Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gear Review- Redington SubZero Waders

Alex Cerveniak photo

The winter fishing season is upon us, which for me means chasing steelhead. I have been making my standard breathable waders work up until now by piling on the layers and wearing an old cut-off pair of neoprene booties inside my wader booties. While this keeps my feet warm, they are always cramped up and I feel like the Michelin Man. Winter steelheading is one of my absolute favorite pursuits, part of what makes the winters here more bearable, so imagine my response when Kara Armano in association with Redington asked if I would like to test Redington’s new SubZero waders for them.

I’m a practical guy, and for me to spend money on a product it has to be a substantial improvement over what I already own. I guess I should throw in the disclaimer now that Redington provided these waders gratis for me to test and review. What I can say, is that they are a substantial improvement to my former winter fishing outfit, and definitely worth the money. If you are a dedicated winter fisherman, or want to be but don’t like being cold, these waders are worth serious consideration.

A weekend in mid-January was the perfect opportunity to test these waders and see how I liked them. The forecast for Saturday was 35 degrees with snow and rain. The forecast for Sunday was 14 degrees with high winds and snow. I would be testing two different situations- a moderate day more akin to early spring fishing, and a cold winter day with brutal Northern Michigan conditions.

With warm (35 degree) weather on tap for Saturday my test for these waders was this- could I wear a light thermal layer and street clothes and be comfortable?

The answer was a resounding yes. I wore light wool socks, one layer of long underwear and blue jeans and a fleece. I wore a raincoat later in the day when it began to rain, and to help block the wind. At its very worst my feet were cool but not cold after hours spent standing hip-deep in frigid water, and I was never uncomfortable. I became uncomfortable walking the banks and walking out- I became way too warm.

With markedly colder temperatures on tap for Sunday my question was “Can I stay comfortable and fish for any length of time at all?”

The answer again was yes. I fished for 4 hours. Because of the harsh conditions (14 degrees, high winds, heavy snow) I dressed more appropriately. I wore the same base layer as Saturday with fleece pants over that, and a performance shirt and wool sweater on top, with a fleece hat and wool fingerless gloves. I wore a heavy wool coat over the top of all that. 14 degrees is 14 degrees. I wore a single pair of heavy wool socks.
I kicked the Sunday test off right by leaving my wet waders and boots in my car overnight. My boots were frozen so solid I had to bring them inside, kick on my furnace and let them thaw a little so I could put them on.

The result again was cool but not cold feet. What surprised me was that as the day wore on, my feet got warmer and warmer. My fishing this day involved less walking and so I never became uncomfortably hot, but I was never cold or remotely uncomfortable. I have never fished at that temperature without getting cold, and I typically won’t fish when it is below 20 degrees out. 25 is better. At one point I was wading (stupidly) well past my waist and well past what would be considered safe. I never felt the water, but the thought of what a swim in this kind of cold would do made me turn back.

It’s not just that the SubZeros kept me warm. They are very comfortable to wear and are cut on the roomy side to accommodate a heavy coat. I wore my wool jacket on the outside and was able to very comfortably stow my 35 mm DSLR camera down the front of them.

Alex Cerveniak photo

Some nice features include internal and external storage pockets, and a roomy and very cleverly  designed hand warmer pocket with a unique closure that allows easy access while retaining heat. The SubZeros are a hybrid design, meaning that the legs are 3mm and the feet are 5mm neoprene, while the upper is breathable material. This results in a comfortable wader. The seams are heavily taped, the crotch gusseted, and key areas such as the knees have a special coating for abrasion and puncture resistance. A surprising design feature is that the neoprene extends well past the waist line in the back, but the crotch is breathable material (remember the two hottest areas of the human body from survival class?). Again, the result is a balance of comfort and warmth.

This review is a touch premature- I have worn them a total of 2 times, but for my purposes I had only 2 questions- Are they comfortable, and will they keep me warm. The answer to both is yes. I may update this later on the question of durability and features, but I do know this- the SubZeros are going to be my go-to waders for the rest of the winter and I will be fishing more because I know I can fish colder temperatures comfortably. This is going to be one short winter.

SubZero waders retail for $299.95. Be sure and check them out at and get ready for some good winter fishing.