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Outside the dog days of summer (and sometimes during), fly anglers almost always wear waders. Besides rods, reels, and flies, fly fishing waders are arguably the most important piece of gear a fly angler will own. They keep you dry, protect you from brush when hiking to the water, and offer organization for gear. But what makes one pair of waders better than another?  

For starters, the quality of materials and construction of any wader will determine its durability, comfort, and performance. Durability and waterproofness are the two most important aspects of any breathable fishing waders. Of course, comfort and fit are also crucial to a good wader, but what’s the point of wearing them if they leak or rip after a few trips? Waders need to keep you dry. Period.  

Over the last eight years, I’ve worn dozens of fishing waders in every condition imaginable—from sweltering summer days to standing in icy waters. Some pairs lasted years without a leak, and others malfunctioned after only a couple of trips. I’ve combined all my experience and research (plus some help from colleagues) into this roundup, so you don’t have to deal with leaky waders a week after buying a new pair. Here are some of the best fly fishing waders you can buy now.

The Best Fly Fishing Waders

Other Great Fly Fishing Waders 

angler in fly fishing waders
The author holds up a king salmon caught in Pulaski, New York. Ryan Chelius

How We Tested Fly Fishing Waders 

Most waders won’t leak after the first few trips, but once you start using a pair for months and years on end, materials begin to deteriorate. Over time, waders become exposed to brush, abrasion, and general wear and tear. That’s why it’s important to get a pair in your price range that will last for more than a week. The only way to determine the most durable, most comfortable, and most bulletproof waders is to fish in them over and over again. So we did just that.  

For the last decade, I’ve been wearing several different waders throughout the country on various fishing adventures. I fished for steelhead in the snow, trout in the summer heat, and migrating salmon in the fall. Not to mention the muddy mess of runoff season. I’ve worn waders in virtually every fishable temperature in both fresh and saltwater conditions. It all adds up to hundreds of days on the water, including working several months as a river patrolman on the Salmon River in Pulaski, New York. That’s right, I had work waders.  

As a serious angler, patrolman, and gear editor, I’ve collected quite a few pairs. It’s fair to say I’ve inadvertently tortured-tested the waders just through constant use. I’ve had leaks that were completely my fault and others that should have never happened. For that reason, not every wader I tested is on this list. The ones that did make it deserve your consideration as your next pair. As you’re about to see, I dished out three awards that cover a range of prices—from premium to budget options. Below that, with some help from a coworker, we listed out some other great options. Depending on how much you fish, these choices should last you season after season. 

angler sleeping in fly fishing waders
The author takes a riverside nap in his Simms Freestone waders. Ryan Chelius

Best Overall: Orvis Pro Zipper Waders 

Specs 

  • Materials: Cordura fabric 
  • Size: S-2XL, Short, Regular, Long, Extra Long 
  • Type: Zipper 
  • Weight: 42 ounces 

Pros 

  • Comfortable 
  • Very durable 
  • Knee pads 
  • Useful pockets 
  • Good fit 

Cons 

  • The pocket zipper handle broke during the first year 

I switched to the Orvis Pro Waders a little over a year ago and haven’t looked back. These are my go-to waders, no matter the trip, location, or time of year. They are comfortable, fit perfectly, and, most importantly, don’t leak.  

I’m not exactly sure what Cordura fabric is made of, but my waders have yet to spring a leak after a year of fishing in them. They have survived numerous falls and tumbles on sharp rocks and have seen the nastiest brush imaginable. My favorite feature is the knee pads. While they aren’t construction grade, they provide just enough relief when you go to kneel down. Meaning my knees aren’t beat up when I kneel down to re-tie or hold a fish. I also like the four pockets on the chest, especially the front zipper ones that can fit my fly boxes and gear. The handwarmer pockets are great for winter fishing.

The Pro Waders do fall into the premium category due to the material and zipper design, which I love. The fully waterproof zipper makes it easy to change in and out of the waders, interchange layers, and access your pants pockets. These waders are among the most reliable and comfortable I’ve ever worn, and the sizing is a perfect fit. —Ryan Chelius

Angler in fly fishing waders
Chelius holds up a wild rainbow trout in his Orvis Pro waders.

Best Value: Simms Freestone Waders 

Specs 

  • Materials: Toray QuadraLam 
  • Size: S-2XL, Short, Regular, Long 
  • Type: Traditional chest wader 
  • Weight: 42 ounces (in medium) 

Pros 

  • Very durable 
  • Breathable 
  • Excellent value 
  • Comfortable suspenders 

Cons 

  • Only one large pocket 

I fished and worked in the previous model of the Simms Freestone Waders for five years without them ever leaking. To be honest, I was shocked they lasted so long after hundreds of days on the water, including busting through brush and scraping them on rocks. That’s why I was surprised when Simms released their new and improved Freestone Wader last year. I thought to myself, how can these waders get any better for the price? 

For starters, Simms introduced new front and back leg seams—the same ones found on their premium waders, like the G3 and G4Z. This design increases durability and lessens the chances of leaks in high-wear areas. Simms also redesigned the fit of the waders—in both men’s and women’s—to better match the style seen in the G3 series. The result is a more comfortable fit with less bunching and creasing. Other improvements include new gravel guards and a new midnight blue colorway.  

The Freestones don’t have as much organization as some of the other premium models (they just have one big chest pocket), but the new pairs do include built-in loops for a tippet tender, pliers, clippers, and other gear. The biggest downside is an increase in price with the new design, but the performance still outweighs the cost. For $380, these waders are the best bang for your buck on the market. And if you’re someone who wants the benefits of a zipper wader but doesn’t want to shell a grand, the Freestone Z waders can be had for $100 more than the base models. Either way, these waders are as close as you can come to a premium pair for less than half the cost. —RC

Best Budget: Orvis Clearwater Waders 

Specs 

  • Materials: Nylon Fabric
  • Size: S-2XL, Short, Regular, Long 
  • Type: Traditional chest wader 
  • Weight: 42 ounces (in medium) 

Pros 

  • Very durable 
  • Breathable 
  • Excellent value 
  • Comfortable suspenders 

Cons 

  • Only one large pocket 

While there are cheaper options on the market, the Orvis Clearwaters are the best budget waders. For $250, anglers get a traditional-style wader that is comfortable, breathable, and durable enough to last multiple seasons. It comes with a few basic features like a chest storage pocket, two handwarmer pockets, and gravel guards. Like many other Orvis waders, the Clearwater’s have side-release buckles that allow you to convert the wader into a waist-high pant on hot days. A good way to improve your comfortability even more on the water.

I’ve worn these waders on a few different occasions, and I’ve never had a problem. However, the material quality and construction are noticeably less compared to the high-end models, which is expected due to the significantly lower price. That said, these waders are ideal for anglers who go on a few trips a year or are just starting out in fly fishing.

People who spend 100-plus days on the water should opt for higher-end waders with more durable materials. But those looking to stay dry a couple of times a year can’t go wrong with the Clearwater wader. The Orvis warranty includes a full replacement or refund during the first 60 days of use. After that, repairs and replacements are at Orvis’s discretion. —RC

Other Great Fly Fishing Waders

Simms G3 Waders

Specs

  • Materials: 3-layer Gore-Tex (upper); 4-layer Gore-Tex (lower)
  • Sizes: Small – XXL; Short, Rule, Long (inseam)
  • Type: Traditional Chest Wader
  • Weight: 50.1 ounces (in medium)

Pros

  • Extremely durable
  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Ample pocket space

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No lace hooks on gravel guards

The Simms G3 Guide waders are the best waders I’ve ever worn—the most comfortable, the most durable, the all-around best. I’ve been wearing my pair almost exclusively since the G3s were released in early 2022, and have only come to love them more. My home river doesn’t go easy on waders. Accessing the water requires a careful walk down a steep hill that’s rocky, brushy, thorny, or, in some spots, all of the above—and the river itself is full of giant, slippery rocks. In other words, there are plenty of places where you can easily puncture or tear your waders. Season after season, my G3s stand up to the conditions.

It’s hard to overstate how comfortable these waders are. There’s almost a stretch to them that I can feel as I climb from rock to rock or get in and out of the water. They almost wear like your favorite pair of sweatpants. Also, the G3s don’t have that crunchy quality some breathable waders have. This wader is dead silent.

As for pocket space and storage, the G3s have a handy (and removable) Tippet Tender that tucks inside the bib, where you can stash fly boxes and other tackle. There’s also a large, zippered pocket inside the waders, near the left armpit, where you can stash your phone or keys. And on the outside of the waders, there’s a zippered chest pocket, as well as a reach-through, fleece-lined hand pocket.

One nitpick I have with the waders is the lack of a lace hook on each gravel guard. Initially, this wasn’t a problem because the guards fit so tightly over my boots that there wasn’t a need for the stay-in-place insurance that lace hooks provide. Over time, though, the gravel guards have loosened enough that they do roll up over the tops of my wading boots.

And then there is the price: The G3s cost $700. To be fair, even the folks at Simms wouldn’t say that these waders are for everyone. If you only fish a handful of times a year, you don’t need waders that are as premium as these. But if you fish all year long, and on tough rivers that demand tough waders, a pair of G3s could be a smart (and lifelong) investment. —Colin Kearns

Patagonia Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders

Specs

  • Materials: Four-layer H2No Performance Standard shell (recycled polyester microfiber)
  • Sizes: Small – XXL with many specific fits
  • Type: Zip Wader
  • Weight: 65.9 ounces

Pros

  • Durable
  • Comfortable
  • Knee pads
  • Excellent storage

Cons

  • Expensive
  • A bit tight-fitting

For whatever reason, Patagonia fishing gear seems to fly under the radar. But those who’ve had the chance to fish in the Swiftcurrent Expedition waders, like myself, all seem to agree that they hold their own against other premium models. Right out of the box, you’ll notice that these waders are built to last. They feature a heavy-duty four-layer recycled polyester microfiber fabric that will withstand the toughest brush-busting hikes on the way to the water. And as if that extremely durable build wasn’t enough, Patagonia incorporated knee pads which have become my favorite feature in any wader.

But don’t let the tough construction fool you; these waders are also breathable and comfortable. While I wouldn’t consider them lightweight—they are the heaviest waders we tested, weighing 65.9 ounces—they are still breathable enough to wear comfortably on hot summer days. Come winter, that extra heft and weight feel nice when worn over layers in frigid waters.

As far as features go, the Swiftcurrent Expeditions are crammed full of unique designs and details. Starting at the top, the suspenders have a dual-adjustment system, meaning anglers can clip their suspenders into fixed slots on the top and then use the quick-release system at the bottom to slide the chest area up and down. There is a fully waterproof pocket on the inside of the wader that flips out, perfect for smartphones and small electronics. The chest also has four verticle-zippered pockets that can easily fit fly boxes, leaders, weights, and other gear. Note that these aren’t waterproof so don’t go in above the zippers.

The biggest drawback I’ve found is a slightly tight fit during the winter when I’m wearing layers. If I were to get these waders again, I’d consider sizing up ever so slightly to get some more room in the legs. The other downside is the $800 price. These are expensive and tailored to the diehard angler who spends a lot of time on the water. If you’re someone in that category and looking for a premium wader chock-full of features, Patagonia’s Swiftcurrent Expeditions are worth serious consideration. —RC

Grundéns Boundary Zip Stockingfoot Wader

Specs

  • Materials: Four-layer Gore-Tex laminate
  • Sizes: Small – XXL with many specific fits
  • Type: Zip Wader
  • Weight: N/A

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Durable
  • Comfortable suspender system
  • Excellent storage

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Gravel guards don’t have a clip

In case you missed our roundup of the Best Hunting and Fishing Gear from 2023, the Grundéns Boundary wader took home the award for Best New Waders. Traditionally a saltwater gear manufacturer, Grundéns shocked the industry when they released this premium fly fishing wader last year. I was one of the skeptics when I heard the news, but I quickly became a believer once I stepped into a pair. In fact, this wader is one of the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, and it has answered the call every time since I got it a year ago.

Grundéns partnered with Gore-Tex to design a four-layer waterproof laminate. The result is a very durable, breathable, and comfortable product. I love how lightweight these waders are, too. They pack down to a shockingly compact size and are easy to travel with. Any time I have to get on an airplane to get to my fishing destination, the Boundary waders come with me.

The chest section features four pockets: two vertical-zip handwarmer pockets and two oversized vertical storage pockets. This is where I keep everything I need for a day on the river—fly boxes, tippet spools, leaders, indicators, weights, flotant, and more. Grundéns emphasizes the suspender system of this wader as one of the best on the market. While I’ll spare you the technical description, the summary is that the suspenders move with your body for a more comfortable fit during activities like casting and rowing. I don’t have any complaints about it, which means it does the job well.

My biggest gripe with the wader is the lack of a boot hook on the gravel guards, which is becoming a more common feature in new designs. Over time, the gravel guards loosen and ride up. I prefer the traditional hook, but that’s just me. These waders also don’t feature knee pads, but many premium models don’t.

The $900 price tag will understandably scare many people off. That’s a lot of money. But Grundéns did an excellent job of building a wader worthy of serious anglers, and it belongs in the premium category. —RC

Chelius holds up a brown trout in his Grunden's Boundary waders.
Chelius holds up a brown trout in his Grundéns Boundary waders. Ryan Chelius

Skwala RS Wader

Specs

  • Materials: Four-layer laminate with C6 DWR finish
  • Sizes: Medium – XXL with many specific fits
  • Type: Zipper
  • Weight: 55.6 ounces

Pros

  • Extremely durable
  • Warm during winter fishing
  • Comfortable suspension system
  • Great mobility

Cons

  • Not ideal for summer fishing
  • Expensive

A newcomer to the fly fishing world, Skwala manufactures premium fly fishing waders, jackets, and sun-protective apparel. Last fall, they sent me their RS wader, which is designed for the nastiest conditions. The timing couldn’t have been better, and I spent the entire winter fishing various Rocky Mountain streams and rivers in these waders. Here’s the report card.

If a company is going to advertise a wader as one built for the wettest and coldest conditions, then it better be pretty warm. The RS wader is. Built from a durable four-layer laminate, it is noticeably hefty out of the box. Which makes sense considering the conditions is was designed for. On the water, it performs like many other premium models, but with a bit more bulk. I trudged through more than a foot of snow and broke ice shelves to reach rivers, and the RS wader withstood it all.

Similar to Patagonia’s Swiftcurrent wader, the Skwala RS is heavier and thicker than most breathable models. This is great for fall, winter, and spring fishing when temperatures dip below freezing. I fished in 20-degree weather multiple times and always remained comfortable. These wouldn’t be my first choice for summer fishing, but again, the waders aren’t made for warm weather. That said, Skwala does make lightweight, breathable waders better suited for summertime angling.

Performance-wise, the RS waders excelled on the water. They are comfortable and easy to move around in, even with multiple layers underneath. The storage pockets feature an elastic center to better fit bulky fly boxes and gear, which I’ve come to love. Plus, the fleece-lined pockets are a lifesaver in the cold. Anglers who wet wade all summer and want a wader for fishing the other three seasons will love the RS series. —RC

How to Choose Fly Fishing Waders

There are two main factors to consider when deciding on fishing waders: how often you fish and how much you’re willing to spend. The more you fish, the better quality wader you want to have. While an expensive price doesn’t automatically mean the best product, waders made from the most durable materials usually cost more. That brings us back to the first question: how often do you fish?

Anglers who spend only a couple of weeks on the river each year don’t need a premium wader. Budget options like the Orvis Clearwater waders will do just fine for a couple of trips each fishing season. But those who spend more than 50 days on the water each year should look for waders made from higher quality materials. Over time, waders naturally deteriorate from normal wear and tear. Most cheaper models won’t be able to withstand this constant abuse, and anglers who fish this much should look for a more durable design, like the Simms Freestone waders.

For fly fishers that spend 100-plus days on the water, premium waders are very much worth the investment. Models in this category usually cost anywhere from $700-$900. While this is expensive, people who spend significant time on the water (like guides) need their waders to perform every single day. Of course, premium waders also come with a bunch of other cool features, but durability is what you pay for.

First, determine how many days you’ll spend fishing in your waders, and then go from there. There’s no reason to dish out a grand on a pair of new waders if you only fish one week per year. On the other hand, if you spend every weekend standing in the river, that thousand dollars can be well worth the investment.

FAQs

Q: How do I know what size fishing waders I need?

Almost every wader manufacturer has a sizing chart on their website. Every brand has different sizing, too, so make sure to use the brand’s specific chart for that particular model. Most charts will show you what measurements to take. A soft tape measure is best for this.

Q: What are fly fishing waders made of?

Most fly fishing waders are made from durable, multi-layer fabric like nylon and polyester. Usually, the better the wader, the more layers it will have. Almost all fishing waders are treated with a waterproof finish like DWR or a Gore-Tex laminate.

Q: How much does a good pair of waders cost?

A “good pair” of waders is relative to the angler. In general, anglers can get what I consider a good pair of waders for as low as $250. From there, higher-quality waders can be had from $400 all the way up to $900.

Theoretically, anglers should only have to buy a pair of waders every five to seven years. In many cases, waders can last much longer. I’ve had great experiences with all of the waders on this list, but my go-to pair is the Orvis Pro wader. It is durable, comfortable, and reliable, but most importantly, it keeps me and my gear dry. I also highly recommend the Simms Freestone wader for serious anglers who don’t want to spend $700 or more.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.