The Search for Ultralight Waders

The Search for Ultralight Waders

Waders are a critical component of your wilderness float tubing gear.  They keep you dry and warm when fishing in the cool water of high mountain lakes.  The lightest breathable, stocking foot wader is the ultimate goal, and of course, price is a consideration.  Fortunately float tubing does NOT require bullet proof waders! Unlike waders worn through brambles and shoreline obstacles when wading a stream, those used exclusively for float tubing see light duty and will last years with reasonable care.  Purchase the lightest waders and then modify them (see below) specifically for float tubing to ensure you are carrying the lightest, most packable waders.  Wilderness Lite will continue evaluating waders to recommend those optimal for use with your Backpacker Pro ultralight float tube in remote wilderness lakes.

We also appreciate hearing of your experience.  Please email us with any input you can offer on ultralight stocking foot waders—and especially, on those you’ve packed into the wilderness.

First, skepticism is the rule when shopping for ultralight waders.  “Ultralight” is a relative term—is it ultralight compared to a boot foot wader, or has the manufacturer really made a diligent effort to produce waders as light and packable as possible? Advertised as "ultralight" is often NOT ultralight.

Here is a link to an example…
the Ultralight Convertible stocking foot waders from Orvis.  We applaud their effort to offer an "ultralight" wader! But with “approximate weight (medium /regular) 35 oz/995g” these are best described as light weight, not as ultralight waders.  Every ounce counts when packing into the mountains.  There are ultralight waders weighing ½ pound less than these.  When shopping for ultralight waders, it is best to verify the exact weight to the 0.1 oz for a specific size before purchase—and to confirm they can be returned if you weigh them and find them heavier than advertised.

Manufacturers who publish weight of their waders to the 0.1 oz are indicating they are truly committed to making the lightest and most packable waders possible.  And, it is also much more likely that the advertised weight will indeed be the true weight of the waders you receive after purchase.

Such precise weight was provided by Patagonia for their Middle Fork Packable Waders advertised at 26.1 ozs (for size medium/regular).  Size large/regular that we wear are 32.8 ozs weighed after purchase.  Unfortunately, these have been discontinued and replaced by Swiftcurrent Ultralight Waders, which are heavier (36.0 oz) and more expensive ($500) than the Middle Fork waders. Patagonia included unique design features--such as seamless rubber booties--specifically to reduce weight yet deliver performance.  We used a pair of Middle Forks for 9 day wilderness float tubing hikes from 2019-2022 and they performed perfectly. They packed incredibly small to just 12"x4" in their stuff sack, and they could be reduced in weight by DIY modifications.  The heavy wader belt (2.5oz) was replaced with a minimalist one weighing just 0.8oz to reduce weight. (see our website to order an ultralight wading belt sold as a component of the Day Hike backpacking straps used to carry your inflated Backpacker Pro short distances between adjacent lakes). Since we used these only for ultralight float tubing, we also carefully cut off the gravel guards to further reduce them to 28.2 ozs total weight for the size large/regular.  And we'd be using them again for a fifth year in 2023, BUT a customer recently alerted us to Redington Crosswater waders. Right out of the box with no modifications, size large weigh just 30.5 oz.  With modifications including changing the wader belt and suspenders and removing the gravel guards, they become the lightest breathable waders we've seen in years, just 25.4 ozs for size large!  Our customer has tested these in the wilderness with great success, and we did the same during 2023.  THEY WORKED GREAT, and will be the go-to wader for the Wilderness Lite team throughout 2024.  And they are on sale at Avidmax for $99.  Ironically, when Avidmax describes the waders, they're noted as NOT ultralight...perhaps simply because the manufacturer does not use "ultralight" in the name of the waders.  They are ULTRALIGHT!

Another lightweight--not ultralight--alternative has proven durable for the Wilderness Lite team after multiple extended hikes to wilderness lakes.  Heavier at 35.1 ozs (size large, regular out of the box) are the Compass 360 Deadfall stocking foot waders.  Their weight can also be reduced a few ozs by DIY modifications such as changing the wader belt and suspenders and removing the gravel guards. 

Please continue to check our Wilderness Lite website for the latest in ultralight stocking foot wader information, and please share your ultralight wader experience with us at
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