Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Keep the grit out

A while ago I posted a request for wader feedback that was widely commented on. Since then I've been working on the new wader development and have a specific area for the Way Upstream community to focus and comment on. This area is the gravel guard. I'm testing various fabrics, high filtration mesh and neoprene for this integrated feature. I'm testing various shapes and sizes. All seem to have strengths and potential weaknesses. What do you like, hate, wish for in gravel guards? Do you have a favorite? Do you like them integrated? Let me know your thoughts, comments or stories.

Photo by Mikey Wier


WT said...

That hook/clasp thing at the bottom of the guard is wothless. It never stays hooked in the boot laces and likes to grab up fly line. The only reason I haven't cut them off is because I don't want to mess with the awesome warranty that the waders come with.
Instead I tuck them up under the gravel guard. The elastic band does a good job by itelf of holding the guards down.
My $.02

Anonymous said...

The Watermaster gravel guards are the best I've used. I appreciate the tightness of the elastic, and I like the security of the clasp (when it stays hooked, which it doesn't always admittedly). Add-on, after-market gravel guards are the worst. My first time night fishing for stripers on some rocks, I watched my left Orvis gravel guard floating away after a wave crashed into my knees. So much for that, I thought.

Robison said...

Have you thought about integrating the boot clasp into the boot?
I realize this is a wader redesign but I have often wondered if the clasp might work/perform better if it were some how integrated with the boot itself other than the lace. That way the boot and the wader work hand in hand.

Anonymous said...

I prefer them integrated. Having to use unattached gravel guards is just one more thing for me to (not) remember. But agreed that the hooks used on most waders rarely work well. What about a short strap of nylon webbing that was attached to the gravel guard, and could be looped under boot laces, and then snapped back to the gravel guard (with the same type of snap that the Watermasters use for suspender attachment)?

Anonymous said...

I don't forget integrated guards, but they've never worked as well as the elastic/velcro bands I like best.

Worst is that damned metal hook. I cut them off my old pair, and as soon as I unbury the scissors lost in my recent move, I'll cut them off the new ones.

JVK said...

Personally I have yet to have a problem with the hook staying attached to the laces. I am using the watermasters with cloudveil 8x boots. I always make sure that there is enough tension/stretch on them when I hook them to my laces. If you look in the photo on this post you will notice the tension created that wont allow them to become unhooked. I am a newbie to all this anyway so my opinion carries little weight.
Cheers everyone~

Sinjin Eberle said...

I think my only thought is that on the upper part of the integrated gravel guards, the elastic or stitching is constrictive as well, so that when you pull on your waders, your fleece pants go with them - up your leg. I can manage the fleece pants at the ankle level, but as you pull the waders up, the gravel guards elevate your leggings to shin level. I have complained about this before, and I guess the only answer to this is that Pati introduce an Axuwool pant with stirrups (hint hint).

I don't mind the hook on the front, although it might be more of an inconvenience to undo, what about a hook with a clasp on it that clipped on and stayed put. Yes, it would be harder to take off, but in fast water, it would not come off...

By the way...I have wadermasters with Riverwalker boots with sticky rubber soles - THE BEST!

knots said...

Go to neoprene, they tend to hold tighter to the boot. i know several people who have complained of water "inflating" or rather filling with water, the other type guards while wading and sometimes even retaining the water after getting out of the stream. makes for some heavy ankles.

Taku said...

Hmmm, gravel guards. To be honest, I slip them on and never attach the hooks at the bottom. Like Tom, I have cut them off my slip on guards, due to the fly line hook-ups. They seem to stay down just fine even in fast water. If they need to be attached, I would like to see some type of system that doesn't have the capacity to hook fly lines. Maybe something like a removable snap that would loop around the laces. But if there are attached guards, with hooks, you can always flatten the hooks to prevent fly line problems. Good luck.

KBarton said...

I think the old WW1 "puttee" might be an interesting take on a gravel gaurd.

A bandage style of leg wrapping that the angler could use to cover the boot top and as much lower leg as he chooses.

Some streams seem to defeat most of the mainstream designs, the pebbles seem to be just the right size to torment you to death. This would allow some additional control for the unfortunate thats afflicted with "pebble-itis."

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how constructive this is, and it probably has more to do with the water I fish (mostly big cobble whenever possible), but a few years ago I tore one of the integrated gravel guards on my waders and to keep it from flapping around, I just cut it off. Funny thing is, over the next several trips, I found there wasn't really any difference in rocks or sand in that boot as compared to the other, perfectly gravel-guarded one. I eventually cut the other one off as well, and just haven't really paid much attention to gravel guards since.

On the other hand, if I fished in a lot of sand or pea-gravel, I was thinking some new kind of guard might work better than the traditional. Since the boots all have continuous tongues, the only place for gravel intrusion is over the top. So why not just make a short (2 inches?) cuff on the wader that has velcro all the way around the inside. Then, on the boot, you'd have the other side of the velro in a band around the top of the boot. Connect 'em, and you'd have a completely sealed, lightweight, non-constricting cover over the top of the boot.

Might have to make the boot-side velcro on the outside of a band that runs through a slot and tightens or loosens around the ankle (hey, extra ankle support) like some of the basketball shoes have.

Anyway, that's my million dollar idea for the night.

Unknown said...

Two words: duct tape!

Anonymous said...

On topic: I have some waist-highs from another company, also with the lace hook. It's come undone a couple of times, but it's no big deal to re-hook it. Never had a fly line hook to it...not sure how that happens. Anyways, maybe it's the hook that's the problem, not the concept of a lace hook. Dan Bailey's uses a velcro strap that wraps around the boot. Have you looked into that? My daughter has them and they work ok, although I worry about when the Velcro stops being grabbing. I think fabric is probably better utility, but also more prone to tearing, especially when hiking or wading in rough rocks, but I would personally choose whatever works best for preventing leaks at the seam--good for me, good for your warranty service. I'll never buy add on guards again. I'd rather go without than spend another $30 on a pair that will inevitably leave me with only one. In fact, I keep the mismatched spares for guests/kids to use or for winter slugs to work in deep snow.

Slightly off-topic: you guys need to get a pair of boots with studded rubber. It's all I fish now. We have Didymo here in New England and it's spreading fast. Lose the felt or give us an option without it. Plain rubber is a recipe for drowing, but add the studs and you are golden.

editor said...

I have tried all 4 types of gravel guards. The separate ones, the ones made from fabric, neophrene and neophrene with the metal hook.

The ones I liked best were straight closed cell neophrene foam that was cut long on the back and curved slightly in front to fit over the front of the boot. These had no hooks and stayed place just fine without letting in sand or gravel. Get your boots on, flip down the guards and go fishing.

One thing that would make this type of guard better is use of at least 4mm neophrene.

My least favorite is the fabric wader body type. Especially if the elastic is too tight or they are cut too short. Too short is the worst.

My 2 cents worth.

Marshall Estes

Anonymous said...

I like the integrated gravel guard but have a sneaking suspicion that those have been central to the problem of wader leakage via the confluence of all of those seams--we have had a number of leakage issues with our personal waders as well as the ones we use in guide service and the leaks always seem to occur in that vicinity. Given the choice of separate guards vs the potential for leakage, I'll go seperate.

Murdock said...


I am a big fan of the velcro but often forget to throw them in with the waders. My suggestion would be to have attached guards that use velcro to control the tension and thus keep them in place on the boots.

BTW - it is great to see Patagonia use this sort of forum to perfect their products. Lots of other companies could learn from your example.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Murdock, my favorites have always been the removable neoprenes for their tight fit but like him and everyone else, I loose them after a few days on the water...My current Watermasters have endured quite a bit more that I would imagine the average pair to go through but the only visible wear spots are in both gravel guards. First went the stitching on the cuff and then I managed to rip the insides (it could have been the days of horse riding I did in them as well, I have no doubt the wear is self-induced).

Maybe it's my abnormally long legs or just the way I wear my waders, but I always have the gravel guards slide up and near the tops of my boots, especially if I hike all day - something that neoprene gravel guards never do. So I like the idea of putting a Velcro strap on the bottom instead of the hook. Thad may be on to something though, if the wading boot met the wader half way. Maybe a loop on the bottom of the gravel guard and a small strap on the boot that goes through the loop and back to the boot?

Anonymous said...

built in neoprene guards make it a pain to get the waders on and off, they add too much stiffness and resistance to movement in that area. I really hate the attached neoprene ones.

The hook on the Patagonia fabric design never ever ever stays secured for me, no matter what I do.

Like Dylan, I have found that gravel guards make zero difference for the waters I fish (Oregon steelhead), so I don't worry that the Patagonia hook always comes unhooked. I fished my Simms Guides for years without ever using gravel guards and never had any problems with grit.

In saltwater, I like to NOT have gravel guards attached, because I use duct tape liberally to make a totally sand-proof gaiter. High fashion beach fishing

the OR steelheader

Parko said...

Crump... Don't think the gravel guard was designed for riding Mongolian Ponies. But yes I agree I wear through the inside of the gravel guard in a month: even without horse riding or tree climbing, it gets shredded, I guess its because I'm hiking a lot in waders.

The hook snags line, and the gravel guards can be a bit short, so they come unhooked and ride up. I loose seperate gravel guards, they get washed off in the current etc. I would lean to neoprene. I prefer integrated.

Velcro can get clogged up with grass and burrs, you'd need to test if it gets unhooked in a current or hiking though the bushes.

thinking outside the box...

how do we get a good seal between the neoprene sock and the boot cuff - so a gravel guard isn't needed.

look at climbing gaiters and pants , and see what we can learn. i.e, reinforced wear zone on the inside. Gaiter staps that go under the boot etc... even yeti gaiter type systems where a rubber rand fits into a reciprocal grove on the boot ... perhaps too technical a solution though.

What about alternative materials to neoprene or fabric... like the rubber cuff on dry suits or the sleeve cuff of the SST jacket...

How about hook/clasp/velcro/webbing tabs or whatever on the side (inside and outside of the ankle) rather than on the laces. This way the forces pull in the right places to hold the thing down.

and I guess its worth noting that boot foot waders don't have this problem ;-)

Thats my 1 tugrig brainstorm for y'all


Its worth noting that I wouldn't get on a horse in any other brand waders ;-) That would be asking for trouble.

Anonymous said...

I have found that integrated guards are a must. I have a way of loosing them in a hurry if they arent actually built into the waders.
Exactly like flytimes said, the clasp on the bottom is a waste. I always tuck it up under the guard and just allow the elastic to keep them down, i have never had a problem of them riding up.


Anonymous said...

I'm all for integrated gravel guards. In my perfect world, wader and boot would all be one, the fewer things I have to put on and fiddle with the better. As this is not a perfect world, having the gaiters integrated does make rushing out the door to hit the river a simpler deal. I find that my Watermaster gaiters do actually work really well. Certainly the hook can lift off some times, I think more so when the laces haven't been pulled tight and so after a bit of walking they loosen up and the hook lifts off. I think placing a small D ring on the very front of the boot lacing system (in the first lacing loop that is at right angles to the rest). Then placing the hook either on a slightly elasticated strap (or triangle of stretch material) or making the entire gaiter out of a stretch material (something like what is used in the stretch waterproof jackets - obviously it needn't be waterproof!) would work well and appeal to a wider market. Not neoprene though please, it's heavier and I think we can come up with more modern and appropriate materials today.

my $0.01

Anonymous said...

I really like the integrated gravel guards. I've had problems with the hooks snagging line and not staying attached to the laces. I would just delete the hooks. The elastic seems to work fine for me. All it needs to do is just stay over the top of the boot and contain the laces from getting snagged on brush.

I used to use the old neo velcro GG's too. They work great for a variety of other things. I have used them for knee braces and wound dressings for clients. The main disadvantage is the loss factor. I rarely had to buy a
pair because I always found them on the river, in an eddy, in the parking lot or at the catch and release sections. I'm not a big fan of litter and those things often become litter. I know lots of forgetful fisherman too and just getting the waders into the car is often enough of a challenge for most clients and freinds.

Integrated GG's solves that problem. Another consideration is the water retention factor. Not a problem for hiking usualy, but as you saw Straq, it can pose a problem in drift boats and canoe fishing situations. This could be solved with just a small mesh spot or some drain holes. I doubt that would invite more gravel in. I defintily wouldn't suggest loosing them all together. It's a bummer when you have to stop on a hike to relieve your boots of gravel. It
doesn't just get in from the current. I often side hill or climb up steep banks where gravel and small rocks like to slide around. Small sticks and bits of brush break off and get lodged in boots and laces. The best solution I have seen for that is Brian Jill's gaitor technique. For heavy missions, just throw on a pair of gators over your waders. It adds a lot of protection.

A final consideration is that neoprene is heavy and fabric is
light. Light is good.

Lofoten Sei said...

In moving water, both in rivers and ocean waves, the present wader GG fabric/design will ride up and allow sand or whatever enter the boot. The only tight part of the present GG is at the bottom and as it is tight around your instep of your foot where its wider, as the hook comes undone it gets easily pushed up over the boot ankle area where it’s narrower. The GG should hold the ankle as it holds the bottom of the boot snug which would prevent it from riding up in moving water. There are unfortunately not a lot of options that can accommodate the need when you consider durability. I feel that the neoprene would be the most realistic and best solution.

I would however avoid any Velcro. It tends to grab every weed, bush and moss it comes near.

Anonymous said...

The previous 23 comments are why I just stay with my Orvis BOOT foot waders. Never a sand/gravel problem, never forget/lose a boot, dries out almost instantly, one less thing to fiddle with.

JVK said...

Bootfoot waders fix the gravel problem but you dont get that snug fit like you do with stocking foot.
Has anyone tried the Orvis Bootfoot Tailwaters XT Waders? They are not your typical bootfoot in that they actually have laces and can be tide tight on your feet and they have built in GG's, not that you need them but they help keep your fly line out of your laces and such.
Not trying to promote orvis, I am a huge Patagonia fan, but the idea seems pretty smart.


El Pescador said...

Lots of good information about gravel guards…..and lots of differing opinions. One thing that appears prevalent is that the hooks on many (all?) GG’s aren’t working for people. There were many comments about the hook catching line and not staying secured. I have to admit that I’ve experienced this too, but on the flip side if I make sure there’s good tension (like in the post picture of the Watermaster II’s and S8 Riverwalker Boots), the guard stays in place with the laces well tended most of the time. For S8 the Patagonia wader gravel guard hooks will be placed under the elastic band. That solves the line catching issue but if the hook isn’t engaged with good tension it’ll still be susceptible to release…..and for those who’ve had to hack the hook/webbing off because it’s exposed; now you won’t need to worry about where your scissors are.

Another thing that came out in the comments is that tighter fitting neoprene GG’s seemed to work well for a fair number of folks. Key points - they don’t ride up, they make for a good seal and they don’t store water. The down sides surround issues of foot entry and exit along with durability concerns. Neoprene is still on the drawing board and in testing.

Fabric GG’s were mentioned as being lighter weight and a suitable choice in a few replies. Medial side wear was a problem for Justin and Rob. This kind of wear has been largely non-existent in terms of warranty issues but it’s worth noting. I’d like to see pix guys. Fabric with drainage is also still on the drawing board and in testing. Stretch fabric especially could help meld the benefits of neoprene with lightweight qualities.

Bootfoot waders are an interesting topic. It may actually be a good stand alone post. I bet many of you owned neoprene bootfoot waders (or like me, still do). Know that lace-up bootfoot prototype waders are in testing. The benefit is definitely in the simplicity of having the whole package integrated. For me, the one main downside is related to care. I may be the odd man out here but I actually wash and dry my waders once or twice a season to free the fabric from contaminants and to enhance the DWR finish. I can’t do that (at least easily) with bootfoots. With that said, I’m trying to bring a bootfoot wader to market… a “reasonable” price.

Last one – Duct Tape, it’s a great, multi-purpose material. Don’t leave home without it.

Thank you all for your views. Keep these conversations going. Share specifics if you can about what you refer to in your comments (brand, model, conditions most used in, etc.).

Anonymous said...

First off, I own a pair of Pat. SST from 2000 that have been a staple on the river, and beside normal wear, still work great. My biggest issue with them (and what I like the most) is that they have nylon/gore-tex booties rather than neoprene, which is great for fit and in the summer, but is unusable in below 45 degree water. Anyway, I bought the cloudveil 8xs and I must admit they are a dream. I've yet to have an issue with the hook on the guards. So I'm definitely an advocate of that feature. I do however have some thoughts on further improvements.

1. Reinforce the interior parts of the gravel guards. I fish a freestone river and for whatever reason I'm always straddling rocks and the inner ankle of all of my gravel guards sees the most wear. Also, use triple stitching on the elastic, if not more. These stitches are the first to go (they are long gone on the sst's).

2. For folks who can't figure out how to use the hook, maybe a stirrup makes sense? Elastic alone is inadequate to hold the gravel guards down and a stirrup, while annoying, would be the most effect means of holding the guard down. In theory there is a natural channel of protection in wading boots via the step-down from the heel to the sole, but Patagonia could create a more integrated system with its boots via a special stirrup retention channel. Finally, install the stirrup inside of the guard above the elastic so people who don't want it can snip it off.

3. Finally, largely ignored by the comments, better drainage in guards would be great, though I don't know how you do this without compromising the abrasion resistance you need down there. I get an awful lot of gunk build up underneath the guard so some self-flushing capabilities would be nice.

Hope this helps.

El Pescador said...

Thanks for the comments and ideas Anon. Every comment helps. It's great to know that your year 2000 vintage, fabric foot waders "still work great". Note that Patagonia waders do not use Gore-tex. Our fabric package is a proprietary polyester microfiber, HydroStorm barrier and Deluge DWR. You can read more about it in the wader post comments (Come on in the water's fine), specifically those by Yvon Chouinard (YC) and Randy Harward (Patagonia QC Dept.).

Here are some comments on your 3 points:

1)It sounds like you along with Parko and Justin all see wear on the medial side of the gravel guard. Send me pictures of this wear if possible.

2)I've got some ideas for a better hook. I'm not fond of the stirrup idea though it sure helps alpine gaitors stay down. With that said, I want to avoid adding stuff.

3) Drainage was also mentioned by Mikey and I am testing the idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm personally a fan of integrated gravel guards. Separate neoprene ones are nice for wet wading and no doubt provide a tighter seal, but I don't favor the bulk created when they're integrated.

I like the idea of reinforcements on the inside for abrasion.

For a better guard, I'd actually like to see something more on the boot side. Perhaps an gusset coming up from the boot opening of .5 mm neoprene creating something like a longer sock. Then raise the tunnel for the guard in the wader to accomodate. This would also allow for a better seal using the same boots wet wading.

As for a hook improvement --- invert the whole thing so the hook point up, not down. Engage by sliding under a lace(s).

I'll also second a post earlier regarding studded rubber soled boots -- take the Korkers off steroids and add subtle studs to the Stealth soled versions.

El Pescador said...

Good comments Damon on GG's. Work continues on neoprene, fabric and high filtration mesh. Hook experimentation continues too. Note that I've tried the inverted hook idea. It's quite tricky to connect under tightened laces but it does stay hooked. It's also tricky to conceal.

Boot/GG intergration has merit but that's going to take more time.

Regarding rubber with studs, many users already screw in machine screws to rubber soles. It works well in a lot of conditions. There's a Way Upstream post on the subject - For me, the benefit of screw in vs. permanent is that I can remove the studs when they aren't needed, like in driftboats, sand and in places where rubber suffices without the need of metal. I can also customize my stud pattern.

John Frankot said...


In my opinion, integrated gravels guards are fantastic. The greatest gravel guard challenge seems to be keeping the guard low enough on the boot, particularly on the back of the boot. Perhaps an attachment mechanism on the back of the boot in addition to the lace hook would help. The ultimate would be a rugged zipper feature connect the boot and gravel guard. However, I’d imagine zippers in a sand/gravel environment could be problematic.



El Pescador said...

Thanks for the comment John. A back of the boot connection has been elusive. It seems like creating a custom part is an option. I'm investigating a myriad of ideas but none have really met the goal of being simple.

Anonymous said...

I Have patagonia waders and boots, guard should be longer, i cut off the lace hook. I'll probably add my own snap to back of guard and boot.

El Pescador said...

Anon, drop me an email about your gravel guard length and back snap ideas. Know that the Watermaster II gg length was increased from the original model. The hook is now concealed up under the gg as well. Thanks for joining the conversation.