In terms of gear, waders are just about as sexy to me as socks. I’d much rather fawn over new rods, nets, or a really nice wooden fly box. But, waders are a necessary fishing tool. Many years ago, I became a breathable wader convert but I had one complaint–a lack of durability. Even after trying several different brands and models, I came to the conclusion that breathable waders were pretty much “disposable” even when babied. That plus the fact that many decent waders run $300 – $400 is not a good combination. Sure, there were cheaper ones but they were pretty spartan in the features area. So imagine my elation when I found a durable, feature-packed breathable wader for $150 in the Frogg Togg Hellbender!
Breathability & Durability
The Frogg Toggs Hellbenders are stocking foot breathable waders with more features than you’d expect to find in a sub $200 package. After having worn them for about 6 months now in various conditions, I can tell you that not only are they durable, but they actually breathe! One time, I hiked a physically demanding three mile section of the S. Platte. It was quite a workout because you have to do a lot of climbing up and down a very steep bank to get from spot to spot. At the end of the full day of fishing, no condensation. The rocks and gravel of this river are also very abrasive the the Hellbenders shrugged them off (not to mention the miles of bushwhacking I’d already put on them). One feature that definitely contributes to the durability is the reinforced knee and shin area where waders typically get the most abuse. Overall, I am more than impressed with the durability and breathability of these waders.
Fit & Comfort
To me, the overall fit of these waders strikes a good balance–baggy enough to allow freedom of movement but tight enough to not make you feel like you’re wearing a sloppy garbage bag. I’m 5′ 10″ and weigh 140 pounds and a size Medium fits me perfectly. A nice touch is the elastic suspender system which is comfortable to wear all day without chaffing or restricting movement. I hate it when you bend down and your suspenders constrict you like a locked seatbelt. That doesn’t happen with these suspenders.
Storage & Organization
One of the features that I like best on these warders is the very versatile and well thought out front pocket. In fact, there’s so much storage, a tenkara angler with minimal gear could easily forgo the vesy or chest pack and just carry everything they need in the Hellbender’s pockets (in fact, I actually have on more than one occasion). Here is a basic layout of the pockets:
1. Main front pocket. This has a velcro flap closure and will easily accomodate fly boxes a camera, and other larger gear.
2. Front zip pocket. Perfect for smaller gear like lines or tippet spools.
3. Hand warmer pockets. These are fleece lined and a godsend on cold mornings or when winter fishing. You can also store quick access gear here.
4. Inside security pocket. You can’t see it in the photo because it’s inside the wader but there’s also an inside mesh security pocket that’s good for things like keys, a phone, etc.
Other Nice Touches
The waders come with integrated gravel guards which I like because it eliminates one more piece of gear I have to put on before hitting the stream (i.e. gaiters).
I also really like the belt loops that keep your wading belt forever attached to your waders so you won’t lose it.
The waders are very compact and stow in my wading box easily leaving plenty of room for my wading boots and other gear.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with these waders. They shatter the myth that a decent pair of breathable waders with lots of convenience features has to cost $400 +. I could literally buy three pairs of Hellbenders for the cost of my old Orvis Pro Guides. Assuming that all breathable waders are in some sense “disposable”, it will certainly be less painful to eventually replace these than an overpriced pair. In fact, I’m thinking about buying a second pair for when the inevitable happens because you know Murphy’s Law: If it’s good, they’ll discontinue it!