Do not buy zippered waders, particularly if you’ve traveled around the sun fifty times or more. The simple reason is that you may never be able to live without them again. The ability to urgently open up the waders to relieve myself without taking off outer wear has become a feature that has become increasingly important as I have aged. Zippered waders have been my tool of choice for over two seasons now.
I recently put my fourth pair of zippered waders into use and couldn’t be happier with the results. My very first pair (and my latest pair as well) is the new Simms Freestone (pictured above). At $299 they are a bargain compared to the zippered Guide versions made by Simms. They feature built in neoprene gravel guards, reinforced knees and well designed zippered as well as hand warmer pockets. While the imported waders may not be quite as breathable as Simm’s Goretex models at $699 the Freestone’s fabric has proven to be bombproof and wears as long or longer than any wader we’ve owned. A variety of sizes allows a good fit for most shapes.
The waders I used prior to switching to zippered waders were Patagonia’s which feature a clever shoulder strap design that allows uppers to convert from chest high to waist high which though not as convenient as a zipper proved functional enough. Getting the upper to convert back to chest high with winter clothing over the top was not always convenient particularly on the backside where if I wasn’t careful water would sneak over the tops the next time I waded deep. The durability of these waders were not the best though if any issues came up prior to wearing them completely out Patagonia’s ironclad warranty covered the issue with no questions asked.
In testing waders for Simms we suggested they offer a model similar to Patagonia’s and they responded with the “G3 Guide Convertible”. With a similar strap design as Patagonia’s these are our current favorites for summer use, particularly for dropping the upper to wast high when hiking to a honey hole in the heat of summer. They are also ideal for rowing and fishing out of a driftboat during fair weather when we are not likely to be wading deep.
Another zippered wader we’ve tested is Redington’s CPX $279. Unfortunately the first pair we received leaked along the seams after coming directly out of the box. The replacement pair has fared better though the fabric doesn’t seem as robust as Simms models, which may just be a bias based on our original leak. These are certainly priced right and a good value particularly for those who might not be wearing waders over 250 days a year.
The final pair of waders in our review is Dan Bailey’s EZ Zip $499. These are great waders with great features including our favorite pocket design with four zippered pockets with large hand warmer pockets below. The fabric is incredibly durable and puncture resistant. Trust us, we have some of the most rugged and demanding wading on the planet and these waders have taken it in stride. We do have a couple minor complaints, the velcro closure on the built in gravel guards will on occasion snag a line loop and the light color shows stains a bit more than darker colors causing your favorite local guide to look and feel a bit like Charlie Brown’s buddy, Pig Pen.
We saved the most often asked question regarding these waders for last. Most everyone is curious to know if the zippers leak. The simple answer is no. We did have a leak one time. It was an operator error that went unnoticed until water seeped in. Some lower zipper teeth got misaligned while zipping up with frozen hands leaving a gap for water to seep in. The manufacturer has redesigned the wader with the opening a bit shorter making it less likely for this to occur and the operator has been a bit more careful and observant since, making for happy relief for an aging guide ;>).
Please share your experiences with zippered and convertible waders by leaving a comment below.