Types Of Waders - The Ultimate Guide

Types Of Waders – The Ultimate Guide

Purchasing a product as important as a pair of waders can be a daunting task. 

Aside from sorting through all the various designs, there is a significant list of factors to consider when looking at waders. 

It is easy to buy the wrong pair and cause yourself an unneeded expense. 

If you are in a rush to make a purchase, you could end up with waders that don’t fit properly, offer sup-par quality that fails quickly, or any number of other issues that could have been avoided. 

You can’t try on waders if you order them online, and returning a product might not be an option if you need your waders for a fishing trip that is right around the corner. 

It’s really important that you do a little bit of research before making a purchase so that you avoid a frustrating and expensive headache. 

Getting the right type of waders can save you significant money, not to mention, keep you comfortable and dry on your next fishing adventure. 

That’s exactly why the Fly Fishing Atlas team brings you our ultimate guide to waders.

Keep reading for all the details on the various types of waders and how to get the waders that will serve you the best.

Important Considerations

Posing In Waders

The very first thing you need to consider is the typical water and air temperatures surrounding your use of waders because the weather conditions and water temperatures will be super important details.

At face value, waders are meant to keep you dry by simply keeping the water out, but there are a number of other factors that are equally important.

For example, waders also need to keep you warm – but not too warm. The temperature of the water will have a big impact on which type of waders will be best for you.

But keep in mind that changing weather conditions are inevitable. Air temperatures are often cooler in the morning and warm up significantly throughout the day.

If your waders provide ideal warmth in the morning but make you break out in a sweat by noon, you are going to start feeling wet as moisture accumulates inside your waders.

That really defeats the purpose of wearing waders in the first place. The second detail that needs to be considered is how deep you want to wade.

That one is pretty simple to sort out. Getting these details right will make your wading experience comfortable and enjoyable. We are going to help you sort all that out.

How Do Waders Work?

Fishing In Waders

If you only need to walk through ankle-deep water, then a pair of knee-high waterproof boots will do the trick.

But you will need waders when you start considering wading through the water above the knees.

Waders essentially function just like a pair of waterproof boots, but the provide a waterproof layer that extends much higher than waterproof boots.

But maybe you need to wade through water that might come up as high as your waist, or maybe even higher.

Keeping this point in mind, let’s dive right into sorting out which type of waders will keep you dry in your usual wading conditions.

Types Of Waders

In order to really nail down which type of waders will perform exactly how you need them to perform, you need to know the types of waders that are out there. 

There are three styles of waders that basically correspond to how deep you intend to wade. First, lets which type of waders will provide for how deep you intend to wade.

Then we will move on to which type of waders will perform in your ever-changing temperatures and weather conditions.

Hip Waders

Hip Waders

One of the most popular styles of waders is hip wader. These waders offer a lot of benefits and are fairly versatile for a variety of uses. 

Regardless of their other features and designs, wearing hip waders is essentially like wearing a really tall pair of waterproof boots that extend up to the hip. 

That’s not to say every pair of hip waders is created equal. 

Some hip waders will be more versatile and provide for maximum comfort in a variety of water and air temperatures, while other hip wader designs will be more adept at keeping you warm in really cold temperatures. 

One of the big benefits of hip waders is that they don’t take up much room in a backpack. 

When you are on the trail and traversing shallow streams and creeks, hip waders can keep you dry and are quick to take on and off. 

But they do have their limitations compared to other wader designs. 

Any water that comes above the level of your hips is going to spill over the top of your waders and likely soak you all the way down to your socks.

Waist Waders

Waders For Waist

Once you’ve decided that wading a little deeper than your hips is likely, you might want to take a close look at a pair of waist waders. 

Though not quite as popular as hip waders, waist waders are another popular style of waders. 

They fit almost exactly like a pair of pants that provide waterproofing all the way up to your waistline. 

Waist waders have their strengths and weaknesses.  Most folks will find waist waders more comfortable than hip waders. 

Waist waders also provide a little more waterproofing than hip waders, but not a lot. 

On the other hand, by their nature waist waders require more seams to provide waterproofing up to the waist. 

More waterproof seams mean more potential points of failure. 

With that in mind, spending a little coin on good waist waders will provide a lot of protection from premature seam failure.   

Nevertheless, if you need to wade up to your waist, then a quality pair of waist waders can get you where you want to go.

Chest Waders

Waders For Chest

Chest waders are extremely popular for a very good reason: chest waders have a ton of strengths and very few weaknesses. 

Chest waders are are the most versatile type of waders, and are ideal for deep wading above the waist. 

Even if you don’t plan on wading above your waist, accidents happen.  Chest waders provide a lot of protection and a lot of options when wading a variety of water depths. 

When temperatures warm up, chest waders generally provide for waist-high conversion. 

You can simply unbuckle the suspenders or clip them around your waist to take advantage of maximum ventilation. 

That important feature will keep you every bit as cool as you would in a pair of waist waders. 

One minor weakness would be that chest waders are manufactured with a bit more material than hip and waist waders. 

So if you need to toss them in a backpack they might weight a little more than their previous two counterparts. 

With that said, if you lightweight breathable waders are fairly easy to pack and don’t take up much space.  We will cover that aspect of waders coming up next.

Neoprene vs Breathable Waders

After you have decided between hip, waist, or chest waders, the next important detail is to make a choice between neoprene or lightweight breathable waders. 

There are a number of factors to consider before you make the decision. 

Both neoprene and breathable waders are very popular types of waders and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Neoprene Waders

Neoprene Waders

Neoprene waders are a big crowd-pleaser and are in high demand compared to other types of waders. 

If you are not familiar with neoprene, it is a flexible synthetic rubber material that is commonly used in wet suits used for diving. 

Neoprene waders provide excellent insulation.  For this reason, neoprene waders are a very popular choice for cold water wading. 

Neoprene waders are also offered in a variety of thicknesses that usually range between 2.5mm-5mm which can provide varying levels of insulation depending on your needs. 

For those super cold spring creeks and frigid early season outings, 5mm thick neoprene waders will provide an unmatched level of warmth. 

Reasonable pricing is another strong point of neoprene waders.  More often than not, neoprene waders are more affordable than an equivalent pair of breathable waders. 

However, in either case, cheap waders are not built to last, so you will get what you pay for.  But there are a few downfalls to neoprene waders. 

On warmer days, one of the biggest strengths of neoprene quickly becomes a hindrance.  The insulative value of neoprene will make you sweat profusely on hot days. 

The second downfall would be that neoprene is not at all conducive to backpacking. 

Hiking with the weight and bulkiness of neoprene is going to be exhausting and take up a lot of space in your pack. 

Aside from those few weaknesses, the strengths of neoprene waders shine through in a good number of conditions.

Breathable Waders

Breathable Waders

For the ultimate versatility and comfort in a wide variety of circumstances, breathable waders are the tops. 

Of all the types of waders on the market, breathable chest waders are incredibly adaptable and functional. 

Breathable waders are constructed from combining layers of nylon or polyester with a waterproof membrane, like GORE-TEX. 

This combination allows the material to remain flexible, lightweight, and capable of transferring some vapor away from the body. 

When you need to wade in a variety of water depths, breathable chest waders are typically designed to be waist-high convertible. 

So you can wade in any depth of water up to your chest while benefiting from all the pros of hip and waist waders. 

Meanwhile, if you are careful to purchase your breathable waders with a slightly loose fit you can add under-layering when needed for colder conditions. 

This way you can achieve the warmth of neoprene while enjoying all the comforts of breathable waders. 

On the other hand, when the weather is a little warm you can scrap the under layers to keep cool. 

Another huge benefit of lightweight breathable waders is that they roll up in a small package that won’t require a lot of space if you are hiking into a remote area. 

And they are much lighter than neoprene so you won’t expend nearly as much energy if you want to backpack them in.

Stockingfoot vs Bootfoot Waders

You might be surprised or even confused with the footwear involved with wearing waders. We’re here to help you sort that out. 

With regard to wading footwear, waders are manufactured with two different designs that require two unique approaches to footwear: stockingfoot or bootfoot.

Bootfoot Waders

Walking in Water With Bootfoot Waders

At face value, the simplest solution to addressing footwear for your waders might seem like buying waders with boots permanently attached. 

But like other types of waders, bootfoot waders have their benefits as well as shortcomings. 

Regardless of whether you purchase neoprene or breathable waders, bootfoot waders have a continuous waterproof connection between the boot and the wader. 

Getting dressed in these types of waders is very fast and only requires that you pull them up over your legs and go hit the water. 

That might be easy compared to some other styles, but there is more to consider than focusing on waders that are quick and easy to get into. 

For example, bootfoot waders are usually a little more expensive than the same model of stockingfoot waders. 

That just makes sense, seeing that they come with boots.  But the trouble you can experience comes knocking if you have trouble with your boots or a leak in your waders. 

If either requires replacement, the entire pair of bootfoot waders requires replacement.  This is an inevitable scenario. 

Waders and wading boots don’t last forever and you will need to replace one of them eventually.

Stockingfoot Waders

Man Wearing Stockingfoot Waders

Stockingfoot waders bring another dimension of versatility to waders and are much more popular than bootfoot waders. 

Both neoprene stockingfoot waders, as well as breathable stockingfoot waders, will come with neoprene “stockings” from the manufacturer. 

However, these stocking feet are not puncture resistant.  So you might be wondering, “How do stockingfoot waders work?” 

The stocking feet are stitched into the legs of the waders and the seams are waterproofed, so you don’t have to worry about keeping the water out. 

But you do have to select a pair of wading boots to wear with your stockingfoot waders. 

Once you pull your waders all the way up and you’ve slid your feet into the neoprene stocking, the next step is to slip a pair of wading boots over the stocking feet. 

At first, this might seem like an additional hassle.  But when you need to replace your waders or wading boots, you will save yourself the expense of replacing them both. 

As we mentioned earlier, this is not an option with bootfoot waders. 

Another benefit of stockingfoot waders is that you can swap out multiple pairs of wading boots for different wading conditions.


You should give yourself a little time to digest some of that information before making a purchase. 

When you find that you are ready to make a purchase, we put together a summary list below so you can take a quick look at the choices out there. 

Happy wading!

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