Chest Waders vs Wading Pants

fly fishermen wearing waders

When considering getting a pair of waders for fishing or hunting, there are so many options to choose from that it can be hard to know what to get. You may often see wading pants described in many ways, such as wading pants, chest waders, boot foot waders, and more.

Chest waders are a large pair of waterproof pants that hang on shoulder straps and protect your entire body from the chest down from water and the elements. Wading pants are waterproof clothing that may use a belt or straps but only goes up to hip height.

Not sure which type of pants are right for you? We’ll go through all the factors you should be aware of when deciding, including what type suits what activity, such as fishing, hunting, or weather.

Why Chest Waders Are Not the Same As Wading Pants

Chest waders and wading pants are not the same. They’re of different lengths and also offer different levels of protection from water.

Let’s take a look at some pros and cons when deciding which type of waders are the best for you.

Pros of Chest Waders

  • The larger size gives more protection from water.
  • Better for cooler temperatures.
  • More options for pockets.

Cons of Chest Waders

  • They are very bulky.
  • It won’t suit summer fishing as you’ll get too hot.

Pros of Wading Pants

  • Straightforward solution for protecting from shallow water.
  • Minimal impact on your movement.
  • Unlikely to cause high body temperature issues.

Cons of Wading Pants

  • Unsuitable for knee-high depth water or higher.

The one you choose will depend on which one is more suitable for your fishing strategy and location. Certain types of fishing won’t require heavy-duty wading gear, whereas other types l involve getting into deep bodies of water or very cold.

Why You Might Use Chest Waders Over Wading Pants

Chest waders are different from other types of wading pants as they go up to your chest. 

This means you get the complete protection of wading pants, and it covers most of your upper body. This is useful for certain fishing conditions, as rough seas or deep rivers can be unhealthy for long periods without adequate protection. 

Fishing, especially commercial fishing, may require fishermen to stand in deep water. 

Chest waders are high enough to stop all but the shoulder-high water, meaning dangerous conditions like hypothermia don’t develop.

However, waders give you an advantage for leisure fishing as you have a more extended range of water you can fish from. You can walk out from a beach or deep into a river to give you access to other areas where the fish may be.

This is also particularly useful if you don’t have a fishing boat or the area you want to get to is only accessible on foot.

Waders will come in different styles, stockingfoot or bootfoot style.


Stockingfoot waders come with an attached sock but require the additional purchase of a wading boot. They can be both chest waders and wading pants.

Stockingfoot waders have a few great features:

  • Lightweight
  • Folds up
  • You can pick the boots that you like.

Modern designs will have a cuff integrated near the ankle, allowing you to seal off the boot and wading pant leg from the outside water.

If you have a pair of wading boots that you like and are comfortable with, stockingfoot style waders will be a great choice to complement your boots. The Frogg Toggs Neoprene Stockingfoot Chest Wader is an excellent example of this style, with wetsuit material up to the chest.

Bootfoot Style

The bootfoot style has the upside that it’s all in one set as it comes with an attached boot on the waders. You can get bootfoot type for both chest waders and wading pants, but some of the downsides are:

the man presents grass seeds
  • They’re bulkier.
  • Less selection of boot choice.

In effect, you’re getting a set of wading pants and wading boots. 

The HISEA Chest Waders With Boots shows how it would work as a chest wader configuration. This can be an issue as the boots and waders will be fixed, which may not work too well with all body types.

What Material Should I Get for Wading Pants?

Neoprene is one of the best materials for wading pants but is more expensive than other options. Nylon and PVC are cheaper materials but provide less protection from the elements.

Neoprene offers excellent insulation and waterproof features, which makes it ideal for wet and cold conditions. As chest waders are also better than wading pants in colder weather, you tend to find that most chest waders are made from neoprene.

Gore-Tex and nylon are the two best choices for lighter wading pants. 

They still provide an excellent level of waterproofing, but because they breathe better and aren’t as insulating as neoprene, it’s better for warmer weather or when the sun is out.

What Is the Best Wader Height?

The best wader height covers the hips, waist, and chest. Waist height will provide the optimal level of protection in most situations while also not being too bulky to deal with. Hip waders are the shortest available waders for fishing, hunting, and other usages. 

fishermen wearing waders retrieve fish with a landing net

These will be a larger, looser pair of pants similar in appearance to chaps, and they’ll often have straps that connect to your belt to keep them in position. 

Wading pants are also commonly known as hip waders. They aren’t the same, as wading pants will fit like a pair of pants using a belt mechanism, whereas waders will tend to use straps or overall-like hooks to keep the pants from falling.

Waist height waders will be slightly larger than hip waders, using suspenders or belts to keep the waders above the beltline. This suits deeper waters as water needs to splash at least half your height to miss the waders.

Chest high waders will use shoulder straps to bring the waders covering at least your upper chest up to your armpits. These are popular with trout angling or in very rough conditions.


Wading pants have their uses in shallow waters in the warmer months. 

Whether stockingfoot or bootfoot, they enable fishing, hunting, and other messy work that can dirty up your shoes and pants to be done without incident.

Chest waders can be very warm and protect you from all kinds of harsh weather but will be annoying to transport and not necessary for anything other than heavy winds, low temperatures, or deep water.

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