For any serious angler that has ever found themselves battling the frosty ice cold conditions of winter, or the windy and rainy weather associated with early spring, the necessity of having a quality wading jacket cannot be understated. For most of the summer months, a wading jacket, although useful at times, really isn't a necessity for anglers. Nevertheless, any time a trip is being planned to spring-fed waters, northern destinations or just when the temperature starts to dip down low, retaining body heat is an absolute must in order for anglers to stay comfortable and out fishing longer.
The main features that set a quality wading jacket apart from a lesser model are easily distinguished. First off, in extreme weather conditions a wading jacket has to serve the single most important purpose of all coats: keeping you, the angler, warm.
Make sure the wading jacket has all the key components you'll need out in the water.
Having a wading jacket that is insulated or contains an additional inner lining is crucial to getting the most for your money. Purchasing a jacket that can be bulked up for the extreme cold or lightened up for warmer conditions allows the angler the opportunity to use this jacket in many different types of weather conditions. Nobody wants to spend a ton of money on a wading coat that they can only use for a week or two per year.
The second main feature of a quality wading jacket is that has to be able to keep anglers dry and comfortable. There is no point to owning a wading jacket made out of a waterproof synthetic material that protects you from the rain but is so un-breathable that whoever is wearing the coat sweats themselves silly. Quality gear will have some sort of air exchange system incorporated into the design to keep the body well ventilated and dry even under the most taxing days of wading.
Pockets — In any fishing vest or jacket you are going to find a wide variety of pockets and places to stash small items. Ideally, a quality jacket will have at least two main large pockets located on the outside of the coat (not including pockets for hands) and a few smaller pockets located on the inside. Large expandable pockets are great for storing fly boxes, tools, leader material or any other items anglers use in a day's worth of fishing. The few smaller inside pockets are perfect for organizing small items like licenses and lip balms that are necessary but not used all that often. Watch out for jackets that are overloaded with pockets — too many places to store items can make for a frustrating afternoon of digging through your vest and coming up empty. Another key to jacket pockets is that at least a few of them should be waterproof. Nothing is worst than taking a fall into the river and coming up with all your personal possessions ruined from being water logged.
Neoprene Cuffs — Any jacket that is in the top-end of the scope of things will have some sort of integrated system for the coat cuff and your wrist. In a day's fishing, it is inevitable that an angler's hands are going to get wet, but keeping that icy-cold water from going up your wrist and drenching your sleeves is important. Comfort is everything when you are out fishing and the drier you are able to stay, the more comfortable you will be. Neoprene Velcro cuffs are now being incorporated in these high quality jackets making an impassible barrier for water.
Insulated/ Removable Lining — Most wading jackets come with various degrees of padding to keep you warm. It is a good idea to make sure you buy a coat that will provide adequate protection from the elements you will be most exposed to. In some cases wading coats have a removalable inner lining to increase their warmth. For any angler who is not always able to accurately plan for inclement weather on upcoming trips these types of wading jackets will make life a lot easier. Being able to beef things up a little bit or strip them down if the weather permits gives anglers more freedom and opportunities to be prepared for what the outdoors may have to offer.
Weatherproof Outer Shell — Almost all wading coats on the market will boast some type of special waterproof materials to keep you dry. All these materials will usually do a decent job at repelling water but come into question with their ability to let the body breathe naturally and how long they will last after a few nicks and scratches. The best idea is to go and try out these types of jackets, taking a quick walk around the store will tell you how the jacket breathes and by feel you should be able to get a handle of how sturdy it will be out in the woods. Don't settle for cheap materials when it comes to waterproofing. You need a coat that is going to give you many years of service and not fail when it is most important.
Zippers, Snaps and Drawstrings — With any of the wading jackets that you choose make sure to check out the quality of the components included in construction. A quality jacket will not have any loose threads or single sewn seams. Double-stitching around pockets, zippers, and cuffs are critical sites as they take plenty of abuse while fishing. Zippers and snaps should be large, corrosion-resistant and easily workable. The coat you choose should have a drawstring sewn into the bottom of the coat. This drawstring will allow you to keep your coat snug around your waist and out of the water, keeping your possessions dry.
Hoods — Hoods on wading coats are one item that most anglers take for granted. Hoods need to be comfortable and large enough to cover another small fitting hat. Hoods that either fold into the collar or snap shut in the neck area are recommended seeing as on really windy days these types of hoods will provide additional protection even when they are not in use. A visor-style hood will confer even better protection for anglers, sheltering glasses or your favorite baseball cap.
In summary, any angler who dreams of fly fishing the early spring or late fall seasons where the weather conditions can be best described as challenging, the comfort and protection of a quality wading jacket will keep you fishing longer and happier than you ever thought possible.