Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders
The Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders make venturing into the backcountry on fly fishing trips much easier. Ideal for hikers who like to fish and those in search of untouched streams. Truly a fantastic pair of waders.
- Drop down suspension
- High percentage of recycled material
- Booty could be a weak spot over time
When Trailspace reached out to me with the opportunity to test the Middle Fork Packable Waders from Patagonia, I jumped at the opportunity. I prefer to fish cold streams that are further off the beaten path that offer up small native trout rather than large stocked versions found in more accessible pockets. This often results in long bushwhacking excursions through rough terrain. Historically, I was left with only a few choices. I could either wet wade (stand in the river with no waders), attempt to pack large bulky waders into a backpack, or sweat it out and hike while wearing waders. For these reasons I was interested in testing out these packable waders to see if they helped solve any of my issues.
I tested the Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders during the summer and fall of 2018 in and around the White Mountains of Northern New Hampshire and Western Maine. During this time I found that they not only solved many of the challenges I faced, but also became my go-to pair regardless of where I was going.
The obvious key feature of these waders is that they are packable, but Patagonia didn’t just create a simple packable wader and stop there. They included some additional features which help make them outstanding.
Starting with the packability factor, these waders roll up and fit into a provided stuff sack that is advertised as 8 inches round by 13 inches long. This is a little thicker than a 40-ounce water bottle, but roughly the same length.
This compact size allows you to put these waders neatly into a backpack or a sling pack and it practically disappears once you put it in luggage for a long trip. And since these waders weigh in at under 2 pounds (1 pound 10 ounces) they are a breeze to carry.
I can’t explain enough how much of a game changer this is for me and those who venture into the wilderness looking for untouched fishing spots. Now instead of needing to decide if I will be cold wet wading or uncomfortable either hiking long distances in waders or caring a larger than normal bag, I can just throw these in my sling pack and head out to the water.
To put the compact size into perspective, my old traditional waders pack down to about twice the size of the Patagonia Middle Forks. This might not seem like a big difference, but counts when it comes to limited space in small packs.
Also, my old waders use a more traditional neoprene booty which holds water after use and adds to the weight when packed. It also adds a lot of water to your bag. The Middle Forks have a rubber booty which does not hold water. I'll discuss this more later.
In addition to the packability of these, Patagonia also included some nice touches. The suspenders allow for easy height adjustability so that they are either full chest waders or waist height. This system really comes into play when you are fishing shallower water and do not need a full chest wader. It allows you to be a little more comfortable on those hot days but also tends to be more comfortable in general as chest waders can be restrictive. When the water gets high you can easily pull the top up and you are good to go.
The waders are constructed using a lightweight material Patagonia calls H2No. It is a three-layer fabric that is completely waterproof and windproof. Waders by definition need to be waterproof. This material worked exceptionally well in keeping me dry from outside water. They are not the most breathable piece of clothing but that is just fine. Typically, you are standing in chilly water, not working up a great sweat.
I did end up hiking about a mile and a half in them on one trip in mid-June. The temperatures were in the low 70s and I felt reasonably comfortable. Normally I would have taken advantage of the packability for a trip this long, but I was unsure of where I wanted to fish and it resulted in a longer walk than anticipated. If needed I could have kept hiking with no additional discomfort, but since these are not hiking pants I would not go much farther than a few miles.
The H2No material is made of a combination of recycled and new material. The upper section is 100 percent recycled and the lowers are 70 percent recycled. I appreciate that Patagonia is innovating using this type of technology.
The ankles have a reinforced scuff guard to help with abrasion protection which naturally occurs when walking through the river. Due to the lightweight nature of the waders in general, this is a nice added piece of protection.
There is a small sealed pocket at the top of the chest that provides enough room for a wallet, small fly box (in my case an Altoids tin), or a phone. You could fit two out of three of these objects together, but not much more. These pockets are watertight, but I tend not to risk it out of an abundance of caution. However, there was a time when I had the suspenders low and hit a hole that was deeper than expected and submerged the pocket. Everything stayed nice and dry.
The booty is made of a thin rubber that is vital to the packability of the waders. Typical booties are neoprene which is bulky and absorbs water. Because these are so thin they are able to fold up and keep the entire system very compact.
They are also my only area of concern based on long term durability of this portion. They could be a weak spot down the road because of how thin they are. I have not seen any signs of wear yet but it is a place to keep an eye on down the road. Patagonia does provide an industry leading warranty program though, so if there are any issues it will be fairly hassle free to have it fixed.
At 5'10" and 180 I fit perfectly in the regular medium. I typically had a light t-shirt and shorts on underneath but there was room for thicker clothes if needed in colder weather. I always wore a wool sock in the boots. These were medium weight hiking socks and the fit was great. I thought that the thinner rubber boot would impact my wading boot size since these are usually larger to accommodate the thick neoprene. However, I did not have any trouble with my boots fitting or feeling too big. With that being said, I don't have the greatest boots and they are made of rather light material which helps tighten them. A stiffer boot may need to size down.
I was extremely impressed and satisfied with the Patagonia Middle Fork Packable Waders. These became my staple waders and were a huge game changer for me. The packability of these waders allows you to throw them in a small day pack or sling bag to bring them with you on any trip. I no longer need to have a debate about if I go through the trouble to bring waders or bite the bullet and get cold feet. I am also able to throw them into my luggage to bring them along on trips out of the area.
The material is well made and has lasted a tough season. Along with the good construction, Patagonia has a great warranty which kept my mind at ease when tramping along through the woods in search of new waters.
I highly recommend these waders for anyone looking to head further into the backcountry in search of fish or those who travel and wish to bring their own equipment.
Caught this little guy while out exploring in the Middle Fork waders.
I have fly fished in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine as well as New Mexico, Colorado, Connecticut, and Vermont for five years. I have had traditional waders during this time period.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Patagoniaa)
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Historic Range: $173.99-$349.00
740 g / 1 lb 10.1 oz