The time has come-- my old, leaky waders have been warriors and their time spent in the field was much longer than originally anticipated but the last three months of fishing almost every day has taken a toll. They’re done. Kaput. They look like a patchwork quilt of polka dot patches and I was reticent to let them go—kind of like an old guitar that has a particular tone that’s pleasing to the ear or an old truck that has more memories and miles than remaining usefulness. A pair of waders, regardless of the memories of fish caught or particularly enjoyable days out, has to be considered a dependable tool. And this old pair of hammers has done broke.
So I sucked it up and started the long process of trying to find the right replacement. I don’t like spending money; my nature is frugal but my wife simply calls it like she sees it: cheap. There are many companies out there offering waders in a wide and diverse variet so the resulting process of narrowing it down can be cumbersome.
American Made vs Foreign manufacture? Front Zip or no? Gore-tex or some other proprietary material? Breathability tests? How many layers? Four season or three? Seam quality? Style points? Warranty policy? Gravel Guards? How trusting are the suspenders? How easy it to pee? Bushwack Durability? Any extra features? As you can see, there are a ton of factors to consider and my head started to swim with the algebraic difficulties of trying to sort it all out. And that was before I even started to look at price point. There are a vast variety of brands out there and some waders out that will set you back the cost a mortgage payment so its important to get the most bang for your buck. Let us not forget that most important function of a pair of waders should be simple: to keep you dry. All the other options should be considered luxury.
LL Bean manufactured a great pair of waders that lasted me almost three years. THREE YEARS! And that isn’t through occasional use--it was three years of beating through brush and briars in over 10 states. It was three years of being mishandled and disrespectfully thrown in the space behind the driver’s seat of my truck. And it was through a number of fishing days that a non-angler would deem obsessive. And while I’m sad to see them go as they were as much of a trusted river buddy as my wife (kidding here. Seriously, I’m kidding) it was time to let these old warriors retire to the rack.
After a fair amount of consideration and internal debate, I chose the Simms G3 guide stocking foot wader. And because I love the sentiment behind it, I chose the camo-clad WQW model that puts $50 back to the Bozeman, MT based Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation which provides “quality restorative programs, utilizing therapeutic experiences in the serenity of Montana” to those soldiers traumatically injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. (http://warriorsandquietwaters.org)
The Simms G3 Guide WQW have a couple of bells and whistles that make things easier—tippet tender that zips in the bib, webbed daisy chains on either side of the front patch, and hand warmer pockets that are placed where one might expect them to be. All these details seem to be executed well but the real glory of these waders lie in the fit (25 sizes available as well as a custom fit should you choose to go that route.) Gone are the days of wearing a tube style wader that always felt like a bucket to me; Simms got it right on these waders as they fit like a tailored pair of pants and all the extra fabric that used to cause river drag are gone as well. This simple feature allows for an easier river crossing or less energy expended when working faster water.
Simms built these waders with three layers of gore-tex in the legs and a lighter bib that will assure a good three-season level of comfort and four when supplemented with the right base layers. Another nice thing about these, and this is an underrated quality in my opinion, is the ease in which one can relieve oneself. Let’s not be disingenuous about it—we all have to do it. The suspender straps are stretchy enough that one can easily just scrunch or pull down the bib to gain enough “clearance”. The suspender straps easily slip around the waist when converting to a warmer day.
The gravel guards are beefy, so is the wading belt, and these details stand as a true indication that Simms has put some time, thought, and energy into making a great pair of waders. It’s nice to see an American Company making a true American product and doing it well.
***I will update this review in 6 month increments and tell you how things are going. A Special shout out goes to George Anderson’s Yellowstone Angler shop for the most comprehensive wader comparison and review that I’ve read. (http://www.yellowstoneangler.com/gear-review/2013-wader-shootout-best-waders-simms-g4-simms-g3-patagonia-rio-gallegos-orvis-silver-sonic-dan-bailey-guide-ultra-redington-aquaz-cabelas-bootfoots)