Relative newcomer Skwala entered the fly fishing market earlier this year with a stated goal of raising the expectations fly anglers have for their gear. So far, their limited lineup of products has turned heads, offering anglers notable and welcome innovations.
Need a pair of lightweight waders that feel more like pants? Carbon travelers fit the bill. You need a coat that will keep you warm and dry through anything AND that moves with you while you’re in the water? Skwala’s RS Jacket could be the answer.
Skwala’s newest offering, its RS wader, is Skwala’s flagship wader, tailored for anglers who need a highly durable, functional and comfortable wader for frequent use in both the best conditions and in the worst ones. Whether it’s scrambling over rocks, crashing through thick brush, fishing in sub-freezing temperatures, or throngs of abuse guides and die-hard anglers setting up their gear, Bozeman-based gear manufacturer RS wader-built in his, aims to offer top-shelf, long-term performance.
Of course, what is a product build doing and what you actually achieve are two different things. I have had the opportunity to fish the RS waders for the past few months and, so far, they have excelled in all my fishing situations.
Built-in wadding belt
This is my favorite feature of the Skwala RS Travelers. The surf belt is built right into the waters, so it’s impossible to get lost. And as someone who recently took a potentially dangerous river swim, I can attest to how valuable leg straps are when they work.
More than that, though, is the belt’s lumbar support. Standing or driving all day takes a toll on your back. Skwala designed this jump strap to help anglers who follow it all day.
As in their carbon, Skwala went with a minimalist design on the shoulder straps. They don’t stick together, so you don’t have two big plastic buttons sitting on your chest, waiting to get in the way of the fly line. The straps are designed to slide over your shoulders when the front zipper is down. Pull the zipper up and everything snaps into place.
Photo: Alex Stulce.
The straps are adjustable for length with a hook and loop system that slides into the shoulder yoke. The yoke itself distributes the weight nicely, certainly helped by the light weight of the RS dancers.
Skwala uses a proprietary fabric in their waders, choosing this over the GORE-TEX used by some of its more prominent competitors. This was an important, deliberate choice, especially since Skwala CEO Kevin Sloan held the same position at Sitka, which uses GORE-TEX in many of its products. To create a container as puncture and tear resistant as the RS, Skwala designed their fabric from the ground up. The RS, in particular, features four breathable laminate layers covered by a double-knit polyester microfiber face textile. That double-weave face textile makes the waders particularly puncture and tear resistant, while the four-layer lamination provides waterproofing and breathability.
Despite how durable the fabric is, it feels more stretchy than what you’ll find in other “bomber” tiers. This was a design goal of the folks at Skwala, who sought to create the most comfortable and durable fabric on the market. Again, this is why they chose their fabrics. Skwala thought he could create a fabric that better meets the demands of fishermen than what we find in existing products.
While I can’t speak to the abrasion resistance specifics of the RS sliders, I can say that I’ve noticed them to be much more ventilated than other bombproof, cold weather, and ultra durable ones. Quantifying breathability is tricky, but for me, it comes down to how comfortable I feel while in the water. Even on hot days, I don’t feel swamped in RS waters. They are the first pair of heavy chairs that I am not afraid to wear from a comfort perspective, and that tells me a lot that Skwala got the formula right with their proprietary fabric.
In terms of durability, Skwala spent several years testing the fabric in a wide range of challenging conditions. I’ve worn the RS waders while scrambling over rocks, climbing in and out of powerboats, and hiking miles through the brush and brambles of the Rocky Mountains. So far, I haven’t noticed any significant signs of wear.
Fit and comfort
If you’ve been following the release of any new Skwala gear, you already know that the company is very focused on building gear that moves with anglers, rather than gear that gets in the way of our range of motion. The RS Waders are among the most comfortable I’ve ever worn and do a great job of moving with me while I’m in the water.
Photo: Alex Stulce.
Skwala uses unique fourchette stitching on the legs to increase mobility and comfort. A fourchette seam, often found on gloves to provide added versatility, is a method of attaching fabric panels without impeding the wearer’s range of motion. The specific quad liners on the RS waders are designed to increase articulation throughout the foot, giving the wearer freedom of movement that will sometimes leave you feeling like you’re not wearing socks at all. By placing the four sets at specific points in the valley, Skwala was able to create a moving outfit with you, instead of bunching up or feeling cramped when scrambling over rocks, logs, or any other obstacles you’ll encounter during a day on the water.
No other wader manufacturer is currently using four layers in the same way as Skwala, which makes their waders particularly unique. After using them for months, it’s remarkable how well the RS wader moves with me while wearing it. I think freedom of movement is one of the first features anglers will notice when using RS waders on the water.
The fleece lined hand warmer pockets on either side of the front zipper are roomy enough for fly boxes, jig reels or even some snacks. These hand warmer pockets are also zippered which is a nice touch to add more pocket space.
There are two zippered pockets on top of the hand warmer pockets, with matching pockets inside the wader as well. In short, you won’t run out of pockets in the RS waders.
What doesn’t work
There is no Dock Tool
This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it might be for some anglers. Waders RS do not have a built-in tool dock where you can hang hemostats or other tools. This is in keeping with their minimalist design, and I personally don’t use the tool dock in any of my cases. But it’s worth noting that the RS wader doesn’t have that feature.
The last word
RS Travelers are Skwala’s ultimate solution for the toughest fishing conditions. Utilizing a proprietary fabric, Skwala has built waters that claim to set new industry standards for durability and comfort. Skwala’s choice to use proprietary fabrics may seem risky on the face of it, but, according to Skwala, it allowed them to build a lure that better meets the demands of the most challenging fishing conditions without sacrificing comfort. The RS waders’ 4-layer fabric matrix is lightweight, durable, warm, breathable, and allows for an incredible range of motion—a design goal that Skwala has made a hallmark of all of its offerings. The freedom of movement you will feel when wearing the RS waders is nothing short of exceptional and it sets a very high bar for forward walking comfort. The RS waders offer top-notch performance across the board, which helps make the $800 price tag more palatable.
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