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I’ve always hated trying on clothes. I would much rather just buy a pair of pants and then return them later if they don’t fit. Even though I probably won’t return them.
This drove my mom nuts and makes my wife even nutsier. However, I was never able to see their side of the argument until I returned the third pair of waders for improper fit. You’d think that any company that makes waders for big guys would actually make waders that fit big guys…but you’d be wrong.
In this case, though, my wife got her way and I actually returned my ill-fitting big man waders before buying new ones. Although this was mainly because waders are expensive and I wouldn’t get “budget-approved” for multiple pairs.
In the end, I ordered and returned 2 sets of waders online, went to a store and tried on about 5 pairs, picked out my favorite, then went home and ordered them online. Easy.
However, to save you the hassle (and nearly a month of shipping time) going back and forth I thought I’d document my the waders I have experience with and let you know which waders are the best for big guys.
The Best Waders for Big Guys
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How to Measure for Waders
When it comes to quality fisher waders, there are a ton on the market. If you’ve read many articles on here you’ll know that I (and my wife when she writes) are not a big proponent of the “one size fits all” idea that many bloggers push in order to make sales.
In fact, if you have the money, you could probably find a pair of waders much nice that I did simply because I didn’t look in a high price range.
So, if there are so many waders on the market, why did it take so many tries for me to find a pair that fit well? Because I’m dumb? Well, maybe. But also because the sizing of waders, particularly waders for big guys, can be confusing and varies widely from brand to brand.
The thing that made the difference for me was trying on a bunch of different sizes and then actually being taught by the salesman how to measure properly for waders and what each term means. So let’s knock that out of the way before we get into the specific models.
How to Measure for Waders
All of my life I thought I wore a size 13 shoe. It wasn’t until I got properly measured that I learned I needed a size 12 wide. It turned out to be much more than semantic however as the 12s fit much better. Like shoes, finding a well-fit wader is more than finding something comfortable. A good fit also determines the longevity of your set-up. Get too large of a wader and it will end up creasing and leaking when it bunches up and bends. So, here are the subtleties and terms you’ll need if you want to understand wader fit:
Girth: Most people think either chest size or belly size when they think of big man waders…and they’re right. For a proper girth measurement, you need to measure your largest point around. This may very well be your chest, belly, or hips depending on your body shape.
Inseam: Don’t rely on your size you normally wear in pants. In pants, inseam is heavily dictated by a compounding measurement known as “rise” (the measurement from the top of the pants to the crotch). In waders, you’ll want to get a tape measure out and measure from your crotch to the floor when barefoot.
Shoe Size: Nothing complex here. I assume you know your shoe size. Just be aware that most waders have a shoe size range that they fit. I usually get a bigger size if I’m on the edge and wear socks underneath if needed. Just be sure to size your boots accordingly.
Ignore anything that the company using as a moniker to denote sizing. For example, words like “stout, big, hefty” mean nothing. Instead, find the sizing chart and look at the size you need based on your measurements. The size on the tag means very little when it comes to fit.
Also, be aware that some companies have a certain way they want you to measure to ensure fit. This is the most common way but be sure to look at the size chart to see if there are any specific instructions.
When I started shopping for waders I was stuck on traditional “overall-style-stocking-foot” waders. However, they are not the only option and, if you’re having trouble with the fit, they are several other styles that will be simpler for you to get into.
Wader Type: There are several types of waders but, for most fishermen, it really comes down to two options: chest waders or pant waders.
Chest waders have the obvious advantages of being useful in deeper water and in colder temperatures. However, be honest, how often do you want over your waist? Or even your knees? I live and mainly fish in the Rock Mountains and very rarely am deeper than mid-thigh. Not only do are there not many opportunities to fish water than deep I just don’t enjoy it. Unless I’m wading into a lake I just have too much surface area to want to fight the current. So what’s the other option?
Pant waders are a great option for many reasons. They are easier to hike in, they weigh less, you don’t have to pull them over your belly/chest, and they are typically cheaper. The main drawbacks are that you can’t get in as deep, they are less comfortable, and they may be harder to keep up for big guys (some people use pant waders with suspenders).
In the end, either will do the job and you’ll have to figure out which one is better for your specific situation.
Foot Type: If you want the maximum level of waterproofing and warmth, a stocking-foot is hard to beat. However, if you’re looking for waders with a size 15 foot or bigger your options become rather limited. It is much easier to find a pair of waders with the proper inseam and girth measurement if you don’t also have to take foot size into account. Waders that stop at the ankle are a great option if you have an unusual foot size (either very large or very small) and can combine them with waterproof socks and fishing boots.
For our purposes, I decided not to provide one of each type in an effort to please everyone but simply choose my favorite overall. In fact, I didn’t even discriminate whether waders were meant for marshy duck hunting, fishing, etc. I simply wanted something waterproof (and preferably breathable) that fit well. And here we go!
Best Overall Choice: Frogg Toggs Grand Refuge 2.0
If you’re looking for high-quality waders then Frogg Toggs might not be the name that you had in mind. It definitely wasn’t for me. However, I checked out and tried on options from Simms, Cabela’s, and many lesser-known brands before deciding on these.
They just had so many things going for them:
The Grand Refuge is a waterproof yet breathable boot foot (with wool felt midsoles) wader that is available in a ton of sizes suitable for big men. It has heavy-duty reinforcement in all the right areas, lots of storage pockets, a locking belt, and a quick-access shell holder. Not to mention that they fit a bit large and are incredibly comfortable!
One of my favorite features of these waders in the size out insulated liner. It isn’t very heavy, providing only 120 grams of insulation but it’s extremely easy to put in/take out and wards off the chill of cold water very well.
While I typically prefer to use several layers under my waders, this can lead to feeling a bit like the Michelin Man wandering around. Having a thin layer to keep my clothing away from the inner layer of my waders means I can finish in regular pants or even shorts if I wanted to.
I’ve seen a couple of people reporting a lack of traction in these waders but I’ve never noticed an issue. In fact, I’ve always felt remarkably solid on my feet while wearing them. They are a bit different than a felt sole or a fully cleated option but for tromping through muddle/rocky streams and river fishing they provide a more than adequate solution.
At end of the day, the price, the style, a huge range of sizes, and several other factors were involved in my choice of these waders. Even though they’re the ones I ended up buying, I would not have put them first on this list if I had ended up hating them. However, after 100 or so days in them, I can firmly attest that they are an excellent option. If they have your size (and they probably do) don’t hesitate to order a pair!
Candid Deluxe Two Tone Wader
This is actually one of the waders I returned before I knew how to properly measure for wader size. I purchased these on the recommendation of a friend who guides fishing tours on the Provo River in Utah and includes these on a selected gear list that he sends all of his clients.
Even though I didn’t keep them (or fish in them for that matter) I can tell you that I, like my friend, was very impressed with the impression of quality in relation to the price.
Caddis uses proprietary fabric technology to make sure you stay absolutely dry in this stock foot wader.
It has reinforced fabric for increased abrasion resistance, double glued and stitched feet, and gravel guards which all add up to make these an incredibly comfortable and long-lasting wader.
If you are on a budget or simply want some waders for a trip then these are a very good option. However, if you’re really feeling the pinch, there’s still a cheaper pair to come!
Budget Option: Frogg Toggs Canyon II
Many people who are looking for waders with a size 15 foot end up getting something without feet simply because there are so few options. However, you only need one great option, not a dozen.
This is Frogg Togg’s second appearance on this list, this time with Canyon II, their ultra-breathable, waterproof, large-sized, yet affordable stocking foot wader.
In this wader Frogg Togg employs a proprietary fabric dubbed Dri2Pore to keep you dry from both water and sweat. It has three layers: an abrasion-resistant nylon outer shell, an extreme waterproof mid-layer, and an inner layer that is smooth and cool for an excellent use wearing experience.
Frogg Togg claims that this is a purpose-built wader that is “made for fisherman by fisherman” and I have to agree. The features and specs will please even the most diehard angler who is looking for a well-fitting pair of waters for big bellies.
The Best Wading Pant for Big and Heavy Guys
I have a body shape that lends itself to fitting into chest wader but not into wading pants (a big but droopy belly if you must know). However, if you carry most of your weight differently than I do you might that pant waders are a godsend.
This pair will fit up to a 60″ waist and keep you just as dry as traditional chest waders, so long as you stay out of deep water.
One of the aspects that is most appealing to me is that these pants are lighter, easier to walk in and allow pairing with your favorite boots. This allows you to cover much more territory than I’m comfortable trudging in my heavy neck-high waders.
They have an adjustable belt, a 4-ply nylon upper, quick release locking belt buckle and accessory loops for hanging/attaching what you need most when in the field.
While I’m personally partial to chest waders, those with a 60″ waist or smaller will be able to find a pair of these pants that will serve them well for years to come. If I even decided that I need to cover some distance to get the perfect shot or find the perfect fishing hole then these will back on my wishlist!
3 Additional Tips for Choosing Big Man Waders: Buyers Tips
Because these tips aren’t necessarily specific to big-man waders and most people are already aware of them I left them until the end. If you are an experienced fisherman feel free to ignore this part:
Thickness: When you’re looking for waders you’ll rarely see them marketed as “summer/winter weight.” However, the truth is that some waders are way warmer than others. This typically comes down to a slew of factors, including thickness, breathability, and even color. Be sure to take your main season of activity into account when deciding how warm of a wader to get.
Insulation: If you want insulation in your waders, be sure it’s removable. The more layers you can get the more you are able to control your temperature and remain in the field. Just remember that the manufacturer typically doesn’t take into account the insulated liner when providing fit measurements (that is if it’s removable).
Material: We steered away from Gore-Tex waders in this review for one simple reason: cost. However, if you are serious about fishing or hunting and need waders you should buy the highest quality fabric you can afford. It will be easier to clean, last longer, and be easier to patch if things go wrong.
At the end of the day, finding the right waders if you’re a big guy can be a matter of trial and error. However, I hope you know have the tools you need to make the right choice and get back out into the field as soon as possible. Happy fishing! (or hunting as the case may be)