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Review: Redington Sonic Pro Zip Front Waders (Are Sonic-Welded Waders Reliable?)

By Tom Chandler 8/23/2012 5 minutes

Redington Sonic Pro Zip Front Waders

I held my breath while doing it, but over the last two years I wore and reviewed two pair of sonic-welded seam fly fishing waders, and I'm happy to report I remain dry. (I review the Orvis Pack & Travel waders here).

The sonic seams never failed, and even better, I was impressed by the Redington Sonic Pro Zip Front waders.

In simple terms, they're astonishingly good.

The sonic seam technology is interesting; instead of sewing seams together -- which are taped to become waterproof -- Redington "welds" the two pieces of fabric together with sound, which they suggest results in a longer-wearing, more comfortable seam.

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I can't speak to the durability of the Redington waders beyond the nine months I used them, but I wore a pair of Orvis SonicSeam waders for two seasons with no leaks.

So far, so good.

But first, a few words about that big zipper running down the front of the Sonic Pro Zip Front waders.

What's The Zipper Worth?

Redington Sonic Pro Zip waders
Everyday waders -- which I liked a lot

At the start of this test, I viewed zippered waders with some suspicion. In this case, the zipper adds $100 to the cost of the Sonic Pro wader ($279 to $379), and the reasons often cited for its use (easier to put waders on, easier to take a wiz) aren't exactly compelling.

In fact, after using them, I wouldn't consider paying $100 for ease of assembly.

But I might consider paying the extra $100 for something else.

Ventilation.

The first time I wore the Redington Sonic Pros was early winter. Thinking I'd spend hours standing hip-deep in 45 degree water only a couple hundred yards from the car, I layered for warmth.

So when I arrived and found someone else already fishing, I needed to take a hike down the railroad tracks. Which meant I was about to do a reasonable imitation of a sweat ball.

Then I remembered the zipper.

My brother told me about a backcountry equipment geek who attached sensors to his body so he could measure the breathability of hardshell jackets. He found differences between different jacket fabrics, but all those differences paled in relationship to the simple act of unzipping the zipper (or pit zips).

In other words, breathable fabrics are all well and nice, but nothing works like ventilation.

Which is what the zipper provided on these waders.

Since that day I've fished these waders in cold and hot, and learned several important lessons:

    • The zipper is a great way to ventilate yourself when hiking in waders

    • Manufacturers who tout zippers because they make it easier to wiz are missing the boat

    • You really, really don't want to forget you're unzipped when wading into icy, waist-deep water (zoinks!)


Zipper Or Not, They Were Excellent

Beyond the zipper, the Redingtons were simply excellent. For me, a key test of a wader is what happens when you try to step over a sizable log.

Does it bind, leaving you stuck halfway over and feeling helpless?

In that sense, the Redingtons were champs; the freedom of movement was exceptional, and I never once experienced a problem getting over obstacles (or even into trouble). It was a little like I was wearing jeans (given the differences in fit, I obviously can't guarantee the same for you).

Two outside handwarmer pockets, two outside vertical zip pockets and an internal zip pocket provide more storage than waders probably need, and extra layers of fabric on the lower leg should help protect you from the dreaded pinhole leak.

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The straps were substantial, and the waders include built-in gravel guards (which I could easily live without).

One caveat; the first time I wore the Redingtons the seams in the (ahem) crotch area were a little stiff. To say I experienced some discomfort on that first hike is akin to saying Donald Trump is a little irritating.

By the second trip the problem was gone, but I suggest your first trip in your shiny new Redington waders shouldn't involve a lot of hiking.

You've been warned.

Also, these are a traditional wader design; they don't quickly convert to a wader pant (like some other designs), though the existence of the zipper would tend to offset that limitation.

They also feature built-in gravel guards, which are common, but I don't love them. Call it a pet peeve.

The Big Summary

Somebody at Redington was paying attention; these are not bargain-brand knockoffs featuring an attractive price and an utter lack of refinement.

They function and fit beautifully, and I tended to forget I had them on. I won't pretend I've worn every wader on the market, but I will say I'd buy these and wear them every day.

I was impressed enough that when a guide started looking for a new source of waders for himself and his rental waders, I suggested he look very, very hard at Redington's gear.

Obviously, I didn't test these waders to destruction and can't speak to the years-long durability of the sonic seams, but then, I've never had a pair of waders last a year before the inevitable pinholes or seam leaks appeared.

My limited experience suggests sonic-welded seams are not a gimmick. Whether their advantages really accrue to anglers (last longer, more comfortable) or manufacturers (cheaper to make) isn't clear yet, though I know we'll see more of them.

One more thing: You can buy a pair of zipperless Redington Sonic Pro waders for $279 (MSRP) instead of the zippered model's $379 price tag, so the question of the zipper's value is more than philosophical in nature.

If you hike a lot then maybe... yes. If not, then consider saving your cash.

Either way, I liked these waders.

See you nice and dry, Tom Chandler.

Destinations
 (2)
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
 (4)
If fly wranglers were gossips, the “Blue Ribbon” Madison River would likely be their primary object of attention. Arguably it’s the most talked over, written up and frequented river ... morein the entire state of Montana – and that’s saying something. What’s more, no one has anything bad to say about it and that’s for a good reason. There’s nothing bad to say. Its scenic journey begins in Yellowstone National Park at the convergence of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers and continues for 19 miles through parkland. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and sorry to disappoint, but it’s catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters the Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hegman releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

//
Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintain relatively low water levels and provide wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Trips
$
525
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
The Lower Madison provides memorable angling adventures. The river begins below Ennis Lake, flows through the majestic Beartrap Canyon and 35 miles downstream to the Headwaters of ... morethe Missouri River. Because it is dam-controlled, the Lower Madison can be reliable when stream flows are higher in the Spring, and in late Fall when water temperatures start to drop elsewhere. Although not as well known as its upstream neighbor, The Upper Madison, the Lower is an exceptional fishery that can produce trout in attractive numbers and size. The Lower Madison is mostly known as a Brown and Rainbow trout fishery, though some cutthroats do exist in the river. Prolific hatches and large numbers of crayfish and sculpins make for very well-fed fish in The Lower Madison.
$
495
/ Angler
Capacity:
2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Destination:
Come to the Madison River Valley for some spring fishing on the Madison River before run-off begins mid-May. Fly fishing the warmer days of spring can be very productive on the Madison ... moreRiver in Montana. Fish streamers, nymphs and baetis dries. The fishing pressure is minimal in springtime near Ennis and Cameron, Montana. Spend a day with a fly fishing guide from Riverborn Outfitters and the Rainbow Valley Lodge, and fish for huge rainbows and big brown trout in March and April.

As of 2016, there is no closed season for the Madison River. This is your opportunity to fish for hungry rainbows and browns which are coming off a long winter. And we have special prices! Two Nights Spring Fishing Package is based on Double Occupancy.
$
400
-
$
450
/ Angler
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
4 hours - 1 day
Fishing Waters:
Destination:
If you don't like dirt roads, small rivers and big trout, then this is not the river for you! Located in the heart of the Ruby valley and just outside the town of Alder, the area is ... morebrimming with history and rustic charm. The Ruby is a river you hear a lot about but don't get many specifics. And, that's the way the locals like it. That's where MFFT comes in--we know which turns to make, which flies to fish and which bridges are public and where all those Rocky Mountain jewels, that we call trout, live and play.
Outfitters
Welcome to Zach Neville Outfitters. With over 10 years experience, we are one of Bozeman, Montana's premiere fly fishing guide services. We offer float and walk/wade fly fishing trips ... moreon southwest Montana's finest trout waters. Here in Bozeman we are centrally located among The Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, Missouri and Bighorn rivers. In addition to this, we have access to some of the best private water in the region. At Zach Neville Outfitters it is our mission to provide you with a fun, safe and educational day on the water regardless of your background or level of experience.
Type:
Fishing

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

10 comments
Tim: Why on earth are people so aggressively anti zipper? Initially, they cost a lot. Even in this case, they bump the wader price from $279 to $379, which is sizable lump of cash. I think the zipper has its uses, but for me, it's hardly a no-brainer, at least not when you're talking about adding an additional 36% to the price of the wader.
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I bought the Reddington front zips this spring. Due to an insane work schedule I've used them exacly twice, so I can't speak to their longevity. But here's my 2 cents: Why on earth are people so aggressively anti zipper? I get that you don't want leaky waders. Duh. But none of my friends will so much as admit that zippered waders are INSANELY more user friendly. I'm not just talking about on/off. ... more What about when you have to piss and you're wearing a jacket AND a chest pack. NO PROBLEM with the front zips. Plus it's so nice to unzip them on hot days. Why are anglers to resistant to change? When I'm fishing, I'm usually drinking lots of A) water B) coffee or C) beer, or perhaps all 3. I freaking love that I can piss without taking off my chest pack or having to undue the shoulder straps. So while I can't yet attest to reliability, I'm giving them 6 out of 5 stars for ease of use.
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paul worsterberg of the deplacements: still in the market for waist-highs though. thoughts there??Not really. Didn't test any. You might want to look at chest waders where the suspenders attach at the waist instead of on the top of the chest. You can roll down the upper part and still have suspenders attached to your waist pants, which is what's usually needed to keep them up.Don't ... more the Patagonia Rio Gallegos work like this? Fraid I don't have time to check right now...
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paul worsterberg of the deplacements: oh and the wiz factor is an incredible benefit! Clearly, I need some younger readers.
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The Classic Trout rods are awfully nice, no doubt. If I'm going to fish graphite, I think the Orvis Superfines have kinda spoiled me tho. One note about the Redington waders; the process they use to sonic-weld the seams is licensed from Orvis, who developed and patented it.
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Owned my Sonic zipper front for about 1 yr and it was an excellent product. No leaks despite a few falls into sharp rocks and branches. The seams and other features are very professionally done. The leg material seems very durable. The zippered front was worth the extra money; float tubing tends to mask an overextended bladder and added convenience was a trip-saver. The factory service seems first ... more rate. The wife bought a discontinued women's wader (non-Sonic) from Reddington. When she experience a (sewn) seam failure, Reddington replaced her wader without a question or charge.
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oh and the wiz factor is an incredible benefit!
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yo tom--thanks for the review. i have the same pair and i agree on all accounts on the chest-highs. great fit, good mobility, etc. BUT, i first went with the waist-highs. maybe i just had bad luck, but on the first day out, both feet filled up. sent 'em back. with the second pair, i wore them 5-ish times. i hiked a lot. the last time i wore them, again, both boots filled up by the end of the day. ... more the right boot filled, though, as a result of a wear-hole in the right inside of the knee. i was very disappointed. reddington gave me the option to upgrade for free to the zip chesties, which i did and have been very happy with for the 5-ish times i've warn them. still in the market for waist-highs though. thoughts there??
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Tom...when you reach the enlarged prostate stage in your life your attitude will change about zippers....they are about the best thing improvement in waders... wiz and cast at the same time.....awsome...my waders are Dan Bailey and are still working after 4 years....Reddington is hot...we like our classic trout fly rods
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[...] say the seams never leaked. (Neither did they leak on the Redington Sonic Pro Zipper Front waders I reviewed [...]
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