Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Breathable waist waders - where have you been all my life?

My chest waders are as important to me as a good rod and reel, but up until a few weeks ago I had never even tried a pair of the shorter length breathable waist waders - and to be honest I feel like a bit of a tit for so successfully ignoring breathable waist waders and how a pair of “higher up the body” chest waders sometimes aren’t really needed. I am not about to stop wearing chest waders because I think they are absolutely vital for so much of my fishing, but over the last few weeks I have been out and about a bit and only wearing waist waders - and they have proved to be a bit of a revelation.

Here's my mate Nick wearing waist waders a few years ago and doing just fine in them

Here's my mate Nick wearing waist waders a few years ago and doing just fine in them

OK, so I ignored what seem to be far less popular waist waders for many years, but to be perfectly honest the only reason I opened my eyes and ears to them the other day was because of all this fishing safety stuff I have been getting involved in - and as per my Friday blog post from last week, it was me getting the bloody shock of my life that has prompted me to look at waist waders (with thanks to Ben from the Art of Fishing for prompting me to think about them) and how they might work for my fishing. It’s also because apart from wearing some kind of wetsuit and potentially melting on a long walk or climb to and from my fishing - or manning up and wet wading - I haven’t yet find a logical solution to the issue. I find waders incredibly useful for my fishing, I like warm Indian Ocean water and I don’t like cold Atlantic Ocean water, and as I am finding out, for me there is a time and place for chest waders and waist waders. 

One thing I have promised myself never, ever to do again is wear chest waders on a boat, indeed I am kicking myself for having done it so often. Have a look at the video above of me failing to  clamber out of the RNLI tank and now tell me whether you fancy your chances at getting back on your boat or kayak when your waders are full up with scarily heavy amounts of water. Ignorance is not bloody bliss, not here it isn’t.

So thanks to some kind contacts I have a couple of pairs of breathable waist waders here to try out, and whilst this blog post is by no means a review of them because I need far more time with these items, at least I can give you some initial thoughts and impressions that may prove helpful to some of you. On the safety side of things, please, please bear in mind here that until I can prove it, it’s only my opinion so far that if I get washed in (with a lifejacket on), then I can’t help but think that waist waders are going to be easier to “manage” as such than a full on pair of chest waders in choppy seas especially. I have worn both pairs of waist waders a few times now, including a couple of longer, warm and sweaty walks to and from some fishing.

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If we are trying to keep prices somewhere close to sensible then nothing has changed my mind over the last few years that the outstanding Vision Ikon breathable chest waders are the best bang for the buck out there, so it’s a bit brilliant to be able to wear the waist wader version of these waders (actually called the Vision Ikon Guiding Waist Waders). Everything feels just as well made except the waders obviously stop at your waist! They come with a pair of elasticated shoulder straps which even at their loosest setting end up holding the waist waders a little bit wedgie style - but you can simply unclip the shoulder straps, leave them at home, and instead I have put a webbing style belt through the belt loops.

I was a little worried that waist waders might spend their lives slipping down and driving me frigging loopy, but my worries were unfounded. Make sure they are nice and snug around your waist and I haven’t once had to hitch them up like those teenagers and their low-slung jeans with pants hanging out that make me feel properly middle aged because I want to give them a good slap and tell them to pull their bloody trousers up! I can’t find a single thing about these Vision Ikon waist waders I don’t like so far, so it now comes down to a test of time and how much grief they can take. Of course I have a very good feeling about them because the Ikon chest waders have done me so proud, but I will report back.

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And then I have this rather unique pair of Scierra X-Stretch waist waders here, and there is a also a an X-Stretch chest wader version that I haven’t seen yet. From the Scierra website: “Revolutionary technical breathable waist wader in 4-way stretch abrasion resistant shell fabric for the ultimate performance and freedom – you’ve never felt this free!” I have to say that whilst they feel a bit weird when you first feel them up, when you go fishing and as a byproduct of this sometimes end  walking a fair way and scrambling up and over rocks and reefs etc.,  well they don’t feel like a pair of waders at all, and I mean that as a really good thing. These Scierra X-Stretch waist waders feel a bit like wearing a really easy-wearing pair of lightweight trousers that don’t “catch” you anywhere when you are say lifting a leg up to clamber up onto a higher rock and so on. 

I took a punt on a quiet stretch of the north coast of Cornwall during that warm spell the other day, and this involved a pretty decent walk back especially - up some cliffs, down a valley, back up the other side, and then across a few fields back to my epic Berlingo. It was saying 24C in my car and even Storm had a bit of a lie down in the shade when we got back to where I had parked - I need more time with these Scierra X-Stretch waist waders, but they do seem to be amazingly breathable. I walk fast, I am not small, and I break into a decent sweat, but I am pretty damn sure that the inside of these waist waders was far less damp (from sweat) after that hot yomp than other waders I have worn over the years - and I include my two pairs of not bloody cheap Simms chest waders that I never thought lasted anywhere near long enough for the price.

Again I can’t tell you yet how these Scierra X-Stretch waist waders might last, but they are the closest thing I have come to wearing a pair of waders that don’t actually feel like wearing waders. I hope they last well because they do seem rather clever, and as with the Vision ones I simply secure the (included neoprene) belt around my waist and they don’t slip down at all. Both pairs of waist waders I have here are so damn easy to wear to be honest, and as much as I have lived in chest waders for so many years now and I am of course completely used to them, without a doubt these waist waders do feel that bit easier and non-wader like to wear over the higher waist ones. I will get back to you after a decent length of time, and I do hope to test out my safety related theories on waist versus chest waders one day, but so far so good.