The search for tough, durable breathable waders

Snowbee Ranger breathable waders.

I have a love/hate relationship with breathable waders. I love them when they are completely waterproof. They are light, airy, offer freedom of movement, they are cool, they look great, and they keep you dry. However, as soon as they start leaking, I hate them.

Over the years, I’ve worn through many pairs. I fish a lot, and am always either taking them off or putting them on. I walk long distances in them and these two habits, I believe, puts them under most strain, especially at the seams.

I clamber about on river-banks a lot, too, which also doesn’t help with their longevity, and I tend to fish wild places where vegetation grows high and pathways are few. Let’s face it, breathable waders aren’t tough.

So, are these Snowbee Rangers any different? They certainly feel a bit different. Basically, there’s three layers here: the breathable material is Vapour-Tec, a laminated breathable membrane, and the outer is a nylon material treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating. This nylon outer feel as though it’s hard enough of a shell to brush away or deflect errant brambles and thistles, which I was once informed by a major retailer were the main reason why breathables start to leak, due to their resultant tiny pin-pricks perforating the material. (As a result, I always take care to avoid spiky vegetation at all costs, but sometimes mistakes are inevitable). For the technicals amongst you, the Hydrostatic Water Pressure resistance (W/P) of this material is 10,000mm H2O, and on breathability, the Moisture Vapour Transfer (MVT) is 4,000g/m2/24hours.

Another weak point on breathables are the seams. The seams on the Ranger are extremely smoothly taped on the inner, which is reassuring, and stitched on the outer side, and the material overall appears to have a reduced ability to ‘fold’ and crease, which is what I think contributes to some breakdowns in the material’s breathability and subsequent leakages. As a result, these waders feel pretty robust, which is a good start, and they have already been in action a few times now.

There’s a number of other features on the Ranger I like too, although staying dry is the ONLY reason I buy breathables. There’s a deep, wide, fleece-lined kangaroo-style pocket on the front, for warming/drying your hands. Brilliant idea, down to the fact that the fleece presses and cosies the back of your hands – where (for me) they generally feel the cold most. Nice bit of luxury.

They are a good fit, too. The medium size fitted me well – I’m 5ft 9in, medium build, size 9 shoe. (The Medium should fit shoe size 9-11).
Then there’s the neoprene socks – 4mm, nicely thick and well shaped and sized for my feet. The last pair of breathables I hated were doing exceptionally well on the breathable material front, but then they started leaking through the heel of the neoprene sock. This was a first for me – the breathable material has always given way before the neoprene – and was caused by very fine sand getting into the boot and abrading between the heel on the insole of my boot and the neoprene, which was quite thin. The rubber of the neoprene wore away – just as an eraser would if rubbed over sandpaper – and I then started getting a wet foot. A cautionary tale for saltwater fly fishers.

As a result of this latest disaster, I now study gravel-guards in detail. On the Ranger, these are sewn-in, elasticated all round and have a pull-down cleat at the toe. (I’m beginning to think that all wading boots should have a special toe-clip built on for this gravel-guard clip, as often the boot’s laces – on which this system relies – either wear, come loose, or the clip slips off, meaning the guard is no longer anchored. However, until this revolution comes, this is about as secure a gravel-guard as you’ll get).
I’m a big fan of wide, elasticised braces on chest waders, for both comfort and ease, and these braces must be 3cm wide. I like the fact that the brace-clips are reversed, so they can be clipped together and the waders rolled down to the waist.
There’s a deep interior pocket, which is always useful, and a big, zippered front pocket (on the front of the ‘kangaroo’ pocket) which is big enough to take a decent fly box, spools of nylon, and some other accessories. There’s a drawcord at the chest, and an elasticised, adjustable belt at the waist.
I’m still loving these, and I like the price-point, too.
From Snowbee stockists.
Price: £219

Thick neoprene stocking foot extends the life-span with heavy duty walking.

Lined hand-warmer pockets are a bonus in cold weather.