The list of what to wear can be pretty exhaustive. It really depends on where you shoot and the type of ground that you will be out on.
I tend to wear layers that I can take off and put on as needed.
Nylon, breathable or neoprene? Well, where do we start?
Personally, I have neoprene chest waders as they offer warmth and comfort, and they are a little more robust. The insulated feet also make the time spent on the marsh a little easier to deal with. Having said that, a two-mile walk in early September can be a little overwhelming although it makes for a good weight loss programme!
Nylon is lighter for those longer walks but it is less robust when crossing barbed wire fences and offers little warmth in the colder months.
Breathable can offer the best of both worlds. The boot options are better (normally a hiking style boot) as they are more comfortable when walking distances. The main body materials are more comfortable as you tend not to overheat on the walk out, but the cost can be excessive. It’s ever so depressing when you hole your best £300 breathables on the way out to the tide flight of a lifetime.
The same can be said for thigh waders. Again pick something that fits your feet well and suits your marsh.
The clothing market is huge and choice can be massively confusing. Add to that the fact that everyone you go shopping with wants you to buy what they want, and that never really helps!
My advice would be to buy the best that you can afford and pick something you find comfortable. Long parka or a short wader jacket? I prefer the latter because I don’t want to sit on the coat. Some prefer longer coats as they want to do just that, especially if they use thigh waders and leggings.
One piece of advice I will give though is to try on the coat and ask to mount a gun in the shop if you can. The addition of an inch of coat to your shoulder can mess your gun mount up quite a bit and is an important factor to consider.
I will also always try and look for a big zip when choosing a coat. Why? Because little zips and cold hands don’t play well together. Also, little teeth on zips tend to clog up with mud and can also rust away.
A good seal on the cuffs also stops rain and water working their way in to the coat.
Pick a pattern that’s relevant to your marshes. There’s little point having a reed pattern if you’re shooting a green marsh as you’ll stand out a mile and vice versa.
Pick something weatherproof that will dry easily. Putting a wet coat back on before you go back out for a flight can be a little uncomfortable.
Warmth is a key factor. You could be out in inclement weather for a long time, especially if you’re on a tide flight and are being cut off, so make sure you have plenty of warm clothes.
I prefer to walk out in a hoody rather than a coat and have a lightweight waterproof coat to wear if it’s raining. The reason is I don’t want to sweat too much on my walk out, as you will get colder a lot quicker once you get to where you need to be.
Hats and gloves are a given! Most of your heat is lost through your head so always have a hat.
Gloves need a little more consideration. Big fleecy gloves are nice and warm, but you may struggle working the safety catch and trigger, especially on some semi-automatic shotguns with very small trigger guards. Again, something waterproof is a must, as undoubtedly you will get them wet on the marsh even when picking up cases etc.
I find a snood can be worth its weight in gold. Acting as both an insulator to keep the cold and rain out but also as a veil to stop the birds seeing that big white face!
When it comes to bags and carrying equipment, I will always opt for the military Bergen style. I stick to old habits and kit I used for nearly 20 years that never let me down. Having the weight balanced in the middle of the back allows me to cross gutters quickly and maintain balance with both hands free. I have seen several friends take a dip because their gamebag swung at the wrong time and put them off balance at a critical moment. Funny to watch but not so funny if it’s you!