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Finding Fishing Waders For The Right Occasion

Man wearing waders standing in a river, holding large fish net with trout.

Buying fishing waders should be an easy task. Except, like many other things in life, there is a variety of choices making it hard to choose which waders are best for you. 

Modern-day anglers have it loads easier when it comes to waders. The days of essentially wearing a huge and hefty garbage bag are in the past. The anglers of today can easily find a more comfortable and accurate fit. There are now different heights, materials, and styles to choose from. 

Welcome to the days of luxury. Whether you’re looking to upgrade or looking to purchase waders for the first time, you’ll know what to look for when we’re through here. 

Different Wader Heights

wood ruler on the wooden background

First things first, deciding the height of your waders is critical. You’ll need to think about what kind of fishing you’ll be doing and the conditions you’ll be fishing in. 

Will you be wading in shallow waters? How fast is the current? What’s the water temperature?

Chest Waders

If you’re going to be in deep water, fast-flowing water, then chest waders are the height you want to look for. They’re going to keep you the driest and allow you to go most places. 

Chest waders offer the best coverage and if you’re not sure of the water you’ll be in, then these are a great option (you’ll be covered for most all water depths). They’re also a good option for clam digging since they provide such coverage.

Waist Waders

Waist waders are more like wading pants worn with a belt or suspenders, but they’re a good option for anglers that are looking to go mid-thigh deep in water. You’ll have a good range of motion in wading pants and less restriction on your upper body. Some have boots attached, and some don’t. 

Hip Waders

Hip waders are great for trout fishing in shallower waters. They’re also suitable for slow-moving creeks, launching a boat, or bird hunting in shallow waters. The apparent downside to hip waders is that they don’t allow for a lot of water depth flexibility. You’re limited to knee level water. 

Wader Material

Similarly to picking your wader height, to decide on wader material, you’ll need to consider what you’ll be doing or what weather you’ll be fishing in. Will you be using your waders in the winter? In cold water? Keep these questions in mind when contemplating which material is best for you. 


Breathable waders are lightweight and more compact than other wader materials. However, the material isn’t as strong as neoprene waders or rubber waders. 

The breathable chest waders are great for summer fishing, and you can use them in colder waters if you wear thermals underneath.


Neoprene is the way to go if you’re planning to be in cold waters. They provide good insulation and are a great choice for winter steelhead. On the downside, neoprene restricts your range of motion and your ability to layer up if needed.


Rubber waders are durable and useful for most conditions; however, they’re heavier and provide less range of motion. 

Wader Styles

There are two main fishing waders styles: stockingfoot and bootfoot. 


Stockingfoot waders have a neoprene bootie attached to the bottom, and they’re designed to be worn with wading boots. They’re more lightweight than bootfoot waders, and because they require a wading boot, you have more options to fit your needs.

This style of fishing wader can allow you the flexibility to traverse through a variety of different waters. If you’re going to be fishing in a river with a lot of rocks or walking through a sandy shore (like clam digging), you can get the right boot for the occasion. 


Bootfoot waders already have the boot sewn into the design, so there’s no need for an additional purchase of wading boots. They also come in two different boot options: felt or cleated. 


For our area, a lot of anglers choose a felt or cloth-soled bootfoot wader or wading boot. They provide supreme traction when wading through slimy rocks. After a time, the felt does need to be replaced, and there are legal restrictions to which waters allow the use of felt boots. Currently, felt soles are legal in Washington and Oregon.


Cleated bootfoot waders provide maximum stability and traction. If you’re going to be in muddy areas or places with a lot of dead foliage, these are the ticket. However, the downside to cleated bootfoot waders is that they require more cleaning time than the other boot options.

Wading Boots

Man fishing by the lake

When it comes to the wading boot selection, you have a variety to choose from (as discussed above). You can purchase cleated, rubber, or felt boots, but you can also get changeable soles.

Changeable Soles

As the name suggests, you can change your soles to suit your needs. For example, if you’re going to be clam digging, you can use cleated soles. Some changeable soles click and lock into place while others lock and strap into place. 

Additional Feature To Consider: Zip 

Zip waders are supremely easier to get on and off, which is a bonus when you have to take a midday pitstop. They’re also more comfortable to layer up underneath, making them versatile for most occasions. 

Buying Fishing Waders

When choosing fishing waders, make sure they fit your needs. 

Versatility is a great selling point for getting the most bang for your buck. For our area, a pair of waders you can use for fishing and clam digging is the way to go. We recommend looking for a breathable stockingfoot chest wader.

Happy fishing!

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