Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Simms Headwaters Waders, First Impressions

Part of the loot I accumulated when I won the TU/Simms/OBN/YPF Blogger Tour was a goodie bag from Simms. Unfortunately, the gear didn't arrive in time for me to use any of it on the trip. Once home the gear sat in a pile as I waited for opportunities to fish during a particularly dry and hot summer. Being a trout snob, it was going to take some time.

Two weekends ago I finally pulled the trigger on a trout trip. I heard a rumor that the Farmington had cooled enough to fish and sure enough when I arrived late on a Saturday the water in this stretch was at sixty four degrees.

For this trip I selected the Headwaters Stockingfoot Waders as equipment for a trial. The Headwaters are the middle of the Simms wader line-up. They'll set you back $300 at list price.

I've worn Orvis Pro Guides ($400) for the past couple of years. I'm on my second pair but the first pair is still serviceable though it looks and smells like crap. While I realize that the Headwaters and Pro Guides are in a slightly different class, it's the only comparison I have.

The Pro Guides are heavy-duty, bullet proof waders. I am tough on equipment mostly because when I'm in the field care of equipment is secondary. I'm focused on the mission; briars, sharp rocks, and rabid beavers are merely distractions that waders should handle.

The first thing I noticed about the Headwaters is how trim they are. Compared to my Pro Guides, they're skinny jeans. Part of that is in the construction and part of that may be due to sizing.

The construction is lightweight but not thin. I get the sense that they'd suffer a wade through raspberry bushes but maybe not something spikier. I also think the styling seems to be a bit slimmer than the Orvis product. My ass doesn't look half as fat in these waders.

I got the Pro Guides in Orvis' Large/Long to accommodate my gun boat feet but the Headwaters arrived in Large (i.e. not Long). I've always found the Pro Guides a bit baggy. The Headwaters are just a titch snug but not too uncomfortable to wear. I suppose that's due to my odd body shape but definitely consult the sizing guides before you purchase a pair (and ideally try them on in a shop).

On the stream the Headwaters are comfortable. Plenty of give where you need give. Clambering over dead fall and doing unplanned splits whilst wading hasn't been a problem.

One design point I think is very good is the pocket on the front of the waders. Along the top edge of hand warmer pocket is a velcro strip. Pulling this apart opens up a huge front pocket that will easily hold a fly box (including a Bugger Barn) or a cigar case, a cutter, a lighter, and a smaller fly box if one were to carry such things.

A Bugger Barn inside the front pocket.
The Headwaters waders have opened up my eyes to lighter weight waders. I still think deep winter fishing requires something of robust build but I'm not sure I need that during spring, summer and fall angling.

If the Headwaters were going to be my only pair of waders, I'd return them and get a size bigger to allow for plenty of layers during cooler weather but I wouldn't get another model. They're a fine wader. After two trips these waders are now in the rotation as my "fair weather" waders.

I like the construction. I like the fit. And, so far, I've not been able to break them.

I'll post an update in a few months after I've had a chance to abuse these some more. We'll see if they can stand up to the true test.

Full Disclosure: As stated above, I got these waders for free. I also fished and shared beer with Rich Hohne, Simms Marketing Manager and had lunch and killed Lake Trout with KC Walsh, President of Simms. Regardless of what influence you think free stuff and friendship have on me, I stand by my words.


  1. You've struck on their perfect application, Steve. My Freestones are indeed my "fair weather" waders. And here in the South, they're perfect. Good review!

    1. Thx Mike. I'll have to bring them south with me. :)

  2. "skinny jeans" eh...I didn't fashion you a hipster?

    I have a pair of Simms waders I've worn for a couple years now, and haven't had an issue with them. And like you, gear in the field is used hard and becomes secondary to the job at hand.

    Simms makes some great durable stuff...hope you enjoy.

    Nice review!

    1. I even drink PBR. I gotta get me a pork pie hat and the transformation will be complete.

      Thx Sanders

  3. Good review. I'm a little hard on my gear as well so it's good to hear about products that stand up to abuse.

    1. Thx Pam. I hope to abuse the Simms waders in the Blue Ridge next week and see how they fare.

  4. I've worn Orvis Pro Guides for the past couple* of years. I'm on my second pair. The Pro Guides are bullet proof waders.


    (a) You're waring two pairs at once
    (b) *It's complicated
    (3) I am confused.