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Waders

Patagonia Swiftcurrent Ultralight Waders

A packable, lightweight wader solution for hiking and traveling anglers.
Andrew Steketee author.
Andrew Steketee
May 21, 2024
Patagonia | Swiftcurrent Ultralight Waders
product description
“Our go-everywhere, fish-everything Swiftcurrent Ultralight Waders are river-tested and built for discovery. With everyday durability and versatility that make them essential for travelers, hikers and warm-weather anglers, they roll up into a grande burrito-sized stuffsack and weigh in at just 36 ounces.” – Patagonia
company ethos
“There’s nothing on earth like connecting with a wild fish. Chasing that feeling–and those fish–keeps us inspired and inspires our gear. It’s why we support and celebrate the tireless anglers and groups fighting to protect the wild fish and clean water we love.” – Patagonia

Patagonia’s Swiftcurrent Ultralight ($499) waders were designed to be a super light, packable solution for traveling, hike-in and weight-conscious anglers, who also might be willing to pay a little extra for high-end quality and craftsmanship, think minimalistic (smart) features appended to the company’s long product history of abrasion resistance. Yes, the Swiftcurrent Ultralights are ostensibly meant to counterbalance a glutted market of heavier, bulkier waders, but they also offer a fairly unique design concept: lightweight (35.5 ounces) materials, tough construction, utilitarian functionality.

So, how do the Swiftcurrent Ultralights stand up to these self-assured marketing claims? While not quite a 500-foot home run on product delivery, Patagonia’s evolving, multi-year experiment with this wader concept still provides anglers a lot to like. It’s also important to understand what these waders are not (before you grab a pair): 300-day-use workhorses, cold-water warmth, barbed wire, bombproof construction. They are built for specific use cases (travel, hiking) and in that context, they more than deliver on functionality and durability.

The wader uppers and lowers are constructed with a tough, breathable, 4-layer material (H2No® Performance Standard shell) that’s pretty comfortable and easy to get around the river in. If you care about comfort and mobility, the inseam and knee design won’t disappoint. Having said that, you also won’t find reinforced knee pads, bulky pockets with zippers, or heavy-duty construction. We found them perfectly adequate for mild bushwhacking and exploring, but we also weren’t scaling barbed wire or digging through hawthorn bushes. Products do have limits.

Because the Swiftcurrent Ultralights don’t employ a front zipper (for weight), they utilize an adjustable suspender system, where the angler can drop the “chest-highs” to “waist-highs” with a set of plastic cam buckles. They work like they’re supposed to, providing a pretty slick way to convert mid-stream, but the thin, minimalist design on the plastic buckles doesn’t provide a lot of confidence. One crack on a rock and these buckles are built for failure. We’ve also heard of some buckle breakage issues here and there (not great). On the plus side, the understated (suspender) gear docks are a nice touch and worked well. A waterproof (internal) pocket also provides a seven-inch by seven-inch space for phones or car keys–we weren’t huge fans of the vertical pocket orientation, but overall, a nice feature.

The relatively functional (loosely gusseted elastic cuff, with a lace clip) gravel guards are also constructed with the breathable, 4-layer performance shell, though the heavier-duty, inside scuff guards are made from their Black Hole® fabric, a high-denier recycled polyester ripstop. That’s a lot of technical jargon to say the gravel guards are, more or less, functional. We’re not huge fans of loose fitting gravel guards built into waders–either make a guard that is snug and impervious, or leave them off. The middle-ground approach basically works, but also snags on logs and debris a fair amount of the time. Definitely a design mark to consider. How “tough” does a gravel guard need to be?

Finally, the plastic foot stockings are made from a vacuum-formed TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), not neoprene like most wader booties, and are intended to provide durability, abrasion-resistance and an ultra-thin profile. A lot of this sounds too good to be true and probably is. I guess the two biggest concerns with the plastic stockings are comfort and breathability. 

From a comfort perspective, they have a full seam that runs from the length of the foot and ankle, which, at first, is fairly annoying, but you quickly get used to it. I also felt my foot sliding inside my wading boots a fair amount and probably missed the boat on the perfect thickness of socks on a few occasions. I was lucky to have a fairly “true” foot sizing for the waders/stockings I tested, but I could see issues with too much material (bunching), or not enough (TPU doesn’t have much give). Patagonia markets the waders with unisex sizing, so it’s important to get the correct foot sizing, if you can.

From the breathability perspective, it’s pretty simple: Plastic stockings don’t breathe or insulate. I’ve worn them in the spring and early summer, and you’ll often find your socks damp from sweat. I definitely wouldn’t wear these on a multi-mile, summer hike (I’d pack them), and I also wouldn’t expect much warmth on cold tailwaters, or late-season, steelhead trips. I guess as long as you understand the limitations of the plastic stocking design, you can work around the challenges.    

End of the day, the Swiftcurrent Ultralights are a well-designed and functional solution for hiking and traveling anglers. A few design miscues here and there certainly can be overlooked and eventually upgraded as the vision for these waders evolves.

Pros

The light weight and “packability” are off the charts.

Some smart design features: adjustable suspenders, security pocket, tool docks.

Respectable durability and abrasion resistance.

Cons

The suspender buckles appear cheap and ripe for failure.

TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) foot stockings lack comfort and breathability.

We’d remove the gravel guards.

Unisex sizing requires some homework for a proper fit.

Pricing

At $499 not quite a “bargain,” but also not breaking the bank in the (new) world of $1,000 waders–a solid value.

Craftsmanship

Overall, a well-designed wader from aesthetic and performance perspectives.

Durability

For the most part, you can rely on Patagonia to deliver well-crafted and durable products, and the Swiftcurrent Ultralights are no exception. They also stand behind all their products with an “ironclad guarantee” if any performance issues arise. All waders are going to leak if you walk them into barbed wire.

  • Price: $499
  • Weight: 36 ounces
  • Construction/Materials: H2No® Performance Standard shell: 4-layer, 4.7-oz 100% polyester (70% recycled) face bonded to a 100% recycled polyester backer, with a waterproof/breathable barrier and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Waterproof Pocket: TPU-welded, fully waterproof
  • Booties: Durable, ultra-thin, vacuum-formed TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane)
  • Warranty information: Patagonia Ironclad Guarantee

Explore the Swiftcurrent Ultralight waders:

Patagonia Ironclad Guarantee.

“We guarantee everything we make. If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to the store you bought it from or to Patagonia for a repair, replacement or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.”

Likely buyers

Anglers looking for a packable, minimal and smartly-constructed pair of traveling waders that won’t break the bank. Think 20-30 days on the water per year, not 200+ as a working guide.

What others say

“The Swiftcurrent Ultralights are a specific wader for specific missions. If space is a premium, these things are great, but don’t expect your feet to stay warm in cold water, or bushwhack for miles. I personally only wear waders when I absolutely have to and having a spartan pair on hand can save the day with unpredictable weather conditions. A perfect emergency solution for the boat or traveling.” – Tim Romano 

Conclusion

There’s a lot to like with Swiftcurrent Ultralights: comfort, lightweight, performance, clean design and price. We, obviously, have some concerns about the plastic foot stockings as it relates to comfort and breathability, but this isn’t a deal breaker. Pack your wader repair kit (just in case) and spend some time experimenting with different sock combinations. The pros far outweigh the cons if the construction holds up. If not, return them.

Man jumping from rock to rock in patagonia waders
Patagonia Swiftcurrent Wader man holding rod chest high lifestyle shot in water
Patagonia Swiftcurrent Wader man rolling down waders lifestyle shot in water
Patagonia Swiftcurrent Wader man holding rod chest high inside waterproof packet with phone lifestyle shot
Patagonia Swiftcurrent Wader woman walking through water
Patagonia Swiftcurrent Wader woman chest high lifestyle shot in water
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