I am frustrated at the current lack of durability and functionality in waders. I have owned several pairs of waders and have not had a pair that kept me completely dry, or did not need to be thrown away after more than three seasons. The areas of common failure are: material, seams and boots.
The wader material is the first point of failure. Neoprene is good for insulation and has abrasion resistance but lacks the ruggedness that is needed when being snagged on broken limbs or submerged logs. Canvas is very abrasion resistant but has become a thing of the past due to weight and bulk. Nylon waders are lightweight and somewhat breathable but they need added abrasion resistant patches to stand up to tougher hunting or fishing environments. Regardless of material, all of the wader types mentioned have another point of failure in common, seams.
Waders are stitched together like jigsaw puzzles. There are seams in the crotch, up the legs, around the boots and on every extra pocket, strap, or added accessory, and they all can fail. A stitch means there is a tiny hole for thread to go through. Stretch over sunken logs or step out of the boat a few times and sure enough that tiny hole will stretch for the water to seep, if not trickle in. Seams in the crotch should be eliminated. This area has the most movement and is one of the first places to leak. Seams around the boots are also likely to fail, especially when wading through thick sticky mud or sand. This leads us to the next area of improvement needed in waders, the boots.
I hang my waders upside down and rinse them as directed, but a couple seasons in, and the boots start cracking. Is it unrealistic to think that a boot made to withstand being submerged in water and mud and being punctured by rocks and logs cannot last a few days in the back of a pickup without cracking? I have tennis shoes that last longer than that.
At $200-$400 a pair, can we afford not to ask for more out of our waders? I can buy a shotgun or fly rod for that much and it will outlast my lifetime. Companies are spending money developing new wader bags to help store and transport your waders, how about taking that money and designing better waders? I am not trying to bash companies that make waders, I know it takes a lot of time, effort and money to design a pair of waders, but I am asking for an improvement on outdated manufacturing and design techniques and you should too!
Image courtesy Double Up Outdoors