The new Orvis PRO Wader was created with fishing guides and hardcore fishing junkies in mind. GearJunkie’s Morgan Nowels put them to the test.
I guide full-time and absolutely abuse waders. I’ve been known to slide down snow-covered mountainsides in waders, bushwhack through the thickest briar patches on the river, and proceed to bunch my waders into a ball and throw them in the back of a truck filled with other gear. The result? I’ve owned a lot of leaky waders.
Before the release of the new Orvis PRO Wader, I was fishing in two sets of waders: the Simms G4Z and the Orvis Silver Sonic Guide waders. I’d primarily wear the G4Zs and would wear the Silver Sonics when the G4Zs were in for repair.
Read on to see how my old waders stack up to my experience with the Orvis PRO Wader.
Orvis PRO Wader Review
I can sum up my first impression of the new waders in two words: amazing fit.
That was a huge deal for me. My Simms waders were my primary waders because they fit right. And to be honest, the Orvis Silver Sonics fit awful.
I followed Orvis’ size chart when I ordered my old Silver Sonics, but they didn’t fit well. The legs were so tight that I couldn’t bend my knee in them. Yet, from the waist up, the waders were the size of a small hot air balloon. The booties pinched my toes tight and bunched up my socks. They were genuinely uncomfortable.
Orvis fixed all of that with the new PRO Wader ($498, available for both men and women). I’m 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, and the medium-long size fit me perfectly. I can bend my leg and have full range of motion.
There’s no excess room in the top half of the waders. I have enough room for layering during wintertime fishing, but the upper is far from baggy. The booties are 10 times more comfortable and don’t cause the problem with my socks bunching up. My first impression? Ecstatic.
A Whole Set of Neat Features
The waders have similar features to other high-end waders on the market. There is one main front zippered pouch on the chest, with a removable flip-out pocket on the interior. They have a kangaroo-style handwarming pocket that sits behind the outer pocket.
Orvis slipped in some other cool, unique features. There’s a zippered mesh pocket located on the interior of the chest that’s actually built into the wader. I always remove the detachable interior pockets of waders because they annoy me. They’re always dangling and get in the way of everything. With the new pocket, I can remove the pocket I don’t like but still have a streamlined interior pocket that stays out of the way.
Orvis provided zippers to enclose the kangaroo handwarmer pouch. Other manufacturers often leave this pocket wide open, and I’ve found the edges of the fleece near the openings get wet in severe weather. That makes the handwarming pocket not all that warm. Now, I can just zip the pocket shut in bad weather. Many waders don’t have this.
There is a rubberized tab on the top of the chest as a place to attach all of your tools. I don’t use it because I don’t like things dangling off my chest. But it’s really cool, and it even says “PRO” on it. Makes you look super legit, bro.
Finally, the waders have removable, interior knee pads. At first, I was unsure if I would leave them in or remove them. I opted to leave them in, and I love it. When crawling and fishing on my knees, I no longer get those lovely, painful jabs from rocks on my kneecaps. Yeah, I know I could have just put regular old kneepads over my old waders, but really, who does that? Stop doing that, fellow anglers.
A Solid, Durable Build
The upper portion of the PRO Wader is constructed with four layers. Around the entire bottom leg and the front thigh, the waders are constructed with five layers for added durability. This system is pretty typical of high-end waders.
I do wish the five-layer portion went around the entire upper leg in the back and into the seat. I’d be willing to bet that Orvis omitted the five layers in those areas to enhance mobility and reduce weight. But, to be honest, I’d rather have the extra durability.
Orvis did a great job with seam placement, especially in the crotch of the wader. I’ve owned some waders where the crotch has a separate small patch with numerous seams attaching it to the leg. I’ve found waders built like that to be extremely prone to leakage.
The portion of the PRO wader that makes up the crotch is one piece with minimal seams that runs all the way down to the knee. This smart design makes the crotch much less susceptible to leaks.
After fishing in these waders for 2 months, I have yet to have a single leak. Believe it or not, I’ve never had a set of waders last that long without springing at least a pinhole leak. So, thus far, I have no durability issues.
A Win for Gravel Guards
The gravel guards are also very unique. They aren’t the typical neoprene guards you see on Simms waders, and they don’t have an elastic bottom that you see across virtually every other wader manufacturer.
My boots don’t have a metal ring near the toe to attach a gravel guard clip to, so I usually end up clipping the gravel guard to a lace. But it rarely stays put. Because of the design of my boots and the lack of elastic or neoprene in the gravel guard on the PRO waders, I was worried the gravel guards would be too loose and flip up throughout the day.
I experienced the exact opposite with these guards. While there is virtually no elastic on the booties, they fit very snug around the top of my boot. That snugness makes them a little more difficult to fold over the top of my boots, but that extra hassle at the start of the day pays off huge dividends. I have yet to have the gravel guards flip up, even when standing in extremely swift water for long periods.
The Few Downsides
As you can probably tell, I love my new Orvis waders. However, I do have two issues with them.
First, the shoulder straps can be difficult to put on. I usually clip one shoulder strap on, then reach around and pull the second strap over my shoulder to clip it in.
For some reason, this is fairly difficult to do with these waders. I can clip the first strap in, but then it’s virtually impossible to reach the second strap and stretch it to get it to go over my shoulder. I found that I have to flip both straps over my shoulders before clipping either in.
It’s a better problem than what I experienced with my Orvis Silver Sonic Waders, though. Those wader straps were super loose, and they’d never stay in the tightened position. Once you get the straps clipped in on the PROs, they aren’t going anywhere.
The second issue isn’t an issue, but more of a wish. I wish Orvis made these waders in a zippered version. Virtually every other big player in the wader market has a zippered wader. Orvis used to make a zippered wader, but it doesn’t now. Zippered waders are awesome. Give the people a zipper, Orvis.
Overall, Orvis has completely changed my view on its waders with the new PRO line. In the past, I would have never recommended an Orvis wader to anyone. I experienced too many issues with them: bad fit, leaks galore, loose shoulder straps, etc. Other companies were simply doing a better job.
It seems that Orvis has fixed all of my past issues. The brand added some cool features, and it’s obvious that its product team thought these waders through. I would highly recommend these waders to anyone, and Orvis definitely deserves your consideration in your next wader purchase. I know I’ll be wearing them on the water this season.
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