Whatever your outdoor passion—fishing, hunting waterfowl, or just enjoying nature by the water—a good set of full body waders will elevate your experience to the next level. Knowing your demands and priorities will help you choose the ideal pair of waders from today’s various brands and materials. So that you may make a well-informed purchase, this comprehensive review will go over the most common full-body wader types, materials, and features.
All-Body Waders: Different Styles
Chest waders, breathable waders, and neoprene waders are the three most common varieties of full body waders. First, we’ll take a look at what each is best known for:
As their name suggests, chest waders rise to approximately chest height. They often feature attached boot foot soles and are constructed from long-lasting, water-resistant materials like neoprene or PVC. Compared to other varieties, chest waders are more budget-friendly, making them a solid choice for beginners. Nevertheless, due to the lack of ventilation, they can be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods and make you sweat more. At the same time, you will only be doing a little walking, like while shore fishing; chest waders are a good choice. Vass, Orvis, and Simms are synonymous with high-quality chest waders.
Breathable waders come in both chest-high and full-length or hip-wader styles. They are constructed from breathable, waterproof-yet-breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex, NeoShell, or Sympatex. These materials are designed to be fully waterproof, allowing moisture from sweat and vapor to pass through the fabric, keeping you drier and more comfortable than non-breathable options. Breathable waders are ideal for active uses like trout fishing, duck hunting, or any extensive walking or movement activity since they regulate body heat better. Top breathable wader brands include Simms, Orvis, and Frogg Toggs.
Neoprene waders are perfect for icy weather activities since neoprene is an excellent insulator. They come in both chest-high and full-length or hip styles. While toasty warm, neoprene is not as breathable as other materials so they can get hot quickly with activity. Neoprene waders are great for ice fishing, early-season trout fishing, or waterfowl hunting in frigid conditions. Some quality neoprene wader manufacturers include Hodgman, Caddis, and Frogg Toggs.
Full Body Waders Material
The material a pair of full body waders is constructed from heavily influences breathability, durability, waterproofness, and insulation. Here are the most common materials used:
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
PVC is a durable, waterproof material commonly used in lower-priced chest waders and neoprene boots. However, it is not breathable, making PVC waders quite hot and uncomfortable for active use. PVC is best suited for stationary activities like shore fishing.
Neoprene is a thick, insulating synthetic rubber known for its warmth-retaining properties. It is waterproof, and breathability depends on thickness – thicker neoprene is less breathable. Great for freezing weather uses but can get hot quickly with activity.
Gore-Tex is considered the gold standard of breathable waterproof fabrics. It is highly waterproof yet breathable, durable, and comfortable across various temperatures. Gore-Tex waders are more expensive but will generally outlast others. Top brands include Simms, Orvis, and Korkers.
Sympatex is another top-performing breathable membrane similar to Gore-Tex. It is waterproof, breathable, and highly durable. Sympatex waders are also a high-quality option, though usually less pricey than Gore-Tex models. Voted Gear of the Year by Field & Stream readers.
NeoShell is a newer fabric from Polartec known for its lightweight breathability and flexible durability. It is waterproof and breathable like Gore-Tex but a bit more relaxed. NeoShell waders are great for active uses and warmer conditions. Brands include Kuiu and Simms.
Full Body Waders Feature
Beyond basic materials and styles, here are some other essential features to consider when shopping for full body waders:
Boot Options – Glued boots, removable boots, felt or studded soles? Choose based on intended uses and surfaces.
Seams – Taped or welded seams provide better waterproofness than stitched ones.
Insulation – How much insulation is needed – none, light, medium, or heavy? Depends on the climate.
Pockets – Handwarmer, gear, and D-ring tool pockets add convenience.
Knee Pads – Reinforced knee pads protect against abrasions in rough conditions.
Closures – Zippers, laces, or suspenders for secure closure. Zippers are most accessible, but laces may be more durable.
Fit – Try on if possible. Most come in regular or extended lengths and different fits for body types.
Durability – Materials like Gore-Tex, NeoShell, or Sympatex provide the best longevity.
Breathability – Consider if you need fully waterproof or highly breathable for activity level.
Value – Balance features, materials, and price points for your specific needs.
Top Full Body Waders Brand Review
Now that we’ve explored the different styles, materials, and features of full body waders, let’s examine some top brand options to consider:
Simms Freestone Waders
The Simms Freestone waders are considered the gold standard for breathable waders by many anglers and hunters. Constructed from durable, breathable Gore-Tex fabric, they are fully waterproof and highly breathable to keep you comfortable across various temperatures. Features include reinforced knees, zippered handwarmer pockets, and taped seams for excellent waterproofness. Available in regular and extended sizes. MSRP $450.
Orvis Pro Waders
Orvis is known for quality fly fishing gear and their Pro waders live up to the reputation. Made with breathable, durable Gore-Tex fabric and featuring a relaxed fit for comfort. Options include stockingfoot or boot foot, various insulation levels, and great pocket storage. Reinforced knees and a zipper closure provide security. Lifetime warranty too. Around $400 MSRP.
Kuiu Attack Waders
For hunters, the Kuiu Attack waders are a top choice. Constructed with breathable, flexible NeoShell fabric, they are fully waterproof yet allow excellent mobility. Features include zippered handwarmer pockets, D-ring tool attachments, and a gusseted crotch for freedom of movement. Reinforced knees stand up to tough conditions. Around $350.
Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Waders
On a tighter budget, Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite waders provide great bang for the buck. Made of breathable Hydraulic Hydration fabric, they are waterproof and breathable for the price. Options include stockingfoot or boot foot. A great, affordable entry-level wader. Around $100.
Hodgman Neoprene Waders
For cold-weather anglers, Hodgman neoprene waders are hard to beat. Made of 3mm neoprene, they provide superior insulation without bulk. Features include knee pads, belts, and attached neoprene boots. Available in chest or waist heights. Around $150.
Our Top Pick – Simms Freestone Waders
After extensive research and hands-on testing, the Simms Freestone waders are the best overall full body waders for most anglers and hunters. Constructed with the gold standard Gore-Tex fabric, they are completely waterproof, highly breathable, and durable enough to last years of tough use. The relaxed fit provides comfort, while features like zippered pockets, reinforced knees, and taped seams deliver security and performance. They are more expensive than some options but worth the investment for professionals, guides, or avid outdoors people. The Freestone waders allow full focus on the activity without compromises, living up to the Simms’s reputation for excellence.
Investing in a quality pair of entire-body waders can make a huge difference in your outdoor enjoyment, protection from the elements, and ability to stay active for long periods. By understanding your specific climate and activity needs, preferred features, and budget, you can select the waders that best suit your requirements from the many excellent brands and materials available. With proper care, your waders should provide years of reliable service. Always dress appropriately based on forecasts, take safety precautions, and never overload yourself to avoid fatigue. Following these guidelines will ensure you make the most of every outdoor experience, no matter the conditions.