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A Dry Idea: The Sticky Business of Wader Repair

In the December issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine, I have a lighthearted article on page 44 about my failed attempt to repair my beloved waders given to me as an anniversary gift by my wife years ago. As stated in the article, patching waders can be a futile effort. If you want to just make it through the season it can often be accomplished with some success, however.

Cracked wader boots
When cracks such as these appear on the boots of your waders, it’s time to be looking for a new pair. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

As a fisheries biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Joe Rydell of Alliance is in waders as much as anyone I know. Rydell and his coworkers spend many of their days in the water completing fish surveys and other projects that help improve angler success. Their waders take a beating and they are often given the opportunity to test their patching skills.

The neoprene waders of today have been a great advancement in comfort, camouflage and warmth, but Rydell said they aren’t nearly as easy to repair as the rubber waders of yesteryear.

“You could take tire patches and repair those old rubber waders all day long,” he said.

When it comes to fixing a leak in newer waders, Rydell said the best bet is to refer to the instructions on patching kits that come with most new waders. It’s not uncommon for wader users to misplace that kit, though, so here are his recommendations.

Fisheries biologist Joe Rydell in his work attire.
Fisheries biologist Joe Rydell in his work attire. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)

The first step, Rydell said, is to give the waders a good inspection. If the boots are cracked or other parts of the waders are suffering from dry rot, it’s time to invest in a new pair.

Some leaks are trickier than others and small pinhole leaks away from seams are the best candidates for patching.
“Once you start noticing dampness from a leak in the seams, which usually begins in the crotch, or at the top of the boots, you’d better start putting money away for a new pair of waders,” he said.

If you have decided to proceed, choose your adhesive. A brand name product like AquaSeal is probably best to use as the patching adhesive, but Rydell said he’s had success with clear silicone — the type sold in the home improvement aisle for use in caulking guns.

Next, to pinpoint the leak, take your dry waders and fill them with water. Once water starts seeping through, which shouldn’t take long, use chalk to mark the leaks.

After the waders dry out, it’s time to patch. Cut a piece of patching material, such as neoprene or another impermeable flexible fabric, and cut to size. A product such as acetone, along with some light sanding, will help ensure a good bond. Once the area has been prepped, apply the adhesive around the hole, cover with patching material, and cover with another layer of adhesive.

Allow your work to dry for a day or so and get back to enjoying the great outdoors. With the help of your patching job, and perhaps a little luck, you’ll come home dry when the outing is over.

What tips do you have for repairing and extending the life of your waders? Comment below.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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