With any outdoor activity, there is always one more piece of equipment that can be purchased to improve your experience. Having a good pair of waders is one of those items. Could you get by without waders? I gues, but if being comfortable fly fishing is a priority you might want to find a nice pair.

Do you need waders to fly fish?

Yes, I would list waders as an essential item for fly fishing. If your targeted fish is trout, waders will dramatically increase your comfort even in the summer. Trout love cool water, so unless your comfortable standing in water close to 50 degrees you should seriously consider waders.

Neoprene vs. Breathable Waders

First, it’s important to know the difference between neoprene vs. breathable waders. Neoprene waders are great for cold weather fishing. They’re made of rubber material and can be uncomfortable on warmer days. What they lack in breathability they make up for in reliability. Neoprene is a thick material and does not rip easily. Neoprene waders can also work for ice fishing and hunting. 

fly fishing waders
fly fishing waders

Breathable waders are more lightweight and allow moisture to escape through the pores. They make life more bearable in the warmer months. You can wear a t-shirt and your breathable waders on a summer day and stay comfortable. In the winter, it’s important to layer underneath the breathable waders so you don’t get too cold. 

What are the different types of waders?

The most common waders are going to be chest waders. They’re full length waders that sit at chest height and are connected by straps over your shoulders. These allow you go in water that is well above waist level. Be careful that you don’t get yourself caught in too deep of water because waders can fill quickly and become a drowning hazard. You can purchase breathable or neoprene chest waders. 

A second type of waders you can use are hip waders. Hip waders are essentially long rubber boots. They have a strap at the top of the “boot” that attaches to your belt loop and keeps the water at bay. These waders can be a bit more cumbersome and don’t allow you to be as agile as you could be with chest waders.

Are you looking to get the most life out of your waders? Read how to care for your waders and make them last for years in this article – How to clean and repair for your waders

Wading pants are a third type of wader you can purchase. These pants are a fairly new option for anglers. Since they’re made of a breathable fabric, they won’t trap as much of your body heat. Plus, they’ll keep you comfortable in a cold stream for an entire day. Wading pants are expensive and often run over $200, but they’re worth it on the days you need to cover a lot of ground. Remember that you will need wading boots to go along with your wading pants. 

The final most common form of waders you can find are bootfoot waders. Bootfoot waders are waders with boots already attached. These save you from having to purchase a separate wading boot. If you’re short and slim but have a large foot, you’ll have to size up in waders and may lose some comfort as a result. The boots are usually a thick and heavy rubber material. They’ll last a long time and grip well, but they won’t breathe on the warmer days. You can buy both neoprene and breathable bootfoot waders.

Do I Have to Wear Boots with Waders?

Yes. You do need boots with waders. While some options have boots that come attached, others may only have neoprene socks on the bottom. If your waders only have the neoprene socks, you’ll need to purchase wading boots. Wading boots are more comfortable than the traditional rubber boots that come attached to the bootfoot waders. Plus, they’re going to be more grippy to all different types of surfaces.

If you need to hike to the water, breathable waders with wading boots are a much better option. Wading boots are better for hiking and will be more adaptable. 

What is wet wading? 

Wet wading is what most anglers do on warm days. If the water temperature is bearable and the outside temperature is comfortable, wet wading is a great option. However, it’s still important to have quality footwear when wet wading. Sandals with over the foot straps are a great choice. They’ll allow you to walk in the water with ease. Brands like Chaco, Keen or Teva all make affordable sandals that grip nicely on the river bottom. 

Wet Wading While Fly Fishing
Wet Wading While Fly Fishing

The other option is to wear wading boots with neoprene socks. Neoprene socks are going to cost around $25. Instead of wearing normal socks, you’ll wear neoprene socks under your wading boots. They sit about shin high and keep your feet dry and warm throughout the day. 

Neither of these options are better than the other. It really comes down to a matter of preference. They both will keep you safe and comfortable! If the water is extremely cold and you have sensitive feet, it may be best to go with the wading boots and neoprene socks. 

How much do waders cost? 

You can pay as much as you’d like for waders. For a set of bootfoot neoprene waders you’ll pay around $100. Cabela’s has a lot of great options for quality neoprene boot foot waders. Again, these are going to be the warmest set of waders you can possibly buy and perhaps the most durable. 

Quality DescriptionPricing
Cheap Quality – may last a half dozen trips$45 to $80
Good Quality – may last a couple seasons$90 to $180
Great Quality – Lots of Years of Use with a good warranty$250 to $650

As far as the price for a set of breathable waders and wading boots, you’ll likely be paying around $200. Brands like Frogg Toggs are going to be some of the more affordable lightweight waders, but still high quality. If you’re going to splurge on either waders or boots, choose to spend your money on boots. Brands like Simms and Orvis (Links to AMAZON for price check) are expensive for a reason. Their quality boots are worth the price. Not only will they provide safety, but they’ll also be more comfortable and last longer. You can find a nice pair of wading boots from Orvis (AMAZON LINK) for around $100. This is not much different than a nice pair of hiking or winter boots. 

Wading pants are going to be the most expensive waders on the list. Since it’s a fairly new product, companies are charging more for them. Dryft, Patagnoia and Simms all have wading pants, but they’re going to cost around $220. Redington also has a more affordable pair for $170 that work well. Remember that you’ll need wading boots to accompany the wading pants.

Hip waders are the most affordable option on the list. Cabela’s has a solid pair of hip waders for $30 that will fulfill all of your needs. 

Are waders worth it? 

Yes, waders are more than worth the money. More often than not, one pair of waders is going to last you quite a long time. If you want to hit the water on a poor weather day, you’ll want waders. Plus, winter fly fishing is nearly impossible without waders. Even if you don’t spend much time in the water, the waders will provide an extra layer of warmth that is necessary to spend the day fishing. 

Tips:  Wader choice comes down to personal preference. Know your climate and the type of water you’re going to be fishing. The colder the climate and water, the thicker of wader you will want. The opposite is also true. Comfort is key while fishing!

If you plan on travelling, breathable waders are great because they pack down and fit well in a carry-on. 

If possible, go to an outdoor store and try on wading boots before you buy any. You’ll be spending a lot of time in them so it’s important that they’re comfortable.