I hate waders. Well, no, that’s not exactly true. I hate wearing waders. Actually, I suspect that it’s most accurate to say that I hate having to wear waders.
You see, I cut my fly fishing teeth chasing North Carolina shoals largemouths – wet wading steamy Piedmont rivers with water temperatures in the 80s and air temps and humidity percentages way beyond that. Air so thick that you wish you had gills. All I needed, all I wanted, was a pair of light, quick drying pants to protect my legs during the bushwhack to the water and a pair of sturdy boots. Waders? You’ve got to be kidding.
But, as most fly fishermen do, I eventually expanded my fishing horizons, turning to the fairer species - those delicate rainbows, browns and brookies - and in the South that means tailwaters for a good portion of the year. And that means waders. But while the water coming from the bases of Fontana and Philpott and the mighty South Holston might be as cold as sweet iced tea, the air remains pig cooker hot. It doesn’t take long to get steamed like a Cajun crawdad.
There’s no wader funk like southern wader funk.
So when I was first offered the opportunity to try out Redington’s new SonicDry waders, I glanced out at the thermometer on the side deck. It read 90. In the shade. Hard to get excited about waders. Hard, that is, until I realized that the SonicDrys also come in a pant and the concept began to click. I politely declined the waders and inquired of the pants.
I’ve been eyeing a pair of wading pants for a while. As I’ve “matured” the charm of wading to my armpits in icy waters has been lost and pants seem a reasonable, comfortable approach for my more conservative wading practices. Sure I can roll down the top of my chest waders but the resulting bulk around my waist is annoying and complicates the utilization of slings and packs. The Redington pants deserved a closer look.
And the SonicDry’s marketing text was talking my language - with a drawl. “37.5 active particle technology is permanently embedded and evaporates moisture up to 5x faster than similar fabrics, preventing wet cling and keeping you more comfortable.” Sounded like pure southern comfort, if it workes.
When the package arrived my front step, the first thing that came to mind was how little it weighed. Sure, they were pants, not the whole enchilada, but still… Inside, the gear came packed in their own handy mesh storage bag (a nice touch), and appear well built, tight seamed, and with all of the anatomical considerations that we’ve come to expect from well designed gear – booties, articulated knees, well molded trunk junk space, etc.
And fit is a major consideration for me, given my non-standard proportions. I have a 30” waist and a 33” inseam, which places me awkwardly between small and medium sizes. Thankfully, I like my waders loose (being somewhat inclined to appreciate squatting and sitting comfortably without straining seams). I see too many folks stuffed like sausages in their waders and can’t understand it. It’s not GQ, for God’s sake.
Putting on the waders was as easy as, well, putting on pants and the proportions of these mediums suited me nicely (suggesting that they might run a bit to the small side for most). My biggest worry, as you might imagine, was the waist. The pants come with suspenders, but I hoped to dispense with them (they are easily detachable) and to wear the waders truly as pants. To that end, Redington has engineered a Velcro and gathering system akin to a backpack’s load lifter technology (though that terminology might not be exactly flattering when referring to pants) that snugs up the waist band easily and comfortably.
The only real sizing concern that I have is that the booties fit my feet perfectly. Now that’s just fine for me, but my relatively small size 8.5s normally have much more room in a medium-sized wader bootie. It’s just another hint that you might be generous in your sizing when considering these pants.
As with most chest waders, the pants have a handy flip-out pocket inside the front waistband with a sizeable zippered pouch, front mounted mesh tippet sleeve, and a Velcro strip. I wouldn’t want to pack a lot of stuff in it, given its delicate location, but a small fly box, a snack bar or two, and a couple spools of tippet should be perfectly comfortable. There’s also a small, exterior welded, mesh pocket, that looks nice but I wonder, given its small size, just what I’d place in it. Truck keys? And additional spool of tippet? Some lip balm? (Is that a Chapstick, or are you just happy to see me?)
So, straight out of the box, these pants looked mighty good and they felt quite comfortable while wandering around the house (making my wife laugh). But how would they feel on the stream and how well will they hold up? There’s but one way to find out.
Late July on the on southern Virginian Smith can be tough. Not only are the browns picky, but the weather conditions can really test your breathable waders. We arrived early, donned our skins, and hiked in. As the sun wasn’t up properly, it was still in the low 70s, but the humidity was palpable. Just the same, I was comfortable hiking in the light SonicDrys.
And in the water, they did what waders are supposed to do. They kept the stream out. A word of caution, however. After years of wearing full chest waders, you no longer think about how deep you are wading. A subconscious alarm goes off when the water level gets “there” and you start considering your depth. My “there” is higher than the waist of these wading pants. I didn’t wade over them, but I came close. They’ll just take some getting used to, but it won’t take long.
It was at the end of the day, as the air temps had risen into the mid-80s, after we’d hiked back out and stripped off at the truck, that the SonicDrys showed their worth. After six hours of wear, I slid out the things as dry as a bone. No dampness in the seat. No hint of moisture behind the knees. Even my socks were powder dry. It was as if that “37.5 active particle technology” had not only breathed, but had actively drawn the moisture from the interior. I was impressed.
Whether they’re SonicDrys or others, wading pants are a wonderful addition to a southern angler’s gear; perfect for those times when you really want to wet wade those small Appalachian streams (which is always) but the water temps won’t allow you to do so comfortably.
These SonicDrys are wonderfully light, though appear to be tough enough to handle pushing through the rhododendrons to get to those hidden plunge pools. You might reconsider your layering a bit if you’re used to much heavier waders.
At the end of the day, it’s nice to come out of your waders dry. Completely dry. No southern wader funk. I’m cautiously optimistic that these pants can hang in the closet; not be banished to the basement with all of the other funky smelling gear. That speaks volumes.
Actually, these pants fit me perfectly, but I am not a typical medium. I suggest that the sizing might run a bit to the small side, particularly in the bootie, so I recommend you consider that carefully. Leave yourself plenty of room – a good guideline for any wading gear. If you get the chance to try them on before purchasing, do it.
Light, comfortable, easy to pack and carry, moisture-sucking breathables. What’s not to love? My only unanswered question is durability and I intend to answer that in the coming weeks as these SonicDrys join me in Montana and British Columbia. They say it’s hot there, this time of year, though this southern boy scoffs. Just the same, I can see wearing these Redington Wading Pants a lot very soon. And I can see enjoying them.
Y’all should try ‘em. Ya hear?