best waders for float tube
There’s a new wader in town; goes by the name SubZero. Redington SubZero.
The SubZero designation of course refers to the fact that they’re made for fishing in the frigid waters of winter; not because they will keep you properly chilled as I originally thought. After having cleared up that confusion, I decided to head east of the Cascades and put the Redingtons to the test.
Although the sun shone brightly on the Yakima River on this particular day, looks were deceiving. In the direct sunlight the air temperature may have registered somewhere in the high 30’s, however the sun was low in the sky and there was ample shade. The banks were covered with snow and ice and the water temperature hovered at 36F. So tell me—if neither the water nor the air temperature was at or below 32F, why were the guides in my rod icing up? Why did my line gather ice as I stripped streamers unsuccessfully for a few hours? Why did my fingertips sting? Because it was cold. Why did I whine? Because I’m a whimp.
About the waders: I’ll admit I had some hesitations initially, namely with regard to the neoprene lowers. Would the added bulk be a negative factor, and would they make my butt look big? Thankfully the answer to both questions is no. Of course you notice a bit more substance due to the 3 millimeter neoprene where it’s needed most when the water is cold: the legs and seat. But even with fleece liner pants I didn’t feel overly bulky. I wear a medium size in waders and the fit was just right. The neoprene lowers are also clad in an abrasion-resistant type of “burly” coating. The breathable uppers feature 4 layers of toughness. These waders are very stout; obviously built to stand up to the worst that the elements can throw at you.
On this trip I had expected to hike in about a mile to fish the water I sought. Unfortunately a locked gate and “No Trespassing” sign (neither of which existed the last time I fished this area) put the kibosh on those plans. I was really hoping to see how well the SubZeros performed when a bit of aerobic activity was involved. My concern was that as the core temperature rose during a rigorous hike, the waders would be too warm. I cannot speak to that, but I will also say that winter fishing doesn’t typically involve nearly the hiking as does summer fishing. Besides, hiking in the snow with felt-soled boots isn’t a lot of fun anyway because felt tends to attract snow like flies to a rib roast. So in all reality I am glad I didn’t have to hike a mile. I fished another stretch of easily-accessed river that isn’t nearly as picturesque.
And there, standing thigh-deep in the river, the added insulation of the neoprene lowers was very evident. Proper layering under breathable waders generally does a pretty good job of staving off the cold, but the SubZeros take that up a notch. The 5 millimeter booties further add to the comfort level (compared to the standard 3 millimeter neoprene booties on most other waders). I layered my feet as I always do when fishing in the winter: one pair of poly-pro liner socks under standard wool socks. I find that if I try to add more bulk than that it’s counter-productive. You have to leave some wiggle room for the old toes or they will turn to blocks of ice. My feet generally get a bit chilly over the course of a winter wading trip, but not so on this day.
My favorite aspect of the SubZeros is the handwarmer pocket. Oh my. This thing is something to behold. Fleece-lined with 100 grams of RediLayer™ insulation, this pocket is like a little wood stove for the frozen fingers. I can’t say enough about this feature.
Inside the waders is a flip-out pocket that would make Batman proud. With mesh pocket, forcep dock, hypalon retractor dock and additional zippered pocket for extra storage. I didn’t employ the use of this feature on this initial voyage, opting instead to carry my standard waist pack with all my goodies. That’s just how I roll, but the flip-out pocket affords the added option of keeping the bare necessities where you need them.
My conclusion is that the Redington SubZero waders are the ultimate in cold water protection when wading the winter months. Another area where I can see these waders really shining is with float tube/bellyboat angler types. With a good portion their legs in the water for extended periods of time, the added insulation below the waist seem well-suited to that task. That being said, I long for the more moderate days of Spring so I can put the SubZeros away and break out the Sonic Pros.
I can’t believe a wader manufacturer hadn’t designed a wader like this prior to now. The merits of neoprene waders need no explanation (maximum insulation), nor do the drawbacks (can be too warm). The Redington SubZero waders appear to offer the best of both worlds, at a price that’s very reasonable by today’s standards: $299.95. Now, if only they had a full length zipper…
Check out the Redington website for more information.
Oh, one more thing—did I mention the handwarmer pocket?