In my previous reviews of Skwala gear, I’ve made no attempt to hide how much I love what this company is doing. They’re new, as of 2022, with just a few products. But a number of the items they have on the market are head-and-shoulders above much of their competition, and I particularly love what that means for anglers. When one company sets the bar this high, the rest will try to become the top dog. For us anglers, that means we end up with better gear.
As far as the Skwala Carbon waders go, however, there’s little to improve. These are a lightweight wader that absolutely nails the conversion from a chest to hip wader. Skwala spent a ton of time designing seams and fabric patterns to allow for maximum freedom of movement. The wader material itself is durable, breathable, and extremely comfortable. Priced at $499, the Carbon waders might be the best mid-priced wader I’ve ever used.
No, these waders won’t convert the most ardent worm-dunker to the gospel of fishing only a single dry fly. Kidding aside, the Skwala Carbon waders are built around a unique suspender system that allows them to easily convert from a chest to a hip wader.
Plenty of other wader makers have attempted this before, to varying degrees of success. I think Skwala’s iteration is noteworthy, though, because of how effortless it is to switch.
Two magnetic clasps hold the front suspenders in place, while a third one holds the back suspender. Simply pull down on the wader to release the clasp, and you’re not sweating buckets in the midday heat of summer. Conversely, if you need the extra warmth of a chest wader, the magnetic system makes converting it to cover the chest a simple process.
Something you’ll notice immediately about the Carbon waders is the lack of buckles. Skwala purposefully left the buckles off this model to reduce bulk and weight, and also to make the conversion from chest to hip wader more seamless.
The buckle-less shoulder yoke evenly distributes weight, and keeps the suspender straps in place when wearing the Carbon wader as a hip wader. They’re designed to slide right over your shoulders when putting on or taking off the waders, which negates the need for buckles.
Fit and Comfort
Something I’ve noticed about the Carbon waders is just how comfortable they are. Whether I’m hiking up and down the river, or rowing my drift boat, I don’t really notice or feel like I’m wearing waders. To me, that’s the mark of an exceptionally well-built piece of gear. The Carbon waders don’t get in the way of anything you need to do as an angler. That was a goal of the team at Skwala, who emphasize freedom of movement in all their gear.
You’ll also notice the built-in drains in the gravel guards. These prevent the water from pooling up in the creases of waders when getting in and out of the water, which is a nice feature if you fish from boats. The gravel guards are also a highly abrasion-resistant material, with the idea to reduce wear in the area where waders typically get holes.
Additionally, the fit of the waders is fantastic. Ordering based on the size guide on the Skwala website resulted in a perfect fit.
For years, the bar for quality wader material has been GORE-TEX. With all due respect to the companies who have done amazing things with GORE-TEX, it’s not the only option for creating a durable, breathable, waterproof material.
These waders are thin and are intentionally designed to lack the heft of an all-season wader. Yet, Skwala’s proprietary four-layer laminate material feels durable, which experience has revealed to be a fairly good indicator that something will be.
Only time will tell anglers just how hardy Skwala’s material is compared to the gold standard of GORE-TEX, but if early returns are any indication, I think many anglers will be pleased with how long the Carbon waders last.
I spent a week in northern Idaho fishing with two friends of mine. Both were wearing a set of the Carbon waders, and both had nothing but praise after using them. Whether we were hiking to a different stretch of the river, or jumping in and out of the truck frequently, my buddies both noted the comfort and fit of the Carbon waders as major selling points.
What Doesn’t Work
Skwala had a tough job when they set out to design a great convertible wader. Too many pockets on the chest of a wader makes the conversion process clunky, and ineffective.
The Carbon wader has a single top-zip chest pocket that’s plenty big for fly boxes, floatant, tippet, and nippers. But there is no pass-through pocket, likely due to the desire to keep the Carbon as sleek and low-profile as possible.
I’d like to see some sort of pass-through pocket on a future Carbon wader, if at all possible.
The Carbon wader might be the best mid-priced wader I’ve ever used. It’s incredibly light, and the conversion from chest to hip wader is a simple, easy process. I love the low-key, minimalist design, and how well-built these waders are. They’re designed for anglers on the move, and most importantly, they don’t get in the way of hiking, wading, or rowing a boat.
For $499, the Skwala Carbon wader is a great value and I certainly expect it to become a favorite among anglers as Skwala continues to turn customers on to its technical innovations and grow its brand.
MikeK replied on Permalink
How do these compare to the packable Patagonia Middle Fork waders? Seems like a similar product but more expensive than the Patagonia ones, which are pretty sweet.
Ken Johnson replied on Permalink
I appreciate your reviews and your opinion - I hope you appreciate mine.
I'm a 70 year old Pennsylvania trout fishermen. I don't care for other types of fishing, salt or fresh. I just love trout fishing. (BTW: my wife loves to eat the trout I catch-so that's a bonus, or I'd release them all.)
Seems to me, $499 for a pair of chest waders is just nuts! Sorry! The Skwala Carbon waders might be the best thing since sliced bread - but unless they get up and make me coffee & breakfast as well, I can't afford them. And if I ever told my wife of 47 years I'm going out to spend over $500 on a pair of chest waders, she'd clobber me with the frying pan - and rightly so! I wore a pair of Hodgeman waders for nearly 25 years, and by the time they gave up the ghost there was probably more patching material than original wader! But they kept me dry. I think they were just over $100 bucks back in the late 70's! I recollect in my 40 years of fishing, I've purchased 4 pairs of waders. Each one has been more expensive than the last - but never did I spend over $150 bucks. And I was pushing the longevity of my marriage each time!
I'm thinking, many of my senior citizen fishermen & women feel the same way today! For that matter, how many people who enjoy walking the streams and rivers of the East can afford to spend "5 Benjamin's" on a pair of waders that will be walking and kneeling amongst brambles and sticker bushes, sharp basalt and granite river rocks, as well as whatever refuse is still in & along our river and stream banks. You poke a hole in hundred dollar waders, you cringe and patch them. You poke a hole or tear a pair of $500 waders, you're looking to call your insurance company!
Just saying...there should be a comfortable, DURABLE, economical, waterproof chest wader that can be made and sold for something CLOSE TO or UNDER $100!! Guys, this isn't rocket science. And nobody should have to shell out a half a thousand dollars for one piece of fishing equipment! It's just insane.
Thanks for letting my give you my two cents. (BTW: Did you know it costs us .02 cents to make every new penny? Now, isn't that stupid?)
MikeK replied on Permalink
How do these compare to the packable Patagonia waders? Seems like a similar niche but these are a fair bit more expensive.