My clients often ask me what the best waders for steelhead fishing are and that makes sense because full-time river guides like myself practically live in waders. I have had the opportunity to try waders from all the top brands over many years, so I can give you honest and expert opinion on the best steelhead waders.
The best waders for steelhead fishing are the Simms G3 Boot Foot Waders which provide superior foot warmth, good traction, they’re comfortable, and durable. If you know how to layer properly, stocking foot waders like Simms G3 stocking foot waders and the Orvis Clear Water Waders are also good.
Not all waders are created equal, and not all waders are good for steelhead fishing. When my clients come out with the wrong waders they are more likely to slip and fall, they are colder, and they are less comfortable.
I will discuss the best waders for steelhead fishing from the best high-priced waders to the best economy waders.
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- What You Need In Steelhead Waders: What I look for in good steelhead waders is comfort, fit, function, traction, durability, price, warranty, customer service, and an excellent reputation.
- Warmth and Comfort: When steelhead fishing, the water is cold, and sometimes the air is cold. You need waders that provide the most warmth to your feet. The feet are the most challenging part of your lower body to keep warm. The best waders for keeping feet warm and the best overall steelhead waders are the insulated boot foot waders Simms G3 Bootfoot Waders.
- Types Of Waders For Steelhead: There are multiple types of waders for steelhead, which are insulated bootfoot breathable waders with good treads, boot foot neoprene waders, stocking foot breathable waders, and stocking foot neoprene waders. Some anglers will also use boot foot nylon waders because they are cheap.
- Added Features You Should Consider: Some waders come with added features such as gravel guards, chest hand warmer pockets, and reinforced knees.
- Pro Tips For Staying Warmer: Waders can only do so much. I provide tips on layering, types of socks, best pants and baselayers, and electric socks vs electric insoles.
Quick Picks For The Best Steelhead Waders
- Simms G3 BootFoot Waders – Best Overall Steelhead Waders and Best For Warm Feet
- Simms G3 Stocking Foot Waders – Best For Comfort, Traction, and Versatility
- Orvis Men’s Clearwater Bootfoot Wader – Best Mid-Priced Steelhead Wader
I sometimes guide over 220 clients a year and some of my clients will be wearing waders that I or my other guides loan to them. Many of my clients will be wearing their own waders which has provided me with a lot of honest feedback on the many different types and brands of waders.
Sometimes the right fit is the problem especially if your a big guy. If so, check out my article Best Waders For Big and Tall Guys.
A Word Of Caution About The Best Waders For Steelhead
I just did a Google search on the best waders for steelhead to see what others were recommending.
I quickly came to the conclusion that some of the websites recommending waders are written by bloggers that probably don’t even fish for steelhead, or very rarely fish for steelhead.
Not all waders are good for steelhead fishing and I have tested some of the ones these bloggers are recommending and I wouldn’t use them if they gave them to me for free, and i definetly would not recommend them.
Unfortunately, some of the waders being recommended on other websites are even the no-name cheap China crap, and god knows what the warranty and customer service are like on those waders. Sure they are cheap and you will save money, but if they leak on your second or third trip out, what’s the point?
For this article, I’m only recommending waders that I have used and waders that my guides and guide buddies use, and also waders that work well for my clients.
Guide Tip: Steelhead fishing in some parts of the country will mean occasionally fishing with snow on the ground. Snow sometimes sticks to felt bottoms waders and boots which can be a problem walking and a safety issue. For waders in snow, stick with rubber bottom waders and wading boots.
The 3 Types Of Waders For Steelhead Fishing
There are 3 types of waders that are suitable for steelhead fishing and each one comes with advantages and disadvantages. I will discuss them so you have a better understanding of what will work best for you on the steelhead rivers that you fish.
Neoprene Waders For Steelhead Fishing
Neoprene waders with a bootfoot (boots built-on) or neoprene with just a stocking foot (separate boot goes on overtop) have been popular for many years and even I wore neoprene waders about 25 years ago. They are warm, but they also come with many disadvantages and few advantages.
- Neoprene waders come in 3mm to 6 mm which is thick insulation all the way to your chest to keep you warmer.
- Neoprene waders with insulated boots built-on are warmer on your feet than stocking foot waders.
- Neoprene waders are relatively inexpensive.
- Neoprene waders might be the best choice for guys that fish in the winter and also duck hunt in colder weather because they keep your entire body warm.
- They are thick so they are more durable than other waders
- They are easy to fix small leaks and tears
- Neoprene floats so if you fall in you probably won’t sink. (don’t try it)
- They are heavy, bulky, and not flexible which makes them harder to move around in.
- They are not breathable so they lock in moisture. I find they are often damp inside due to sweat and condensation and that can leave you feeling colder.
- Cold Feet – Neoprene stocking foot waders won’t keep your feet any warmer than breathable stocking foot waders will since they both have neoprene feet.
- Boot foot waders lack the ankle support needed on ruff terrain and rocky river bottoms.
Summary: Neoprene waders are not the best waders for steelhead fishing and if you layer properly breathable waders are better because they will keep you dryer and warmer. I only recommend neoprene waders for steelhead fishing for anglers on a very tight budget.
Breathable Stocking Foot Waders
If I had to choose only one wader to fish 12 months of the year, it would be breathable stocking foot waders, but there are advantages and disadvantages to breathable stocking foot waders for steelhead fishing.
Breathable stocking foot waders are probably the most popular waders on the river and they can be great waders for steelhead fishing but only if you know how to layer under them and if you know how to keep your feet warm.
Stockingfoot waders usually have neoprene feet built-in and a breathable material that goes from shins to your chest.
Some of the better breathable waders will have 3 to 5 layers of breathable material for more durability while still being lighter than neoprene.
These are your best choice for waders for summer or warmer weather fishing.
In the summer I wear shorts under the breathable waders to keep me cool and you will feel all the coldness of the river on your legs if you wade deep enough. In the winter I wear many layers to keep my legs warm and it’s rare with my layering system to have cold legs even waist deep in ice-cold water.
The downside to breathable and neoprene waders is the neoprene boot-foot in ice-cold water DOES NOT keep your feet warm unless you follow my advice on how to keep your feet warm in the winter.
As a guide who sometimes stands in ice-cold water for over 30 days in a row, breathable waders have left my feet and my client’s feet so cold that we could not feel them anymore. I’ve even had nerve damage in my toes due to my feet freezing daily.
But there are ways to prevent cold feet and my advice on keeping your feet and all parts of your body warm and comfortable can be found on my page Fishing In The Winter – Stay Warm With These 10 Tips
There are some pros and cons of using these waders and the pro’s often outweigh the cons which is why these would be my choice for year-round waders.
- They are the most lightweight and comfortable waders
- Great ankle support if you pair them with good boots – This makes them safer.
- They keep you dryer than most other waders
- Great for both warm weather and cold weather if you know what to wear under them
- Great for 12 months of the year fishing in warmer climates
- The cheaper one and 2-layer waders are not as durable
- Cold feet in winter if you don’t know how to keep your feet warm
- Can be expensive
Conclusion: Breathable stocking foot waders are my preferred waders when the water is not too cold. They offer the most comfort, keep my dryer and offer the best ankle support which is great for any angler.
Guide Tip: I use wading boots that are 2 sizes bigger than my shoe size for very cold water fishing so I can add extra socks and heated insoles. Tight boots make your feet colder.
Breathable Boot Foot Waders Are The Best Waders For Steelhead Fishing
Breathable boot foot waders with insulated boots are great waders for steelhead and are likely the best waders for steelhead fishing in very cold water. They have some advantages and some disadvantages.
Breathable boot foot waders with insulated boots have saved my feet and toes from freezing on many days.
- Best lightweight and comfortable waders for winter fishing
- They keep you dryer than most other waders by wicking away sweat and condensation.
- They are the best waders for cold weather if you know what to wear under them.
- Best for using the heated insoles or heated electric socks that I recommend on my page Fishing In The Winter – Stay Warm With These 10 Tips
- Can be expensive
- Bootfoots are not the best for ankle support
Guide Tip: If you are using boot foot waders for mostly very cold water fishing, I use waders with boots 1.5 to 2 sizes bigger than my shoe size so that there is plenty of room for extra socks without squishing my feet and constricting the blood flow to my feet. Tight boots will make your feet colder.
The 5 Best Waders For Steelhead Fishing Are
These are the 5 best choices for waders for steelhead fishing. I have included a few extra options for those on a tight budget.
The SIMMS G3 Boot-foot Waders
The SIMMS G3 Boot-foot waders are the best waders for steelhead fishing in cold rivers.
You will not find a better wader to keep your feet warm and dry when winter steelhead fishing.
Many of my guide friends wear these in the colder months.
The only downside to these waders is the price. If price is not an issue, I would highly recommend these to anyone who gets cold feet when winter fishing for steelhead.
SIMMS G3 Bootfoot Wader – Check for the best price below.
Orvis Men’s Clearwater Bootfoot Wader – Felt Sole
I used these Orvis boot foot waders for a couple of steelhead seasons, and they are about the same as the Simms Bootfoot.
However, I did find they were slightly colder on the feet, and they didn’t last as long, but they were still very good and better than all the waders I’ll list below.
They are also much cheaper than the Simms Bootfoot waders.
The only downside is they are only felt bottom which sucks in sticky snow, or if you live somewhere that has banned felt-sole waders.
SIMMS G3 Stocking Foot Guide Waders
There are probably more fishing guides in these waders than any other waders and that is because these are simply the best. I wore a pair of these for 200 days a year for about 3 years.
Pair these up with a good set of wading boots and you are good to go anywhere.
SIMMS Freestone Stocking Foot Waders
Another great but less expensive wader option is the SIMMS Freestone Stockingfoot Chest Waders.
If you are going to get stocking foot waders, make sure you get yourself some good wading boots to go with them. Wading boots help protect your waders and your feet. To see my recommendations on wading boots go to my page River Fishing Gear: Everything You Need To Succeed In 2021
Orvis Clearwater Waders
The Orvis Clearwater Waders are another great choice of waders for steelhead fishing if you layer properly in the winter.
Orvis is a large well known brand with a great warranty and customer service.
Check out the Orvis Men’s Clearwater Stockingfoot Chest Waders at FishUSA.com
An even better option if you have the cash is the Orvis Pro Breathable Stocking-Foot Waders.
Frogg Toggs Men’s Steelheader Lug Sole Bootfoot Chest Waders
These are the best breathable insulated boot foot waders you can get for steelhead fishing under $300.00.
They come with insulated boots, and some will come with studs which is a good idea.
I always recommend rubber waders over felt waders for winter fishing in the snow.
Frogg Toggs Hellbender Stockingfoot Chest Waders
For those on a tight budget looking for an inexpensive wader option check out the Frogg Toggs Men’s Hellbender II Stockingfoot Chest Waders at Amazon.
Cabelas Neoprene Bootfoot Waders
Cabela’s Classic Series II Neoprene Boot-Foot Waders are a good choice if you need a budget wader for the coldest conditions.
For anglers on a budget – Check the price at Bass Pro Shops
Other Good Waders For Steelhead Fishing
Some other waders that myself, my guides and my clients have had good success with and ones that might fit your budget better include these:
- Simms Tributary Stockingfoot Waders for Men – Good Inexpensive waders from SIMMS – Check Price at FishUSA
- Simms Women’s Freestone Stockingfoot Chest Waders – Get at Get At Trident Fly Fishing
- Redington Youth Crosswater Stockingfoot Chest Waders – Get at Trident Fly Fishing – HERE
You can also check out my page 3 Best Waders For Winter Fishing.
Are Chest Waders Or Hip Waders Better For Steelhead Fishing?
Without question, I would say that chest waders are the best waders for steelhead fishing because of two reasons.
Chest waders provide more warmth and lock in your body heat up to your armpits. If you get too warm you can always fold them down.
Many steelhead rivers are deeper and faster and the higher chest waders allow you to wade deeper when needed, they allow you to cross faster water without getting wet from water that splashes up.
I would not wear hip waders for steelhead fishing unless it was only for small creak fishing.
Storing Waders Properly Will Make Them Last Longer
Make your steelhead waders last longer by storing them properly. It’s more important than you think.
I have actually had a few “big brand named” waders deteriorate after a few year due to improper storage.
A lot of the time, this deterioration of the waders comes from improper storage, so I can’t even blame the companies.
Many years ago I would leave my waders in the truck overnight, sometimes even for days.
Sometimes it got very hot in the truck, and other times it would be below-freezing temperatures. This is hard on waders and so is leaving them wet for days or weeks.
Rolling your wet and dirty waders up and jamming them in a box or in a corner and leaving them for days, weeks, or years is also a bad idea.
Now, all my waders are hung up to dry and hung for long-term storage. If they have a lot of dirt on them I will rinse them in water first and let them hang dry.
After a day or two and when they are bone dry, I will turn them inside out and let the interior dry as well.
Leaving your good pair of steelhead waders wet for days can cause problems so always hang your waders if you want them to last longer.
I will often rinse my waders off in the rivers. A simple wipe down with your hands or a rag while standing knee-deep in the river does a good job of getting rid of exterior mud and sand, and this can prolong the life of your waders and it can keep your vehicle cleaner.
I will machine wash my waders once or twice a year but I always recommend using the manufacturer cleaning instructions and only using cleaning agents that are approved for your type of waders.
This is what I use to clean and waterproof my waders.
This pack contains everything you need to clean and maintain your waterproof, breathable performance gear. The non-detergent, biodegradable Tech Wash cleaner removes dirt and contaminants to enhance your fabrics durable water-repellent finish.
You can get this pack at Bass Pro Shops
For great wader repair tips check out SIMMS Wader Care and Repair Page.
Got A Question About The Best Waders For Steelhead Fishing
Do you have a question, a comment, or a recommendation about the best waders for steelhead fishing? If so, just let me know in the comment section below.