Breathable VS non-breathable materials
While breathable materials can be a better choice, many fishing waders are made out of non-breathable neoprene. Neoprene is a heavy-duty, waterproof, insulating material that protects people from the elements. It keeps the cold out very well, so well that many people prefer it even though it is not breathable.
If you do not need waders that perform exceptionally well in the cold, you might go with breathable waders. Breathable non-neoprene waders are made out of a few different materials.
Nylon is a popular choice for breathable waders. If nylon is coated in a water-repelling chemical, it can keep the water out even if you stand in the water for a long time. With the right chemicals, the waders let air through while keeping water out.
Another material used in hiking boots and, to a lesser extent, waders is Gore-Tex, which lets moisture from inside the waders escape but prevents water from getting through. Different layers of different types of fabric can also be used to let moisture get out without letting water get in.
Rubber is no longer a common material for waders as it is not breathable. Neoprene has replaced rubber as a material for non-breathable waders.
Neoprene is usually better in the cold, and breathable materials are usually better in the summer. If you don't plan to use your waders in cold weather, go with breathable fabrics - they are more comfortable to wear for hours in hot weather. In cold weather, neoprene provides quite noticeably better insulation.
Non-breathable materials other than neoprene are not great, though they might be cheap. Non-breathable nylon is not a good choice - it only costs a little more to get either breathable nylon or neoprene waders.
Are Bootfoot waders better than Stockingfoot waders?
With Bootfoot waders, you do not have to buy a separate pair of wading boots. Your boots are built into your waders. Your boots are attached to your leggings, and you cannot remove the boots.
With Stockingfoot waders, your feet are protected by a thick sock rather than a boot. The sock is waterproof, but you will need to buy wading boots separately as well. The sock is durable, but it will quickly wear out if you use the waders without boots.
It is easy to fold stockingfoot waders up and put them away without them taking up much room. Bootfoot waders do not fold up nearly as small and are heavier. You will have to keep the wading boots with you after you take your waders off, but you can wear wading boots outside of the water, so you can save room with Stockingfoot waders.
Stockingfoot waders are also better because the separate boots are more comfortable and grip the ground better. With stockingfoot waders, it is easy to find a pair of boots that fit your feet well. This is less true with Bootfoot waders, where you might end up with a poorly fitting pair.
Bootfoot waders are not always a worse choice and have their advantages. If you are wading into cool or cold water, Bootfoot waders are usually better insulated.
Another big advantage of Bootfoot waders is that they are easy to clean. With separate wading boots, your boots will fill up with water and mud, and you will have to clean the inside of them. With Bootfoot waders, no mud can get in your boots, and you will only have to clean the outside briefly with a hose.
In some places, you can get a lot of gravel and not only mud in your boots. Gravel can hurt your feet and is much worse than mud. Most Stockingfoot waders have gravel guards that often work, but Bootfoot waders are more sure to keep the gravel out.
Other important features
For the sake of safety, you should always have a wading belt on when you wear waders. If you fall into the river without a wading belt, your waders will fill up with water, and at worst, you could drown.
Either get waders that come with a wading belt (most do) or purchase a wading belt separately and make sure you use it. A wading belt is not the sort of safety feature that you want to ignore.
If your stockingfoot waders and wading boots do not include gravel guards, you can buy them separately. The knees are often the first thing to rip on a pair of waders, so reinforced knees can make your pair last a lot longer. You may also want to get a pair of waders with large pockets or many smaller pockets.
The best brands of fishing waders you can buy
1) Hodgman Caster Fishing Wader
This is one of the best choices if you want a pair of waders that can withstand the elements. The boots are built-in, so there is no risk of getting gravel or too much mud in your boots, and the waders are made of thick neoprene to keep the cold out.
Since the Hodgman waders are 3.5mm thick and have reinforced knees, they may last for years, even if you use them frequently. The waders are chest high rather than waist-high, so you can wade in deeper water safely.
Another advantage is the boots, which perform well on slippery surfaces. They have cleated soles, which can save you from a hazardous fall. The knees are twice as thick as the rest of the waders.
For such durable waders, they are not heavy or bulky. The waders also perform well in cold weather. The front pockets will keep your hands warm, and the boots are insulated by 200 grams of Thinsulate.
2) Simms Freestone Fishing Wader
Instead of neoprene, the Simms Freestone Fishing Wader is made of high tech Quadralam fabric. The fabric was developed specifically for waders and not for more general use and is warm, waterproof, and breathable.
If you have a pair of wading boots that fit you very well and don't want to take any chances with Bootfoot waders that might not fit well, the Simms Freestone Waders are Stockingfoot waders. You can keep the well-fitting pair of wading boots you have if you get the Simms.
Another great thing about these waders is how adjustable they are. They do not have to fit you perfectly because you can adjust them with a waist belt and excellent shoulder straps.
While getting gravel in your boots is a risk with all Stockingfoot waders, the Simms have good gravel guards. The fabric in the feet is also antimicrobial, so odors will not build up in there. The Simms is backed by a reasonably good warranty that will replace the Waders if they rip in 60 days, repair them for free during the first year, and repair them for a fee after the first year.
3) Hisea Fly Fishing Chest Waders
The Hisea Fly Fishing Chest waders are very light and breathable, so they are great in hot weather. While the Hisea waders are fairly cold-resistant as well, they really shine if you are looking for a lighter pair to wear in hot weather.
If you are wearing thicker waders intended for colder weather in the summer, they might get too hot. They may also get sweaty if they are not breathable. If you don't plan on wading in colder water, go with the Hisea waders or some other lighter pair that is of good quality.
Another advantage of lighter waders is that they are easy to move around in. Your range of motion with the Hisea waders is a lot better than with most other waders. The Hisea also has well-designed pockets for convenient gear storage.
Even though the Hisea is light, it is built to last. The waders are reinforced with extra thickness at the knees and other places where rips are common. The Hisea also comes with gravel guards.
Each pair of waders is properly tested before being sold. The waders are turned inside out and filled up with water to make sure it is leak-free.
4) Redington Sonic-PRO HD Waders
The Redington Sonic-PRO waders are very flexible and comfortable to wear, more than any other pair of waders I have tried. They are also exceptionally leak proof. All of the seams are sealed perfectly, so it will take a lot of heavy use before any small leaks develop.
You can also trust the chest pocket to keep the water out, so you can take a phone with you while you fish. While the booties are neoprene to make them as strong as possible, the rest of the Sonic-PRO waders are made of breathable materials. The waders are very easy to take on and take off, plus comfortable to wear because of the excellent shoulder straps and belt.
One disadvantage of the Redington is that it doesn't protect well against the cold. If you want to fish in colder water, go with a different pair of waders. The Redington waders are also relatively expensive, although I still recommend them for being very comfortable.
5) Compass 360 Stockingfoot Breathable Waders
The compass 360 has much larger pockets than other fishing waders I have tried. The pockets on fishing waders often aren't nearly large enough to carry around everything you need while fishing.
The compass 360 is also durable, waterproof, and breathable. It has four layers of fabric on most of the wader and six layers of fabric on the lower leg. A brief encounter with a sharp rock will not ruin it.
Compass 360 is not yet a well-known and established company, but they make quality waders, and they sell them for fairly low prices. The contour fit of the Compass 360 is also comfortable, and you can adjust the elastic shoulder straps to make the waders fit as well as possible.
While most of the waders sold by Compass 360 are of good quality, some customers report durability issues. Usually, their waders can take quite a beating without developing leaks, but a few are poorly made and leak right away. If you end up with a poorly made pair, the company will replace it for you.
6) Hodgman Aesis Sonic Stocking Foot Wader
Some people prefer waders that are only waist-high and not chest-high if they are not going into deeper water. With the Hodgman Aesis, you can remove the top part of the waders to make them only waist-high and reattach the top part if you need chest-high waders.
Another advantage of the Hodgman Aesis is that you can buy a separate removable insulation system for it. If you get the separately sold insulation system, you can make your waders very cold-resistant in the winter and then take the insulation out in the summer.
You can modify the Hodgman Aesis depending on the situation, so it is good for both hot and cold weather and has both a chest-high and a waist-high wader. Unlike the Hodgman Caster, the Aesis is breathable. Like other waders from Hodgman, the Aesis is durable and does not have small leak holes.
How to care for your waders
If you want your waders to last for as long as they can, you have to take care of them. When you take your waders off, hang them upside down to dry. Leaving them wet for too long can ruin them.
You should also keep your waders away from too much heat and sunlight. If you leave your waders in the car on many hot days that can weaken the fabric and make leaks more likely. Don't leave your waders in the sun unless you are using them.
Don't put your waders in the washing machine unless the company assures you that this is safe. Wash the waders in a safe way only.
You might also use a water repellant spray on your waders a few times a year. Your waders may become less waterproof over time as the original coating wears off, but if you spray the waders, they will continue to work properly.