I just received a brand new pair of Patagonia’s re-vamped Rio Gallegos waders for 2016. They look great and they’re loaded with fisherman-friendly features. Many of them, like waist mounted suspenders and lined neoprene booties, have been features exclusive to Patagonia’s wader line, but they’ve included some new bells and whistles that show the company’s attention to detail and their dedication to innovation. Over the last year Patagonia has hit the re-set button on their entire wader line under a program they’re calling the Wader Task Force. Basically, Patagonia began to see a pattern of warranty issues regarding their waders and began an investigation into the source of the issues. The new 2016 versions of their waders are the culmination of their work to create what could be the most feature-rich and fisherman friendly wader on the market. Time on the water will be the ultimate tell-all of the wader’s durability and fish-ability, but first impressions of the new Rio Gallegos are very good.
Following my out-of-the-box evaluation, I’ll take a careful look at body fit, bootie fit and a list of valuable design appointments. In summary, the new Gallegos made a really positive impression both in terms of wader design and Patagonia’s overall direction in fly fishing.
Patagonia Rio Gallegos Waders: Out of the Box
The first consideration to the consumer is usually price. In the case of the new and improved Rio Gallegos this has not changed; they still retail at $499 for the non-zippered version and $599 for the zippered version. The color has also been updated to a light grey body with dark grey accents on the legs extending to the middle of the back. Patagonia has included their iconic Fitz Roy Trout logo on the center front of the wader. I know it’s a little thing, but it gives the wader an extra level of shelf appeal. The booties match the color of the lower portion of the waders. The waders are built entirely with Patagonia’s exclusive H2No 4-layer submersion rated waterproof fabric. The fabric has a great hand, not too stiff, but with enough substance to inspire confidence cruising through brush to get into your honey hole.
Gallegos Body Fit
Patagonia’s wader fit has always been a little generous compared with the competitors and it’s no secret in the industry that the Simms wader fit has become the standard. My stats: I’m 5’11” and weigh 155 pounds with a 31” waist and a size 11 shoe. I’m a thin guy with an athletic build, but no one is going to confuse me for being a big guy. I have several sets of waders, a pair of 2013 Patagonia Rio Gallegos, a pair of Simms G3 Guides and this new version of the Patagonia Rio Gallegos all in size Medium. Version 2016 of the Rio Gallegos fall right in the middle as far as fit goes between the three sets. Version 2016 has a noticeably trimmer fit than the 2013 version of the Rio Gallegos. They’re still roomier than the Simms G3 Guides with the main difference being that the Simms waders are designed to fit flush at the chest and expand towards the rear of the wader, while the 2016 Gallegos are designed to fit flush at the back and expand towards the chest.
Version 2016 fits me well, not as streamlined as the Simms fit, but a huge improvement over version 2013. The legs are roomy but not overly baggy and feature an articulated cut with single seam construction at the back of the leg. I do feel like there’s a touch of extra material above the bootie seam and below the removable knee pad. This extra material looks like it’s excessive but bending down, kneeling and squatting aren’t hindered at all by the fit of the waders making me think this was factored into the design on purpose to provide a little extra range of motion. In general, these waders have plenty of room for layering up on cold days without being restrictive. When worn with light layers the seams are positioned just right so that the waders don’t feel like there’s a lot of excess material. Like Patagonia waders in the past the shoulder straps are mounted at the waist allowing these waders to be worn like wading pants with or without a wading belt.
The wading belt is a quality belt that stretches fully and adjusts to fit a wide range of waist sizes and the waders feature dual belt loops in the rear to keep the belt in its place. My overall impression was very positive and the improvement in fit is noticeable from the 2013 version.
Rio Gallegos Bootie Fit
Bootie fit was another issue with the 2013 Gallegos that Patagonia addressed. The 2013 bootie in a size medium was sized for an 8-10 shoe while the 2016 version is sized for a 9-11 shoe. This fits me much better than the previous bootie from 2013. The fit is very similar to the Simms bootie and I would say that the 2016 Gallegos bootie is slightly roomier and a shade thicker than the Simms bootie. The updated bootie features dual seams at the Achilles to alleviate pressure points and distribute wear, and a redesigned toe seam that is flatter and less noticeable in the wading boot than the 2013 version. For 2016, Patagonia has gone away from the merino wool grid lining and instead opted to use a polyester grid lining. Same concept as the wool, but the polyester is reported to move and manage moisture more effectively than the merino, plus the poly grid they use is made from recycled fabric. Also, the neoprene used in the booties is denser and more resistant to compression over time. We’ll see how this holds up, but it will amount to drier and warmer feet for the fisherman.
These waders are absolutely full of features, some obvious and some that are less noticeable but certainly appreciated. Starting with the feet: improved bootie fit, sizing and materials, notably a poly-grid lined bootie, as mentioned above. The gravel guards only have elastic on the outside of the guard and the stainless lace hook is recessed to avoid catching line, really sweet attention to detail. The idea behind the half elastic guard is to facilitate fast draining and to eliminate a wear-prone area with no elastic to come apart on the inside of the foot any longer.
Moving up the leg, the next thing you’ll run into is the removable knee pad. The knee pads are streamlined and they’re a nice little creature comfort for taking a knee to land a fish or pose for a grip and grin. Also, if you don’t like them you don’t have to use them, so don’t be that guy that gripes about a bonus feature—use them or remove them, it’s your personal choice
The wading belt is stretchy and wide enough to have some substance and it’s held in place by two loops in the rear. I thought the placement of the beltline was right where I wanted it.
These waders have what amounts to a cockpit in the chest with lots of pockets and attachment points for anything you could want close at hand. There’s a fleece-lined hand warmer pocket with an articulated cut and rounded corners that just feels right when you put your hands into it. Bonus, the hand warmer is underneath the zippered chest pocket so you get a windproof layer above the fleece.
Overall Evaluation of the Patagonia Rio Gallegos Wader
I’m really impressed with the attention to detail and the value of these waders. For $499 the consumer is getting a product with more attention to detail and more features than any other wader on the market at that price. It is clear that Patagonia has put a lot of time into R&D and that they’ve listened to the guys out there on the water. They are a bit roomier than the comparable size in a Simms wader. This will work out great for some customers while others might like the fit of the Simms better, however the fit profile has improved so much that this is less of a conversation than it has been in the past. I can’t speak to their durability yet as I haven’t gotten them on the water, (they arrived Christmas week and its snowed 40” in Telluride) but I’ll be sure to add that element into the report after a season with them. Out of the box I’m very pleased with the waders and I look forward to getting them out for some fishing and guiding once the snow stops here in the San Juans. Take care, tight lines and thanks for reading.