Best Hunting Waders: The Swamp Test

Discover how the best hunting waders performed in our swamp test

From Left to Right: Banded Cover 2, Cabela’s Instinct Accelerator, Lacrosse Aerotuff, Redhead Bone-Dry Extreme.

What better venue for a hunting wader test than an early-summer wetland reclamation project on a flooded 28-acre tangle of downed trees and submerged sinkholes? That’s where upstate New York duck fanatic and waterfowl guide Mike Bard spent his June, so we shipped him four new-for-2014 hunting waders to abuse while cutting trees, digging ditches, and building blinds. Bard spends nearly 100 days afield every year chasing birds, so he knows how to put the best hunting waders to the test.

Banded Cover 2

The Specs: 5mm neoprene • 1,600-gram Thinsulate Ultra boots • 10 lb.
Bard Says: “Banded has done everything possible to prevent leaks: All the seams are glued on the outside and taped on the inside, and the knees and rear end have protective Cordura coverings. The chest has a loose fit and one large exterior pocket. There are no belts, shell carriers, or other bells and whistles. It’s a basic, quality design with extremely warm boots, although I wasn’t thrilled with the tread design.”
Bottom Line: These minimalist waders emphasize the most important quality: leak prevention. Try them on before you buy, as the cut is different from other brands ($330; banded.com).

Cabela’s Instinct Accelerator

The Specs: Dry-Plus breathable upper • 5mm neoprene boots • 5.2 lb.
Bard Says: “These waders are very comfortable and offer a good fit. The breathable material allows for the most freedom of movement of any waders I’ve worn. There are three pockets, including a small waterproof one on the inside of the chest, a zippered exterior chest pocket, and a hand-warmer pocket. The superior mobility and comfort comes at a cost, though. The reinforced knees showed some wear after a week of busting through purple loosestrife.”
Bottom Line: A comfortable, breathable option for early-season hunts away from puncture-prone cover ($350; cabelas.com).

Lacrosse AeroTuff

The Specs: 5mm neoprene upper • 7mm neoprene boot socks • 1,500-gram-equivalent AeroForm boots • 10.8 lb.
Bard Says: “These deluxe waders could be too warm early in the year. All the seams in the legs and groin are sealed to prevent leaks. The knees and shins have rubberized strips for puncture protection. I counted three pockets and two D-rings for attaching accessories. The boots are warm, but the thicker neoprene around the ankle made for a tight fit. I don’t think you could wear these with a pant guard.”
Bottom Line: Ideal for late-season hunts, these heavy-duty waders have lots of pockets and attachment options. Most comfortable with a stirrup wader pant ($350; lacrossefootwear.com).

RedHead Bone-Dry Extreme

The Specs: 5mm neoprene • 1,000-gram Thinsulate Ultra boots • 11.4 lb.
Bard Says: “First thing I noticed about these waders was the boots. They have a unique cleatlike tread that helps on underwater slopes and steep riverbanks. The knees are reinforced and all the seams are double-stitched, but not glued or taped. The upper has a small exterior pocket and a hand-warmer pocket. The shoulder straps are neoprene and were the most comfortable of the bunch. Overall, they fit really well.”
Bottom Line: Not as bombproof as the other neoprenes, but if you’re on a budget, this is a solid wader at a good price ($200; basspro.com).