These ain’t your grandpa’s Red Ball boots.
Apparel company Banded Holdings officially changed the game in 2015. Based in Rogers, the design team at Banded went feet first into the wader world with an innovative idea of what a wader should be. Long gone are the days of leaky rubber boots and bulky neoprene as the Banded waders more than deliver on comfort and practical functionality.
Developed using Banded’s proprietary — get ready — Super Hydrophobic Evaporative Development System (SHEDS) waterproofing material, the Banded Red Zone waders truly act and feel like you are wearing a pair of overalls.
Upon the product’s launch, the lack of bulk and addition of mobility sent duck hunters on a mad scramble to get a pair. Since they splashed onto the scene over three years ago, Banded has greatly improved the waders’ boot and seams as well as introduced its premium Black Label line. Smaller sizes are now available for women and kids as well.
But, as it usually goes, someone has a good idea and competitors soon follow. Drake, Sitka and a few others have developed their own lines of breathable waders to give Banded a run for its money. While each features materials migrating away from the previous gold standard, neoprene, innovations have raised the level of wader quality.
Drake’s new Guardian Elite series features a lightweight but warm boot, no-buckle shoulder straps, and it works at being more durable than any wader on the market. Drake has been a leader in functionality and the new waders feature plenty of effective pockets for gear. A selling point for Drake will be the four size models — short and slim, regular, stout and king — giving just about any body type a nice fitting wader.
In July, Sitka introduced a wader system, Delta Waders, that has been in research and development the past four seasons. The eye-popping price tag north of $800 per pair of Delta Waders has caught a lot of hunters’ attention, but the details help justify the premium price.
The wader, made in the U.S., is designed to be what Sitka calls “serviceable” from top to bottom. If you punch a hole in the boot, don’t patch it or trash the waders. Simply send the waders back to Sitka and they can put in a whole new boot. Faulty zipper? Ship the waders back and they can replace it.
This is an entirely new thought process on wader construction, given that they typically find their way to the dumpster once something gives out. Leaky patches just don’t last long term and hunters are forced to buy a new pair every few seasons depending on how hard they hunt.
Sitka markets the Delta Wader as the last pair a waterfowler should ever purchase. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over time.
As with modern hunting apparel, waterfowlers are beneficiaries of the competition among wader manufacturers providing new technology, durability and comfort.
Any duck hunter can attest that leaky waders have and will continue to ruin hunts as long as there is water to stand in.
The progress of these innovative companies is lessening the opportunities for soggy socks and frostbitten feet. And we as hunters are thankful for it.