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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.