In fly fishing – and the outdoors in general – we highly value what our friends and mentors think of the gear we use. I’d wager that more gear – rods especially – is sold based off a recommendation from a friend, than any number of reviews or ads.
That’s how I first heard of Aquaz. I was fishing with Mike James (the head guide and owner of The Quiet Fly Fisher in Loa, UT) and commented on the Aquaz waders he was wearing. I’d never heard of the brand, and it’s rare for me to see guides in anything other than the big name brands.
Aquaz has been in business for over 30 years, though the brand is new to the North American market. However, you’ve likely seen a pair of their waders before, because Aquaz has built waders for several high-profile companies under a private-label arrangement. In addition, Aquaz has a rich history of building waterproof materials for military and civilian use – including scuba diving gear.
After hearing that rundown from Mike James, I figured I had to check Aquaz out for myself. Now, after a month of fishing in them, I can easily recommend Aquaz to anyone shopping for a new pair of waders.
Aquaz built the DRYZIP Chest Wader with a four-layer, heavy-duty Oxford nylon fabric – dubbed Aqualex – through both the top and bottom sections. That’s a different pattern choice than most other waders, which tend to use more layers of fabric in the legs and waist, and fewer in the chest. However, the legs and waist are wrapped with a “tricot” binding treatment that supposedly adds strength while also reducing weight.
I’m a fan of the design, as it makes the entire wader feel sturdy. The DRYZIP Chest Wader has the same reassuring heft of higher-priced competitors. I wouldn’t think twice about hiking all day in these Aquaz waders.
The big front zipper that is the main attraction on the DRYZIP Chest Waders is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s stiff at first, but after a few trips I was able to easily work the zipper with one hand. And, as far as I can tell, it’s as waterproof as advertised. Aquaz doesn’t give much detail on what brand zipper this is, though they do say it’s a German-made product.
Honestly, it’s impressive that Aquaz has put out a zippered wader at this level of quality for $425.
Another thing I love on the DRYZIP waders is that the zippers for the front chest pockets are recessed behind a sturdy flap of nylon. This hugely reduces the amount of random things your fly line can find to snag on while casting.
Seams and Fleece Pockets
Aquaz opted to stitch and weld their seams on the DRYZIP, in addition to moving the seams most likely to fail to the outside edges of the wader. For example, instead of stitching running along the inseam, it runs on the outside of the legs. Only time will tell if that placement makes a difference, but I like the thought behind it.
I also love the thought put into lining both sides of the chest pockets with fleece. That’s been especially nice in the middle of this winter here in the Rockies.
Fit and Comfort
It’s always a challenge to find a pair of waders that will fit well and be comfortable in a variety of conditions. A lightweight, thin wader is great during summer, but that kind of wader often doesn’t have the room for the extra layers needed to avoid freezing during winter.
Not only are the DRYZIP Chest Waders roomy enough for plenty of layers, but they’re comfortable, too. I’d wear them all day without a second thought, which is high praise coming from me. I ditch my waders as soon as I can wet wade, and I’m usually the last of my fishing buddies to relent and finally put them back on again during fall.
What Doesn’t Work
Lack of Interior Pockets
The only pockets on the DRYZIP Chest Waders are on the outside. Two fleece-lined pockets, with another set of non-lined pockets directly on top. The pockets are a decent size, and all use reliable, corrosion resistant YKK zippers, but only having exterior pockets is a bit of a letdown.
Redington offers interior pockets on their Sonic PRO HDZ, as does Simms with their G4Z. So, the lack of interior pockets on the Aquaz DRYZIP is odd.
Small tool docks
I don’t much use the tool docks on any pair of waders, but I know plenty of anglers do. Aquaz included two on the DRYZIP Chest Wader, each located directly below the chest strap buckle. Aside from forceps and nippers, there’s not room for much else. That lack of tool space doesn’t bother me, but it’s worth mentioning if you often have a lot of gear hanging from your waders.
Aquaz is a new brand to most anglers, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying out their gear. The DRYZIP Chest Wader is lightweight, but feels plenty durable to stand up to multiple seasons of abuse. The fleece-lined pockets are an absolute godsend in the winter, and the main zipper down the front is a small miracle when nature calls.
These waders are comfortable enough to wear all day, and I really like the Aqualex nylon fabric they used in building them. Again, they feel like a good, sturdy pair of waders, and that’s important. How likely are you to go off through the bushes looking for new water in waders that don’t feel they’re up to that challenge?
I do wish there were more pockets, and that they were bigger, in these waders. Only four pockets total, but none on the interior, mean that you carry very little in your waders. But, these retail for $425, which is a reasonable price for flagship-model waders.
At the very least, I’d recommend you try out Aquaz the next time you’re shopping for new waders. You likely won’t be disappointed.
Jason Sparks replied on Permalink
I have 4 hard seasons and 1-2 light seasons in a pair of Aquaz Wadertek breathable bootfoot waders. They have outlasted two pairs of boots. I places a small quarter-size patch of a year the outer layer took coming down a rock in the Blue Ridge mountains. The tear didn't go through the tougher material layers. These things are tough and durable. The bootfoot sizing can be a problem for some brands. This was spot on for me in a XL waders and a near 10/11 stocking.
The negative point for them is the suspenders. The rubber band stretch of them is shot. They end up sagging before too long. I'll stop and tighten them back up, but they slip again. One of these days I'll remember the stick some giant diaper pins in them to hold them tight.
They have been an excellent purchase. Nobody was talking about Aquaz 5 years ago, and they still don't. Thanks for putting this out there.