For me when it comes to waders, I like to keep things simple – I only use Gore-Tex waders and I only buy Simms.
When you need to be able to fish in a range of water and air temps, Gore-Tex waders are the only choice – the breathable nature of the fabric means you can cope with temperatures into the 90s (or 33 degrees Celsius and above).
We’ve walked up to 20km in a day in warm temperatures without discomfort in Simms Gore-Tex waders. Similarly, when it comes to freezing temperatures, by wearing thermal underlayers, Gore-Tex waders can cope with very low temperatures before you need to switch to a neoprene wader.
For me, Simms offers the best blend of features, design and durability for fishing purposes and they have a great reputation for after-sales service when things go wrong (Simms have a 60-day “no questions asked” returns policy and a 365-day leak-repair guarantees).
So in this Simms waders review, we set out to tell you all about our favourite features of each of the key models and share some of our direct experiences with Simms waders.
Which Simms waders to choose?
So taking this into account, the big question is, which Simms waders are the best for you?
- Option of YKK zipper
- Simms’ most durable model – three layers of Gore-Tex and four layers in wear points
- Two lined pockets, two waterproof pockets
- Special features including fitted neoprene socks, fly patch and zingers for attaching gear
- 65oz weight
These are the flagship model in the Simms range. I’ve had mine for five seasons and they are strong with no punctures. I’ve fished through plenty of spiky brush in this time without even a tiny leak – the extra layers are all the right places and add protection without significantly impacting weight or breathability.
To be 100% frank with you all, these are 50% heavier than the G3’s discussed below, and as a result of the extra fabric, they are a little warmer. But I’d rather have the durability. And the breathability of the G4’s still excellent in warm conditions.
It’s worth noting there is a version of the G4Zs without a zipper, but I’d urge you against buying it – these zips work 100% and for a minor cost saving there is little point going with the non-zippered model.
- No zipper
- Durable three-layer Gore-Tex shell with four layer lower
- Three chest pockets; two microfleece lined
- Superior fit
- 45oz weight
These are the second top model in the Simms range. The G3’s have been the favoured waders of serious fishermen and women for many years.
We owned the G3s prior to owning the G4Z and did have to spend time each season repairing pin-hole punctures (check out this video for instructions) and by the end of their lifespan they were pretty much dotted with blobs of Aquaseal. Anyway, those were bought probably 12 years ago, so there has been a lot of innovation from Simms in that time and I’d have confidence in the new G3s, but my personal preference is (if you can afford them) for the G4s for proven durability and the zipper (I drink too much coffee to consider non-zippered waders!).
- Three layer Gore-Tex fabric
- No zipper
- Top access zippered stretch pocket plus reach-through micro-fleece lined hand-warming pockets
- Patented abrasion-resistant built-in Gravel Guards with boot hooks
- 43oz weight
The Headwaters Pro model is one step down from the G3 Guide model lacking the extra layer of Gore-Tex in the legs and seat. Apart from that, it is very similar to the Guide model at a slightly lower price.
These are a fine enough pair of Gore-Tex waders if this is your price point noting they won’t be as durable as the Guides and G4s (with the extra layers they posses), nor as convenient as the G4Z or Freestone zippered models.
That said, these will be the coolest and most breathable and are worthy option if you fish in high temperatures a lot, although for us the lack of a zip is a deal breaker.
- Four layer Toray fabric
- Option of a zipper
- Left chest, water-resistant zippered storage pocket & 2 micro-fleece lined hand-warmer pockets
- Interior zippered security chest pocket
- 38oz weight
In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the one model in the main Simms range that I have not owned. I’ve always felt waders were such an integral part of my fishing kit it was worth investing in the most durable ones that I could afford (hence I owned the G3s and then bought the G4Zs when they came out).
What I can tell you about the Freestones is those who own them do love them. Check on the Simms website for some examples of feedback with buyers responding well to the option of a zipper as well as the fit and durability.
The key difference between the Freestones and the other models I mentioned is the fabric. The Freestones use Toray as a opposed to Gore-Tex. Anecdotally, many people say Toray is not as breathable as Gore-Tex although this is a matter of some debate among hardcore gear enthusiasts. See here for some testing data that does suggest Gore-Tex does perform better in terms of breathability. The zipper used here is not the YKK model in the G4Zs but is a high quality zipper nonetheless and I’ve seen no complaints of leaks.
The other key difference is price – at $400 for a zipper wader these come in at under half the price of the G4Zs. So you are still getting a superb piece of kit and saving yourself $400! Like I said, for me, my waders are vital to my fishing experience so I am prepared to spend a lot. But if you are younger or if cash is hard to come buy, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these.
What to consider when buying waders?
For me a zipper is not pivotal. I have never had the zipper leak on my G4Zs and I find it so convenient. I fish long days so maybe – without going into too much detail! – on a hot day with lots of water consumed I will use the zipper function three or four times. So each of those times is one occasion when I would have needed to take of my backpack and then the wader harness to relieve myself. Not anymore! I’ll never go back to a non zippered model!!
As discussed, breathable waders are best for most fishing scenarios and in our experience Simms’ Gore-Tex models offer the best blend of durability and waterproofing and breathability. For those looking to save some $$, consider the Toray models in the Freestone range offering similar performance and the option of a zipper.
The key features in waders are the number of layers of fabric, with all the Simms range having at least three layers and usually more in hard wearing spots such as the front of the legs and the seat.
Other features such as number and type of pockets are also worth considering. I really like having the waterproof pocket for my phone and car keys in the G4Z model that I am using currently. For those fishing cool climates, the microfleece lined pockets are handy.
Stocking foot vs bootfoot
The majority of high-end waders are stocking foot models for obvious reasons (although Simms does offer the G3s with a built in boot as a custom order). We reckon boots wear out quicker than waders, so stockingfoot is the answer for us. That way we can also use the boots of our choice for maximum performance. See here for our buyer’s guide to the Simms Flyweight and G3 Guide boots.
The final consideration is warranty. Simms have a 60-day “no questions asked” returns policy and a 365-day leak-repair guarantees and have a great reputation for customer service and replacing gear that is defective.