Set yourself up to deal with leaky waders on the fly!
As an angler, there are a few things you should always have in your vehicle. The further you travel to fish, the more important these essentials become. I try to have as many backup items as possible, in case something gets broken, lost, or if (most likely) I forget it at home.
However, some items are too expensive to have multiple backups, and instead you need to rely on repairing them “in the field.” For me, one of those things is waders. I’m tough on my waders, and try as I might, I’m constantly faced with rips and holes. Being able to repair these “on the run” has saved me in the past, and I always make sure to have repair materials in the car.
One obvious essential you need for wader repair is patches. I like Gear Aid, and they offer a whole bunch of options including patches that are made of Gore-Tex material. These high-quality patches retain the same breathability and stretch quality as most breathable waders. However, they are much more expensive than just getting nylon patches. Therefore, for the buggy, I just keep one of Gear Aids little repair kits in the glove box. It includes two patches, Aquaseal sealant, and an application brush.
There are actually two different kinds of patches in the kit- one made for the leg and chest material, the other for the neoprene booties. I’ve found they hold up well, even over the long term. I think the sealant is pretty good, too. I’ve sandwiched the sealant between a patch on the inside and outside of the leg, and been back to fishing 20 minutes later. It may leak a little, but it’ll be better than a giant hole, and you can fix it better once you get home.
Don’t forget to add a small pair of scissors to your kit, so you can size the pieces of patching material. Using giant patches requires more sealant, and I find they fall off more easily.
One downside to these kits from Gear Aid is that once you open the sealant, that’s it. No matter how I try to reseal the tube, it always seems to be dried out by the next time I need it. You definitely don’t want to reach for your emergency kit to find it dried up. Therefore, I buy back-up sealant tubes to put with the kit: “backups to backups.” Gear Aid makes a couple different types of sealant, but you’ll want the Aqua Seal +FD. I think it’s the most reliable and it’s cheap.
You can also buy rolls of repair tape that are reasonably priced from Gear Aid; but here’s a cheaper alternative. When you go to finally throw away waders that are just too leaky to use anymore, cut a bunch of pieces out of the legs and chest to use for patches. The material tends to be stronger than the patches you can buy, and it’s free, since you’re going to throw the waders out anyways. However, I find old wader material tougher to glue on, and Gear Aid patches are much more flexible and thin- that’s the tradeoff. But, with just one old set of waders you can make enough patches to last a lifetime.
Besides patches and sealant, I have set aside some old shoulder buckles for emergency use. While they don’t break often, if your plastic shoulder buckle does break, it’s impossible to repair it. Instead, having a back-up set will make it easy to get right back out fishing. They don’t have to be the same as the one you’re replacing, but it makes things easier. I once broke a buckle, and then cut the straps, put on a spare I had, and then electrical taped the straps to hold on the buckle. I thought I would just use it to get through the weekend, but I ended up fishing more than a month with the jury-rigged waders, before I permanently sewed the buckle on. It didn’t look great, but it worked just fine.
I’ll also mention, in a pinch, it’s amazing what you can make work to patch your waders. I once got a big rip in my waders and realized my back-up sealant was all dried out. Desperate to fish, I found a bicycle patch kit in my car with tube sealant. I used the whole tube and a spare patch to get me back on the water. It leaked a little, but was functional and I was able to finish my outing successfully. Superglue will work in a pinch, too; trust me on that. And once used duct tape with surprising success. I just wrapped it all the way around my leg; it was just enough to get me through the afternoon and catch few more fish.