Boots and Waders Buying Guide

Boots and Waders

Arguably the most important components for fly anglers -especially those who enjoy rivers- are their boots and waders. While we can get by with any number of options in a rod and reel combination, without a set of good boots and waders none of us would be excited to go out and wave a fly rod in a river. Here at Fly and Field Outfitters, we carry only gear that we would wear, made by manufacturers that stand behind what they sell. So we have complete confidence that our customers can make educated decisions for the equipment that fits them, both in their angling aspirations and their pocketbook. Read on to get the lowdown on all the options we offer here at Fly and Field Outfitters.

Waders:

There are a few very important things to understand when shopping for waders: First is that not all waders are made of the same materials. The best known is still GORE-TEX. This has been the industry standard for breathable waterproof fabric for decades. And for good reason, it is still the most technologically advanced, longest lasting and high-performing fabric for keeping you dry, insulated and ventilated all at the same time. Another benefit is that finding and repairing the inevitable pinhole leaks in a GORE-TEX wader is quite easy in comparison to other breathable waterproof fabrics. There’s a reason that GORE-TEX products tend to come with a higher price; they’re just better. Having established that, fabrics like nylon, Toray and Patagonia’s H2No Performance Shell work great. But there is still an important distinction between GORE-TEX and non-GORE-TEX products!

Secondly, sizing is a significantly important aspect of getting you into the right pair of waders. Both the efficacy and the longevity of a wader will depend on whether it is fit properly. Fortunately, the manufacturers that we carry have expanded standard fitting options over the last handful of years. Both Simms and Patagonia, in men’s sizing, offer the typical Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large and XX-Large sizes as well as a “King” option (slightly wider in thigh, waist, and chest) in some sizes. Then they go further and offer short and tall versions. As for fitting the booties to your foot size, both companies have sizing options there too. So someone of my particular size and stature can now find the wader that fits me perfectly where in the past I had to either wear a Large and have too much fabric too high in the wader or a Medium and risk blowing seams out in those areas I’m not a standard “Medium”! In Women’s waders, standard sizes are Small, Small Full, Medium, Medium Full, Large, Large Full and Extra Large. All those sizes come in Short and Regular. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get fitted properly for a wader that will work better and last longer than ever before.

Thirdly, all the waders we carry come with solid, industry-best warranties. Waders should last for some time, but there is always the potential for a manufacturing defect. Likewise, we as anglers tend to frequent harsh environs for any garment, and accidents can happen! Our manufacturers understand this and will go to great lengths to repair the damage done while simply “on the job”. Repair costs will vary on the age of the product and how much use its seen. The one thing we stress to every customer walking out of the store with a new pair of waders is that proper care will go a long way towards the longevity of the wader and also how it will be evaluated by the manufacturer’s repair department when sent in for a fix. Always hang your waders between use and never store them in a duffle when still wet!

Lastly, there are perhaps more options throughout the price spectrum than we’ve ever had before. While I will not get into the real “price point” products offered at Cabela’s, Sportsmen’s, Dicks and the lot, I will go into some detail of the brands and models we sell here at the shop. We carry what we do be because we need to sell with confidence. Part of that is knowing that if there’s a manufacturer’s defect in any of our products, the wader will be repaired or replaced under a warranty. Both Patagonia and Simms stand behind their products and offer solid warranty policies. Likewise, if the wader gets damaged through extreme use or the user’s fault, most often the manufacturer will still repair the wader at a reasonable cost. The one exception is if a wader has obviously been used and/or stored in an irresponsible way. But back to the pricing. We have men’s waders here starting at $179.95

Okay, now that we know some of the important differentiation and factors, let’s go through the manufacturers and models we carry. Here at Fly and Field Outfitters, our sincerest hope is that you end up with the right set of waders and boots. We want you to be motivated and inspired to get after any chance you get. We also understand that price is a driving issue in most purchases, which is why we offer a broad range that we do. Let’s go through options and give you an educated point from which to start your shopping for waders and boots.

We have -like many specialty retail fly shops- leaned heavily on the Simms brand for a long time. The reason for this is simple: they are dedicated to constantly evolving the manufacturing process and the materials they use. Because of this, they are able to offer a multitude of models suited to every angling aspiration. Having said that, we also proudly carry Patagonia, which has raised its game substantially over the last five or so years. But let’s start with the Simms line.

The Simms Tributary wader ($179.95) is the newest wader out of Bozeman. This is a proper “price-point” wader in the sense that it was designed by the same team that brings us the G4 waders, but is manufactured overseas and constructed from nylon. The layering, straps, bootie welds and stitching concepts come from much more expensive waders. This wader has four layers on the lower section for added warmth and durability, and three up top for better ventilation on the warm days. While none of us would consider this the highest functioning, 4-season wader, it is a perfectly useful option for the fly-curious angler on a budget. This is a wonderful wader for the hot summer months, for the angler who sees themselves fishing only a handful of days each year, or the budget-minded shopper. The Tributary comes in SM, MED, MED KING, LG 9-11, LG 12-13, LG KING, XL & XXL. All sizes come in Short, Regular and Long.

The Freestone wader ($279.95) is where the Simms brand starts getting serious. This product has many of the same features as its more expensive cousin, the Headwater, but is manufactured overseas out of QuadraLam, 4-layer Toray instead of GORE-TEX. The Freestone is durable and warm. Toray is highly breathable for a waterproof material, so this wader is equally comfortable in summer and winter. The Freestone is 4-layers throughout for superior warmth retention during the coldest days. The anatomic bootie is especially insulating. So, for under three hundred, you can’t find a better set up. This wader also comes in a Zip-Front style with a fully waterproof zipper. It lists at ($379.95) and is easily the best deal in zippered waders. The Freestone series comes in SM, MED, MED-KING, LG 9-11, LG 12-13, LG KING, XL & XXL. All sizes come in Short, Reg, and Long.

The Headwater wader ($449.95) is the lowest price GORE-TEX wader offered by Simms. Along with the improved fabric quality of this wader comes the Made in USA patch. For some, this is a very important distinction. We believe that knowing a product is constructed under the trained, watchful eyes of the craftspeople in Bozeman means a great deal. But what is even more defining in this wader is the fabric. Simms's latest iteration of GORE-TEX in their waders is an improvement from products even a few years old. With that better insulating and breathable fabric comes a lighter feeling wader throughout. The Headwater is a 3-layer wader with reinforced lower legs to protect against abrasive riparian habitats. Even with fewer layers, the wader works just as good through the colder seasons. And its lightweight, so it breathes better on the hot days of summer. This wader also comes with an improved, anatomic neoprene bootie over its less expensive cousins. The wader has Simms patented front and back leg stitching to both increase durability and comfort. And along with the zippered front pocket, it has the attachment zipper for the Tippet Tender pocket system Simms has designed in recent years. In our opinion, the Headwater wader is a perfect wader for the hardcore three season angler. And even in that fourth, coldest season, it can be useful if the proper layers are worn underneath.  The Headwater wader comes in SM, MED, MED KING, LG 9-11, LG 12-13, LG KING, XL, XL KING, XXL. All sizes come in Short, Regular and Long.

The Simms G3 Guide Wader ($549.95) is where we start getting into the proper “working wader”. Yes, this Guide Series wader has been the industry standard for decades. But Simms took the effort to outdo themselves a couple of years ago when they introduced the Pro Shell GORE-TEX material they spent years designing and refining before bringing on the market. This is easily the lightest, most supple and durable fabric ever used in a wader. Like the Headwater, it is constructed in the USA, but unique to itself and the G4 wader, the G3 is made of fabric from the USA too. This is a proper, 100% Made in the USA product, worn by the hardest working guides in the business for a generation. The main feature differentiating this wader from the Headwater is the fourth layer in the legs. This creates a much tougher and better insulating lower half. For those of us in and out of boats, scrambling up and down riverbanks, charging through brambles and fishing all year ‘round, this extra layer is crucial. Other bonuses include a Tippet Tender pocket attached inside the wader, extra-thick wading belt, improved anatomic neoprene bootie, and highly adjustable shoulder straps. Without a doubt, this is one of the best year ’round waders for the serious Central Oregon angler. It has the perfect balance of warmth, breathability, and durability. This level of features and quality comes with a price tag, but we feel the G3 is worth every penny. And then some!  Simms also offers this wader in a Bootfoot design. These are available in both felt and Vibram soles and can be custom fit. The Bootfoot is the ultimate cold-weather game changer.  The G3 Guide Wader comes in an especially wide array of sizes: SM, SM KING, MED, MED KING, LG 9-11, LG 12-13, LG KING, XL, XL KING, XXL. All sizes are available in Short, Regular and Long.

The Simms G4 Pro and G4Z Pro wader ($749.95 & $849.95) is easily the most developed, revolutionary and hard-core wader in the business. 2020 sees the latest version of this product with several new, patented features. Starting with the material, Simms is using its latest GORE-TEX material, Pro Shell, which is lighter, more supple and longer-lasting than its predecessor. For such a burly, heavy-duty wader, the new G4 feels so light. Another innovation here is the way Simms is cutting the fabric before assembly. Gone are curved lines that can stretch stitching. Now the wader is all straight lines for superior strength, adding to already industry-leading durability. The new G4 and G4Z Pro wader also come with a revolutionary, Comfort Molded neoprene bootie, both inside and out. This game-changing, patented design creates better stability and comfort in your wading boots. Along with all this killer new stuff, the G4 series is still packed with the features that made it the lusted-over wader it’s been for years. The adjustable, air-mesh suspender system is the most comfortable in the business. The outer pockets are micro-fleece lined and zippered. The wader comes with a Tippet Tender inner pouch, a thick wading belt, GORE-TEX low profile belt loops, and shark fin hemostat buckle. If you’re in the market for the best pair of waders ever constructed, look no further. This is THE ONE!

The G4 and G4Z Pro Wader come in a wide array of sizes: SM, MED, MED KING, LG 9-11, LG 12-13, LG KING, XL, XL KING, XXL. All sizes are available in Short, Regular and Long.

Patagonia has made a massive push over the last four years to make proper, high-quality waders. First, with the Rio Gallegos series and now the Swiftcurrent, they’ve succeeded! I’ve worn the Gallegos since it hit the market and have been impressed with the durability, fit and warmth. Now, the Swiftcurrent has arrived and it’s packed with a bunch of new features, a positive evolution in materials and construction. We are excited to carry this wader in the Expedition weight. The lighter, 3-season version will be out soon. For now, though, we only have the burly, 4-season, feature-packed style. This wader is constructed of 4-layers of waterproof, breathable fabric that passes Patagonia’s H2No standards of efficacy and durability. This material is proven and works great. As much as the material, the cut and construction are just as impressive. From a gusseted crotch area to innovative single-seam stitching to their anatomical Yulex booties, this wader is as advanced as any on the market. This wader has zippered front pockets, an inner waterproof drop-in pocket, an easily adjustable, quick-release suspender system and removable kneepads. As with all Patagonia products, the warranty is the best in the business. These waders come in a wide array of sizes. We recommend trying on a couple of sizes to make sure you find the best one for you. As with all waders, the fit is vitally important to efficacy and durability.

Boots

As with waders, the dedicated wading boot manufacturers have spent a ton of time and money developing their products to meet the varied need of anglers. Young, old, man, woman, hardcore or weekender, there is a boot to meet your aspiration. Here at Fly and Field, we have devoted a lot of our attention and energy to stocking the boots we feel best suit our customer base here in Central Oregon and beyond. To this end, we now stock boots from Simms, Korkers, and Patagonia, ranging in price from $99.95 to $549.00. As you may well imagine there is a vast array of options within that price range. From materials used to the manufacturing process to a variety of features, there is much to understand about wading boots before making your purchase. Most boots now come with the option of felt or some kind of rubber sole. The reasons for this are both personal preference and sensitivity to transporting invasive elements from one river to the next. As for preference, there is the element of traction and also benefits from season to season. As for traction, most would agree the good, ol’ Fashioned felt is still superior to rubber day in and day out. Once we put studs insoles, the game evens out, but not everyone appreciates studs, especially those with fiberglass or wooden boats! Seasonally, felt can be problematic come winter, when we are to find working the banks of snow-covered rivers systems. Felt has the tendency of accumulating snow until we all get to understand what it’s like wearing four-inch high heels. As for the invasive organism factor, it’s a real concern. Throughout Alaska and on many rivers in the West, felt is either seriously frowned upon or outright banned. The reason is that the material itself acts as an amazing incubator for all sorts of river born creatures. Everything from algae to mud snails can survive weeks once imbedded in wet felt. So, for those who travel river to river, either consider getting into a rubber-soled boot or take your responsibility of properly cleaning your gear very seriously. As for rubber, there are several different compounds to choose from. The softest obviously provide better grip but also wears out the fastest. The introduction of Vibram rubber in recent years has created to best straight rubber grip, but most people still put studs in their rubber-soled boots, or in the case of Korkers they purchase the studded rubber, of which there are many options. Lastly, boots come in a variety of height and weight options. The boot height largely determines the overall weight and adds to stability for those who like to hike and wade aggressively and/or have fragile ankles.

One more important distinction between manufacturers: All Korkers boots have interchangeable sole systems. They have dialed this incomprehensibly over the years to the point it’s nearly bombproof now. I’ve worn just about every model they’ve introduced over the last eight years and can state irrevocably that Korkers has improved in every aspect. I feel totally comfortable recommending any of their products. If you are spending time on different rivers and don’t want to hassle scrubbing felt soles in between, this boot has several rubber sole options. If you are a one-river angler most of the time and prefer felt, you can rock that, either straight or with studs. Point being, the Korkers sole system is pretty rad! They offer everything from straight rubber to massively grippy metal soles. Read on to see which soles come with which boots.

 

Unlike our breakdown of waders, which we did by brand, with the boots let’s look at the options via price range.

Beginning at the least expensive:

The Simms Tributary ($99.95 Felt or Rubber) As far as a “price-point” wading boot goes, this is pretty awesome. The Tributary takes over where the Rock Creek boot left off a couple of years ago. That boot was a game-changer in the “hundred buck boot” category. Lightweight, tough, versatile, everything we look for in a boot. The Trib is all that and more with additional toe box reinforcements. This boot comes with a 12mm sole and can be studded.

Korkers Greenback enters the conversation at ($109.99 Felt Only, $129.99 with Felt and Kling-On Rubber, $149.99 with Kling-on and Studded Kling-on). And the Greenback, at this price point, is an awesome deal. This is a killer, versatile boot for any angler. It’s pretty lightweight at 2.5lbs and 7” tall offers good support. For all the reasons listed above, this is a great boot for the budget-minded angler who gets around!

The next step up is pretty significant. Let’s start with the Korkers Buckskin and Buckskin Mary ($149.99 with Felt and Kling-on, $169.99 with Kling-on and Studded Kling-on). As implied by the name, this boot comes in men’s and women’s styles. Both are constructed to handle maximum torture. This is a tried and tested product, having changed little over the last handful of years. It has improved for sure, both in lightness and durability. What you’re getting in this boot is a well-designed and constructed all-arounder, sturdy enough for anything. The boot is 8” tall so has great ankle support and weighs just over 3lbs.

The Simms Freestone ($169.95 in both Felt and Rubber) is the next step up. In this boot, you get one of the all-time workhorses in the industry. As many times as this boot has been redesigned, we’ve seen a product that has handled the heaviest beating we could put on it. It has been a mainstay in our guide shack for a decade, year after year standing up to daily use and abuse. Simms has continued developing, strengthening, lightening and reworking this boot as better materials and manufacturing processes have emerged. But its attributes have remained as solid as any wading boot ever. The Freestone comes with a partial neoprene inner for ease getting on and off. The ankle is just over 7” tall for awesome support and the boot weight right around 3lbs. Both the heavy-duty rubber and felt soles hold studs well. Hard to go wrong with this one

The brand new Korkers Terror Ridge ($179.99 with Felt and Kling-on, $199.99 with Kling-on and Studded Kling-on) is the first boot from this maker specifically designed for the angler who covers some serious ground during the day. The Terror Ridge has a unique system that securely anchors your entire foot and turns into a stable platform for hiker-like performance on challenging terrain and river bottoms. Combine this feature with all the other cool stuff in a Korkers boot and you have a truly revolutionary product. We’re excited to have this boot in the shop and just know it will be a big hit with the more hardcore, adventurous anglers.

The Korkers Darkhorse and Women’s Darkhorse ($189.95 with Felt and Kling-on, $209.95 with Kling-on and Studded Kling-on) is one of two offerings from Korkers with the BOA lace system (Devil’s Canyon is the other). This winding cable lace is the ultimate in convenience, especially when it’s really cold out! Korkers has had some mixed results over the years with the BOA laces, but I can say without reservation that with the Darkhorse boot, they’ve figured out the functionality and durability in a way unseen in the industry before. I’ve had this boot since the prototype, pounding it relentlessly. The BOA hasn’t broken once. The boot wears wonderfully too. Mine haven’t loosened, stretched, shrunk, or fallen apart. That’s saying something for the number of days on the river. I will admit to being skeptical of the BOA laces, but the Darkhorse has alleviated that. The boot also has a super burly toe, tons of side protection, a remarkably low-abrasion wrap around and is tall for excellent ankle and heel support. At right around two hundred, this might be my favorite boot on the market.

The Simms Flyweight Boot ($199.95 in Felt and Vibram) is a new boot. Simms has had several light-weight designs over the years. These boots are for the aggressive angler who likes to cover many river miles in a day. Simms has figured out a way to make that boot but have it be durable, with solid support. The sole is thinner than other boots to save weight but still holds studs and offers solid support. This boot comes with a Vibram sole option, which is perfect for burly hikes and still giving a good grip when wet. This is a killer option for the fly angler who gets around in rugged terrain.

The Simms Headwater BOA ($229.95 in Felt and Vibram) is a fairly recent offering from Simms. They’ve been on the BOA tip for years, but only in their G-series boots up till now. This is a seriously tough boot, built for year ‘round getting after it. The BOA system is tested and proven, giving super easy in and out on the ugliest days on the river. The construction consists of high-tech performance materials and Nubuck leather for the lightest, strongest possible product. This has been an industry leader for over a decade, easily the most popular boot Simms has made. As materials have improved Simms has incorporated them with the ultra-sturdy Nubuck. The boot also has an option of the Vibram rubber sole for increased grip and both soles receive and hold studs if you’d prefer having metal. The Simms Headwater BOA is the perfect melding of old-school design with modern materials.

The Simms G3 Guide Boot ($249.95 in Felt and Vibram) is where we get into the realm of what all the guides really want on their feet. Throughout the last decade, Simms has worked flat out to create the ultimate “daily driver” boot. This one works great, every day in every condition all year ‘round. Like all Simms wading products, this boot has evolved consistently every year or two. The company has not rested on its laurels when it comes to G Series goods. This latest iteration is yet another advancement in materials and construction. From the full wrap-around heavy-duty rubber to the proven Nubuck upper, this boot will take whatever the most heard core angler dishes out. Whether you go for the felt or RiverTread Vibram rubber, you won’t be disappointed with the inherent grip this boot offers. And if you prefer to get some metal digging in for you, the G3 Guide Boot will hold onto the studs.

The Simms G4 Pro Boot ($299.95 in Felt and Vibram) is easily the most technically advanced, highest-performing wading boot every created. The latest -and super cool- feature is a threaded sole made to receive and hold on tight to a variety of stud options made exclusively for the G4. This boot was redesigned from the ground up for the perfect combination of comfort, durability, and agility. This boot is super light for how sturdy it is. Without going into a ton of tech-talk, Simms has broken the mold in their design of the G4 Pro. Gone are light but fragile materials, compromised stitching, anything that got in the way of the strongest, lightest, most bad-ass boot ever offered. Come to the shop, fondle this boot and decide for yourself.

The new Patagonia Foot Tractor Boot Series ($499.00 in felt and Sticky Vibram Rubber $549.00 with aluminum bars) is a truly revolutionary product. The legendary Oregon boot maker, Danner has partnered with Patagonia to build the industry’s first “Lifetime” wading boot. Patagonia’s guaranty, along with Danner will fix or replace broken and worn out boots as long as they’re taken care of properly. The features in this series of boots are the ultimate “spare no expense” theory you’d expect from these two companies. Without going into detail, these boots are packed with the toughest materials constructed in the burliest possible way to create a boot that has the perfect combination of wearability, durability, and effectiveness in every possible river environment. From perforated, quick-draining lowers, to corrosion-resistant hardware, to a molded bi-fit board combining the shank, lasting board and midsole into a single piece to reduce weight while maintaining stability and comfort, this boot has it all. Do some research, or better yet swing by the shop to fondle this amazing new product for yourself. The various soles are worth researching as well. All three are killers for different applications. The aluminum bars are the ultimate in traction, while the felt and sticky Vibram are perfect for almost every condition you’re likely to find. We are proud to be one of the few Patagonia dealers offering this new, awesome product!