How Long Do Waders Last And How Do I Repair Them?

An Orvis instructor teaches a student, standing waist-deep in waders.

When you pay good money for a piece of essential fishing gear, it should last a long time. Top-quality waders aren’t cheap. To help ensure you’ll get many seasons out of a pair of waders, here are some things to do.

One of the first rules of buying fly-fishing equipment is to look closely at the warranty. Good waders should be sturdy and tough and the company should stand behind the product and offer a good warranty and repair system. They should offer a good warranty, allow for returns and having a policy for repairs.

If you take care of your waders both during and after the fishing season and are careful about how you use them, they should last many years. Here are some on-the-water tricks to help prolong their life.

Watch where you walk

  • We all get excited when we reach the river and crash through brush to get right into a good fishing spot. The more careful you are when wearing waders, the easier it is to prevent pin-hole leaks in the legs.
  • Watch out for brush, thorns, and thistles and be especially careful around barbed vegetation. If you come across a blackberry patch, you may be better-off going around rather than pushing through it and damaging your waders.
  • If you come across thorns, use your feet to stamp down the vines and bristle. Use your boots to push aside thorns and clear a path.

Take care when putting them on

  • When lacing up boots and covering the laces with your gravel guards, take your time. Do it slowly and carefully.
  • There are important seams at the ankles of all stocking foot waders where the booties connect to the wader material. Carelessly pulling on gravel guards year after year can pull these seams apart.
  • When you put your waders on, do not tug on the belt loops or suspender seams. Continuous pulling on these areas will weaken them and lead to these areas failing when you need them the most.

Make sure they fit well

  • A pair of waders that fits well and matches your body size is a pair of wader that will last longer than a poorly-fitting pair. A bad fit will create rubbing or pulls in the material and lead to weak spots in the fabric.
  • You should be able to perform a wide range of motions, from kneeling to long strides and jumps, without feeling like the waders are holding you back or constricting your movements.
  • A pair of waders that are too big can be dangerous when wading and hiking and make you more susceptible to getting caught on debris or having the power of the water push the wader fabric around.

Patching Waders 101

Just because a pair of waders has a hole in them doesn’t mean they’re destined for the trash. Even with the most careful hiking and wading, you’ll get tiny pin holes in your waders around the legs. With enough of these holes, your waders will leak. Follow these steps to repair everything from the tiniest pine holes to the largest tears.

  1. Completely dry your waders inside and out.
  2. Once dry, turn your waders inside out.
  3. Take a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) and liberally spray the inside of your waders.
  4. Pin hole leaks will show up as dark spots in a matter of seconds.
  5. Using a tube of Aquaseal, squeeze out a dab on the pin hole. Rub the Aquaseal with your finger. Repeat as necessary.
  6. Let dry for at least 12 hours.

For larger tears, you may need to use a patch to cover up missing material. If this is needed, you should contact the wader manufacturer and obtain the exact same wader material for the patch. Most waders come with small patches for this purpose. Always save the patches that come with a new pair of waders.

For quick, on-the-water repairs that can come from a tussle with barbed wire or a fall on a rock, Aquaseal isn’t an option because it takes so long to cure. To deal with this kind of damage, carry a small UV wader-repair resin. When your waders leak, this amazing substance cures in seconds in direct sunlight and could mean the difference between heading home early or staying out all day long. Keep in mind, though, you still need to let your waders dry before you apply the UV resin. Take a rest in the sun and relax a while before you start the patchwork.

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