I’ve had a couple of people ask me about my lightweight waders recently, so I thought I’d do a quick post on my experiences with them. I use a pair of Wiggy’s Waders, which I bought in 2010.
I modified them a bit by replacing the draw cord at the top with some elastic cord and cord grip and cutting off the belt clip, replacing that with a bit of cord to tie on to a trouser belt. I also use some velcro adjustable straps to secure the waders at the ankle and knee. It’s important to expel as much air as possible before you tighten the straps.
The waders are made out of medium-weight proofed nylon. All the seams are sealed and the soles are reinforced with non-slip rubber patches. They are fairly robust and should last a long time. Weight is around 300g per pair.
They were very expensive, taking into account delivery costs and customs duty. However, they are a once in a lifetime purchase and much better than Dry Walkers, which were the only competitor at the time.
Why bother with waders? Well, they are not everybody’s cup of tea. However, if you wear boots, they are a lot quicker than swapping to Crocs or trail shoes when you cross a stream or river. One tip is that I put a plastic carrier bag over my boot to stop the inside of the wader from getting muddy, which should prolong their life.
Secondly, they keep your feet and legs dry! No faffing about drying your feet and legs after a wade. Also, they save a lot of angst in rain. If you have to wade when it’s raining, the odds are that in the process of changing footwear, you’re going to get your socks wet. With waders, you don’t get that problem. On last year’s Challenge, I almost left my waders behind but was glad I took them when I had to make a river crossing in the pouring rain.
Thirdly, your feet and legs don’t get cold. This is particularly pertinent if you are in Northern Europe, especially if the water is coming from a glacier! Even in Scotland, I found that getting cold legs was making me rush stream crossings, making them potentially more hazardous.
I’ve been looking at some videos of treks around Sarek in Sweden recently. They tend to involve quite a lot of river crossings. I’ve been surprised that I’ve yet to see anyone wearing waders. For example, there’s plenty of dodgy looking crossings in this video (e.g. at 7:30 and 11:50 in video).
I reckon they’d be a lot more comfortable and safer if they were wearing waders! Now, I’m probably going to get a volley from trail shoe users, who don’t change shoes but just wade through streams regardless. That’s fine by me, but I don’t like trail shoes, preferring lightweight mid boots.
Even with trail shoes, you could make an argument for using waders if the water is cold and the river is wide. Keeping your legs and feet warm means you are less likely to rush a crossing, making it safer.
Wiggy’s Waders are not perfect. IMO it’s worth making the tweaks that I outlined earlier. Unless you’ve got a friend in the US, they are quite expensive to import. They could be made out of lighter materials too. I can’t see why the weight couldn’t be reduced to around 200g by using lighter materials. In the end, they are too niche, so I can’t see anyone doing it. Even at 300g, they are hardly heavy weight.
As with all things in backpacking, what suits me, won’t necessarily suit you. However, for places like Scotland where there are plenty of cold water river crossings, I’ve found my waders to be virtually indispensable.
Diclosure: I purchased my waders with my own money and have no relationship with Wiggy’s.