Relative newcomer Skwala entered the fly fishing market earlier this year with a stated goal of upping the expectations fly anglers have for their gear. Thus far, their limited product lineup has turned heads, offering anglers notable and welcome innovations.
Need a lightweight pair of waders that feel more like pants? The Carbon waders fit the bill. Need a coat that’ll keep you warm and dry in anything and that moves with you while on the water? Skwala’s RS Jacket may be the answer.
Skwala’s newest offering, its RS wader, is Skwala’s flagship wader, geared for anglers who need a highly durable, functional, comfortable wader for frequent use in both the best and worst of conditions. Whether it’s scrambling over boulders, busting through thick brush, fishing in sub-freezing temps, or the myriad of abuses guides and obsessed anglers put their gear through, the Bozeman-based gear maker built its RS wader is with an eye on offering top-shelf, long-lasting performance.
Of course, what a product is built to do and what it actually achieves are two different things. I’ve had the opportunity to fish the RS waders for the past several months and, thus far, they’ve shined in all of my fishing situations.
Integrated Wading Belt
This is my favorite feature of Skwala’s RS waders. The wading belt is built right into the waders, so it’s impossible to lose. And as someone who recently took a potentially dangerous swim in the river, I can attest how valuable wading belts are when they work.
More than that, though, is the belt’s lumbar support. Standing or rowing all day takes its toll on your back. Skwala designed this wading belt to help support the anglers who get after it all day long.
Just like on their Carbon wader, Skwala went with a minimalist design on the shoulder straps. They don’t clip together, so you don’t have two big plastic buckles sitting on your chest, waiting to snag fly line. The straps are designed to slip over your shoulders when the front zipper is down. Pull the zipper up, and everything snugs right into place.
The straps are adjustable for length with a hook and loop system that slides into the shoulder yoke. The yoke itself distributes weight nicely, certainly helped by the light weight of the RS waders.
Skwala uses a proprietary fabric in their waders, opting for this instead of the GORE-TEX that’s used by some of its most prominent competitors. This was an important, intentional choice, especially since Skwala CEO Kevin Sloan used to hold the same position at Sitka, which utilizes GORE-TEX in many of its products. To create a wader as puncture and tear-resistant as the RS, Skwala designed their fabric from the ground up. The RS, specifically, features four layers of breathable laminate covered by a polyester microfiber, double-weave face textile. That double-weave face textile makes the waders especially puncture and tear resistant, while the four-layer laminate provides waterproofing and breathability.
Even with how durable the fabric is, it feels more supple than what you’ll find in other “bomber”-level waders. That was a design goal of the folks at Skwala, who sought out to create the most comfortable, durable wader fabric on the market. Again, that’s why they opted for their own fabrics. Skwala felt that it could create a fabric that better meets the demands of anglers than what we find in existing products.
While I can’t speak to the specifics of the abrasion resistance in the RS waders, I can say I’ve noticed they’re far more breathable than other bombproof, cold-weather, ultra-durable waders. Quantifying breathability is tricky, but for me, it comes down to how comfortable I feel while in the waders. Even on hot days, I don’t feel swampy in the RS waders. They’re the first pair of heavy duty waders that I don’t dread wearing from a comfort perspective, and that goes a long way to telling me Skwala got the formula right with their proprietary fabric.
As far as durability is concerned, Skwala spent a couple of years testing the fabric in a wide array of challenging conditions. I’ve worn the RS waders while scrambling over rocks, climbing in and out of drift boats, and hiking plenty of miles through the brush and bramble of the Rocky Mountains. Thus far, I’ve not noticed any significant signs of wear.
Fit and Comfort
If you’ve followed the release of any new Skwala gear, you know by now that the company is highly focused on building gear that moves with anglers, instead of gear that inhibits our range of motion. The RS waders are among the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, and they do a great job of moving with me while I’m on the water.
Skwala uses unique fourchette seams in the legs to increase mobility and comfort. A fourchette seam, often found in gloves to provide increased dexterity, is a method for connecting panels of fabric without inhibiting the wearer’s range of motion. The specific fourchette seams in the RS waders are designed to increase articulation throughout the leg, giving the wearer freedom of movement will sometimes leave you feeling like you’re not wearing waders at all. By placing the fourchettes at specific spots on the wader, Skwala was able to create a garment that moves with you, instead of bunching up or feeling tight when scrambling over boulders, logs, or any other obstacles you’ll encounter during a day on the water.
No other wader manufacturers are currently using fourchette seams in the same way Skwala is, which makes their waders particularly unique. After using them for months, it’s remarkable how well the RS wader moves with me while I’m wearing it. I reckon the freedom of movement is one of the first features anglers will notice when using the RS waders on the water.
The fleece-lined handwarmer pockets on either side of the front zipper are roomy enough for fly boxes, tippet spools, or even some snacks. These handwarmer pockets are zippered as well, which is a nice touch to add more pocket space.
There are two zippered pockets on top of the handwarmer pockets, with matching pockets inside the wader, too. In short, you won’t run out of pockets in the RS waders.
What Doesn’t Work
No Tool Dock
This isn’t a dealbreaker for me, but it may be for some anglers. The RS waders don’t feature an integrated tool dock where you can hang hemostats or other tools. That’s in keeping with their minimalist design, and I personally don’t use the tool dock on any of my waders. But it’s worth mentioning that the RS wader doesn’t have that feature.
The RS waders are Skwala’s top-tier solution for the harshest of fishing conditions. By utilizing a proprietary fabric, Skwala has built waders that claim to set new industry standards for durability and comfort. Skwala’s choice to use proprietary fabrics might seem risky on its face but, according to Skwala, it allowed them to build a wader that better meets the demands of the most challenging angling conditions without sacrificing comfort. The RS waders’s 4-layer fabric matrix is lightweight, durable, warm, breathable, and it allows for an exceptional range of motion—a design goal Skwala has made a hallmark in all of its offerings. The freedom of movement you’ll feel when wearing the RS waders is nothing short of exceptional and it sets a very high bar for wader comfort moving forward. The RS waders offer top-tier performance across the board, which helps make the $800 price tag more palatable.