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Fly fishing waders are one of the most intimidating purchases an angler can make. They’re a critical safety element when fishing in lower temperatures and can make or break a day on the water. Even at the low end, they’re an expensive accessory in a sport defined by expensive accessories. In addition to price and safety, there are many other factors to consider when it comes to choosing a pair of the best fly fishing waders like durability, comfort, insulation, and purpose. Even when you finally do land on a pair of waders, the flaws might not be immediately obvious until you actually start fishing in them.
For this review, I tested the best fly fishing waders on the market to help make this process a little easier. Through first-hand use and interviews with experienced guides and industry experts, I’ve narrowed down the list of options to help anglers of all skill levels have a safer, drier day on the water.
- Best Overall: Simms G3 Guide Waders
- Best Rugged: Orvis PRO Zipper Waders
- Best Everyday: Simms G4Z Guide Waders
- Best Under $300: Simms Tributary
- Best for the Money: Frogg Toggs Canyon II
How to Choose the Best Fly Fishing Waders
First and foremost, consider how many days you’ll realistically use your waders and how much stress you plan to put on them. If you plan to spend as much time as possible in them, then you should probably invest in a high-end pair of waders that will handle the wear-n-tear. If you only plan to fish a couple of times throughout the year or a few quick trips, buy a pair of waders that’ll keep you dry and your wallet green.
When it comes to dialing in the specific size and fit you’ll need, there are five key measurements to consider: chest, waist, hips, inseam, and foot size. Most wader companies provide a sizing chart that incorporates all of these and allows you to select the perfect wader size for you. For an additional fee, Simms takes this a step further by offering customized wader options to better accommodate anglers of all shapes and sizes.
The Best Fly Fishing Waders: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Simms G3 Guide Waders
- 3- and 4-layer Gore-Tex fabric
- Exterior fly patch
- Air mesh suspenders
- Large array of sizes
- No lace hooks
- More expensive than some competitors
Simms is the unquestioned leader in the industry when it comes to waders. Some notable updates to these G3 waders include the addition of air mesh suspenders, which are significantly more comfortable than the solid fabric suspenders of the older models. Simms also managed to make the waders more supple and comfortable using a 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric upper section and improved the durability of the lower section using 4-layer Gore-Tex material. This results in a more comfortable, breathable wader that’s noticeably more tear and puncture resistant.
Simms always focuses on building waders and products that solve problems or otherwise improve the angling experience. While it’s one of the smallest updates, nowhere is this mindset more noticeable on the G3 than with the removal of the pesky lace hooks on the built-in gravel guards. These hooks come standard on nearly all waders, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. They rarely accomplish their limited task, and when they inevitably come unhooked, they create a seemingly magnetic attraction to fly line and cause constant foul-ups.
There are a number of other quality additions, from zippered and fleece lined side pouches to the exterior fly patch, and all of them create an excellent wader with all the features a hardcore angler needs for a successful day on the water. The Simms G3 aren’t the top-of-the-line wader on the market, nor are they the cheapest. However, they do provide the absolute best all-around option for a dedicated recreational angler looking for high-end quality without dropping high-end money.
Learn more about the Simms G3 Guide Wader in my full review.
Best Rugged: Orvis PRO Zipper Waders
- TIZIP Masterseal waterproof zipper
- Removable knee pads
- Sizes: S-XXL
- Front access zipper
- Multiple pockets
- Not as comfortable as others at similar prices
The minute I slid these waders on, I had the impression of stepping into a suit of armor. While they lack some of the suppleness and comfort of other top end waders, the PRO Zippers have plenty of durability. I personally used and abused a pair all winter long on the freestone rivers and spring creeks of Virginia. I deliberately plowed through thorn bushes and brambles and slid down ragged, rocky banks. Despite my best efforts, the waders never sprung a leak or had one pinhole puncture.
Other than being the most bulletproof waders on the market, The PRO Zippers have a few other features that level them up and justify the higher price point. The most obvious is the TIZIP Masterseal waterproof zipper. After using these waders with a front zipper, I can never go back.
The PRO Zippers also provide other unique comfort enhancing elements like the the removable OrthoLite X25 knee pads. They also offer an impressive amount of support and protection if you have to shimmy down rocky trails or stealthily approach a bank. You can even remove the knee pads for less adverse terrain or smaller streams. And two zippered and fleece lined pockets on either side provide warmth and decent storage, while the two front zippered pockets can hold smaller items or tippet. They might run higher than other options, but if you’re looking for high-quality waders that will stand up to rugged terrain and constant use, the Orvis PRO Zippers fit the bill.
Best Everyday: Simms G4Z Guide Waders
- 3-layer Gore-Tex upper, 4-layer Gore-Tex lower
- Two zippered chest pockets with docking stations
- Adjustable air-mesh suspenders
- Extremely durable
- Easy access pockets and docking stations
- Compression molded stocking feet
As the moniker suggests, the Simms G4 series is everything about the G3 taken up a notch. Composed of a similar 3-layer Gore-Tex upper and a 4-layer Gore-Tex lower as the G3, the G4Zs provide exceptional durability and puncture protection. While the G4Zs match durability with other high-end waders on this list, they separate from the pack in comfort and wearability. They provide a custom, tailored fit with compression molded stocking feet and patented front and back leg seams that significantly increase mobility and enhance durability by taking stress off the seam connections.
Simms’ G4Zs also provide a plethora of accessories and enhancements that make them a go-to wader for people who make a living on the water. The easy access front zipper system and two large, zippered chest pockets with built-in retractor docking stations provide exceptional storage for tools and terminal tackle. Two more zippered, fleece lined pockets add storage and hand warming ability as well. Like other high-end Simms waders, the added exterior fly patch provides quick and easy fly access on the water.
I spoke with several guides and the consensus remained the same: they’d wear these waders to bed if it made sense. Well, maybe not to bed, but the level of praise they all shared for the G4Zs can’t be overstated. As people who make a living on the water, guides require comfort and durability day in and day out, and the Simms G4Zs provide them with that.
Best Under $300: Simms Tributary
- 3-layer polyester upper, 4-layer polyester lower
- Fleece-lined pockets
- Single, front-zip pocket
- Simple, effective design
- Budget friendly
- Minimal storage space
While they may not have the frills or accessories of high end waders, the Tributary series will get you in the water and keep you dry. If you’re new to fly fishing or need a durable, comfortable option that won’t break the bank, the Tributary series is hard to beat.
Built with a 3-layer waterproof polyester upper and 4-layer lower, the Tributary series lacks some durability and breathability but still has the same quality Simms tailoring, which helps separate them from other waders at this price point. They’re significantly more comfortable compared to other polyester waders I’ve worn, and the fleece lined reach-through chest pocket provides exceptional hand warmth. And the built in gravel guards help eliminate punctures and tears.
Storage space is limited, but the zippered front chest pocket has enough room to hold fly boxes and other crucial gear on the water. To be honest, there’s an element of simplicity that I appreciate in these waders when compared to the plethora of zippers and pockets on more high-end waders. The Tributary waders are a great choice for casual wades or quick trips where you only need one fly box and a few spools of tippet to get fishing.
Best for the Money: Frogg Toggs Canyon II
- Sizes: S-2XL
- Gravel guards
- 4mm neoprene booties
- 4-ply nylon upper
- Stocking foot
- Includes a wading belt
- No waterproof pocket
I rarely need chest waders, so it doesn’t make sense for me to drop $600 on them. But, I also want waders that will perform the few times of year I do throw them on. At around $130, my Frogg Toggs Canyon II waders fit those requirements perfectly. I bought them ahead of a Salmon River trip and lived in them for three days as I stalked salmon in the riffles. I’ve since used them for my winter trout fishing with no leaks or issues. I like the comfortable shoulder straps, and the breathability is nice to prevent sweating while hiking into un-pressured waters. The Canyon II has two small pockets—one internal and one external. I typically use the internal pocket for important items like my license and keys. I use the water resistant external pocket to keep my phone at easy reach for photos. The Canyon II lacks the pockets, reinforced knees, and refined fit of premium waders, and you’ll also need to layer underneath them when fishing in cold water. But if your type of fishing doesn’t demand those added features or you’re just getting started, these waders will fit the bill nicely. —Scott Einsmann
Read Next: Best Fly Fishing Vests
Stockingfoot waders allow you to use different wading boots for different scenarios and are much easier to store. Plus they’re usually more comfortable if you’re going to be hiking long distances in your waders. Bootfoot waders are warmer and faster to put on.
Waders are either necessary or not depending on the conditions and the body of water. Waders are necessary for wading in cold water. In warm water, you can wet wade or wear breathable waders. Some small streams are fishable with just a pair of rubber boots.
Like any good tool, you get what you pay for with waders. More expensive waders have better seams and reinforced areas that help them last longer. But, eventually all waders will leak after several seasons of hard use.
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Final Thoughts on the Best Fly Fishing Waders
Having the best fly fishing waders can make a day on the water, and they’re a critical element to fishing in lower temperatures. There are a wide range of options to choose from, both in complexity and pricing, so consider what makes sense to you before diving in. From a safety standpoint, as well as comfort, it’s important to choose the right pair of waders for the job. Not all waders are created equal, so take the time to examine what factors are most important to you, and then, you can invest in a new pair with confidence.