Review: Orvis Lightweight Pack & Travel Waders (Are Sonic-Welded Waders Reliable?)

Fly Fishing
fly fishing gear
fly fishing waders
pack and travel waders
Added Date:
Thursday, 23 Aug, 2012
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.

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 Pack && Travel Waders Light & compact (a backcountry dream?)

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.

In fact, Orvis is already pushing a new pair of SonicSeam "Silver" waders that look like competitors to the Redington Sonic Pros (reviewed here).

See you traveling (lightly), Tom Chandler.

Orvis Pack & Travel Waders: $275

Reading Time:
The City of Boulder has a population of around 100,000 strong. Boulder is an outdoor town and the flyfishing community is strong here. The town is famous for its colorful Western history ... moreand being a choice destination for hippies in the late 1960s. Boulder is the home of the main campus of the University of Colorado, the state's largest university. Because of its connection to nature the city of Boulder frequently acquires top rankings in health, well-being, quality of life, education and art.

A number of fly shops and guide services cater to those that want to explore the eastern slope of the rockies. Supreme fisheries are in close proximity. Boulder Creek, South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek, Big Thomson, St. Vrain, Blue River and Rocky Mountain National Part are close by.

The "Park" as locals call it has countless lakes and streams to be explored. If you're up for stalking the most georgeous cutthroat on a fly, this is the place to come to. Visit Moraine Park where you can hunt nice brown trout in undercut banks or stop at any of the high mountain lakes for an adventure or a lifetime.
Fishing Waters
Southwest of Denver, the South Platte River is formed by the convergence of the South Fork and Middle Fork rivers. Its drainage basin, on the eastern side of the Front Range Rocky ... moreMountains, is quite substantial covering large parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Together with the North Platte, they form the Platte River that winds through Nebraska and eventually joins the Missouri River. There are three main areas along the South Platte that are known for great trout fishing, each a unique and worthwhile adventure: Cheesman Canyon, Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon.

Cheesman Canyon has the rarified distinction of being ranked as both a Wild trout and a Gold Medal stretch of water. Known for its huge boulders, arid clime and towering Ponderosas, the river is also considered to be one of the most technically difficult tailwater fisheries in the state. It is also known for rewarding anglers with large rainbows (average 14-16 inches and many over 20) and sizeable browns. Throughout the canyon you can expect to find deep pocket water, rifles and small pools. Fishing is possible year round although it is catch and release only.

Open to the public, the Gold Medal Dream Stream runs from the Spinney Mountain Reservoir to Elevenmile Canyon. Famous for it trophy rainbows, cutthroats and browns, the Dream Stream is also known for its Kokanee salmon that arrive during their fall spawning season. Trout weighing 2-3 pounds are commonplace, while larger fish, including monster 20+ inchers, are also possible. Fish here tend to be skilled at avoiding detection and prepared to put up a good fight, humbling even the most experienced anglers. This 3-mile section is strictly catch and release, artificial lures only.

Between the Elevenmile Reservoir and Lake George, the South Platte flows through a gorgeous canyon with riffles, runs and pocket water. Steep canyon walls protect from wind and offer shade during summer months. Largely a rainbow fishery, browns and cutthroats are also here. Most fish measure over a foot long but much bigger fish can be found. The top two, Gold Medal miles of the canyon have the highest concentration of trout; catch and release only here. Public access to the canyon is excellent, and this year-round fishery can be crowded. Miraculously, the fish seem oblivious, easier to catch here than on other parts of the river.
The St. Vrain Creek or St. Vrain river as it is sometimes referred to is still a place where a flyfisher can find solitude. Simply put, it's a small stream fishing paradise. The St. ... moreVrain is a beautifyl creek that holds browns and rainbows in its lower reaches. The upper parts have good poplulations of brook trout and cutthroat trout.

Three main forks form the St. Vrain Creek. Highway 7 and Old St. Vrain Road follow the South Fork of the St. Vrain
Creek for 10 miles or so. Park and fish along the road. On County Road 96, just off Highway 72 you will find a trailhead for the South Fork which will take you back into the high country.

The Middle St. Vrain Creek rises along the continental divide, west of St. Vrain Mountain. It descends into a canyon to flow along State Highway 7 and past Raymond and joins the shorter South St. Vrain Creek about two miles below Raymond. Access the middle fork from a trailhead in the Peaceful valley.

North St. Vrain Creek rises northeast of St. Vrain Mountain near Allenspark and descends in a canyon to the east along U.S. Highway 36. The two branches join at Lyons, at the mouth of the canyon. Use the trainhead at Wild Basin to take you into the high country of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The St. Vrain is a tributary of the South Platte River.
Game Fish Opportunities:
The Big Thompson is one of Colorado's finest streams. It flows from Forest Canyon Pass through Forest Canyon where it picks up volume as it is fed my numerous mountain creeks. It becomes ... morefishable at Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, about six miles below its headwaters. From Moraine Park wade and explore the many braids and channels. Delightful trails up and down river lead to fantastic flyfishing experiences.

With its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Big Thompson river just below the town of Estes Park is a classic canyon trout river. This 30-foot-wide trout stream is best described as pocket water and riffles, which makes for great walk-wading fly-fishing. Between Estes Park and Drake the Big Thomson is special regulation water. You'll find wild rainbow trout in the 10-14 inch categories (stocking by the state stopped in 1994) and some brown trout. Below Lake Estes at Estes Park classic tailwater flows are well controlled with fairy stable discharge except for the annual runoff between March and April. From Estes Park the stream flows down to Loveland. The tailwater operates very stable for a dam.

The North Fork Big Thompson River also begins in Rocky Mountain National Park from where it flows along highway 43 east, through the town of Glen Haven and merges with the Big Thompson River in the town of Drake, in the Big Thompson Canyon.

Trout on the Big Thomson can be fincky and will not just take any dry fly you present. Light leaders, tippets and good presentation is called for. Flies should match the surprisingly large number of insects in the Big Thompson or aproximate what's about to hatch. The Big Thomson flows along the busy highway 34 which can make parking a bit crowded at time. However, this water should be well worth your time. On the Big Thomson it pays to visit with a guide the first few times. Local experts will provide you insight to the local hatch and provide instruction for how to fish the Big Thomson for a most productive experience.
Game Fish Opportunities:
/ Boat
1 - 3 anglers
1 day
Steep canyon walls and fast and furious pocket water characterize the St. Vrain. The creek is located just outside of Lyons, Colorado just a short and scenic drive from Denver or Boulder. ... moreThe fly fishing is great and so is the scenery! One cannot help but drift back to the days of the old west as you drive through the picturesque clay canyons of the St. Vrain.

The creek is home to lots of opportunistic brown trout and a good sustainable population of rainbow trout. The Vrain is probably best known for the summer time caddis hatch, with blanket hatches of fluttering bugs happening most every evening, making the creek a dry fly fisher’s paradise.

We are also fortunate that the creek tends to stay ice free throughout the year. So don’t let a little snow stop you, winter fly fishing can be fantastic on sunny days in January and February. The midge hatch makes for some great surface action and this is the best winter fly fishing trip close to Boulder.

Another guide favorite, let one of our pro trout hunters show you the secrets of the St. Vrain.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
4 hours - 1 day
With its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Big Thompson River just below the town of Estes Park is a classic canyon trout river. The personality of this 30-foot-wide ... moretrout stream is best described as pocket water and riffles.

Because of the diversity of water and abundance of trout, the Big Thompson provides a remarkable walk-wading fly-fishing experience for the never-ever or the well-fished angler. The 10-12 inch rainbow or brown trout will take dry flies or nymphs. Big Thompson River fly fishing is an exerpience that is second to none.
/ Boat
1 - 3 anglers
4 hours - 1 day
Addictive Angling Colorado Guide Trips take place on the South Platte River. The South Platte is one of the most well known trout rivers in the United States. The South Platte begins ... morewest of Denver as a small, meandering mountain meadow stream. As the South Platte flows east, it pours into a series of Reservoirs. Starting with Antero Reservoir and flowing into Spinney Reservoir, the Upper South Platte River located in South Park, Colorado, provides anglers with ample opportunities to catch Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Snake River Cutthroats. From Spinney Reservoir the South Platte flows for 5 1/2 miles before it meets Elevenmile Reservoir. This stretch is known as the Dream Stream due to the large trout that call this section of the river home. Below Elevenmile Reservoir the South Platte River flows through Elevenmile Canyon. This beautiful boulder filled canyon offers amazing fly fishing for anglers looking to wet a fly close to Colorado Springs. Eventually, the South Platte flows further downstream into Cheesman Reservoir. Below Cheesman Reservoir exists another beautiful Canyon. Cheesman Canyon Trout are some of the smartest and most beautifully colored fish in Colorado and will test the skill levels of even the most experienced fly fishermen. Downstream of Cheesman Canyon is one of the most popular stretches of the South Platte River. The Deckers area provides easy access and many miles of Public Water fly fishing full of trout eager to take a fly. Below Deckers, the river continues into Strontia Springs Reservoir before it once again flows through yet another beautiful canyon and finds itself flowing into Chatfield Reservoir on the South West Corner of the Denver Metro Area. After the South Platte leaves Chatfield it continues is journey North East until it eventually meets up with the North Platte River. Whatever stretch you decide to fish, the South Platte River offers some of the best fly fishing in the country.
Since 1993, Rocky Mountain Adventures has been helping people have fun. We offer whitewater rafting outings, kayaking classes and fly-fishing classes and guided outings. In addition, ... morewe have a full rental program for those of you wanting to venture on your own. Whether you're an outdoors enthusiast or are a little outdoors timid, we can help you find an experience that's just your speed.

If you're coming to Colorado on vacation, or you live here and are looking for a fun experience for your visiting friends or relatives, an adventure from Rocky Mountain Adventures may be just what you need.


We have four locations to serve you. Our main retail store and offices are located in Fort Collins at the corner of U.S. Highway 287 and Shields Street, just north of Fort Collins. This site is within easy reach of one of our most popular rivers, the Cache la Poudre River. It is from here that we shuttle you to and from your Cache la Poudre rafting trip. If you fish or kayak with us, we often have you assemble here as well.

Here you'll find convenient parking, bathrooms, a place to change into your river clothes, and an opportunity to purchase those last minute items like sunglasses, hats, film and sunscreen. We also have some great t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other casual outdoor wear. You can also meet our Pigeon Express™ pigeons and see how they live in their comfy loft.

Our Fort Collins store is also a full-service paddling shop, complete with several lines of kayaks and associated paddling gear. We specialize in whitewater, touring and lake kayaking. For rafting and kayaking, we stock gear for rent or purchase: life jackets, paddles, wet suits, booties, and helmets. We also carry kayaks, rafts, rescue equipment, dry bags, repair supplies, books and many other items.

We have another office in Estes Park where we meet for many of our fly fishing and lake kayak outings. The Clear Creek trips run out of our Downieville office. Downieville is situated near Idaho Spring which is just 30 minutes west of Denver. The town of Kremmling located within 45 - 55 minutes of Winter Park, Grand Lake and Steamboat Springs is the river office for all of our Colorado trips. The Downieville and Kremmling offices are run under our Mad Adventures company name so don't be confused by the different name.
[...] I held my breath while doing it, but over the last two years I wore and reviewed two pair of sonic-welded seam fly fishing waders, and I’m happy to report I remain dry. (I review the Orvis Pack & Travel waders here). [...]

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