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Tips for Choosing Waders

By Russ Bassdozer

I have never used neoprene waders, so if that is your interest Ican't offer any suggestions here.

But as far as what's traditonally called "rubber" waders, which are typically PVC or Cordura-coated laminates, I can offer some suggestions that have worked well for me.

Gra-Lites have traditionally gotten the nod, particularly for abrasive areas where you may occasionally make contact with rocks or barnacle-crusted pilings. These are heavy, industrial grade PVC. In fact, they are used by industrial workers who may have to wade into corrosive conduits and do stuff in factories to perform maintenance. The Gra-Lites hold a patch well. A tip is to make sure you always use a fresh can of PVC solvent, which you can get from any well-stocked hardware store. Actually you need two things. One is a can of PVC primer, and the other is the glue. Once exposed to air, however, the contents of the can rapidly loses its adhesive properties. There is no way you can prevent this, except to buy a fresh can every so often. It costs a couple of bucks, and is well worth it to ensure your patches bond tightly. Also, never patch on a humid day - it will never take well. And once the patch is on, then coat the exposed edges of the patch with more glue on the outside. I fish hard, and I expect a pair of Gra-Lites to last about five years before I get to the point that I have patches on my patches. One negative is that you cannot wear Gra-Lites in extremely cold weather at the tag end of the season. The PVC gets stiff, and will get many hairline cracks wherever they flex as you bend.

I've tried almost all other pairs of waders out there, and no others even come close to lasting me five years like the Gra-Lites. But that's just because I fish hard and don't go out of my way to avoid things that may be damaging to my waders. Plus, I don't take care of them between trips either.

Only way I ever saw Gra-Lites get ruined was after unsuiting on the beach one morning. My two friends turned their Gra-Lites inside out and draped them over the tailgate to dry out (they get moist inside from perspiration like all waders do). Anyway, the incoming tide was creeping up towards the rigs, so we had to back 'em up the beach. Well, my pals were left with the waders straps still on the tailgate, with the PVC rim and inner pockets attached, and the rest flattened in the tire tracks. We made them put the straps and pockets on to take pictures, and forgive me, but it looked like they where wearing some bizarre kind of surfcasting bondage harness. Anyway, if you fished all night and saw them standing there like that, it was hilarious at the moment.

I really like the Ranger Lightweights on the sand beaches where I am not scraping against rocks and pilings. They are by far the most comfortable and allow the most unrestricted movement of anything I have ever worn. The unrestricted movement cannot be overemphasized. Almost everything else, including the Gra-Lites binds you at some point in some movement you make. But the Rangers allow you comfort and freedom of movement - almost like wearing nothing at all. (Sounds just like one of those Maidenform bra commercials, huh?)

In summer, if you wear shorts under waders, make sure to wear calf-high socks, otherwise the top of the attached boot may chafe your bare calves (all waders do) and irritate you.

In cold weather, just wear sufficiently warm clothing underneath - you don't need insulated waters. By the way, always buy waders at least one shoe size bigger merely for comfort. And always wear winter socks when trying them on to ensure your feet don't get pinched with heavy socks in cold weather. With the winter sock test, you may actually discover that you need waders two sizes larger than your normall shoe size.

Try the Longs. Now I stand 6' tall, and I wear all my clothes in the regular sizes, but I got my Ranger Lightweights in the Long as opposed to the Regular size. The only difference I can tell is that the top of the longs come practically up to my armpits, which allows me to wade out farther with less chance of water splashing up or under my jacket and trickling over the top of the waders.

All very good! Unrestricted freedom of movement, extra high, and very light weight. No wonder I like the Rangers so much for sand beaches! Also, surprisingly rugged and leak-resistant. In a number of years, I only got one pinhole, which I just covered with glue to seal it.

The Remington waders are well-made and also hold up well. They have a tough Cordura coating. But the Regular size just fit me plain weird and restrict my movement. I would not recommend you try these if you are tall or broad. At least the ones I got would seem to be a better fit for skinny people with short legs!   However, they are high quality material and craftsmanship.

I was never satisified with Hodgeman or Red Ball. To be fair though I have not tried them in recent years, and perhaps they have improved models on the market now. Anyway, I seem to recall that they used to get holes more easily than I liked, and the material would lose resilinece when laid up over the winter. Also, the "hardware" for attaching the wader straps was prone to pull out. But then again, I really don't go out of my way to protect my waders or care for them between trips though.

Bottom line, there's absolutely no way to tell if you will comfortably fit into waders or if you can move while wearing them - unless you try on at least several models of waders before buying them. Keep the Gra-Lites in mind for heavy fishing, and perhaps the desirable qualities I find in the Ranger Lightweights (unrestricted movement, high top, lightness) may make them a pair you may want to evaluate for sand beaches.

Hope it helps you keep dry and comfortable.

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