Layering Under Waders

Unlocking the puzzle of what to wear under waders

Today’s the day. You’ve got big plans to spend a long day hiking around in waders, looking for risers, and playing in natures’ playground. You pull out your rod and reel, some flies, maybe a libation or two, and you’re ready to go. You’re about to step into your waders, look down at your blue jeans and think to yourself, “there’s got to be something better than this.” And wouldn’t you know it- there is.

From the hottest days on the Henry’s Fork to the coldest days swinging for steelhead, base layers are essential items to stay comfortable in your waders. That part is obvious. However, choosing the right layer for your particular fishing situation might be less obvious.

Continue reading below to hear what we think are some of the right clothing options for layering up under waders for different fishing scenarios throughout the year.

Something to keep in mind when layering up before putting on your waders- despite the season- you are likely to sweat to some degree. Whether it’s a long hike in through the snow or baking in the sun on a hot summer day, you get hot in waders. Wearing clothing underneath waders that breathes and wicks moisture away from the skin is key. Look for base layers that contain polyester, which is a tried and true moisture-wicking material. Other materials to consider are nylon, merino wool, or a blend of all of them. One thing to always, always remember- Cotton in any form is your enemy! It sucks up moisture, keeping you damp and uncomfortable all day long. 


Let’s start at the bottom- the socks. Simms offers a whole line of merino wool socks for any season and any scenario. It is always a good idea to wear socks that go above your ankle to prevent rubbing against the neoprene in the booties of your waders. Longer socks also give you the option to tuck your leg layers in to prevent bunching and cold spots where the skin is directly against the waders. 

For the warmer summer months, the Guide Lightweight Crew Sock is going to be your best friend. In the cooler months when air temps are more variable and the water temps are on the chillier side- Guide Midweight OTC Socks are going to be the perfect fit. For any cold-weather fishing or water that’s constantly below 45 to 50 degrees, we recommend the Guide Thermal OTC Socks. You have to be careful about layering socks when the weather gets cold- constricting blood flow to your feet in cold weather is only going to make you get colder faster.

Leg Layers

During the warmer summer months, you can usually get away with a pair of light pants under the waders rather than a core bottom. Since wool is a little more insulating, focus on the quick-dry pants like the Superlight Pants or the Fast Action Pants. For the lady anglers out there, the Bugstopper Leggings and the Mataura Pant are the perfect options for this time of year. This way you will still have a barrier between your legs and the waders to draw a bit of moisture away from the skin, but won’t insulate heat towards your legs.

For the remainder of the year, you are going to want to focus more around the baselayers and thermals we have on offer. Even on hotter days when the water is on the colder side, you will always be more comfortable with some level of insulation. The Men’s Lightweight and Midweight Core Bottoms as well as the Men’s Fleece Midlayer Bottoms are the perfect options for the intermittent weather and water conditions. On the women’s side of things, the Women’s Lightweight Core Bottom and the Women’s Fleece Midlayer Bottom‘s apply to the same scenarios. The fleece midlayers are on the warmer end of the spectrum, so those are best served in the early spring and fall temps.

If you are anticipating spending the day in freezing air temps and frigid water, finding bottoms that have multiple layers is going to help with trapping heat close to the body. This is the point where you should start looking towards our Men’s Exstream Core Bottom, Fjord Pants, or even the Midstream Insulated Pants, as well as the Women’s Coldweather Pants. The exstream core bottoms are going to suit you well for that late fall/early winter situation where you need insulation, but also might be moving around quite a bit from spot to spot. The Fjords and the Insulated pants are for those extreme conditions where you know it’s going to be cold the whole time. Consider combining layers if you are going to be spending long days wading rather than hiking. For anyone that has spent a day swinging for winter steelhead knows that the heat slowly gets sucked away from your legs the longer you spend standing in 35 degrees water. Combining a few layers together like Midweight Core or the Fleece Midlayers under one of the heavier Fjords or the Midstream Insulated pants will give you optimal warmth without adding too much bulk under the waders.  

It often takes a bit of time coming up for the perfect layering formula for each fishing scenario, so mix it up until you find what you are most comfortable in. Nothing is worse than trying to take your waders off to adjust your leg layers during the middle of a freezing cold day, so do your best to plan accordingly.