Review by Courtney Neal
Nothing kills a day of fishing fun faster than leaky waders. Wet-footed in the Campbell River on a trip for chinook salmon last fall, I knew it was time to let my pair of old Patagonia Spring River Waders die. They had been a lot of places with me, patched and patched again, and it was time. Having worn a few different brands, I can say that Patagonia has long been my favorite for waders due to their quality, service, and fit. Unfortunately, at the time when I needed to replace my old pair of discontinued Spring Rivers, the rollout of the new Patagonia Women's Swiftcurrent Waders had been delayed due to Covid-19 and supply chain issues. So as my winter steelhead trip loomed, I was delighted to find a shipment of the new waders had landed in the shop.
This past week, I spent five days hiking around Vancouver Island's Cowichan Valley in my new waders looking for some early winter steelhead. While there are a lot of well established trails, this trip required a lot of bushwhacking to get to some of the best water. I can't think of a better way to put a new pair of waders through its paces. The sizing on these waders is bang on. I am 5'6", 160 lbs with a size 8 foot and a MRM (medium, regular length, medium foot) fit me perfectly, with just enough extra length in the legs to make scrambling over logs and kneeling in the water a breeze. The articulated knees and gusseted crotch aid movement when kneeling, crouching, and climbing. Padded knees, like those featured in the Patagonia Men's Swiftcurrent Expedition Waders, would sure be a nice touch (hint, hint, Patagonia...).
Putting on close to 50km hiking winter trails in a garment in near zero temps really tests its mettle. The midweight fabric of these waders was light enough to be breathable and comfortable but not so heavy to be a burden. I often find myself wishing that someone would make a heavier women's wader for boat fishing and trips like these, but found that the midweight fabric held up well through rose bushes and icy conditions. I didn't get too warm and sweaty nor too cold. The ripstop fabric on the gravel guards is a plus, I always tear my waders in this spot and ended up with only a small hole here at the end of this trip, with no leaks or issues elsewhere. The neoprene booties are thick and fleecy on the inside, making them easy to take on and off, though I found they were a tighter fit in boots than my last waders, so definitely try them for size with boots for the right fit for you.
One of the best features of these waders is the drop seat technology, brought along from the Spring Rivers, which allows one to pull waders down to take a bio break without removing a jacket. It's an awesome ability to have when it's cold and raining, just undo the wading belt, undo the front clips and the buckle at the back, and slide down. The only down side is that if one were not very flexible, it might be difficult to do that buckle on the back up without assistance. The wading belt has changed since the Spring Rivers. Once a simple elastic strap with a buckle, it is now dually adjustable and is ruched to stretch at the back. It feels more secure and yet is very comfortable and easy to adjust the tightness with the belt on as both sliders are at the front. I appreciated the convertible top when the weather warmed up to a balmy nine degrees one afternoon. The tabs on the straps flip up, and the waders roll down easily and comfortably.
There were a couple of things I wasn't a fan of. The lightweight fabric on the exterior of front pocket was a little snaggy while bushwhacking, and a hook from one of my flies poked through. That has never happened with the previous generation waders with the wader fabric on the exterior. This fabric stretches a bit and pokes out, adding bulk where I don't need it. I used to keep my phone in my front pocket but this fabric feels more flimsy and less protective, so I don't feel like that pocket is as useful to me now. I do like the width of the zipper across the top along with diagonal pocket styling. I used the fleece lined front pass through pocket behind the front pocket a lot while swinging flies.
The other thing that just didn't work for me was the interior TPU-waterproof pocket. My phone was too tall to fit in it sideways, and so had to go length wise and that made it really hard to flip it in and out of the waders. So much for that super quick fish pic! I realize my phone being too big is a me problem, but with the size of phones nowadays, I would expect a pocket made to fit a phone would fit most phones. The other thing is that pocket traps heat and moisture as one hikes with it next to the body. I had a giant wet spot on my front where my clothing wasn't breathing on the first day and so I just flipped it out of the waders while hiking to avoid that. It flopped around as I walked and I didn't really like that. It would be better placed under the arm, like on the Patagonia Men's Expedition Zip Fronts. While I'm grateful to have a place to put my phone, I might just cut it off and move it because it feels like it's in the way.
I feel like a good fit in a wader is second only to its quality and durability. If I had to give these waders a rating, I'd give them a 8.5/10. Just to put things into perspective, there isn't another women's wader on the market that I'd give a higher rating to. The Patagonia Women's Swiftcurrent Waders are absolutely one of the best women's waders on the market, I simply wish for more features supportive of a hard week's fishing and heavy use.
In summary, I really like:
- Made with recycled content
- Durable scuff guards with rip stop fabric
- Articulated knees and gusseted crotch make scrambling easy
- Fleece lined pass through handwarmer pocket with fold under velcro tab
- Convertible top for comfort when hiking
- Drop seat technology
- Newly styled wading belt
- Fit is spot on
- Overall, very comfortable waders to spend a week in
- Price point is reasonable at $549 CAN
I'm torn on:
- Interior TPU-waterproof pocket does not flip out easily, does not breathe when hiking, and does not fit some phones. But I'd rather have it than not since the midweight front fabric pocket seems less sturdy.
- The midweight fabric. Why are there only midweight options available for women at the intro price point of men's waders? What if there are women who want a high end performance wader with features that go as hard as they do?
- Neoprene booties seem to be thicker, fit tighter in my boots than spring river waders but fleecy lining is really nice for taking off and warmth.
- Lightweight fabric on exterior of front pocket
- No knee pads in the women's wader
- Only one price point of women's waders available from Patagonia