I hate waders. Hate. I'm using the word hate, here. About waders. As soon as I'm physically able to tolerate still-frigid spring water and air temps, I'm wet wading. I usually make this jump too soon and end up regretting it, subsequently going back to the waders for another week or two before I can really stow them until autumn rolls around. I mean, why not hate waders? They're bulky, uncomfortable, a drag to take put on and take off and just generally inconvenient.
Admittedly, I've never had any of the true high-end waders, but that's simply because i find the idea of paying $750 for a nylon bag with legs objectionable. That said, I've been through many pairs of waders ranging in price from $125 to $400. Never really liked one of 'em. Lousy fit, tiny pockets, no pockets, poor durability, leaked like a sieve, you name it.
Truth be told, the sentiment expressed above only held true until a couple months ago. Since that time, I've had the pleasure of testing out Redington's Sonic Pro Zip-Front Waders and I've been converted. Not to a lover of waders, mind you. I'll still be jumping out of my waders in favor of wet-wading as soon as it's time. But, thanks to the wholly surprising experience I've had with these waders the last couple of months, I'll be less likely to prematurely freeze myself in icy spring waters. More importantly, however, I might even be enjoying the time I spend in waders while I wait for late spring and summer to roll around.
Redington seems to have gotten everything right with these waders. It would be enough for me to not have to think about the waders I'm wearing, to not be nagged or bothered by their shortcomings. To actually find yourself reflecting on how your waders are improving your day, now that's something.
If you 're unfamiliar with Redington's Sonic Pro Waders, they're a relatively new wader offering from Redington that features sonic seam welding as opposed to sewing. The idea being that not poking thousands of needle holes in a pair of waders reduces the chances that they'll spring leaks down the road. Sounds reasonable, no? They come in three configurations: Zip Front, Standard, and Wader Pants (only). This review pertains to the Zip Front model.
Here's what makes the Sonic Pro Zip-Front waders from Redington stand out.
This is what you really want to know about, right? That's why you're reading a review about waders with a big chunky zipper that goes all the way down to the waist and that you intuitively know is going to end up soaking your special purpose, isn't it? So let's get to it: the zipper rocks. It makes getting in and out of the waders exceptionally easy, makes accessing items in the Sonic Pro's ample interior pocket as well as items stowed in any clothing (including pants) that you might have on underneath your waders a piece of cake and most importantly, makes my increasingly frequent trips to the woods for much needed relief quick and easy excursions.
And it hasn't leaked. Not yet. Not one drop.
As a guy who has never been able to find waders that fit properly, I don't expect much from waders in terms of comfort. I'm inclined to think that this is not a result of some physical abnormality on my part. My contention is that waders just aren't tailored all that well. The Sonic Pro waders, however, fit more like pants. They conform nicely to the body and aren't too roomy in the torso. I found them faithful to Redington's sizing chart, too.
When you go zip-front on the Sonic Pro Waders, you lose the big horizontal wader pocket that most of us are used to. You lose the included drying patch, etc. I wasn't happy with this tradeoff, at least not until I started wearing the waders. The zip-front Sonic Pros have five chest pockets. Two on each side on the front, and one interior pocket. At a glance, they look like they'll be limited in space and relatively useless, but they are anything but. As a self-proclaimed gear minimalist (who has entirely too much gear), I like to carry as little as possible on the stream. I ditched my vest for a hip-pack and now, thanks to these waders, have ditched my hip pack for the pockets.
To be fair, I won't be ditching my hip pack all of the time, but on a recent steelhead trip I was able to leave the pack behind and comfortably fit two fly boxes, 4 spools of Maxima, a wallet of sink tips, wool gloves and several other odds and ends while using only 4 of the 5 available pockets.
Redington has taken the time to be thoughtful in adding a few extra little features, and they are appreciated. The d-rings that you can hang zingers, license holders, etc from are also molded to have a thin front end specially made for clamping your hemostat too. The gravel guards have a lace hook that's designed to avoid snagging your fly line, a phenomenon anyone who fishes small streams is familiar with. The exterior gear pockets have water-resistant (not waterproof) zippers to help keep short-lived chest-deep wades and splashes from soaking what you stowe inside. Redington included handwarmer pockets too, which although not unique like the other features mentioned here, are a very welcome inclusion.
As I mentioned, I've never owned any of the super-expensive waders out there. I don't doubt that they perform. They better for $600-700. What I do doubt, however, is that they perform twice as well as the Redington Sonic Pro Waders. That's what they'd have to do to justify their price, given that these waders come in at just $349. Sure, "just $349" might not be fair, since that's not exactly change you find in the couch. However, everything is relative, and relative to the other waders I've tried at various price points -- these may just be the best bargain out there right now.
These are the best waders I've worn to date, by leaps and bounds. I'll continue to wear them for quite some time and do so with a grin on my face. Although I'll still be ditching them for wet wading at the first chance I get, in the meantime, I'll be perfectly happy fishing in these. Also, don't be surprised if I end up missing all those pockets when wet wading time comes along.