Simms Women’s Gore-tex Waders Review

Simms Women’s Gore-Tex Stockingfoot Wader

Specifications

• 3-layer GORE-TEX® Performance Shell fabric technology with 5-layer front leg panel for additional durability
• Patented front and back leg seam design for exceptional comfort and articulation
• Adjustable elastic 1.5″ suspender with YKK® non-locking buckles
• Exterior chest pocket with Velcro® closure
• Fleece-lined hand warmer pocket with DWR treatment keeps hands warm & dry
• Flip-out, zippered chest pocket
• Upper features women-specific cut with higher chest
• Patented built-in Guide Model Gravel Guards
• Includes nylon wading belt with unique pattern and repair kit
• Offered in a broad range of 13 sizes – including short & tall – to accommodate diverse shapes and sizes
• Every pair manufactured in Bozeman, Montana
• Approximate weight: 33 ounces
• Color: Gray-blue
• Price: $329.95

What’s the word…

Most experienced fly fishermen, and fly fishing guides, would acknowledge that Simms makes the highest quality waterproof/breathable fly fishing waders that you can buy. Simms is the only manufacturer of waders located within the United States; in fact,right in the heart of trout country, in Bozeman,Montana. Most folks are surprised, as I was, when they hear that all of the other 30 or so wader brands on the market are made in the same two factories in China. Simms not only has the best designs, the latest materials, the best fit and the highest quality control, in my opinion,it’s the ONLY maker, to my knowledge, that water tests every single pair of waders that leaves it’s factory, so that you don’t have to ‘test’ them yourself the first time you enter the water.

There’s no
reason a woman can’t love her fly fishing as equally (or more) as a man loves his, and, as such, she demand as much (or more) from her equipment. But historically, women have sorta gotten a bum rap, often having to endure ill fitting men’s waders in pursuit of their passion.Even Simms has admitted that by making multiple versions of women’s waders in the past, at different price points, they were unable to fully address a comprehensive women’s size range due to the simple economics of supply and demand for the women-specific segment of the fly fishing market.

That’s changed, for 2008, with the introduction of the new Simms Women’s Gore-Tex Stockingfoot Wader. This is now the only woman-specific designed wader that Simms makes, but it’s loaded with features for comfort and function, and offered in 13 stock sizes that are designed to fit a wide range of women’s body shapes and sizes. Since it IS Bozeman, there are more than a few serious women’s fly anglers working at the Simms factory, the lead Simms designer and, as always,Simms relied heavily on the input and testing of this product from some of the most accomplished professional women fly fishing guides in the world. These are waders designed by women anglers, for women anglers.

Features and Materials. . .

Although we fish in a variety of aquatic habitats,fly fishers most often work their magic in cold, fast moving rivers and streams fishing for trout, salmon and steelhead. This can be a very harsh and demanding environment on the human body, regardless of the time of the year. In summer, you may be wading waist deep in 50 degree water one minute, then hiking in 90 degree weather the next, and then,back in the cold water again. Or, in winter, you may be exposed to freezing conditions all day, and you can only remain out there for as long as you stay warm and dry. In essence, by keeping you comfortable, your waders become the most important piece of fly fishing equipment you can own, so it makes sense to put your money where it counts. “Stockingfoot” is, by far, the most popular design in fly fishing waders, whereby a separately purchased pair of felt or studded sole wading boots are worn over the soft waterproof neoprene socks of the wader. This system is much lighter and
more agile than the heavier, attached “bootfoot” waders one might see in dad’s or granddad’s fishing photos.

Waders have to be waterproof,of course, to keep that cold water out. Years ago, we fished in stretchy, solid rubber waders called Seal-Dris, and, then, when better seam sealing techniques evolved, synthetic neoprene rubber,( the same as used in SCUBA wetsuits), became the standard material for fly fishing waders. Neoprene was relatively durable, and its ability to stretch and compress allowed for tighter, form fitting waders that had a low drag profile in fast moving water and very good freedom of movement. The only problem was that most of the perspiration produced by your body remained inside these snug waders, eventually soaking socks and whatever other insulation, causing discomfort and greatly increasing conductive heat loss. Waders that were cozy in the water could become sauna baths when walking on dry land. And if you were unfortunate to take a spill,your waders were going to stay wet inside all day, unless you stripped them off and dried them out.

Today, thankfully, almost all fishing waders are made from multi-layer, laminated fabrics that are both waterproof AND breathable (wp/b). These fabrics, by allowing perspiration to pass to the outside through micro-pores, keep you much drier and comfortable than in years past, and extend the comfort range of the waders in both warmer and colder weather, but particularly in hot conditions.

The type of waterproof/breathable fabric plays an important role in a wader’s performance, and there are two basic categories of laminate fabrics that are currently used in making modern waders. Newer polyurethane laminates are by far the most popular
in waders, due to their much lower costs. Higher quality polyurethane laminates are waterproof, relatively durable, and have a reasonable rate of breathability. Gore-Tex, on the other hand, has a membrane composed of PTFE, the same stuff as Teflon, and needs little introduction to those who spend a lot of time outdoors. Gore-Tex revolutionized the outdoor equipment industry with the introduction of the first wp/b fabrics in 1978, and many improvements have been made since then. Gore-Tex fabrics cost about four times as much as most polyurethanes, but, in general, are capable of breathing at higher rates, keeping you drier and more comfortable. Simms uses higher performance Gore-Tex in its top-of the line waders, including the
Women’s Wader, and polyurethane Quadralam fabrics in their less-expensive waders.

The 3-layer Gore-Tex Performance Shell of the Simms Women’s Wader has a 100% polyester face fabric which is light, and highly abrasion and puncture resistant. Reinforced front leg panels add strength where it counts, yet, at an average weight of only
33 ounces, these waders won’t tire you out. The 1.5” crossed-back elastic suspenders support the wader very comfortably and have nifty YKK buckles that don’t allow you to buckle the wrong buckle when you flip the suspenders over your shoulder. These waders easily convert to waist high waders for better comfort in hot weather or for wading shallow. The sculpted wader booties are constructed of the finest, high density neoprene from Japan and the patented built-in Gravel Guards keep sand,
rocks and other debris out of your wading boots. There’s a guy in the Simms factory that has been hand-crafting these booties for over fourteen years. Very functional features include a fleece lined hand warmer pocket for chilly weather, a flip-out zippered chest pocket for accessories, and no-seam heat applied belt loops. The nylon wading belt and a small repair kit are included.

Fit and Finish…

Even if Simms used second-best materials,I’d probably still buy and recommend their waders, based on their superior quality of workmanship, and without a doubt, the best fit in the industry.

The intention of Simms, from the very beginning of this project, was to make the Simms Women’s Gore-Tex Stockingfoot Wader
the best fitting women’s wader available, and, as mentioned previously,professional women fly fishing guides had a lot to say on that subject.The upper of this wader features a women-specific cut with a higher chest design and the wader is contoured at the hips, as well. Patented front and back leg seams significantly reduce wear and are noticeably articulated for greater freedom of movement on-stream. It’s important to note that modern fabric wader materials don’t stretch like the rubber or neoprene waders of old, so it’s critical that extra fabric is put where it’s needed, so that you can move unrestricted in all fishing situations, whether it’s sitting, kneeling, crawling, hiking, or climbing (but, hopefully,not swimming!) Other brands
of waders I’ve used don’t even come close to this fit, and I’ve usually had to buy a size larger just to make them work. When trying on waders,one of the best tests for this freedom of movement, while standing, is to see if you can lift your leg and place your foot on, say, a chair seat. This would duplicate stepping up on a rock. It should be effortless. If the fabric tightens up behind your leg or across your butt to restrict movement, these waders do not fit and will not perform properly on-stream.

Someone’s going to say, “Hey, you’re a guy.How can you evaluate women’s waders?” Fair enough. Yes, I’m a male,and, no, I haven’t personally tried on the Women’s Wader. But in my favor, I’ve fitted fly fishers of both sexes in waders for over 30 years and have helped design waders for major manufacturers. I’ve gone through the process of fitting numerous women into these Simms waders and have gotten their direct feedback and I’ve spent countless hours fishing in Simms waders with near identical properties. I’ve also had the privilege to work for the very first outdoor equipment companies to use Gore-Tex laminates, as well as breathable polyurethanes.

The 13 stock sizes do,indeed, fit a wide range of women’s body shapes. We’re all different,so there’s no there’s no guarantee that every woman will find the perfect fit within this scope. The good news is that some women still find the Simms men’s waders, with a huge size selection in its own right, to fit them better. In addition, since their waders are made in the U.S., Simms is the only wader manufacturer to offer a practical custom fit program. In the Women’s Wader, you can order custom size booties, or custom Short or Tall sizes for an additional $50 charge.

Every fabric wader,on average, has about 2000 needle holes, and many seams, and each constitutes a potential point for water to enter. Seam-sealing technology is absolutely critical to ensure that water can’t find its way through. The Simms factory in Bozeman, Montana has the most advanced seam sealing machinery for waders in the world; many of these machines were designed in conjunction with the Engineering Department of Montana State University and are exclusive and proprietary to Simms. The Simms factory recalibrates its machinery to adjust for temperature,atmospheric pressure, and humidity every hour. And once Simms completes the wader, they are the only company that water tests every wader to ensure that they haven’t missed anything. You simply won’t find this level of sophistication and quality control in the Chinese factories employed by their competitors.

Durability, Warranty, Company Profile…

As Simms says, experienced fly fisherman know that there are “two types of waders; those that leak, and those that are going to leak”. Basically, all waders eventually wear out and fail.So, if you think that by spending extra money, you’re never going to have to deal with wader repairs, think again. Durability must be considered in relative terms; an occassional angler may get eight or ten years use out of a wader fishing, say, a couple weeks out of the year,whereas a professional working guide’s wader might last a season, or two at most. Building waders with extra-heavy fabrics to increase durability tends to make them ungainly, less breathable, and tiring to wear. In my experience, Simms waders outlast others, and are more comfortable in the process, due to superior design, materials and construction methods. Yet, abrasion from sharp rocks, sticks, and micro-punctures from blackberries, gorse, and, heaven forbid, barbed wire will eventually take their toll on any wader.

Simms stands behind everything they make. Here’s a breakdown of their warranty:

Simms warranties all their products, for the life of the product, against defects in materials and workmanship. Waders that fail for these reasons will be repaired, or replaced, at no charge. This warranty does not cover damages caused by improper care, accidents or the natural breakdown of materials over extended use and time.If, within 30 days of the purchase date, you are unhappy with a Simms wader, bring it back to the dealer you bought it from. Present your sales receipt, and they will replace it, no questions asked.

If you accidentally damage your Simms wader during the first year that you own it, the first repair is on Simms. Simply ship Simms the wader, along with a copy of your receipt, and they will repair it and ship it back to you.

Further,they will only charge you their actual costs for any additional repairs that you may need during the life of your wader. Simply bring the wader to your dealer, or contact Simms’ Customer Service for a Return Authorization. Then, ship the wader to them with a note describing the problem and someone from their Customer Service Team will promptly contact you with a repair estimate. Once they receive your approval,they will repair your waders and ship them back to you. Simms even maintains a sophisticated on-line service that allows their customers to register warranties, print repair shipping labels and track their repair status and return shipping status from the convenience of their home computers.

My suggestion? Unless your Simms wader has a major problem, like a rip (moderately rare), I’d recommend fixing the wader yourself. I don’t have time during the fishing season to send my waders back for minor pin-hole leaks, which are the main culprit for most anglers as their waders age. It’s usually very easy. Simply turn your waders inside out and lay them on a flat surface, with the suspected leak area facing up. Get a small plastic spray bottle from a convenience or hardware store and fill it with 91% rubbing alcohol from any pharmacy (70% will work, but 91% is better). Now, spray a little alcohol on the suspect area, and low and behold, any punctures clearly show up as dark grey dots against the light fabric Gore-Tex background.Now, take the little tube of Aqua-Seal that’s included with the wader repair kit, and simply put on a small, thin dollop (yes, over the wetalcohol!) that covers the grey spot. The alcohol will dry and the Aqua-Seal will harden overnight – repair complete! I carry these items on any overnight fishing trip and I can affect almost any repair in the field as needed.

Simms was the pioneer in the fly fishing world,creating the first waterproof/ breathable Gore-Tex waders in 1993.Since then, they have successfully grown to become the largest domestic supplier of waders, boots, and fly fishing clothing in the industry.Simms is one of only three manufacturers worldwide licensed to make Gore-Tex waders. Based on this success, I would guess these guys will be around, backing their warranties, for a long time.

Pros

Designed with input from professional women guides, for women fly fishers. Patented front and back articulated leg seam design and Gore-Tex Performance Shell Technology enhance maximum breathability,fit, comfort and performance. 13 sizes available to fit a wide range of body shapes. Easily converts to waist-high waders for warm weather use.Custom sizing modifications available at an additional charge and a convenient warranty service from the only manufacturer in the U.S.

Cons

More expensive than other women’s waders; at a cost of $329, you can certainly find some serviceable, albeit,lesser-erforming models from Simms, or other manufacturers, at about half this price. This is the only women-specific wader choice from Simms.

Bottom Line

You get what you pay for; probably the best women’s fly fishing wader on the planet, from the best manufacturer of waterproof/breathable waders. Light, comfortable, and relatively durable. Limited lifetime warranty.