wide range of surfaces.
Best uses: Insulated bootfoot waders are the best waders for cold weather.
Pros: Faster to put on than stockingfoot, less items to track as the whole outfit is attached.
Cons: Bulkier and tougher to store or travel with than stockingfoot.
Lightweight waders are designed for use in warm weather and calm fishing spots. By nature of being lightweight, they are made of thinner material (such as 70D nylon or .55mm PVC). This makes them easier to wear when it’s warm outside and you don’t have to worry about insulating yourself from freezing temps. Most usually are designed with a single color and rarely have camo options. The boots don’t offer much more than being waterproof, but the simplicity is what keeps them so lightweight. I do not recommend lightweight waders for mountain streams that are fed by snow melt. Even during summer months, the water temp can be very uncomfortable without some added insulation.
Best uses: Fishing or wading during the summer in ponds or lakes.
Pros: Comfortable, easy on/off, agile.
Cons: No insulation.
If you like to fish in cold water, then you must purchase a pair of insulated waders to protect yourself from the cold. Without insulation, you’ll be fishing for about 2 seconds before realizing your jeans just won’t cut it. The most common insulation material used is called “Thinsulate” and it is measured in grams and is located inside the boot. The more grams of Thinsulate, the better the insulation rating. A high rating would be anything 1000g+, a medium rating is 600g, and a low rating is 200g. The more Thinsulate there is, the more comfortable you’ll be in the water, but also the thicker your boots get, so it boils down to personal preference on what the “best” option is. A general rule of thumb is, if you fishing mountain streams fed from snow melt, Go with the highest rating you can afford.
The other way that waders are insulated is with the material Neoprene. Neoprene is the one of the more popular materials, if not the most popular. It is very flexible, and has good durability with the added benefit of insulating the upper portion of your body. Neoprene is rated by its thickness. The thicker the material the warmer and better insulated you will be in cold weather. 5mm and above thickness will offer you the warmest waders. 3mm and below should be considered for moderate to warm weather.
Best uses: Cold water fishing. If the water is mild or even warm, you will not want to be wearing anything with insulation.
Pros: Keeps you warm even in freezing water The added insulation will make the waders more durable.
Cons: Waders with quality insulation are a bit more expensive.
Breathable waders are for those who want a nice and sturdy pair of waders that are comfortable in warm weather, but aren’t interested in a lightweight version. Unlike the insulated version, there isn’t a good measurement of how breathable a wader is, so you’ll want to make sure to do your research by reading reviews of current owners.
Best uses: Warm weather.
Pros: Will keep you cooler during warm fishing trips.
Cons: Only suitable for one environment (warm).
While these are technically not considered waders, I thought it was worth an honorable mention. Muck boots will make any fishing adventure more comfortable. The high calf line and aggressive bottom tread will keep your feet dry and secure. They fit on right over your regular clothes and will help you traverse some muddy situations without fear of getting wet.
Best uses: Fishing in questionable spots, quick fishing trips, any situation where you might experience mud or shallow water.
Pros: Comfortable, agile, easy on/off.
Cons: Not suitable for anything over ankle deep water.
Types of Fishing Waders Recap
As you might have noticed, there are a lot of combination possibilities when it comes to the different types of fishing waders. For example, you could be looking for an insulated neoprene bootfoot chest wader with cleats. Your options will get limited each time you add a modifier, but luckily there are a lot of great companies making quality waders. If you’re looking to buy fishing waders, I recommend checking out SitkaGear.com and DrakeWaterfowl.com for high quality fishing waders.