Ron Thompson Classic-Pro neoprene chest waders, stocking foot by CronkYVoddy.
Review of Ron Thompson neoprene waders and opinions on long term use
CHOOSING YOUR WADERS
Make, type, material and cost.
Why buy Ron Thompson's?
I first purchased a pair of RT's around 5 years ago, mainly for mid to deep wading, trotting big stick floats for Barbel. Cost was the main factor in my decision and after a bit of research I chose RT's chest waders. At the time I think I paid around �70. I had read a few features in various magazines and decided on stocking foot waders so I knew I would have the added expense of buying a pair of wading boots too. These I was lucky enough to pick up in a half price sale, Cost �30. Felt soles, with studs they lasted about 3 years before they split across the heel and toes.
Why choose neoprene?
I chose neoprene again on cost (they are/were half the price of a pair of breathable waders). They are also warmer than rubber or PVC and I find them a lot more comfortable to wear. I actually have two pairs of them, a new 'good' pair I use for summer wading-stick float or flood water fishing, the old 'tatty' pair I use for winter 'bank' fishing where I'm not normally wading. I actually find them warmer to use than my winter one-piece suit and I never have to worry about taking waterproofs. If I'm not tucked under a brolly I just wear a waterproof jacket or cape. If its really cold I just wear a thick jacket/parka over the top.
Why choose stocking foot?
Stocking foot waders, when worn with the appropriate boots, will give much better ankle support than boot foot (Wellington boot) type waders. This is important when wading or walking uneven banks etc. They will give you more confidence or 'feel' of the river bed and are less likely to leak at the 'boot/wader join'. They will also be more comfortable to walk long distances in, just like wearing walking boots with thick socks! I find that stocking foot waders actually keep your feet warmer than boot foot waders and besides, boot foot waders, unless they are reinforced on the toes, will squash or deform on the toes with the water pressure. This can be uncomfortable if wading long periods.
What you get for your money
RT classic pro stocking foot neoprene chest waders are available now (2007/2008) for Around �60. They come supplied in a large rucksack with a puncture repair kit and gravel guards. The waders have snap lock buckles on the shoulder straps and are adjustable. The shoulder straps themselves are sewn onto a wide neoprene 'yolk' that fits across your shoulders spreading the load and making them more comfortable to wear. They also have a Velcro fastening front chest pocket about 12" by 8" that will accommodate your mobile phone/camera/keys/wallet/licence/fags/papers etc (possibly all of them!) and has a mesh panel sewn onto the front for other items, split shot/lighter/baiting needle etc. Two 'D' rings are fitted either side of the pocket which items can be fixed to : bait bucket if wading, disgorger/forceps, baiting needle, wading net or wading staff, lighter etc etc. The shoulder straps can be rolled down along with the waders and fixed around the waist but I find this bulky and uncomfortable. They have reinforced knee pads.
CHOOSING YOUR BOOTS, WADER SIZES AND PRO's AND CON's
These normally start at around Â£50. They can be found cheaper if you shop around, especially if you buy a wader/boot combo. They are usually made from cordura type material on the uppers and generally have felt soles. Most will also have some form of rubber protection or reinforcement across the toe box and normally have 'quick lace' style eyes a la walking boots. Better quality boots will be made of leather and will obviously last longer and may have a combination sole, ie. Rubber heel and toe pads and felt soles, possibly with studs fitted. Cheaper boots will normally be PVC. With all felt soles I would advise fitting wader studs to the soles. A few inches apart around the perimeter of the sole, a few down the centre and likewise with the heel. I use a total of around 16 or 18 per sole. This is done easily enough with a screwdriver or preferably 8mm hex head socket or similar. Originally I used 'wader studs', cost around �5 for 40, but I have now sourced a fixings specialist who supplies 3/4 inch hex head self tappers for around �6 for 1,200!! A cheap option to expensive wading boots is to buy some cheap walking boots and screw some studs into the soles. Buy some with 'chunky' soles so you have somewhere to fix the studs. They will be much better on muddy banks. I use exactly this type of boot for the winter when not wading or just dipping a foot into the river to return fish etc. Cost �15.
Felt soles and slippery, muddy, grassy banks do not mix. Studs help but be careful. The idea behind felt soles is that they 'mould' around stones in the river and will give better grip than rubber on mossy or slippery green stones etc. Again wading studs help here by 'gripping' the rocks.
Normally sold by foot size, I would advise going for at least one size bigger than you need. Mine are actually 2 sizes larger as I am a size 9, skinny 6' and needed plenty of length in the legs. I chose size 11/12 (36" leg). The next size down (10/11) had a 34" leg and I found hat they pulled on the crotch/shoulders. I suggest you try on a pair if you can before buying. If buying blind then err on the side of caution. Buy wading boots to fit your waders not your feet. All of mine are size 11 and very comfortable. Felt soles do not wear out if fitted with studs.
Pro's and Con's
Pro's - Warm, affordable, comfortable, certain amount of give in the fabric, longer life span than rubber, cheaper than breathable, fairly thorn proof
Con's - Slightly more expensive than PVC or rubber. Too 'warm' to walk long distances in, especially in summer, you will slowly cook. Breathables are an advantage in this case. [ They come supplied in a rucksack so if I have to walk a long way I chuck boots and waders in bag, walk to swim, then chuck em on]. A nuisance when answering the call of nature.
Evaluation and opinion
My first pair of RT's were purchased around 5 years ago and still going strong apart for a slight leak on the left heel. They get plenty of serious use throughout the year and so far I have experienced few problems. After a couple of seasons use they developed a leak around the crotch/ back area. This was due to the tape that is stuck over all of the joins coming unstuck. This was remedied with an application of EvoStick Impact Adhesive (or similar) and are still water tight except for the heel mentioned earlier. I feel that if I had given the heel the EvoStick treatment a when it first started leaking a while ago then they would still be fine. After about three seasons use the knee pads came unstuck at the corners but again they received the EvoStick treatment and are fine still. I now use my first pair for winter 'bank' fishing as they are warmer than anything else that I have tried. My second pair are for summer trotting/mid to deep wading or flood fishing. Both pairs get lots of use, mostly the winter pair, around 3 times a week or more and take some stick. The reinforced kneepads will cope with any bank/rocks/concrete/gravel/stones/hooks/brambles etc etc etc and do not wear out. If you accidentally hook yourself in the leg the (barbless) hook pulls out ok no leak! They are fairly thorn proof when walking through brambles etc I usually wear a wading belt which is a webbing strap fixed around my lower chest to help stop them filling up with water should I fall over. The only other problem I have experienced other than a few minute leaks are that when deep wading the gravel guards ride up the legs a bit allowing silt or gravel into the boots. This was remedied with a clip that fixes onto my laces keeping them in place.
One word of warning is that the front pocket has drainage holes in the bottom so do not stick your phone in it if wading chest deep! It will get wet.
Common sense advisory notes
If you are thinking of buying chest waders for deep wading, and by deep I mean over your knees, and you have no experience of deep wading then I recommend the following. I would advise you wearing a suitable wading belt. Not only could it prevent your waders filling with water but if you are wading for long periods it will provide some back support. Also I would suggest using a wading staff or at the least a long handled landing net, at least 5' in length. This can be fixed to the 'D' rings on the front of the waders by a 'zinger' or a cord/lanyard. You should test the area you are about to step on with the staff for depth or obstructions before carefully placing your foot down. Make sure you have a solid, stable foot hold before repeating and placing your other foot. Be aware that the current of the river will have some effect on your foot when you lift it up, so be prepared for this. A staff will help to steady you and act as a 3rd leg. I prefer to stand side on to the current and gently wade into the river forwards and out of the river backwards. Do not try to turn around in the river unless in water less than 2' deep. As soon as you lift your foot the current will push your foot round and you may loose your balance as you turn around. Do not be tempted to wade further than your confidence dictates. The push of the river current is surprisingly strong in just 18" of water, even in a moderate flow and can very easily take you off your feet should your foot slip in the slightest. Be very, very careful.
If you are serious about wading invest in a self inflating waistcoat or buoyancy aid. It could save your life. Be extremely careful about wading across fields in floodwater conditions, in fact I would not recommend it at all unless you are exceptionally and extremely familiar with the contours of the land. Even then exercise extreme caution and still use a staff or net handle or at worst a long stick. Prod the ground in front of you and tread very, very carefully. If not sure then do not risk it. You will be surprised how that 8" depression in the field that you have never 'noticed' before can throw you off your feet and feel like a massive hollow when covered with a 2' push of floodwater. Always be aware that the river can rise and you have to take an 'unfamiliar' route back. Above all do not go steaming into the deepest part of the river "just because you have chesties" as you will come unstuck. Start off wading to your knees or just above and build up your confidence and experience slowly.
A good product for the money. Well worth investing in even if just for the warmth. They are wind proof too so if you feel the cold and never even plan to do any wading they could still be worth a look. Even if you only ever just dip one foot in the river to land or release fish etc. How many times have you dropped something in the river and had to fish it out with a bankstick or worse lost it? What about that bit of reed or branch that is sticking up and catching your line all the time but just out of reach? Just think of the possibilities of baiting up on shallow rivers and the benefits when returning fish?
...... And no I do not work for Ron Thompson ......
Photos showing details
What you get for your money. Waders, Gravel Guards, 'puncture repair kit' and bag.
Picture showing shoulder straps and buckles with 'D' rings for attaching 'stuff' Also shows close up of gravel guards and front pockets.
On the left, Lightweight Wading boot with felt soles and studs, On the right, cheap walking boot with chunky soles and studs.
Also note wading belt, worn around the waist. Boots and waders will fit in the bag.
Also note wading belt, worn around the waist. Boots and waders will fit in the bag.
Photo showing attention of 'EvoStick' (light brown patches) to heel and rear of crotch, Note where tape has peeled off heel (lower right hand side of photo)
New 'flood 'n float' waders on the left, Old 'winter-bank' waders on the right.
Photo showing detail of boot and gravel guard
Cheap walking boots, with studs. Note holes drilled in instep to allow water to drain.
Ron Thompson classic pro neoprene wader, stocking foot. The finished article. How they should look, well sort of!