Review: Simms G4Z Waders (2024)

Simms' latest iteration of its longtime flagship wader is unquestionably its best
simms g4z waders
The G4Zs on duty in northeast Iceland (photo: Chad Shmukler).

For anglers who fish hard, their gear is everything. It keeps us warm. It keeps us dry. Sometimes, it keeps us upright — on our feet — when the river or the terrain has other ideas. It helps us achieve that desired connection with the fish we’re after. Good gear adds joy to fishing. That’s what it’s supposed to do, and those who scoff at the idea that quality gear is a significant component to good fishing might need to rethink the state of their fly fishing closet.

So, with that in mind, I sat lazily on a soft, mossy hummock overlooking an Atlantic salmon river in northeast Iceland while my beat partner fought the rain and the icy wind that howled up the lava rock canyon for the third straight day, clinging to the hope that he’d hook into a seasoned late September Atlantic salmon.

It was his turn at the pool we were fishing, and I was in chill mode. Perfectly warm and dry in a brand-new pair of Simms G4Z waders — the venerable gear-maker’s latest iteration of its flagship wader, built specifically to fend off the elements in cold and wet places — I was drifting a bit. If you’ve never let yourself slowly ease into a state of semi-consciousness by steadily sinking into the mossy loam of a makeshift Icelandic riverside cubby, the pinnacle of riverside napping still awaits you.

Eyes closed, and hidden under the hood of my rain jacket, the sounds from the river and the steady drizzle lulled me into that oh-so-ideal happy place, and just as sleep was about to settle in, a voice broke through the white noise.

“Hey, buddy,” it hollered. I lifted the lid of my cap and pulled the hood back, a little bit perturbed at having my siesta interrupted. “You mind?”

My heavily clad companion’s backcast had snagged on a low-bush blueberry tuft not 20 feet from where I was drifting into Snoozeville. Grudgingly, I stood up and scrambled through the grass and moss to where the salmon fly had wrapped itself with the efficiency of a calf roper around the only real “branch” of the blueberry bush. I pulled on the line for some slack, and managed to unbutton the snag. Turning around, I held the fly aloft. He reciprocated and made a quick forward cast as I let loose of the fly.

I grabbed a couple of small blueberries right off the plant — my reward for being the selfless hero — and looked down below me, trying to remember where I was minutes ago when life was worry-free and I was warm and dry in GORE-TEX glory.

I’m not saying the waders were nap inducing. But, the seemingly bomb-proof layers of GORE-TEX sure didn’t hurt, even when the wind whipped up and started spraying us with honest-to-God Icelandic ice pellets.

Warm and dry. Is there really anything else you can ask for from a solid pair of waders?

The next big thing

Simms’ G4Z waders have been the company’s darling since they were first introduced in 2008. And there’s a reason for that: For almost two decades, they’ve been the industry’s most dependable workhorse for countless guides and gear-abusing anglers.

The four-layer GORE-TEX bottoms of the G4Zs latest iteration doesn’t just cover the legs below the knees or below the crotch — it starts at the hip and goes all the way down. This, of course, makes sense. For waders designed to handle the worst conditions, hips and legs are where that extra layer of protective breathable fabric ought to begin. What took so long?

When you slip the waders on, you’ll know it. These aren’t lightweight breathables built for steamy summer days and anglers that insist, for some unfathomable reason, on wearing waders all year long. The G4Zs are built for guides that put over 180 days a year on their waders, anglers that spend as much time bushwhacking their way to the river and scrambling along boulders along the bank as they do wading in the water, committed steelhead and salmon anglers who might spend hours at a time doing the 3-step while standing up to their bits in frigid water that relentlessly tries to find a way in, and so on.

In the G4Zs, both in the water and in snoozy la-la-land, you’ll stay dry and warm. And, with four layers of GORE-TEX, you’ll stay that way long after you’ve put your best beating on your waders.

What works

The fit

Days spent climbing ladders and scrambling down steep, blueberry-laden pitches in the relentless, Icelandic north coast rain. Then a week hiking through canyons strewn with ankle-busting, razor shop lava rock and wading the boot-sucking, blacksand flats of giant glacial rivers on the island nation’s southern coast. Iceland offered a testing laboratory better than any I might have dreamt up on paper. The verdict? The new G4Zs might be the best-fitting waders I’ve ever worn.

As I noted, the legs are substantial, and they feel substantial, particularly when you’re standing in waist-deep water flinging flies at surly salmon and sea trout. The G4Zs, despite the four layers below the belt, work in concert with the body. They bend well. They don’t bunch in the crotch. They just feel right, and if you generally abhor waders like I do, and wear them solely out of self defense when the elements require them, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

simms g4z zip-front waders
The new G4Zs suspension system (photo: Darcy Bacha).

But the fit isn’t just about feeling secure in the waders. The compression-molded neoprene stocking foot booties are about as anatomically correct as they can be — just make sure you match the right boot size for the best possible fit. The ultra-tough neoprene gravel guards then slide neatly over just about any pair of wading boots.

The upper half of the G4Zs is no less impressive. The wide and easily adjustable mesh suspenders don’t dig into your shoulders, which, for a tall angler like me, is a blessing.

Exterior goodness

Simms’ G4Zs feature two zipped and fleece-lined hand-warming pockets — ideal for crappy-weather angling. The waders also sport two zippered stretchy chest pockets — one on either side of the zipper — for ease of access for things like fly boxes, tippet spools, leader sleeves or even your phone. I had them full of fly sea-trout fly boxes in no time at all. I actually put my phone in a zippered and waterproofed interior chest pocket, which was ideal. More on that in a bit.

The fly-drying patch on the left side of the chest is perfectly placed for easy access, and the durable wading belt adds some lumbar support, which is underappreciated by some, but not by those of us with chronic back issues that often flare up while slowly shuffling downstreams in icy water.

That zipper

You have to think, if something is going to fail, the zipper is going to be the obvious weak link, right? Not really. Anglers have learned over the years that zippered waders can be trusted and most of us don’t spend much time worrying or even thinking about them anymore. But Simms looked to up its game with the zipper on the new G4Zs — specifically aiming to increase flex and mobility — ditching a stiched-in construction in favor of a stitchless one that is welded into the wader. The heavy-duty, stitchless YKK Aquaseal zipper is, of course, completely waterproof, and it’s the slickest wader zipper I’ve ever tested — and I’ve tested quite a few over the years.

Because it's an easy-up and easy-down proposition, it's not a problem to drop it or raise it for just a bit of added climate control. It’s as smooth as butter and the craftsmanship is excellent.

simms g4z stockingfoot waders
Photo: Darcy Bacha.

The gravel guards

The first time I put the waders on, I noticed two things about the G4Z’s gravel guards that slide over the tops of the wading boots. First, the guards were constructed of seriously heavy neoprene. They’re stretchy and substantial — their incorporated flex helps them grip the wading boots, which means there’s no need for that ubiquitous little hook on the guards that you’ll find on just about any other wader out there. LIke most anglers, I just assumed that the hook was needed to attach to a boot lace to keep the gravel guards from riding up. But these new durable and ankle-hugging gravel guards on the G4Zs render the “missing” hook moot.

Interior waterproof storage

Another great feature that I never really considered a “missing” necessity in waders? The two waterproof chest pouches located inside the waters. Ideal for phones, a small camera or the keys to the truck, these zippered pockets serve to add confidence that sensitive items will remain dry and functional after a day on water. Or, in the event of slip and fall, in the water, should you take an unplanned swim. Perhaps more importantly, they’re a great deal more functional than the “luxe Ziploc bag” version you’ve probably seen sewn inside other waders.

Simple durability

In southern Iceland, the Skaftá River flows across crushed basalt that makes up a giant alluvial fan. At first blush, it’s like wading on ultra-fine, black gravel. And then you find a hole, where the river’s current is scouring out the riverbed on its way to the sea and, before you know it, you’re up to your junk in frigid quicksand. At first, it’s unnerving, and the only way to get out of it is to trudge through it.

One afternoon on the Skaftá, I plunged into a hole in the gravel and I literally had to crawl out of it on my hands and knees. That crushed black basalt is young rock — it’s not river-worn over eons. And it’s abrasive and tenacious. The guides that fish the river regularly said most pairs of waders rarely make it through more than a single season. But, amid the angry gravel of the river, the waders held up nicely. In fact, after I got home and got the waders all cleaned up, it was tough to tell that they’d even been worn.

What doesn’t

Not featherweights

You can’t really expect to have your cake and eat it, too, right? When you select a pair of heavy-duty waders to help you battle the elements and stand up to abuse, you’re picking your poison. The G4Zs are substantial, and they feel substantial.

If you’re looking for a four-season, daily driver wader that you’ll be comfortable in when the sun is high on a balmy summer afternoon, you’ll likely want to explore other models. Me? I’m not quite sure why four-season waders even exist. Summer is why shorts, quick-dry pants, and wet-wading shoes are made, no?

They aren’t cheap

But you knew that, didn't you? In this day and age when a fly rod manufacturer can put a $1,400 price tag on a new premium stick with a straight face, you have to think that the soft-goods manufacturers can’t be far behind. And Simms wasn’t shy about pricing these waders just under a grand.

Such is life in the world of high-end fly gear, I suppose. But remember, you’re paying not just for quality gear but for the warranty that backs it, too — and Simms has one of the best in the business.

Final word

Simms’ new G4Zs are the company’s flagship waders and, just like with previous incarnations, it's obvious the Bozeman-based gear maker has thrown all of its wader-making experience and know-how its latest iteration. They’re well-built — with four layers of GORE-TEX on the bottom half and some welcome new features and engineering, like the harness system, new gravel guards, interior waterproof storage, and stitchless waterproof zipper. And they’re constructed to last.

Most who wear them will appreciate the added touches for convenience and comfort — the hand-warming pockets and the ample storage pouches really add value to the product. But I keep coming back to the fit and the feel — if these are the last waders I ever wear, I’m good with that.

Just like any piece of worthwhile fishing equipment, consider the price of admission an investment, not a “cost.” The G4Zs will, for most anglers who, like me, only wear waders when they have to, last a long time. Throw in Simms’ generous warranty and lifetime repair policy, and you really can’t go wrong here.