This best fishing waders image shows fishing waders in action on the river.
Brian Pope

10 Best Fly Fishing Waders for the Money

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How do you choose the best fly fishing waders for 2019? Hold that thought for a moment, and let’s look at why you need waders for fly fishing in the first place: Great fishing waders will get you into the water next to the fish — to get right into their world.

This image shows the Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders for fly fishing in use on a river.
Fly fishing waders get you closer to the fish.

Waders change your whole fishing experience for the better.

Of course, sometimes you need fishing waders just so you can cast your fly to a fish, which makes waders an indispensable tool for fly fishing, especially for fly fishing beginners who don’t cast well (yet). Some rivers are lined with brushy banks and the only way to cast is to wade out into the river. Some lakes have shallow bottoms and you need to wade out to get where the fish are. Some streams are just more fun when you scramble around in them or even just cross over to the far bank where fewer people go.

Fly fishing waders make you more effective and can make fishing more fun, plain and simple.

So how do you know which kind of fishing waders are best? Which features do you really need? Let’s take a closer look at the most important features you want in a good pair of fishing waders for 2019 and beyond.

Best Fishing Waders: Stockingfoot vs Bootfoot

This fly fishing waders image shows a photo of the best stocking foot waders bootie design.
The best fly fishing waders have breathable uppers with neoprene stocking feet and built-in gravel guards.

There are two main types of fishing waders: stockingfoot or bootfoot waders. Only get booted waders if you like the simplicity of stepping into a boot and you won’t be wading over rocky, unstable ground. Why? Booted waders tend to fit like rubber boots — sort of loose and without much ankle support. If you’re going to be walking over a bunch of slick rocks, you’ll want a real wading boot with more ankle support.

So, for lake fishing from gentle shores, booted waders are easy to use — but who knows where you’re going to fish next? For that reason, we recommend stockingfoot waders.

Stockingfoot waders are often better because you can choose different boots during the lifetime of your waders or vice versa. Plus, when it’s August and the river is low and clear and the days are hot, you can wear your sturdy pair of wading boots without your stockingfoot waders and just wade around in a pair of shorts. Basically, you end up with a more versatile investment in your gear: stockingfoot waders + separate wading boots are the way to go.

This fishing waders image show the Redington Sonic-Pro men's wader next to the Redington Sonic-Pro women's wader.
Some waders, like the Redington Sonic-Pro Waders, use the same materials for both men’s and women’s versions but now feature a much improved fit for female anglers.

Having said all that, there is one more scenario where bootfoot waders might be the right choice for you: winter fishing. The structure of an integrated boot will hold the cold water farther from your feet and ankles and will usually have some built-in insulation. Booted waders also tend to allow heavy socks to maintain more insulating air gaps. The result can be warmer feet. (Skip down to the section on bootfoot waders if this sounds compelling.)

Neoprene vs Breathable Stockingfoot Waders

If you’re only going to be fishing in cold water on cold days — say, steelhead fishing — then choosing a heavy-duty pair of neoprene waders is a reasonable choice. There is a reason why so many waders for waterfowl hunting are neoprene — neoprene is warm as well as flexible and quiet when it’s super cold. However, if you’ll be fishing all seasons, I recommend investing in lighter breathable waders so that when you step out of the river in the summer, you don’t immediately start sweating. If the water is really cold, you can always layer up with a thick pair of fleece pants underneath your breathable waders . . . but you can never make cold-weather waders suitable for hot days.

This comes down to a surprisingly easy recommendation: Only get neoprene waders if you’re going to be fishing in cold weather in cold water.

How to Choose the Best Fly Fishing Waders

This fishing waders photo shows a fly fisherman wearing the Orvis Ultralight Waders.
Choose waders that fit your inseam to reduce stress on seams.

The toughest question you’ll face is the one about your budget — do you spend $100~ on a solid entry-level set of waders or do you ramp up to several hundred? What do you get for an additional investment?

You will get a few extra features like better pockets, better shoulder straps, and an extra layer or two of material, making the best waders more abrasion resistant. Midrange and high-end waders also usually have more rigorous manufacturing for stronger seams and they tend to use the best breathable fabrics — like GORE-TEX.

Generally, higher-end fishing waders are only worth the money if you are:

  • heading out on an expedition trip of a lifetime
  • hiking through a lot of thorny brush and fish on rivers with sharp rocks
  • will use your waders 20+ times a year

If you use your fishing waders less than 10 days a year, you can expect them to last several years. At a certain point, though, the material and sealed seams will degrade over time, eventually leaking (even if you don’t actually puncture them). As your waders age after several seasons, start thinking about replacing them before you head out on critical fishing trips.

So, for most beginning fly fishers, I generally recommend entry-level stockingfoot breathable waders unless you’re fishing at least 20 days a year or can afford an upgrade — which means your best-buy fishing wader could cost you hundreds of dollars . . . and be well worth the investment.

Best Fishing Waders Quick Answer List

Ranked from entry-level to midrange and high-end waders:

  1. Frogg Toggs Hellbender Stockingfoot Chest Waders – best entry-level waders near $100
  2. Cabela’s Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Waders – second best entry-level near $100
  3. Hodgman H3 Stockingfoot Fishing Waders – best waders under $100
  4. Orvis Ultralight Convertible Waders – best ultralight fishing waders
  5. Redington Sonic-Pro Waders – classic design with a great fit
  6. L.L.Bean Kennebec Stockingfoot Waders – excellent midrange price-to-value ratio
  7. Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot Waders – best all-around Made in America waders
  8. Simms G4Z Stockingfoot Waders – best zippered wader, also Made in America
  9. Orvis PRO Waders – best wader under $500
  10. Patagonia Rio Gallegos Waders – outstanding overall, plus the best logo!



What about women’s fly fishing waders?

Many manufacturers are now using similar designs to create fishing waders that are sized appropriately for women anglers — skip down to our best waders for women list for the best options available today.

Best Fishing Waders for Beginners

1. Frogg Toggs Hellbender II Stockingfoot Chest Waders

This fly fishing waders image shows the Frogg Toggs Hellbender fishing waders.

Key Features:

– Best entry-level price-to-value ratio
– 4-ply nylon upper
– Double reinforced knees
– Women’s version: Yes

The Frogg Toggs Hellbender Waders have been around for years, but the price-to-value ratio keeps these fly fishing waders on our list. There’s a lot to like about the Hellbender stocking foot fishing waders: You get four plies with reinforced knees and shins, along with the expected wading belt, built-in gravel guards and pockets, including an internal pocket, a triple-entry chest pocket with a zippered flip-out security pocket. The 4mm neoprene booties are double-taped.

It’s worth saying again: The price-to-value ratio in the Frogg Toggs Hellbender Stockingfoot Chest Waders for new or casual fly fishers is hard to beat.

Shop the Hellbender II Waders at:  Amazon | Cabela’s

2. Cabela’s Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Waders

This fly fishing waders image shows the entry-level Cabela's Premium Breathable Stockingfoot Waders.

Key Features:

– Excellent entry-level price-to-value ratio
– Cushioned shoulder straps
– Updated fit
– Women’s version: Yes

Cabela’s entry-level fishing waders check all the boxes on basic requirements: They have an updated fit for better mobility, including contoured neoprene booties that have non-slip rubber on the bottom to keep your foot from shifting inside of your wading boots. The fabric uses 4MOST DRY-PLUS for breathability — Cabela’s uses it for many of its more affordable waterproof products, and it works pretty well. The knees have three layers for durability, the seams are taped, and the built-in gravel gaiters are rubberized to help them stay put. These simple waders include a wading belt, and there is a large internal pocket. The cushy neoprene suspenders are a little bonus, but we really like seeing the wide range of size options within Regular, Stout, and Tall. When you order them direct from Cabela’s you can likely get free 2-day shipping.

Shop the Cabela’s Premium Breathable Waders at:  Cabela’s

3. Hodgman H3 Stockingfoot Fishing Waders

Key Features:

– Quality is better than the entry-level price point
– Stretchable wading belt
– Anatomical neoprene booties
– Women’s version: No (but available in the H4 version)

Hodgman has been making an enviable blend of cost-effective fishing waders and wading boots for decades, and our Hodgman gear has always held up well. These can’t-go-wrong waders have all the core features — a roomy chest pocket, an internal pocket, a microfleece-lined handwarmer pocket, built-in gravel guards, anatomical neoprene booties, a built-in wading belt, and a D-ring in the back for hanging your fly fishing net. Better yet, The Hodgman H3 Stockingfoot Waders come in more than a dozen size options to help you dial in the fit, including King and Tall sizes.

Shop the Hodgman H3 at:  Amazon | Cabela’s

Best Midrange Stockingfoot Waders

4. Orvis Ultralight Convertible Wader

This best fishing wader buying guide photo shows the Orvis Ultralight Convertible Wader.Key Features:

– Ultralight weight, great for packability and summertime wading
– Waist-high conversion works well
– Surprisingly supple, breathable fabric
– Women’s version: Yes

For 2019, Orvis has simplified its wader lineup, focusing most on ultralight waders that offer better fit, movement and packability. The company’s new Ultralight Convertible Wader saves weight by using a new stitched and sealed seam construction that produces lighter seams. As for durability, Orvis still uses a 4-layer waterproof breathable nylon shell, which is reasonably tough and very flexible, which makes it comfortable and nimble on the water. The exterior chest pocket is a bit smaller, but you still get an internal zippered pocket and Orvis has added a couple of accessory attachment points for a zinger and nippers and forceps. Why? Presumably if you’re going ultralight, you might be looking at other ways to save weight and bulk while traveling. While on that ultralight point, Orvis also introduced new ultralight wading boots. Last of all, what about that convertible feature? It’s now even better than before: The top portion of the waders can slide up and down on the shoulder straps to convert to waist-high waders for those hot-weather fishing days. To convert, the attachment point now uses a FIDLOCK SNAP magnetic fastener system that lets you quickly pop the attachments loose — or snap them back into position. So cool. Check out our full Orvis Ultralight Convertible Waders Review for more detail.

Shop the Orvis Ultralight Convertible Waders at: Aventuron | Fishwest | Orvis.com

Orvis Ultralight Convertible Wader
Pros
Lightweight and comfortable
Drop-down chest for waist-high mode
Great price-to-value ratio
Cons
Lightweight design isn't as durable as heavier, more expensive waders (not exactly a con, just a design point)
4.8

5. Redington Sonic-Pro Waders

This photo shows the men's Redington Sonic-Pro Waders for fishing.

Key Features:

– Sonically welded seams (no stitches)
– 4-layers in the legs and seat
– Flexible and breathable
– Women’s version: Yes

Redington has updated its popular midrange fishing wader: The latest version of its Sonic-Pro stockingfoot waders use sonic-welded seams (not sewn) with a 4-layer design that includes reinforced lower legs and backside, which is handy if you sit in a drift boat, pontoon boat, or just like to rest on boulders and logs. You get handwarmer pockets, a front zippered pocket, and a flip-over interior pocket good for a small fly box, tippet, forceps, and nippers. You also get built-in gravel guards and a wading belt, of course.

One last note: For a 15 percent boost in durability (plus tons of pockets) consider the also excellent Redington Sonic-Pro HD Waders — or read our our full Redington Sonic-Pro HD Waders Review for more detail.

Shop the Redington Sonic-Pro Waders at:  Amazon | Aventuron | AvidMax | Fishwest

6. L.L.Bean Kennebec Stockingfoot Waders

This photo shows the L.L.Bean Kennebec Stockingfoot Wader for fishing.Key Features:

– Super Seam design doesn’t use stitched seams
– 4-layers in the legs and seat
– Women’s version: No

The new for 2019 L.L.Bean Kennebec Stockingfoot Waders with Super Seam come with high-end features at a mid-level price. When you add in L.L.Bean’s legendary customer satisfaction guarantee for the first year of your purchase, the Kennebec waders are a sweet buy. You get four breathable layers with improved durability, and the construction fits better than previous generations of the Kennebec Waders.  The fabric is heavier through the legs and backside while the torso is lighter. The “Super Seam” design uses adhesives instead of stitched seams, and L.L.Bean says it’s now lighter and stronger and more watertight than any seams the company has offered before. L.L.Bean updated the shoulder straps for improved adjustability and streamlined the front pockets and waist belt to reduce edges that can catch your fly line and leader and generally annoy you on the water.

As you would expect, you still get plenty of pockets: two zippered chest pockets and a waterproof, removable interior pocket. The reach-through hand warmer pocket is lined with microfleece for warmth and comfort.  The articulated knees allow great range of motion, plus the company offers Tall sizes, helping you dial in the fit.

Shop the L.L.Bean Kennebec Stockingfoot Waders at:  L.L.Bean




Best Stockingfoot Waders for Fly Fishing Fanatics

Note: Based out of Montana, Simms consistently produces some of the world’s best waders, and their GORE-TEX models are also made in America. Arguably, their entry-level wader, the new for 2019 Tributary Wader, could make our midrange pick section, but Simms really shines with its high-end, made-in-America waders.

7. Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot Waders

This photo shows the men's Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot Wader.Key Features:

– GORE-TEX shell for excellent breathability
– 4-layer lower, 3-layer upper for great durability/flexibility blend
– Awesome 60-day replacement guarantee for leaks, no questions asked
– Women’s version: the new G3 Guide Z is most equivalent

Simms has completely re-engineered its popular G3 Guide Stockingfoot waders. The new G3 Guide waders boast a four-layer GORE-TEX fabric in the legs that’s both more durable and more breathable than before. Simms also extended this new four-layer section higher up the backside to improve durability when you’re sitting on rocks and logs along the river bank. The upper fabric drops to three layers for increased breathability. The bottom line is that these new waders have a more supple feel and yet perform better than the previous generation. Simms also improved the chest pockets, added a pass-through hand-warmer pocket, and updated the waist belt loops. In case you want a wader specifically designed for spooky fish, Simms created a new ‘River Camo’ version. Made in Bozeman, Montana. Oh, one last thing: The new G3 Guide Stockingfoot waders edge out the Headwaters Pro wader from Simms (but the Headwaters Pro wader is $100 less, still made in America, and is still a great wader).

Shop the Simms G3 Waders at:  Aventuron | Bass Pro Shops | Cabela’s | FishwestSimms

8. Simms G4Z Stockingfoot Waders

This photo shows the Simms men's G4Z Stockingfoot Wader.Key Features:

– GORE-TEX shell for excellent breathability
– Waterproof zipper
– Awesome 60-day replacement guarantee for leaks, no questions asked
– Women’s version: the new G3 Guide Z is most equivalent

For fly fishers who spend more time on the water than most of us can imagine, Simms has redesigned and updated its best waders, the G4Z, starting with a new compression-molded stockingfoot bootie. It’s patented and designed to enhance stability and warmth.

For all-day wearability, Simms uses a four-layer GORE-TEX Pro Shell system that the company has designed for excellent breathability. What you end up with is an extremely durable set of breathable waders that won’t overcook you. Better yet, the G4Z comes with a big waterproof zipper in the front, which is darn handy when you’ve gone through a few mugs of coffee. Other key features include two waterproof zippered chest pockets, a retractor docking station, a handy fly patch, micro fleece lined hand warmer pockets, and a seriously sweet suspender system. Plus, of course, you get built-in gravel guards and a wading belt.

For hard-core fishing over rough terrain and many days, the Simms G4Z Pro waders are about as drool-worthy as you can get. (If you don’t want the zipper, save $100 and choose the G4 PRO Waders.)

Shop the Simms G4Z Waders at:  Aventuron | Fishwest | Simms

9. Orvis PRO Waders

This photo shows the Orvis Pro Wader men's version.

Key Features:

– New durable Cordura fabric shell
– Removable knee pads
– Gusseted crotch for improved agility
– Women’s version: Yes

The brand new Orvis PRO Wader is not just a refinement of an existing wader — Orvis pretty much went back to the drawing board to build a wader worthy of its PRO moniker. The most important new feature of the Orvis PRO Wader is the new proprietary weave of Cordura fabric to make the shell. Cordura is known for its durability, and Orvis is claiming that its new PRO waders are the most durable the company has ever made and the most puncture resistant in the industry. That’s a tough claim to prove in real-world use, but Orvis put in three years of development and 9,000 hours of testing, and our initial review bodes well.

Meanwhile, Orvis created a new gusseted crotch to make the PRO Wader feel nimble and agile when you’re scrambling over rough terrain. When it’s time to sneak up on a wary trout and then take a knee on the rocks for a quick photo and release, Orvis added some truly excellent OrthoLite knee pads. There are plenty of pockets, including a pass-through hand warmer pocket, a chest pocket, a removable flip out pocket, and daisy chain nylon loops for tool attachments. Orvis also redesigned the gravel guards with a narrower profile that sheds water fast so you’re not bringing as much water into your boat. Last of all, you can find the Orvis PRO Wader in 14 different size configurations for men — and in 14 different size configurations for women, too. Nice.

Shop the Orvis PRO Wader at:  Aventuron | AvidMax | Fishwest | Orvis.com

10. Patagonia Rio Gallegos

This photo shows the Patagonia Rio Gallegos Zip-Front men's fishing waders.
Zippered version.

Key Features:

– Built-in knee pads
– Wool-lined booties
– Can covert to waist-high mode
– Women’s version: No

The Patagonia Rio Gallegos Waders boast similar quality to the Simms G3 and G4 series, but the multi-layered fabric is a bit more flexible than the G4 while retaining similar breathability and durability. You get lots of pockets, of course, including a chest pocket, a reach-though handwarmer pocket, and interior stretch pockets. The chest can drop down for an easy conversion to a waist-high mode for hot summer wading.

The neoprene booties are poly-grid lined for improved warmth, and get this, Patagonia includes removable knee pads in case you’re the kind of fly fisher who sneaks up on fish. One of our buddies who just started wearing the Rio Gallegos reports that while he doesn’t sneak up on shy trout on his knees often, he very much appreciates the knee pads when he releases fish when he’s wading — a lot of times he’ll drop to one knee when removing a hook, handling a fish or posing for a quick snapshot. He says he thought the knee pads were just a gimmick — until he realized how much he uses them. As you might expect form a company like Patagonia, the Rio Gallegos are also available with a waterproof front zipper, which makes entry, exit and calls of nature easier.

Shop the Patagonia Rio Gallegos at:  AvidMax | Fishwest | Patagonia

Considering the Best Booted Fishing Waders?

Many of these manufacturers also offer some booted fishing waders with the same wader material types of construction, but typically we’re not fans of booted waders unless you’re fishing in very cold conditions for long periods of time. Why? The extra space and sometimes insulation around your feet in boot foot waders can help keep your feet warmer than in typical stockingfoot waders. They’re also great for fishers who are getting on in years or just aren’t as limber as they used to be — so no lacing/unlacing of your boots is needed when your back is stiff. Even so, we prefer the ankle support you get with separate wading boots.

All that said, the warm Cabela’s Spring Run 5mm Waders are burly as all get out, offering rugged boot bottoms as well as padded knees, all at a reasonable price. If you want a more nimble GORE-TEX bootfoot wader, the new Simms G3 Guide ‘River Camo’ Bootfoot Waders blend Simms stockingfoot excellence with a booted bottom that boasts an insulated 7mm neoprene lining, which can help keep your feet warm in colder conditions.




Best Fishing Waders for Women

This photo shows the Simms G3Z Stockingfoot Wader for women.
The Simms G3Z women’s-specific wader features a zipper on the side.

Manufacturers have started producing better, more fitted fly fishing waders for women, too, and they often use the same materials in their construction as their male counterparts. Some, however, like the Redington Sonic-Pro Waders do more than simply trim down pockets and add color: The women’s version of the Sonic-Pro include stretchy mesh back and side panels that better hug a woman’s form. It’s not like guys like a lot of excess torso material on their own waders, but it’s nice to see manufacturers making serious, intentional design efforts in their women’s waders. These are all can’t-go-wrong fly fishing waders for women:




Bonus: Best Wading Boots for the Money

As for wading boots, choose between a lug sole or felt soles — but know that a few states have banned felt soles due to concerns over transmitting invasive species from different waterways. Typically, felt soles provide the best traction on slick, wet rocks. On dirt trails? Not so much.

Check out our guide to the Best Wading Boots for more detail, but these are two can’t-go-wrong affordable wading boots:

Simms Tributary Wading Boots — These new-for-2019 wading boots is our favorite budget pick this year. They boast a comfortable neoprene lining and a rugged rubber toe cap.

Orvis Encounter Wading Boots – Felt — If you prefer a felt-soled entry-level boot, try the Orvis Encounter series — Orvis offers them in your choice of rubber or felt soles.

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