By Naomi K. Shapiro
Duck hunting is getting exponentially more popular as a fall sport -- and often that means running about, AND IN, some fairly cold water. Almost every duck hunter has experienced the "shivers" as they tread through water. No less the case with guide Phil Schweik.
Phil says that whether you're in a duck blind, placing decoys, or standing quietly waiting for a fly over... if you're in the water, you're going to get cold. Indeed, Phil has seen some pretty severe cases of hypothermia from hunters who were not properly equipped. And what is that needed equipment? A good set of waders. Waders will of course keep you dry, but it's equally important that they keep you warm.
You have some choices: Waders have been around for a long time -- dating back to the 19th century and before. Most of the "old timers" used (and they're still available), the rubber chest waders. They work for sure, BUT they are heavy, bulky, big, and tough to get on and off. Most modern-day hunters, if they have a choice, will opt for neoprene waders. They're light and warm – and, yes, of course, they'll keep you bone dry. Neoprene waders will run in the hundred-dollar range -- and of course, you can pay a lot more for special "this" or an extra "that." Phil believes that you can spend the money, of course, but a simple GOOD pair of neoprene waders will do the job perfectly.
Neoprene waders come in a variety of colors, insulation and thickness. Phil use a 3-mil thick neoprene wader – which, while not real "fireplace toasty" will keep you "comfortable" -- at least for Phil. Now Phil will also tell you that if you're prone to getting cold quickly, buy a thicker neoprene wader. They come in many thicknesses and materials. Make sure you try them on first so you know how you feel in them, their warmth, how heavy they are, and how quickly you can move. You don't want to end up walking along like Gort from "The Day the Earth Stood Still"!
There are a couple of different "models" of neoprene waders. There are the most common type which have the boots built right into them. And then there are some models that have a "stocking foot," so you have to buy separate wading boots. "Whoa Nellie," you say, why would you ever do that? When traveling, some hunters like the idea of being able to pack away the waders themselves, while still wearing the boots, and then when they arrive at their hunting spots, they pull the boots off, put on the waders, and then put the boots on again. It does save weight and the confinement of the waders themselves when traveling.