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  • Writer's pictureThe Drift Team

Wader Sizing, Care & Proper Layering for Cold, Cool, and Warm Weather

We get a lot of questions regarding waders. The questions are about wader fit, wader care, construction, and we hear a lot about issues folks are having with their waders. Hopefully this post will help you understand your waders and give you some insight to how they function, and what may be happening with your set.

"If you look after your gear, your gear looks after you"

How Breathable

Waders Work

It has only been a few decades since breathable waders have been available to anglers. Older style rubber and neoprene waders, were waterproof but non-breathable, incredibly uncomfortable, left you stewing in your own sweat, and were clammy and cold.

Today’s breathable waders are constructed with a membrane that allows water vapour to pass from inside to out, even while under water.

While the leg and upper body of a wader is made of a breathable membrane, the stockingfoot is made of a waterproof non-breathable material, such as neoprene. This is important to remember for layering, especially for what you wear on your feet under your waders, you’ll get more on this further into the post.

Wader Sizing

Wader sizing is crucial to performance and the wader’s functioning life.

While you may be a medium pant, shirt, or any other garment, you may not be a medium in waders. Do not get stuck buying waders that are too small because you want to stick with a pant or shirt size that you are familiar with. We see this often, and it ends up with waders that leak, don’t be ashamed to get a size larger or a “king” or “full” size - wader fit is 100% about function and not fashion.

A wader that is fit too tight will be pulled apart at the seams, by you, and will wear or fail prematurely. Pressure put onto the seams of the waders due to improper sizing will rip the two sections of conjoined material apart leaving holes where water will enter. Even if the wader is worn once with an improper fit, the damage may be permanent.

If your waders are form fitting, resist when you squat, kneel, lunge, or lift your leg and are tight anywhere, including the seat, your waders are too tight.

Proper fit for waders is to have at least 4-5” of room at the chest to allow layering. You need enough room to allow movement in the seat, and enough room for your knees and groin to not pull on the wader while squatting, lunging, and lifting your knee to a waist high height.

When sizing waders, make sure to wear what you will be wearing while fishing with your bulkiest layers on. You need to make sure that you have space for thick thermal layering.

Do not wear jeans, khakis, dress pants, corduroys, or other non-appropriate garments.

The use of non-appropriate garments under your waders is considered mis-use of the product and may void the products warranty.

The stocking foot of your waders must also not be tight on your feet. If the stocking foot material is tight on your foot and toes, it will cause discomfort, premature wear, and compromise blood circulation which will make your feet cold.

Even if there is slight pressure on one of your toes or any part of your foot from the neoprene this will make your feet cold, we can not emphasize this enough.

Layering - What To Wear

A very well known adage in the outdoors community is


It is well known for a reason… it is because cotton kills.

Cotton has been the downfall of many folks who have gone into the outdoors, sometimes with deadly outcomes. While poor clothing choices do not always result in death, and it has, it may severely effect your enjoyment of the outdoors.


Thermal layering – fleece or wool, always.

Never wear cotton garments if you want to stay dry, comfortable, and want your waders to function properly. Cotton holds moisture and does not allow it to wick away, it will leave you damp and clammy and falsely wondering why your waders don’t work.

Those comfy track pants that are fuzzy and warm on the couch, those will get you in serious trouble under your waders in cold conditions - leave them for home, do not wear them when you net fish and chill.

Performance activewear is made to keep you warm when your body is moving and producing heat. Fishing environments are challenging and unique. While hiking into a river is active, standing in a river with cold water surrounding you while your moving slowly can be considered non-active.

It is good to imagine yourself while fishing as a static body, not producing extra heat. You need the right type and right amount of insulation to keep you warm.

Wearing the proper clothing layers is essential for comfort, warmth, and proper wader function. Layering assists in removing moisture from near your skin and transports it to the membrane of the waders where it is then transferred outward to keep you dry.

Start with a light base wicking layer, it should be skin tight, but not restrictive. This will remove moisture from your skin and guide it to the wader. Wear a wicking layer even in warmer temperatures, it will keep your waders cleaner for longer, and increase your comfort and wader performance.

A light thermal layer may be needed in cooler temperatures, but you will need to increase the thermal qualities of your layers as the temperatures drop.

Make sure your layers are not restrictive, and don’t cause tightness in your waders.


Socks – fleece or wool, always.

Remember from above when we told you that the stockingfoot is made of non-breathable material?

Well, this causes an issue… where does your sweat go? Without the correct material in your socks, and without a long enough sock to transfer the sweat from your stockingfoot into your breathable wader area your sweat will just stay in your stockingfoot. This is not good! Luckily, there are solutions.

Wear a sock long enough to come up out of your stockingfoot and well up your shins. If your socks are wool they will act as a wick and will pull the moisture from your feet up and into your shin area, then from there it heads out of your wader and away from you, keeping you dry. The moisture from your feet needs a way to escape, so give it one. If you don’t, nobody else will – so buy the right socks.

Also, if your feet sweat a lot, or you are fishing in cold water, consider applying antiperspirant to your feet. This stops sweat from forming in the first place, which will just keep your feet dry and warm.

Do not double up on socks if they will be tight and cause blood flow restriction. One great pair of socks usually outperforms two pairs of lesser socks.

The socks you may have for skiing and other outdoor activities may not work well for you. You need thick, lofty socks that insulate your feet when you are standing still for hours at a time. Your ski socks may work in cool conditions, but not cold conditions. Warm feet will keep you on the water longer.


Common Problems


If you’re only damp in your waders, it is probably your sweat and not water that has made its way into your waders, or it is your own sweat condensing on the inside of your waders due to the temperature differential. If your lower shins are damp it could be because the sweat from your feet is working its way up to your shins and trying to find a way out.

If it isn’t sweat, and you have eliminated all possibility with proper layering, and even using antiperspirant to prevent sweat from forming, then it may be that your wader’s material is seeping. Seeping can be caused by a patch of material wearing thin from use, or the material itself has failed.

If your legs or any other part of your wader is rubbing together this is not a material defect, you are simply wearing your waders out.

Solution: proper layering, clean and wash your waders - clean waders breathe better.


Your feet are sweating, or your boots, wader stockingfoots and/or socks are too tight. Any tightness will cut off blood circulation and cause your feet to get cold, fast.

Your feet sweat, and they sweat a lot even if you don’t want to admit it. Moisture is the number two offender to getting cold, this comes second to wearing inadequately warm layers and garments.

Solution: Wear one great pair of socks that are made of wool, not cotton. Buy waders and boots that fit your feet properly. Stop your feet from sweating.


There is a saying in the industry - there are two types of waders, waders that leak, and waders that eventually leak.

Every wader will eventually leak, nothing lasts forever. That being said, if every wader you purchase leaks quickly, something is wrong. Most likely it is due to improper sizing or abuse of the product– please refer to the wader sizing portion of this pamphlet.

Solution: Buy waders that fit! Don’t be ashamed to wear a ‘king’ or ‘full’ size, or a size larger than your used to, it is all about function and not fashion with waders.

Eventually you will wear your waders out and they will no longer keep you dry – it is then time to move on and invest in a new pair.

The manufacture guarantee and any warranty your waders may carry are for manufacturing defects - not for the damage you cause, or the wear they see from your use of the product, or from your neglect of the product.

You can check in on our web store for the full range of waders that we carry, what we have in stock, and what we have ready to ship!


Wader Care

If you do not care for your waders, they will not perform well.

A lot of folks are surprised when we tell them they need to wash their waders.

Unfortunately, this information has not been conveyed well over time through other shops.

No matter how expensive your waders are they need to be maintained, much like a Lamborghini is an incredible piece of machinery, but still needs its oil changed.

When washing your waders make sure to turn your waders inside out first, then turn them right side out to finish the process. Do exactly the same when drying your waders.

Do not forget to turn the stockingfoot booties out to make sure they dry fully.


Your waders have a breathable membrane which must be kept clean to function as intended.

Imagine the membrane of your waders as a kitchen sieve or colander. When all of the holes that allow water to pass through are clogged, it stops working. This is exactly the same situation with your waders, if the membrane is clogged they won’t breathe.

Wash your waders following the manufacturer’s instructions only, do not improvise. How often you wash your waders is up to how much you wear them, the quality of water you wade in, and how much you are sweating in your waders. Bacteria will grow inside of your waders, so washing your waders is also a matter of hygiene.

After a period of use, you will have to re-coat the waterproof coating on your waders. A durable waterproof repellant (DWR) was used on your wader material when it was first produced, but this wears off. You’re in luck! It can be replenished or re-activated!

Once again, follow the manufactures instructions and do not improvise. Each wader is different, so consult with the manufacture for what you should be using and how you should be applying it.


Do not fold your waders for storage; once fully dry, ball them loosely as to not form creases and store them in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Often, anglers will wipe and smear fish slime, floatant, bug repellent, and sunscreen on their waders. Do not do this. This will compromise the wader performance and potentially void your warranty as it can be considered misuse, and neglect.

Tip: Bring a small towel with you on the river to wipe your hands clean.

Simm's has put together an incredible resources for their customers for wader maintenance and home repair of small pinhole leaks. Click the video image below for their wader care page below.

Please note that the isopropyl alcohol method for finding pinhole leads in waders only works with waders made with Gore-Tex. Simms wader models that use Gore-Tex are the Headwaters, G3, G4, and G4Z series - all of these are made in their wader production facility in Bozeman, Montana. Other methods to find leaks are to fill your waders, one leg at a time, and only partially, and see where water is leaking or seeping through. DO NOT fill your wader legs entirely, the pressure the water exerts on your garment can put enough stress on the wader seams and cause them to rupture.

We hope this post has given you some insight into your waders, how they work, and how and why you need to care for them.

If you have any questions, this is exactly why we are here. You can reach us at the shop.

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