Orvis Pack & Travel Waders Aren’t Just For Lightweights
I’ve been wearing the Orvis Pack & Travel Waders for almost two years, largely wondering if the lightweight, Sonic-seam welded waders would spring a leak on the next trip.
Which never happened.
In fact, after a fair amount of backcountry use (and getting wadded up and jammed in a pack), they suffered no leaks, pinholes or any other kind of failure.
Orvis holds a patent on sonic-welded seam technology, which instead of physically stitching seams together — introducing holes into the material which must be taped to become waterproof — uses sound to weld fabric together (I sometimes felt bands like Metallica had the same effect on the human brain).
I won’t go into the technical details (mostly because I don’t understand them), but I can say the seams never leaked. (Neither did they leak on the Redington Sonic Pro Zipper Front waders I reviewed here.)
So let’s move on.
Orvis Pack And Travel Waders
I ended up with these waders after writing (whining, actually) about my lack of affection for humping twelve pounds of waders and wading boots into the backcountry.
Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis sent them, and the Orvis Pack & Travel waders are indeed light and spartan; they weigh about a third less than standard multi-ply “Guide” waders.
What’s more — and I can’t point to the SonicSeam technology as the cause of it — they’re far more comfortable than my Orvis Guide waders, which tended to bind when I most needed them not to (picture somebody trying to climb over a big rock, arms windmilling madly).
They also pack far smaller; on several occasions I rolled them up to the size of a lightweight pair of pants, stuffed them into a daypack, lashed the boots to the exterior, and had enough room left for gear, lunch, etc.
Which is a bigger deal than it sounds.
In the past, I’ve had to upsize to a bigger pack when hiking into the backcountry with waders, boots, food, water, gear, etc.
Which sorta sucks.
A bigger pack offers that many more opportunities to snag, weighs more, causes more problems while fishing, and tends to fill up with gear you don’t need.
Over the past decade, backpacking has been largely overtaken by the ultralight movement, whose basic tenant is that ounces = pounds, and pounds = pain, so minimalistic, lightweight gear is better than heavyweight, bombproof gear. My own experiences with lightweight packs and gear suggest they’re right.
In fact, after you’ve thrown on your “Pro” waders, Herman Munster boots and more gear than your average Navy Seal — and then hiked a few miles at altitude — the whole minimalist movement starts to makes a lot of sense.
Enter the Pack & Travel waders.
Tougher Than I Expected
Surprisingly, these lightweight waders have not suffered a single pinhole or failure, and while I’m not throwing myself at the blackberry bushes on a daily basis, I did abuse them in the willows, brush, barbed wire and deadfall guarding my favorite small streams.
My friends will tell you I’m not easy on gear. My ability to suffer pinholes and seam issues with previous waders is somewhat legendary among my close friends (as is my ability to whine about it on the river).
So I didn’t expect these lightweight waders to hold up. But they did.
The Pack & Travel waders are clearly stripped down; one lightweight interior zippered pocket is all you get, and the shoulder straps are thin and spartan (but not, so far, uncomfortable).
Of course, you sometimes pay for minimalism. In cold weather use, I “noticed” the lack of front handwarmer pockets. There just wasn’t any place to warm my hands after catching a trout or waiting for the next riser.
And while I rarely leave gear in front wader pockets (it always falls out), it’s nice to have a place to temporarily stow stuff, like the gloves you peeled off before landing that trout, or your hemostats, or…
These also feature built-in neoprene gravel guards, which I could live without; they added weight and retained moisture, and there are better ways to deal with gravel (assuming you need to at all).
What Do You Really Need?
Clearly, fly fishermen will have their heads turned by “guide” level gear. The concept at work is “if you’re going to buy something, you might as well buy the heavy duty stuff.” Problem is, that heavy-duty stuff is frequently hotter, less comfortable (to wear and to carry) and costs a lot more.
And it’s an immutable law of the universe that the more stuff you hang on something, the more likely it is to break.
I’d suggest the Orvis Pack and Travel waders make a lot of sense for those who hike to fly fish; when you’re carrying something on your own back, lighter and smaller becomes less a convenience and more the foundation of a whole belief system.
Or if you travel a lot and don’t engage in Greco-Roman wrestling with sticker bushes, the Orvis Pack and Travel waders will help you carry less and beat airline baggage weight limits.
If you fish like the majority of fly fishermen (6-12 days per year, though nobody admits it), then why drop $400+ on guide waders when lightweight models pack and travel easier, weigh less, feel cooler, and — unless you enjoy contact with Blackberry bushes — will still last years?
Just a thought.
Are Sonic Seams Sound?
I didn’t test the Orvis and Redington sonic waders (reviewed here) to destruction and can’t speak to the durability of the sonic seams beyond the 10-24 months I used them, but I simply had no issues. (Note: I’ve always developed pinholes or seam leaks in waders within a year)
That could be due to a greater care born of old age, a slowing metabolism, sheer luck, or the emergence of a fairly cool new wader technology.
I’ll let you decide which.
Regardless, my limited experience suggests sonic-welded seams are not a gimmick. Whether their advantages accrue to anglers (last longer, more comfortable) or manufacturers (cheaper to make, fewer warranty returns) isn’t clear to me, but I suspect we’ll see more of them.
See you traveling (lightly), Tom Chandler.