I picked up the Orvis Silver Sonic waders (convertible-top) right before I went on a week long fly fishing roadtrip out to Montana. I knew that if I was going to be spending a week in waders, I needed to upgrade my LL Bean stocking foots to something more breathable, and honestly, higher quality.
While the old LL Bean’s have served me pretty well over the last 4 years, they breathe worse than a trashbag. Normally, I fish weekend monrings here in NH for about 4-5 hours. Even after a cool spring day, the bottoms of my waders are still drenched in sweat. So something more breathable, with more pockets, and a better fit were in order. And I’m not afraid to admit, just LOOKED BETTER.
The Orvis Silver Sonics use a non-descript 4-layer nylon fabric for the main bottom areas, and a lighter 4-layer nylon for the uppers. I wish that Orvis would disclose what manufacturer makes their material. However, since the market status quo seems to be “Gore-Tex or bust”, most brands don’t say when its not Gore. I think this is a shame, since there are a lot of other fabric manufacturers out there doing a great job with materials, such as Schoeller, that deserve their name to get out too.
However, the real claim to fame for these waders is the seam technology, which uses sonic welding to fuse the seams. I’m familiar with ultrasonic welding from my years in biotech product development, which we used to weld plastic molded parts together using concentrated sound waves to “melt” the plastics together. The seam technology patent was actually licensed to Redington for their SonicPro’s, in case you didn’t notice the fine print.
Attached to the front legs are the standard gravel guards you find on most +$200 waders along with formed nylon stocking feet. The nylon webbing belt has a plastic buckle closure and fits through belt Orvis embroidered loops attached to the waders. I like the belt loop design since it prevents the belt from completely falling off when unbuckling it, which is a frequent occurrence when you’ve downed a large Dunkin Donut’s coffee on your drive to the river.
The suspender system is a little clunky, which I think has to do with allowing the waders to be convertible, aka, pulled down to your waist line. There’s a lot of straps, loops, and velcro going on inside the waders, which I’ve fiddled with. Admittedly, I haven’t figured out how the convertible system works, since I didn’t have an instruction pamphlet or instruction by the Orvis store I bought them from (more on that later).
However, the suspender straps are both elastic and have a nice sliding buckled strap. So, when I need to drop my waders, I can either just pull the suspenders off my shoulders, or quickly unbuckle the straps to release the tension but keep the straps on. This prevents the waders from just dropping off when you unclip them and forcing you to reach behind you awkwardly to find the strap again.
One of the best features about these inner waterproof plastic pouch, in addition to the outer zip pocket. The inner plastic pouch is a ziplock type press seal closure, with a velcro flap. Finally, a way to keep your cellphone, keys, or camera in an easy to access location.
Well, that is if you’re not wearing a chest pack.
Fit & In The Field
As I mentioned, I picked up the Orvis Silver Sonic waders right before my trip out west. And by right before, I mean I literally drove to the nearest Orvis retail store in Peabody, MA during my lunch break, the day before we were leaving. The store had all the sizes I thought I might need to try on, but when I first tried on the Medium Regular, the store associates said it fit. I was a bit skeptical, since I felt like I was swimming in the upper half. I briefly tried tightening the suspender straps and the belt, but they are stitched together a little differently than you would initially suspect.
Unfortunately, the store associate there didn’t seem like he knew how to tighten them up either. Not to digress too much, but c’mon. Orvis is a fly fishing brand, no matter how much they may have strayed in the last decade, the salesmen should know how to correctly size up a pair of their flagship wader line!
The in-seam length fit correctly, with the crotch riding high like a pair of jeans. This is much different than the bulbous, un-fitted waders I have been wearing, so I thought it was correctly sized.
Unfortunately, I wish I had opted to try on the size Medium-Short or even max out a Small (they don’t make Small-Long). But being that I needed to get back to work and leave the next day, I assumed I could figure out the straps and belt at home and tighten them up to make it fit correctly. But this didn’t happen.
The suspender straps have hardly any adjustability left for my height and build. I’m 5’8″ and 155lbs, the exact dimensions these waders are designed for. However, I have the suspenders bottomed out as far as adjustment goes, which brings them to what I feel is the correct height (the top of the waders reaches to nipple height). I normally wear a size 40 suit jacket and have a 30 inch waist, so I don’t know if these waders are intended for someone with a potbelly but with the shoulders of Arnold Schwarzenegger. To overcome the waders hanging off and away from my chest, I cinched the included spindrift drawstring at the very top of the waders. All this did was seal in all the humidity and body heat, causing my stomach to just start sweating. Here a couple photo’s my road trip buddy Stevie grabbed of me while nypmhing into a gusty headwind coming off the lake on the Madison River in Ennis, Montana.
This is me taking a picture of a young bull moose (off camera) that we saw enjoying some lunch across one of the braids from us. Just for information’s sake, I’m wearing an Arc’teryx Phase SL shirt and Capiliene Silkweight bottoms under the waders. In my front pocket, I’ve got a GoPro, a mask, and probably a power bar. Apart from the sag from the gear in my front chest pocket, theres a lot of extra room in the chest, while the bottoms fit perfectly.
I really don’t understand the sizing at all, which is, I really don’t know if these fit me right or not. In my opinion, make everything fitted or nothing at all. I understand that the extra space fits more body types and is good for fishing cold days, but the majority of my fly fishing season, done in spring through early summer and then in the fall is done SANS winter puffy. Moreover, a midweight baselayer is all you need on most cold days to stay warm. You can see how they fit in the picture below, where I’m wearing a soft shell EMS Fader jacket with a t-shirt underneath. It fits well, but without a jacket, theres a lot of room. These waders should definitely be “taken in” from the waist up. Then again, I’ve never tailored a pair of waders, so I could be missing a key design detail preventing them from being so tight.
I’m not sure if my bellyaching is just from the fact that I’ve got these waders adjusted all wrong, but then again, I wasn’t really properly instructed in how to adjust them. The waders came with no instructions or guide to adjustment and fit, and the store associates at the Burlington, MA store seemed like they had never used these waders either. So if it’s not the adjustment, but the fact that I’m in the wrong size, I wasn’t steered in the right direction since I was told that these fit correctly.
Since its the beginning of the 2015 season, and I’ve only put one week long trip last fall and about two days this spring into these waders, I’m going to keep trying to get these sized up and maybe even contact Orvis directly to have them walk me through it. If not, I will probably look for an exchange to try a different size. I really like the look and features of the waders, and especially the price….. if they fit! Honestly, for $279, these waders are a steal for the features and build quality, and they scored surprisingly high with the Yellowstone 2013 Wader Shootout (they got their “Best Buy” nod). If this is a sign of Orvis’s turnaround to put out technical, well conceived fly fishing gear, they are definitely on the right right track.
For more details, check out the product page at Orvis.com.