Choosing The Best Duck Hunting Waders
Duck hunting waders can make or break a hunt. Next to a dependable shotgun, for most hunters they are the #1 piece of must-have duck hunting gear. Good ones keep you warm, dry, and focused on the skies. Bad ones leave you soaked and shivering.
For this article, we caught up with Cody Solberg with TideWe to get the information you need to know before buying your next pair of duck hunting waders. Cody is more than just a company representative, he’s an avid waterfowl hunter himself. Our interview took place as he was riding back from a successful early season goose hunt.
Breathable Vs Neoprene Waders
The first question waterfowlers must answer is “Which wader material is right for me?” The material your waders are made of will have a big impact on how well they help you regulate your body temperature. Most outdoorsmen ultimately wind up choosing between neoprene and breathable waders. Conventional wisdom states that breathable waders excel in warmer weather and that colder temps call for neoprene, but Cody says this isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
“Breathable waders are really popular right now, and I think it’s because they can go both ways,” he says. “Here at TideWe, we actually sell one model that has a removable 1200 gram insulation liner, and it’s heated. So, you can remove the liner and enjoy the breathability during those early season hunts, but then add that liner and turn the heat on as the temperature drops. Sure, you can buy a pair of neoprenes for cold hunts, but the ability to add and remove the liner just makes this option a little more versatile. Neoprene is tried and true, and it’s definitely warm under the water, but it can also be a little more prone to tearing, especially if you’re walking through an area with a lot of sticks and other debris.”
Boot Fit Vs Stocking Foot Waders For Duck Hunting
If you’re new to duck hunting, but have spent some time fly fishing, you may be tempted to use your stocking foot fishing waders. But Cody says that’s not ideal.
“It’s mainly a convenience thing,” he says. “Trying to put on waders and then put on a pair of boots in a muddy field or on a boat isn’t a fun time. Separate boots are just one more piece of gear to misplace or loose.”
Another thing to consider is that most wading boots on the market are made for either sandy beaches or rocky streams, not mud. Wader boots come with aggressive, self cleaning outsoles that provide good traction in the muddy conditions waterfowlers find themselves in. While wading boots offer excellent traction on mossy rocks, they quickly clog up with mud and become dangerously slick when used in duck hunting situations.
Wader Sizing And Fit
Once you’ve chosen a material and your boot type, the next question is, “How do they fit?”
“We size our waders to account for clothes underneath,” says Cody. “You pick whatever boot size you wear, and the waders will come to you ready for some heavy layers underneath if you need them. You don’t want your waders too tight where you’re struggling to get them on if you’re wearing a waterproof jacket underneath or anything like that. We want you to have that room. So we size appropriately. And we cover a really good range of sizes. Our waders run from a size 6 boot up to a size 14.”
What Should I Wear Under My Waders?
While breathable waders provide better comfort than the vinyl or rubber options that were common in the past, anything that is 100% waterproof for hours in the swamp is going to allow your body’s perspiration to collect, potentially leaving you cold and clammy. In order to mitigate this, it’s important to pay close attention to what you wear under your waders.
“For a lot of those early season hunts, where it’s seventy or eighty degrees, I may just get by with a pair of sports shorts and a long sleeve shirt under my waders,” says Cody. “Once it starts getting colder, it’s nice to have some sweatpants with good elastic cuffs to keep them down around your feet when you put your waders on. I pull high socks on over them to help keep them in place. But I try not to complicate it too much. If you pile on too much clothing, you start to restrict your range of motion and it interferes with your shotgun mount. So you have to strike the balance between warmth and maneuverability.”
Best Duck Hunting Wader Features
While the most important feature a pair of waders can have is leakproof construction, there are a variety of “nice to have” features that can make your hunt easier and more pleasant. The biggest thing to look for, according to Cody, is well thought out pockets.
“At TideWe, all of our waders have two, big pockets,” he says. “The outside pocket is convenient, but if you’re going to be in deep water, I like to use the interior one in case water comes up to the zipper. That inside pocket will keep your phone, wallet, and keys dry. I like a big interior pocket, because it makes it easier to get a phone in and out of it. Another thing that’s nice is the kangaroo or “hoody” pocket on the chest. On our heated wader, that’s where the heating coils are, and that pocket is fleece lined. So if your get your hands wet and cold, you can stick them up in there really quick and get them warmed up and dried off. Shell loops are also nice to have. I personally prefer to keep my shells in a blind bag, but if I’m in really deep water or moving around a lot, fetching my own birds or something, then it’s nice to be able to keep a few on your person quick to access.”
Another often overlooked feature is the shoulder strap buckles.
“You absolutely want a good pair of buckles that won’t accidentally come undone,” Cody advises. “I’ve seen some that barely clicked into place, and the last thing you want is to shoulder your gun and hit that buckle and have your shoulder strap drop.”
“Something else that we introduced this year is a pair of front zip waders. Those have a waterproof, YKK zipper that goes from the top of the chest down to the beginning of the inseam. It’s a really awesome feature, because if you start to overheat you can unzip the front of the waders and get some airflow going on. It also makes it a lot easier to take a leak!” Cody laughs.
Duck Hunting Wader Maintenance And Care
Once you have a good pair of waders, you owe it to yourself to take care of them. Waders are made to stand up to hard use, but unwarranted abuse and poor maintenance is an easy way to wind up with a pair of waders that require patching before their time. In order to help readers keep their investment operating at peak efficiency for multiple seasons, we picked Cody’s brain on the best practices for wader storage, and his opinion on the best patching technique.
Duck Hunting Wader Storage
“You absolutely want to own a pair of wader hangers,” Cody told us. “Most TideWe waders come with a simple pair. It’s just two straps that strap around each boot, and a hook in the middle. But it lets you hang the waders up in a closet or from your rafters, where they can dry out and not rub on concrete or get stepped on or anything. But if you go on Amazon, they do make some different models of wader hanger that you can screw into the wall and just slide the boot onto them. Waders are not a cheap investment, and it makes no sense to throw them in the floor when you can buy a hanger for $10 and keep them stored properly.”
Duck Hunting Wader Repair
“As far as patching,” Cody says, “I’ve absolutely patched a pair in the field with regular old duct tape. It’s a long way from perfect, but it’ll get you through a hunt. Once you get back to the camp, TideWe actually includes a patch kit with our waders. It’s just cement and a piece of wader fabric, and some instructions. You just clean up around the hole, apply the cement to the inside of the waders, and press the patch onto it. Once it dries, you can trim the excess, and you’re back in business for the rest of the season.”
As a final piece of advice, if you have a good boot dryer, check to see if the manufacturer offers wader extensions for it. I sprung for a pair years ago, and it was a huge quality-of-life upgrade not to have to put on damp, sweaty waders if I hunted multiple days in a row.
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