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The new Patagonia Swiftcurrent Expedition Zip-Front Waders are super rugged, waterproof and breathable zippered fishing waders. They are Patagonia’s best waders and they come in 18 different sizes to fit most anyone.
To get us a closer look, Patagonia sent Man Makes Fire a review unit. This is what we learned during our testing and review process on the St. Joe River in Idaho:
Swiftcurrent Expedition Zip-Front Waders Review
Patagonia has made excellent fishing waders for years, and the company is always in our guide to the best fishing waders . . . but the new Patagonia Swiftcurrent wader lineup is better than ever. Patagonia’s best wader is its Swiftcurrent Expedition Zip-Front Wader, and wow, it’s a good-looking wader. Is it as good as it looks?
Easily — and then some. For this new generation of waders, Patagonia has made them lighter and stronger with an even better fit. You get articulated legs and a gusseted crotch, which makes wading on uneven ground and slippery rocks safer and easier. I particularly appreciated the mobility as I climbed over logs and scrambled down steep, rocky slopes to get to the river.
The overall fit is athletic, which means it’s a bit trimmer than you might expect out of typical competing waders that tend to fit looser.
To help you dial in the fit, Patagonia offers 18 size options. I tested a size LLL. I’m about 6’3″ and 225 pounds and the LLL fits well — as you can see in the photos it’s a bit trim, which is my preference, but it feels great on the water due to the articulated legs and gusseted crotch.
The Patagonia wading sizing chart seems to be accurate, but pay attention to the inseam length, too. Because the overall fit is more trim as a default you don’t have a lot of extra fabric. If you measure your girth and order the correct size off the Patagonia sizing chart, you should be good to go. I thought the sizing was spot on, but if you prefer a looser wader fit, consider sizing up, particularly to get a longer inseam.
Ordering Tip: If you are borderline on an inseam measurement, definitely go with the next longer size option. You might end up with a bit of extra fabric in the leg, but you’ll want that for the best mobility and to reduce stress on the seams when you’re climbing riverbanks or trying to step over a big log.
Also, if you’re not sure of your current measurements, order a fabric measuring tape — it’ll help you size all sorts of online orders in the future, too. (You can always use a bit of paracord or string and a tape measure, of course.)
Patagonia is a company known for its commitment to the environment and increasingly uses recyclable materials. Patagonia is now using 100% recycled face fabrics in its waders. The 4-layer design is durable and puncture-resistant, yet breathable. Patagonia adds a DWR coating to help repel water.
The fabric feels thick and strong. At first, it also doesn’t feel particularly supple, but once you get the waders on, the articulated legs and gusseted crotch work well so they feel much lighter than they really are.
The most obvious feature of the Patagonia Swiftcurrent Expedition Zip-Front Waders is the burly waterproof zipper. The biggest reason to invest in zippered waders is simply to improve entry and exit from your waders. There is no doubt about it, when you’re on the edge of a river gearing up and you can see trout rising, any improvement that helps you get on the water faster is a welcome benefit.
Plus, as a guy gets a bit older and loses flexibility, zippered waders are just easier.
The key to a great set of zippered fishing waders is the quality of the zipper — you want a high-quality zipper that you can trust. If you get a hole in your waders, you can often repair it while out on the water if you use some sunlight-activated Aquaseal. If a poorly made zipper fails, it’s pretty much impossible to fix on the water. You’ll be stuck wading in shallow water for the rest of your trip.
Patagonia uses a large YKK zipper. It works very well and inspires confidence. I have no qualms about it.
Suspenders and Waist-High Mode
The Swiftcurrent suspender system has generous padding and is super comfortable. You also get an interesting waist-high mode.
When I was first fitting the waders to my shoulders, I had a hard time understanding why the rear strap was stretchy. If you adjust the slider to the correct spot, when you put the waders on, the back will be completely high without wrinkles in the fabric. I’m not sure if the stretchy extension of this back strap is designed to maintain an athletic fit or if it has something to do with pulling down the fabric in waist-high mode. Either way, it’s comfortable!
Meanwhile, the front of the suspenders have a release buckle on each strap. If you pop the buckle, you can shove the waders down to your waist. For hot days, hiking, and taking a lunch break, the waist-high mode is a welcome feature.
Of course, you need to remember that the Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders are built with a rugged 4-layer fabric that doesn’t drop and bunch as easily as lightweight convertible waders. Plus, you have the burly zipper to bend and shove down, too. I would say that the waist-high mode works about 80% as well as it does on other lightweight waders I’ve worn simply because the fabric is thicker. Still, it’s a welcome addition.
You get two hand warmer pockets and two outside pockets for fly boxes or fly fishing accessories.
On the inside, Patagonia has two large stretchy pockets big enough for larger fly boxes or miscellaneous gear. You also get a flip-over waterproof pocket. This is a good spot for non-waterproof electronics. On the other hand, because you have a large main front zipper, you can easily unzip the front to get to your car keys, wallet or phone in a pant pocket.
In the box, Patagonia includes a small tube of Aquaseal + UV in the event that you need to make an in-the-field repair. I stow it in the waterproof pocket in case I need it — for myself or a fishing buddy.
Built-in Knee Pads
If you ever like to drop to one knee to remove a hook from a fish or pose for a quick snapshot, you’ll appreciate the built-in knee pads. When we first ran into knee pads in waders at Man Makes Fire — in a previous generation of Patagonia waders, actually — we thought knee pads were just a gimmick for high-end waders. They’re not.
Built-in knee pads are legit.
The Patagonia Swiftcurrent knee pads are perfectly sized. They’re small and relatively thin so they stay out of your way, but they offer plenty of padding when you drop to one knee. If you don’t want them at all, they’re removable.
Patagonia has been making great booties for years, and the new Swiftcurrent booties are still great. They’re anatomical to fit each foot, and they fit very well. They’re well-padded and lined, so they’re comfortable in your boot.
The built-in gravel guard cuffs are trim and drain fast to help keep you from bringing water into a drift boat. The inside sections are made from a heavy-duty fabric to resist scuffs.
The New Swiftcurrent Wader Lineup
Patagonia offers five different “Swiftcurrent” wader options, leading with the Swiftcurrent Expedition Zip-Front Waders (but currently offers only one version specifically sized and tailored for women, noted below).
If you don’t want a zipper, Patagonia offers an “Expedition” version without the zipper, the Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders. You get essentially the same construction and materials that are in the zippered version.
Patagonia’s next option are Swiftcurrent Waders for both men and women. These are a midweight wader, with a similar overall design, offered at a midrange price point.
Next, Patagonia offers Swiftcurrent Packable Waders, which are lightweight waders designed for backpacking, travel, and expeditions where weight is critical. They pack up small and feature thinner, rubber booties.
Finally, Patagonia offers Swiftcurrent Wading Pants. If you know you don’t want to wade over your waist, wading pants are awesome.
The Verdict: ‘Outstanding’
Patagonia’s new Swiftcurrent Expedition Zip-Front Waders are loaded with high-end features. They are also, I have to say, very good-looking waders. The dark blue and gray color scheme gives the Swiftcurrent Expedition waders a modernized look without feeling out of place on the water — the Patagonia designers really nailed it with this new lineup. As for overall quality, the Patagonia Swiftcurrent Expedition Zip-Front Waders are outstanding. They’re ready for punishing everyday use — or ready for your next multi-day adventure far off the pavement. Very highly recommended.