As a fishing family—not to mention the fact I’m more than nine months pregnant for the first time—it is time for us to really think about waders for kids.
Waders are great for kids in Alaska and suit a variety of purposes—fishing, hunting, camping and riding ATVs, clamming or just playing outside in the rain. They also serve as a great additional layer for those chillier days of autumn. The dollars you spend to keep your little ones warm and dry is an investment in their love for Alaska’s outdoors, as well as your ticket to continuing to do what you love. They get to be like Mommy and Daddy in their waders and that can help instill the love of fishing as a family early on.
What to Look For
The question to ask is what exactly is my kid going to use their waders for? When it comes to young fishermen, do you really want your 2-year-old wading in the Kenai? Probably not. Most likely that little angler will be traipsing in the rain from April through October, picking up shells on the beach in Seward, playing bankside while their folks take turns lining a couple sockeye. The foremost important factor for this type of wader use is warmth and dryness. If you live in Alaska, neoprene waders are the best bet for the smallest kids. They tend to get colder faster, not to mention a bit dirtier. They will also have less concern for accidentally puncturing a hole in their waders, also making durable, neoprene waders a better choice.
If you live outside Alaska where temperatures can soar to high ranges, or your kids are a bit older, they will likely be most comfortable in breathable waders. You can always layer up with more layering options underneath for warmth. We find breathables to be just more comfortable overall and are more likely to wear them for longer periods. If the budget allows and your kids are spending a ton of time fishing or exploring the outdoors, it makes sense to get them a pair of neoprenes and a pair of breathables.
Get the Kids Involved
Having your children try waders on is crucial. You want to find a fit that works for them now, but then also a season or two more if you get them a bit big for the cost savings. Make sure they are comfortable for the kids before you commit to buying them. Also, if there is a choice for color or pattern, let your kids choose. That empowers them to make decisions and makes them more vested in the purchase.
If you have kids of any age, there are some brands you should check out for waders. Tuff Kids Outdoors is a local Glennallen-based company started by lifelong Alaskan Becky Schwanke. Their mission is to offer quality gear, tested in Alaska, to help outfit kids for wherever your family adventures take you. They offer everything from bug shirts for kids to rain suits, base layers and socks, camo bunting for babies and both neoprene and breathable waders in sizes 2T to 12 youth. They are a distributor for Oakiwear kids waders that come in pink camo or tan in breathables and pink camo, blue or camo in neoprene. All of the waders come with built-in rubber boots witha neoprene lining and rugged tread to keep them on their feet.
We reached out to Becky from Tuff Kids Outdoors and gained some valuable insight on picking perfect waders for kids. Here are a few helpful tips and tricks that Becky had to offer. “Try to find a pair that have lots of room to grow vertically if you have a child prone to large growth spurts. Waders with neoprene straps, such as our Oakiwear neoprene waders, tend to be shorter and don’t provide as much height flexibility as waders with nylon straps with slide buckles like the Oakiwear breathable waders.
Try to make sure you’ve got ample room in the foot for 2 pairs of socks, including a wool pair,” Becky added, “the kids will appreciate it during cooler weather or if they’ll be standing in water for a while. Plus if the boot fits a little tighter, they get better ankle support.
Finally, if you have a kiddo that’s particularly hard their outdoor gear, you may want to consider picking up a tube of SG-20. After reading about it in Fish Alaska magazine, I started carrying it on my website, and I’ve used it quite successfully on my son’s neoprene waders after a bout of rock climbing”.
At Fish Alaska magazine, we are always looking for new ways to outfit the entire family for fishing season. My nephews Charlie, 6, and Davis, 4, are both already fishing addicts. As Marcus’s kids were born into a fishing magazine, we would have guessed no other outcome. The boys are field-testing the Tuff Kids waders for our annual gear review this next spring. Marcus reported that when the waders showed up, the boys tried them on and wanted to sleep in them that night—a very good sign.
Breathable youth waders by Caddis are also worth looking into. Features include built-in gravel guards, taped seams, wader belt and neoprene stockingfeet, allowing you to buy separate wading boots that would be more comfortable for all-day wear. We love working with Caddis. Their team of professionals is really nice across the board, and they have been in the wader-making business for long enough to know what it takes to make a quality wader. From youth to men to women’s, they have quality waders at affordable prices.