Picking the Best Waders for Cold Weather
AllOutdoor Staff 12.20.19
When picking the best waders for cold weather, there is a definitive style to choose from, and one to avoid. Overall, there are three main factors for picking out a new pair of waders: the style of the waders, the material of the waders and the height of the waders. Here we’ll go over each factor and let you know which will work best for cold weather.
Style of Waders
Arguably the most important factor to consider when picking the best waders for cold weather is the style you choose. There are two main styles of waders: Bootfoot and Stockingfoot. The other smaller distinction made with waders are whether they’re primarily for hunting, or for fishing. For this article, we’re going to focus on fishing, and will finish with a recommendation for the best waders for cold weather.
Bootfoot waders are an all-in-one solution, with the boot already attached to the waders. This is the simplest option as they’re quick and easy to throw on for a day of fishing, but the style is lacking in a few areas. Bootfoot waders don’t work as well if you’re camping or need to hike a long way out to the water. But for cold weather, bootfoot waders are the perfect solution because they hold in your body heat.
Stockingfoot waders have neoprene socks at the bottom for your feet. You then pair your waders up with boots of your own choosing. Stockingfoot waders can be more comfortable than bootfoot waders if you’re wearing them for an extended period.
Best for Cold Weather: Bootfoot
Even if you pair your stockingfoot waders with cold weather boots, the warmth of your body heat fully sealed is unmatched in bootfoot waders. The circulation in your ankles stays unrestricted, and warm air can flow from your legs to your feet.
Height of Waders
When it comes to height, the higher the better for cold weather. The reason for this is both the extra layer of warmth that will cover your body, but more importantly, the prevention of water from spilling over the top of your waders. On a cold day, any water coming over the top and onto your clothes and bare skin can be a chilling end to your fishing enjoyment.
Waders come in three heights:
Hip-high waders are strapped to your belt and are used on smaller streams and creeks when you won’t be much more than ankle deep in the water. While these can work in cold weather on small creeks and streams, you’re bound to get water splashing off your pants by the end of the day, so I would not recommend these on a cold day.
Waist-high waders come right up to your abdomen and will work if your focus is on shallower water. But again, waist-high waders are not recommended if your goal is solely on the warmest possible gear. Waist-high waders will be attached either with a belt, or with suspenders.
Chest-high waders are the definitive choice for cold weather because they’re the most versatile and provide the best coverage. Chest-high waders have built in suspenders, and comfortably fit just below your arm pit, with overall-like coverage over your chest. With chest waders, you will not have to worry about water spilling onto your under garments—unless you happen to fall in the water. The better chest-high waiters also come with multiple pockets on your chest, which isn’t possible on the other two sizes.
Material of Waders
There are three main types of materials for waders:
The primary advantage to rubber waders is the fact that they’re the least expensive. Rubber waders are the originals, they get the job done, but they’ve been surpassed in effectiveness by the other two materials. While rubber waders are extremely waterproof and resilient, they fall short when it comes to the best cold-water waders. They also make for a sweaty, smelly funk when you take them off.
A blend of nylon and polyester combined with a waterproof layer is an ideal wader material but is best suited for warm weather. This is because of an extreme advantage in breathability and time to dry, keeping you comfortable and cool on a warm day. You can still use this material on a colder day if you have the proper clothes on underneath, but they are not the ideal option.
Neoprene is a great choice for cold weather. Neoprene is thicker than the other materials, giving you better insulation than rubber, and still dries quickly enough to compare with nylon/polyester options. Neoprene waders will typically be 3mm thick, but for cold weather look for a 5mm option.
The only problem with neoprene waders is that they are not breathable, as the polyester/neoprene blend will be. So, for warmer weather, neoprene may overheat you with too much insulation. But for cold weather, there is no comparison to the other materials.
Picking out the Best Cold Weather Waders: What to Look For
When looking for the best cold weather waders, you should be dialing in on bootfoot waders, first and foremost. When looking at your selection, try to identify the boots with the highest amount of insulation for your feet. Many options offer 3M™ Thinsulate™ but the amount of insulation can range from as low as 200-grams to as high as 1200-grams. So, make sure to pay extra attention to the quality of the boots.
For example, you can buy this pair of Caddis bootfoot waders with 600-gram 3M™ Thinsulate™ Insulation for under $200. Contrast that with a $250 pair of 200-gram insulated boots with the Reddington Palix River bootfoot waders. The advantage of the Redington is a fleece-lined hand warmer pocket and a three-layer nylon construction. The Orvis Encouter, meanwhile, offers the hand warmer pocket, and four-layer nylon construction for under $220, but again with only 200-gram insulation in the boots.
If you end up choosing waders without a fleece-lined pocket, something that will be sure to keep you warm are these half finger fleece gloves from Simms. For under $25, they’re worth your hard-earned dollar if you’re going out in the cold.
Best Cold Weather Waders: Frogg Toggs Steelheader
There is no doubt about this selection, as Frogg Toggs goes above and beyond the competition with the Steelheader. That’s because not only do the boots feature 1200-gram Thinsulate™ Insulation, the waders also include a 120-gram removable insulated liner. So, whether it’s warm or cold outside, the Frogg Toggs Steelheader is more than capable of keeping you comfortable. On top of those clear-cut benefits, the Steelheader features two storage pockets in addition to a fleece-lined hand warmer pocket. The best part is that you can get these waders for under $225.