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Old 10-17-2014   #21
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
Originally Posted by Osprey View Post
Glad we are beginning to dispel the notion that water inside your waders is somehow magically heavier than the water in the river when they fill up. Seems like for a long time people thought you would be dragged to the bottom. As far as the other issues it creates another good reason to carry a knife. Should only take seconds to spill water from waders or bibs if you needed to.
This thread is about dry bibs and not regular waders but folks have brought it up and this should be addressed.

Osprey – Of course you’re absolutely right about the equal density of water inside and outside waders, and having a knife is very important. However, by talking about the issue like this, you’re downplaying the very important fact that when someone wearing the big, baggy fisherman's waders goes into the river, the waders fill and become like a parachute in the current. If a strong current is going down, the wearer will most certainly be "dragged to the bottom" just as if the waders were filled with sand, and likely even if the wearer has a whitewater PFD, much less a little fisherman's PFD. Unless you swim feet first the waders would act like a parachute, keep you from being able to fight the current, and make it really tough to climb back into a boat like Treemanji pointed out.

A fly fisherman recently recently told me about falling into swiftly moving, knee-deep water and getting dragged down the river when his waders filled. He had a hell of a time getting back on his feet and getting the water out; he didn't think for one second that the water inside his waders was more dense than the water outside his waders.

Relying on a knife to save oneself in the situation also seems impractical. One would need to reach all the way down inside the waders (or risk slicing your leg) to the ankles on both legs and then slice each wader leg up to the hip to minimize the drag. Even then, there will be plenty of fabric billowing in the current and maybe even the boots holding the shredded mass on the swimmer's feet. No longer a parachute, but still a lot of drag on the swimmer's legs and certainly no help to swim back to the boat or to shore.

Of course the water in the waders isn't heavier than outside any more than the water pouring into a wrapped raft pinning it against a rock is somehow heavier than the rest of the water in the river. It's the current in swift water, and the drag of the filled waders that kills fishermen.

When you see someone with those baggy waders on whitewater, please forget the density issue and try to dissuade them from wearing the waders on the river. If the current wants to take him to the bottom, the guy in the waders won’t get much comfort knowing the water in his waders isn't actually heavier than that outside.



Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 10-19-2014   #22
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,346
Let me clarify that I was reading the thread title about dry bib/pants. Bibs do seem to be quite solid. Pants really depend on the specifics of the gear (inc top) and the user. Be aware of potential issues and rig accordingly. We face numerous risks every time we launch.

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I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 10-19-2014   #23
Osprey's Avatar
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 683
First off, I would never downplay the importance of safety on the river. Whether that be from a boat or wading. I didn't start out as a rafter, that grew from flyfishing. I've spent a couple thousands days in waders and have swum in waders. You seemed to add a lot of factors I hadn't mentioned, I was simply noting what I perceived to be a common misconception I had heard, people being dragged down just due to the water inside. I'm sure that didn't even come from this board where the folks are more river savvy, but from other boards over the years.

I'm not sure what baggy waders you are seeing on the river these days but most of the current ones are fairly form fitting anymore. As Wasatch explained, the issue doesn't come so much from being in deep water with waders, but being in shallow water with filled waders, as your fly fisherman story also conveyed. As they also said, testing it the results are surprising. It's just not as bad as admittedly common sense would make you think it should be. I wouldn't want to cut my way out of waders, but if in shallow water just being able to poke a hole in one leg to spill the water and be able to stand up would help. Swimming in waders is more akin to swimming in clothing than anything else. If a strong downcurrent is present, waders may be a factor, but they probably won't be the factor. Even a PFD isn't going to help you in a decent downcurrent, as anyone here who's been flipped and maytagged can probably attest. I wouldn't try to pull someone from the river with filled waders directly into a boat, you'd pull over and roll the tops down and spill some first.

Bottom line is we all need to be safe and look out for each other out there. I don't think you'd ever be able to dissuade anglers from wearing waders on any type of water. In most states you won't even see fishermen wearing pfd's in their boats with waders on. (which would never happen in mine btw.) I've seen this issue debated on flyfishing forums since the invention of the internet, and of course everyone brings their differing experiences to the table, so many variables at play there may not be a right answer. But just like in rafting we try to mitigate the risks against sometimes uncontrollable and unforeseen forces the best we can. Pfd's, wading belts, buying waders that are not oversized, having a knife, etc. etc.

syotr as well
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Old 10-21-2014   #24
elkhaven's Avatar
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,659
I'm essentially with Osprey and since he only briefly glossed over it I'll discuss in more detail the most important "accessory" with waders is a tight wading belt. With it on and snugged up your waders will not become a sail, parachute, nor sack of sand, they will act no differently than "Dry Bibs, or pants". Which are essentially the same concept with some added functionality to help seal when used in conjunction with a jacket (as mentioned above; roll top, etc.) - Without top they're effectively the same animal.

Would I want to wear my waders in a technical swim? No. But I'd have the same worry with dry pants or bibs without their associated dry top(anything that could let water in but not back get pulled open, caught on something and held open, that sort of thing). I should experiment with a dry top over waders, but I still doubt I'd want to trust the interface in something really gnarly...

Would I wear them on almost every float I normally do? Yup, and I do. I've had several well meaning soles comment on the death traps I was wearing, buy the time we all shoved off they were wearing theirs as well... We all really need to consider the context before "educating" those around us...
Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back. - Agustus McCrae
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Old 10-21-2014   #25
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Frisco, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1985
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Posts: 28
Wader Safety

As part of Rescue 3 International's community of instructors Sawatch Rescue is proud to be involved in the progression of the swiftwater rescue curriculum.

Rescue 3 has renewed its focus on education for recreational and professional river runners through the development of the new River Rescue for River Runners course (the RRC and RRC-Pro certifications).

The following is what we have in the new Swiftwater Rescue Workbook regarding Wader Safety:

-Choose the right waders. Chest or thigh? Built in boots or socks?
-Choose the right soles: Felt bottom are best for rocky bottom streams, cleated soles for mud/sand, sticky rubber soles work great if working on different watersheds where cross contamination is an issue.
-Wear a wading belt with chest waders.
-If your waders fill with water: Don’t panic.
-Don’t try to take the waders off in the water.
-Keep your feet up – wading boots tend to be very heavy and you will have to focus on this so as not to get foot entrapped.
-In calm water wade or swim to shore.
-In fast-moving water ride the current; pull your feet up in front of you and point your toes downstream in the defensive position.
-Use the backstroke and a good ferry angle to maneuver yourself to shore.
-Remember you are mostly neutrally buoyant.
-When you reach calm water go ashore and empty your waders. You may have to crawl out if they are totally filled up.

-Float in a calm pool in waders with belt on
-Float in a calm pool in waders with no belt
-Float through gentle rapid in waders with belt and PFD
-Float through a gentle rapid in waders full of water with a PFD
-Practice maneuvering to shore with waders full of water and in varying current speeds with waders full of water

(Make sure to have some downstream safety just in case someone does panic and needs help)

Things to Remember:
-Although you are neutrally buoyant when your waders are full of water, you will be submerged when going over any kind of drop.
-It will take longer than normal to resurface, but you will resurface. Don’t panic.
-While you are underwater you can more easily be entrapped on objects or debris and if your feet are sinking they pose an even greater risk of entrapment. Stay in a balled up position until you resurface and get your feet up.

A special thanks to Julie Munger and Abigail Polsby at Sierra Rescue / Rescue 3 West for all their hard work in driving the new Rescue 3 curriculum including the above information on Wader Safety.
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Old 10-21-2014   #26
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 2,239
We have had this discussion several times before.Some always point out that they have tested to be safe and are bouyancy neutral.Others relate stories of drownings and near misses.Caleb the Kokatat set up, you originally asked about , is fine if worn correctly with drytop 99.999% of the time.Waders with proper belt are usually safe .I have had a near miss with the # 3 set up Raftus laid out,paddle pants ( with neopreen semi gasket waistband not high enough) under a drytop,swam out of a ducky in 4/4+ ish water.Mikepart nailed it, swimming mobility is hindered and reentering a boat or pulling yourself onto rocky banks is much more difficult weighted down like that.A spray skirt would have helped seal or slow down water getting into the pants.Any set up where water gets in but doesn't drain fast can be dangerous:hole or zipper comes open on drysuit for example.I had a wetsuit fill up on me in one fluky situation,not a swim,f'ing around in a waterfall on a side hike.

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