Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

The second video from our day with the RNLI - waders and trying to climb out

Whilst I have a whack load more to learn about how breathable chest and indeed waist waders behave if you end up in the drink, I am kind of embarrassed at how little I knew about these items of clothing that for me are arguably as important to me as my lure rod and reel and how things go down if the worst was to happen………….

Go and ask fifty anglers what happens if you end up in a choppy to rough sea in pair of breathable chest waders and either you can get away from the rocks with your lifejacket on and await rescue, or else you end up spending a bit of time in the water and for whatever reason need to have a go at self-rescuing or you are clinging onto a throw-rope that your mate has got out to you and now you need to try and clamber up the rocks - and I bet you get fifty different answers based predominantly on what we have heard rather than what we actually know.

So I have a far better idea of what happens now, but not for one second did I head for that RNLI day at their training tank in Poole thinking that it would be the getting out in waders thing that banged home almost as hard as the obvious one which was that wearing a lifejacket quite simply gives you a much better chance at surviving when something goes badly wrong. 

Slipping over in your waders and finding your feet again in shallow water while your mates piss themselves laughing at you is completely different to spending a bit of time in deeper water where you might need to try and clamber up some rocks to get yourself out. When I jumped into that RNLI tank I was wearing a pair of Hodgman breathable chest waders with a wading belt, plus another belt which holds my HPA chest pack in which I carry my lures at my side. Everything was done up fairly tight and exactly as it would be for my fishing - you don’t sink like a stone in your waders, but I can guarantee you that if you end up spending a bit of time in choppy water especially then your waders will fill up with water.

Come on, be honest, how many of check the depth with our lure rods?!

Come on, be honest, how many of check the depth with our lure rods?!

And don’t let anybody tell you that they won’t. If you are in and out pretty quickly then there may well be only a little bit of water in your waders, but spend more time in the water (which I would argue is more likely to happen with where so many of us fish) and they will start to properly fill up. I hear some anglers saying that a wading belt will stop water getting in, but it won’t - sure, I reckon it slows things down, but it’s not an airtight seal around your waist and you can’t wear the bloody thing too tight anyway otherwise you can’t breathe properly!

I can only give you my findings so far here, but if you are wearing a lifejacket which has obviously inflated then after spending a decent length of time in that tank so that my waders filled up properly then I was floating fine with my airways out of the water. Sure, life would probably be somewhat easier without a pair of waders on, and without a lifejacket and how waders aren’t exactly helping you I would suggest that in choppy water you will be in serious trouble - but with that lifejacket it’s doable.

But what shocked the hell out of me was when one of the RNLI people asked me to now try and climb out of the tank via some cargo style hard netting thing. Granted, it’s not rocks, but it matters not - nope, what really shocked me was how much extra weight those waders now full of water are, and how it’s as good as impossible to clamber out as you can see in the video. Bear in mind that I’ve spent a bit of time in the tank filling up, I wasn’t wearing a lifejacket that time around so I was tiring from trying to keep my airways clear of that horrible choppy water - and I simply didn’t have the strength to climb out. I needed some help to get myself over to the steps and just about clamber out like that. And when did you ever find some steps to get out of the ocean?

When waist waders won't do!

When waist waders won't do!

I have no idea how much water was actually in my waders, but it was over my wading belt level inside, and if one litre of water weighs one kilogram then I dread to think how much extra weight I was adding to my (not lightweight!) self when trying to clamber out. I now have an HPA dive knife strapped to the belt on my lure bag which I would try and use to cut open my chest waders if the need ever arose, because for a certain amount of my shore based lure fishing I find breathable chest waders to be incredibly useful. I am now trying out a couple of different pairs of breathable waist waders and for a number of situations they are incredibly useful and at some point I hope to be able to test these things out in the tank. My feeling is that they will be somewhat easier to clamber out with, but I can’t prove that yet. You all have a good weekend and I hope this video gets you thinking about things.