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Waders and Tubing Footwear

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Waders and Tubing Footwear
CoolIn my early years of tubing, I did not wear waders while tubing. I waited until the water was warm enough to prevent hypothermia (or neutering) and just splashed out with swimming trunks, shorts or even an old pair of long pants. A pair of trashed "tennies" was the only footwear, if I wore footwear at all. Often I just went barefoot inside a pair of diving fins. Of course, getting some damage from broken glass and other unseen hazards during the launching and beaching process gradually convinced me not to go barefoot any more.

In the 70's, there were several manufacturers that came out with lightweight "stockingfoot" waders that were ideal for float tube fishing. I tried the rubber "Seal Dry" waders first. They worked, as long as I did not lean over too far backwards. The top of the waders was not high enough to prevent taking on water if you did not remain upright in your donut.

In the late 70's, the Red Ball company started making a vinyl coated lightweight fabric wader that was ideal for tubing. They came in a small pouch, and were kind of like an "all over raincoat" for tubers. All you had to do was put on enough layers underneath to keep you warm, and slip on that flimsy but tough covering. I got about two active seasons out of each pair, before they began separating at the seams. I would still buy them for cool to warm water fishing, where my primary aim was to stay dry, rather than warm. However, the company was sold to the LaCrosse company, and the lightweights are no longer available.

I am a big boy, and I have had trouble finding XXL lightweight and neoprene waders that were true to their rated size. Many of these are made in asian countries where XL would be anybody over 5'10". I have ordered and returned several pairs of waders over the years that just would not get the job done.

Thankfully, manufacturers have finally realized that they have a lot of "plus size" customers out there, and you can now find good quality waders in a wide range of larger sizes...tall, stout, etc. And, you generally get what you order.

Almost any "stocking foot" wader should be protected with some form of hard soled shoe or bootie when tubing. There are not many hazards to waders or anglers while out in the water, but there is a need for protection while launching, beaching or hiking in between vehicle and water.

Some quality neoprene waders come with a thin sole of harder rubber. No boots required. Some are very soft and vulnerable. You can elect to simply wear shoes or sandals while walking on hard ground...removing them while fishing...or you can put something permanent over the waders as part of the prelaunch ceremonies.

The simplest and cheapest solution, if you can find them large enough, are the popular "reef walkers" or "pool slippers". These have lightweight colorful nylon uppers and a cut resistant sole of rubber or vinyl. They slip on and off easily, and the heel helps hold your fin straps more securely. Straps slip off plain neoprene wader feet fairly easily and you risk losing one or both. Not good.

Next, again if your feet are small enough, and you can find them large enough to fit over your wader feet, are sports shoes (tennies). It's okay to pick up a cheap pair of well worn shoes at a yard sale, and it doesn't matter how much tread they have left.

Then, there are the fancy schmancy wading boots, worn by fly floggers to wade in running water. Many of these have felt soles, to prevent slipping on slick rocks. Not necessary for tubing. The shoes are bulky, too, and you need special fins with straps that allow you to wear such shoes. Very few diving fins (with foot pockets and heel straps) will accomdate a wading boot.

Most seasoned floatation fisherfolk come to prefer the use of divers' boots...also called "flats boots" by many anglers who have adopted them for fishing. These are typically neoprene, with zippers to facilitate getting in and out of them. I use them for tubing in warmer waters, where I do not need waders with neoprene feet. I can't find them in large enough sizes to allow my size 13 feet and several layers of socks and wader to enter comfortably. I used to try cramming my wadered feet into such booties, but paid a price in foot cramps and cold feet due to contriction of circulation.

I have been using a couple of pairs of Cabelas float tubing booties for over twenty years. They are designed with an open back, a spacious foot capacity (for waders) and wraparound flaps with Velcro fastening. I should have bought a dozen pair when they first came out. They quit selling them and I don't know what I am going to do for cold water tubing when my last pair wears out.

Buying waders and footwear is a combination of being a matter of preference and your budget constraints. You can buy inexpensive waders, but you usually pay a price in poor quality. The cheapest ones seam to develop leaks more quickly and experience seam failures more often. This is especially true of the lightweight waders that include the "breathable" feature...wicking out moisture inside, while keeping the water outside. That kind of fabric develops lots of little pinhole leaks with only minimum wear.

If you have both a taste for quality and the budget to support it, you can plan to invest up to $400 (or more) in top of the line lightweight waders. However, with most of the higher priced products, they will last several years. Most of us come to realize that we actually spend more by having to buy several pairs of inferior waders during the same time a good pair would still be holding up.


The old Red Ball lightweight waders and some zipperless neoprene diving boots I cut down for wearing over waders.

I have gone through several sets of Hodgman Wadelights. I use them a lot, but they also do not hold up well. But, they do sell a "TRUE" XXL, and those are hard to find.


Hodgeman Wadelights again. They were fine for mild weather tubing, but almost always had small leaks. That made them poor for cold water tubing.


Three generation of Tubers prepare to hit the water. One set of Wadelights and two sets of neoprenes.


Hodgman 3.5 mm neoprenes (in XXL) work fine for me during cooler months.


Hodgman neoprenes and an old pair of Cabela's tubing booties.


TubeBabe makes good use of her neoprenes and Cabelas tubin' booties too.


Gold Medal Dry Plus


Simms G-3


Tubing Footwear


Flats boots by RedHead. Note the raised rubber strap catch on the heel, to help prevent fin straps from sliding off heel.


Flats boots, showing inside zippers.


Tubin' Booties. Once offered by Cabelas but no longer available. Feature wraparound strap with Velcro fastening.


These "extinct" but wonderful footwear for tubers allow pulling them on through the wide back opening, and they are spacious to allow heavily layered wader feet to fit comfortably.


Inexpensive "watershoes". These work great for "wet wading", or for putting over the neoprene boot feet on your waders to protect them while walking or tubing.
(Thanks for the pic, Cat_man)



Aquaseal...penicillin for repairing waders and float tube air chambers. Shown with the Cotol accellerant for helping the clear flexible waterproof patch cure more quickly.


Plasti Dip...another handy product to have for wader repairs, and a lot of other fishermen type things.


Plasti Dip repairs the pinhole leaks often developing in lightweight waders with "breathable" material. Although ugly, when applied on the inside, it seals the leaks and is not visible to others.
(This post was edited by TubeDude on Jun 2, 2005, 4:44 AM)

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