Patagonia’s Swiftcurrent Ultralight Wader is their answer to a travel-friendly, super-light pair of waders. The Ultralight wader was added to their “Swiftcurrent” line of waders and is the lightest and least expensive pair priced at $499. They fit true to size, and if you have any of the other products in the Swiftcurrent line, these waders will fit the same. They are a fantastic option for traveling or backcountry adventures where packing light is preferred.
The Swiftcurrent Ultralight waders are the most lightweight wader in the line weighing in at an impressive 36 oz. As Patagonia says, they pack down into a “Grande Burrito” sized stuff sack, making them perfect for traveling by plane, car, or on foot backpacking. They are constructed with a gusseted crotch for maximum movement and freedom. They have a unique ultra-thin bootie which helps them pack down. Just like the other swiftcurrent waders, they have a sliding overall strap system making it easy to get into them. This system also allows you to slide the chest portion down to your waist, and wear them as pants to cool off on hot days. They are outfitted with a solid waterproof pouch on the chest just like their other waders. This is an often overlooked component on waders; I have put that pouch’s effectiveness to the test several times on the different models, and my keys and phone are always dry. They come with the unmatched warranty/repair program that only Patagonia offers.
I had the opportunity to put these waders to the test on two recent trips: one to Central Washington, and one to the Driftless area in the Midwest. They were both tested in cool mornings, and in hot weather. I was impressed with them on both trips for their performance as a light-weight, warm-weather wader that was also extremely packable.
My trip to the hot desert of Central Washington took place on some Yakima tributaries towards the end of July so it was a great time to test these waders in some hot weather. This trip was a camping trip and the waders packed nicely into my backpacking bag. The waders took up minimal space in their small stuff sack which kept them compartmentalized from the rest of my gear. Fishing early in the morning was best for the fish, and having the waders helped when it hadn’t warmed up yet completely. The same held true for fishing in the evening, some of the canyons got chilly once the sun tucked away behind the mountains. Having a pair of lightweight waders helped immensely, compared to wet wading in those conditions. They dried quickly at camp and were ready the next day to either be used again, or be packed up to head home.
My most recent trip to the Driftless Area in the Midwest involved fishing meandering spring creeks for native brook trout and wiley browns hiding beneath undercut banks and streamside grasses. There was a trico hatch which came off early in the morning and a spinner fall which happened a few hours after. Often the valleys and coulees which the spring creeks flow through are thick with fog a few hours into the morning. The creeks stay cool and are shaded by the nearby hills and bluffs until late morning/early afternoon. Having a pair of thin waders was helpful on those cool mornings, fishing those cold spring fed streams. The waders were cool enough where if you didn’t want to change and wet wade, you wouldn’t overheat as it warmed up throughout the day. The waders on this trip packed into a small duffel bag, they were compact and light, being much better than a conventional pair of waders.
My only critique of the waders is that the booties are very thin, which may not always be a bad thing, especially on hot days. With stockingfoot waders, and wading socks, we are used to the cushion of a neoprene bootie. These waders lack a neoprene bootie and in turn lack the cushion that most booties or wading socks provide. This is less of an actual issue, and more of something different that you have to get used to. The booties are thin enough that you can wear a pair of socks with more padding if this becomes an issue.
During the dog-days of summer, wet wading can be nice during the middle of the day. Unfortunately that is when fishing is slow and can be dangerous for trout. Early in the morning and at last light in the summer is when hatches and spinner falls are concentrated and fishing is better. Unfortunately this is often when it is the coolest, especially when you are wet from wet wading. Having an ultra-light pair of waders that packs up small, and is easy to get in and out of is a game changer.