There are a few basic types of waders on the market. Most are either neoprene or thin, breathable synthetic materials. Neoprene seems to be the most popular choice during the cold months of the year, while breathable waders are more common during the warmer summer months. There are also different heights of waders. Hip boots go up to your hips, and chest waders go up to (you guessed it) your chest. They either come in stockingfoot waders (where the stocking is usually made of a neoprene boot) and bootfoot waders, where there is a wading boot attached to the end.
Now that we have gone over the basic types of waders available, I will attempt to rank the top 5 stockingfoot, chest height, breathable waders on the market. Why am I choosing this type over the others? They’re better. Let me explain why before we go into the rankings.
First of all, breathable waders are comfortable to use year round. Sure, neoprene waders offer added insulation, but it is just as easy to layer your clothing underneath the waders to insulate against the cold. Being able to use my waders year round means I only have to buy one pair of waders rather than two, which saves me money for other fishing gear.
Secondly, breathable waders are lightweight and don’t restrict my movement. This is important when wading in swift currents. Bulky neoprene waders can hamper your mobility, which can be a dangerous situation in deep, swift waters. Sure, neoprene is more durable against abrasions and cuts, but most of the lightweight breathable waders on the market come with reinforced knee pads and seams, which reduces wear and tear.
Choosing a chest high pair of waders doesn’t mean that you can and should wade in water up to your chest. The extended coverage will keep out splashing water, and I just prefer chest waders to hip boots or wading pants. As for choosing stockingfoot waders over bootfoot waders, most bootfoot waders come with sub-par boots. I would rather buy my own boots to use with my waders than be stuck with boots with slippery traction.
Now that you know why I choose breathable, stockingfoot chest waders for year round fishing, let’s get into the rankings.
#5 – Frogg Toggs Anura Nylon Breathable Stockingfoot Waders – $160
While not a super well known brand name, the Anura by Frogg Toggs is a solid set of waders. The knees and shins are reinforced with a 6 ply section of nylon, with 4 ply coverage on the rest of the waders. The waders themselves are lightweight yet durable, and they are constructed with what they call ‘DriPore C3 technology.’ The socks are constructed of 3.5mm neoprene, and feature gravel guards and lace hooks. They also feature quick release buckles on the suspenders and a zippered chest pocket. Priced right at $160, click the following link for more information or to purchase your Frogg Toggs Anura waders today.
#4 – Caddis Northern Guide Zippered Breathable Stockingfoot Waders – $140-$220
I am a big fan of zippered front waders, but only as long as the zipper is high quality and waterproof, as they are on these waders. The Northern Guide waders from Caddis are extremely well built and offer several features, including reinforced knees, shin area, and seat for added durability; gravel guards with heavy duty lace latch; taped, glued, an and stitched seams; and several sizes (including stout sizes that add extra room without length) to fit perfectly on any fisherman. Priced at $220 (or $140 for the non zippered), no matter the size, these waders will last you a long time and provide comfort on the water. Click on the following link for more information on the waders or to purchase you pair of Northern Guide waders now.
#3 – Redington Sonic Pro Breathable Stockingfoot Waders – $250-$350
I love Redington Products. Their fly fishing combos offer some of the best value on the market today, and I love my 5 weight Topo outfit that I purchased off of Amazon a few months ago. No surprise that they also make high quality waders. The Sonic Pro waders come with a front zipper or without, with the front zipper adding approximately $100 to the price tag. Is a front zipper really worth the added premium? I think so, but not to the tune of an extra $100. These waders feature 3 layer coated nylon, with 5 layers on the shins and knees. The name comes from the fact that the seams are ‘high-tech Ultra Sonic Welded,’ not sewn. Without seams, you are less likely to spring a leak while on the water. They feature ergonomic hand warmer pockets lined with brushed micro fleece, which is a nice touch. The outer pocket or pockets (depending on the model) are waterproof as well, which allows you to keep water sensitive items like cameras and wallets dry. The price is a little on the steep side here, but the quality is nothing short of Redington’s high standards, and is also related to the fact that there are absolutely no seams on these waders. Click the following links for purchasing information.
#2 – Simms Headwaters Breathable Stockingfoot Waders – $280
It is no doubt that Simms makes some of the best waders on the market today. The Headwaters waders are no exception. Featuring 3 layers of Gore-Tex Performance Shell Fabric with additional reinforced knee and shin panels, you will hardly notice these waders are on. They are ultra-breathable, ultra-light, and ultra-comfortable. The exterior pocket includes a quick drying micro fleece liner, as well as an extra stretch mesh pocket with hook and loop closure. These are fantastic waders, and when it comes to comfort, Simms Headwaters waders are as comfortable as they come. For more purchasing information, click the link below.
#1 – Hodgman Hickory Swale Breathable Stockingfoot Waders – $155
Choosing the number one pair of waders on the market wasn’t easy, but when it comes to price, features, and comfort, only one pair of waders stood out from the crowd. Hodgman’s Hickory Swale zippered waders are absolutely awesome waders. Period. I’ve already mentioned how much I like zippered front waders, and these ones do not disappoint. But they are also very reasonably priced. In fact, these waders are the cheapest on the list (as of the publish date, subject to change), which is amazing to me. The full front zipper allows for easy on, easy off, and it is fully waterproof. The suspenders are also quite comfortable compared to others out there, as they are padded and vented. The knees and shins are fully reinforced for maximum durability, and the neoprene socks are durable and long lasting. A few other features that set these waders apart from the others are the fly rod holder tabs along the side, the removable fly patch, the retractable zinger, and the waterproof pockets. If you are minimalist fly fisherman, you might not even need to wear a vest or chest pack while on the water. Overall, Hodgman’s Hickory Swale waders are an impressive set, and will serve you well during any fishing scenario. Click the following link for more information on the top ranked breathable waders and to purchase yours today!
Hodgman has a few other zippered models that are also fantastic, so check them out as well!
Hodgman Pipestone Breathable Stockingfoot Waders
Hodgman Pond Hollow Insulated Stockingfoot Waders
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, this article will help you sort through the many different wader types, brands, and models on the market and cut right to the quality waders available. As always, happy fishing!
What do you think about this top 5 list? Where did I get it right? Where did I get it wrong? Is the entire list garbage? What is your top pair of breathable waders? Let me know in the comment section below. Thanks!