I reckon I’ve been wearing lightweight breathable chest waders for the bulk of my saltwater fishing for at least fifteen years now, and possibly longer, plus I have worn them for much of my freshwater based fishing photography as well. All in all I guess this adds up to a lot of experience with many different makes and models of breathable waders - and nothing yet has changed my opinion that as sure as night follows day, these kind of waders are going to fail at some point if you use them a lot for saltwater fishing. It’s more a matter of how long you can get out of them before something goes wrong………...
Note that I am not complaining here, because however much we want what are generally not a cheap item of clothing to last forever, as saltwater anglers we are still putting something that has been designed for freshwater fishing through a generally much tougher life than was envisaged for them. Sure, some waders without a doubt last far better than others, but I kinda think that lure anglers especially have been wearing these waders for long enough now to have realised that a pair of waders for saltwater fishing in the UK and Ireland is almost an expendable bit of gear if you like - and the choice we have to make is how much are we prepared to spend on them when we know that they aren’t going to last anywhere near forever. But then what does last forever in saltwater fishing especially?
How important are waders to you? For me they are as vital as a lure rod and spinning reel, as in nearly every single time I go fishing in the UK or Ireland I wear my chest waders. I know that some braver anglers than me have various wet wading systems they use, and I have tried some myself, but the simple fact is that I hate being wet when I am fishing, and however warm our weather may sometimes get, our waters still feel bloody cold to me! It may be different for you, but I need those waders as much as I need a rod and reel.
I have tried many more pairs of waders than you ever hear about on this blog, and with how long I’ve been wearing breathable chest waders for my fishing and indeed photography, I have distilled my experience if you like down to this simple “fact” - if I get a perfect year out of my chest waders then that’s pretty damn good, accepting that if I slip or fall and somehow put a hole or tear in the material then that’s my fault and I need to patch it up. I’ve met some freshwater anglers especially who can’t believe how I get through waders when they’re getting say fifteen years of perfect use, but then it turns out that these guys are salmon fishing for two weeks a year and that’s it!
The lifespan of your waders may well be different to mine. Take my year as a kind of average, because I’ve got longer out of one pair of waders, and I sure as hell have also got a lot less as well - my record was getting wet feet with a brand new pair before the first day with them was even finished! I have worn high end Simms waders which are without doubt the most comfortable waders I have ever worn, and I have worn distinctly budget waders, with many in between - but as much as I am always very much hoping that spending a whole heap more on a pair of breathable chest waders is going to buy me a considerably longer “perfect wader life”, so far and rather annoying this hasn’t been the case. Don’t get me wrong, I am ever hopeful here and I will keep looking and then report back if I am successful, but so far I stand by the one year thing - with any longer being a real bonus, however much they cost.
I was wearing a very comfortable and well designed pair of chest waders from the start of this year for example, and with how well they were working for a few months I was getting pretty excited about them - or as excited as one can get about a pair of chest waders! But I was out photographing some fly fishing on a reservoir, I waded out to line up a shot and suddenly I’m feeling distinctly wet around the crotch area. Now I may be getting older, but I am pretty sure I’d still know if I wet myself by mistake. Nope, these waders which had been working so perfectly up until literally the day before when I had been out (saltwater) fishing had gone and completely failed out of the blue around the crotch seam area. Oh well, another pair bites the dust.
I will keep on looking and trying different pairs of breathable chest waders as and when I can, but when I need to buy a pair then for me it’s going to stay the same as it has done for a few years now - I am accepting that around the £200 mark is what I need to spend to get me a pair of waders that will do me for at least a year (and I got I think a year and a half out of my last pair). You might not like hearing this and I am not remotely trying to tell you what to do here by the way - I am merely telling you that after a number of years and different waders, I have arrived at a figure of roughly £200 for at least a year of use - unless as I said I fall and rip them or whatever, which I have done, and it’s why I always have some of that Aquasure stuff here.
Why the roughly £200 figure though? Because nothing yet has changed my mind that the Vision Ikon chest waders are the best all round ones I have come across so far, and they tend to cost around £200 - keep an eye out though, because sometimes you can find them on a bit of a deal. Should I balk at spending £200 a year (ok, hopefully a good deal longer if all goes well) on an item that I am expecting will eventually fail on me? Well first off I can’t get by without a pair of chest waders, secondly I want them to be comfortable and easy to wear and as tough as I have found for the price - which the Vision Ikon waders are - and thirdly I don’t see much choice here. I don’t drink or smoke, fishing is my life, and I need a pair of waders that I trust will do the job for me. As I said, my eyes are always open, but at the moment that is where it’s at for me with chest waders.