|Alex Cerveniak photo|
I have some Redington, Rio, and fishpond swag to give away, so be sure to enter at the bottom of this post.
For years waders for me were a sandwich bag. They sheathed and protected that which was important to me (lunch or myself), but I didn't give much thought to them. Neoprene was a big breakthrough for me. Imagine that in July.
At some point my friend Tim started on me about breathable waders, how they would change my life. He was right, but even then I only bought store-brand, relatively cheap models. They were a revelation, but wore out in short order. I went through several pairs of cheap waders, enduring bad fit, thin material and slow leaks.
Over the years it seems that I fish more and more, not less and less. With the rate that I burn through cheap gear it has started to make economic and logistical sense to buy better brand-name gear. After all, if I wear out a pair of waders only once a year, that's fewer trips ruined or put off while I scramble for new ones.
Imagine my joy and surprise when Redington sent me a pair of their Sonic-Pro Zip Front waders to test. These are their premium waders, with welded flat seams (instead of stitched) and a water proof zipper that extends down to the waist.
|Comfort and style. And Steelhead.|
First impressions- these are sharp looking waders, stylish even. Next I noticed the wading belt- it is quite wide, thick and elastic, making it very comfortable. I took these waders fishing right away and I immediately noticed a difference in the feel of the seams. The welding process leaves them noticeably flatter than stitching- it really does make a difference and in my opinion more comfortable than stitched waders. I'm a bit of a bull in a china shop, so for me to notice this means something. Another plus, was that unlike my other brand name waders, the hook on the gravel guards actually stays hooked to my wading boots. This was a major pet peeve which the Sonic-Pros solved.
|a good look at the design and features. And another steelhead|
Some initial concerns? I thought I was having a fit problem, but then realized that no one designs waders to have a DSLR camera shoved down the front of them, a hazard of having bloggers review waders. I shifted the way I wear my camera- problem solved.
The other concern was more of an adjustment- I'm used to having one big storage pocket on the front of my waders which I always over-stuff, and with a zipper smack down the middle of them, the Sonic Pro Zip Fronts have to divide this space up. There are multiple pockets in the front, including an interior pocket that is just the right size for your cell phone or keys. I simply had to use smaller fly boxes and keep unnecessary items in my back pack. It's probably time for me to look into one of those handy fishpond chest packs. Redington provides plenty of storage on these waders and I only mention it because it did change the way I manage my gear.
What do I love about these waders? Again, the welded seam construction is noticeable in comfort- you'll really like these. Perhaps the biggest feature that sets these apart is the zipper. Donning and taking off your waders is always a bit of a job no matter how long you've been doing this. The zipper makes a monumental difference in ease of wader removal. If you're a guy (sorry ladies- I have no idea if this helps you at all) it also greatly facilitates the ease of rest breaks if you know what I mean. Of course you do. And yes, the zipper is completely waterproof. It can be a little stiff to operate, but you'd expect that in a waterproof zipper.
|The Sonic-Pros in action. Alex Cerveniak photo.|
I really like these waders. I have about 50 trips on them, with an average of 5+ hours per trip, and at least 50 dry hiking miles on them, much of that through thick brush and swamp. One of my first outings in them was a 12 hour streamer float on the Pere Marquette river with Steve Martinez of Indigo Guide Service. I spent the day with my knees propped against a metal brace in his boat and managed to fray the material, but the reinforced knees seem to work as these waders still don't leak. I have worn them under all conditions you can think of- winter and spring fishing for steelhead, night fishing for browns, bushwhacking in the UP (Upper Peninsula) for brook trout, stalking the jagged rocky flats of Lake Michigan for smallmouth and carp. They have relegated my other brand name pair of waders to the closet for back up.
Now comes the confession. As I was preparing to write this review, disaster struck. Two weeks ago I noticed that the zipper had a catch to it. The next day it failed completely. In consulting with Redington their reply was "Just be honest". Not that I wouldn't have been, but it was a difficult moment. I really like these waders and really like the zipper feature. It makes life a lot easier. I think I've outlined that I am really hard on gear (after all, I've broken 5 rod tips in the last year, one of them twice). It could be that I've over-stressed the zipper by having the camera shoved down the front. They're obviously not designed for that. In consulting with Redington they say that they have only heard of one other zipper failure, the result of zipping a stick into the zipper. I am constantly in and out of my waders (yes I take my cell phone fishing) and so such a scenario is also likely. I love these waders and love the zipper feature and would not hesitate to buy them- I'd just be more careful. After all, any mechanical device has the inherent possibility of failure. If the zipper is a concern to you then consider getting the regular Sonic-Pro waders as these have the same great style, comfort and features without the zipper. Redington stands behind all of their products with an outstanding warranty. You can check it out by clicking the link here. Redington's customer service and warranty department strive to help out any customer no matter the problem. They are really great to work with. (And just remember to say "no" if I ever ask to borrow your waders.)
The Redington Sonic-Pro Zip Front waders retail for $379.95, which puts them in the middle of the pack price wise. If you fish a lot (or want waders that will last) and comfort and ease of use matter to you I highly recommend them.
Okay- here's your chance to win some swag. I have three Redington T-shirts, three fishpond hats or visors, and three Rio Powerflex trout leaders to give away as well as assorted stickers. Three winners will be drawn. The proviso is that the I have one XXL T and two Medium T's- I'll try to match winners with sizes, but you may get what you get. Swag is swag.