I bought some of these $50 light weight waders and since have had a couple chances of using them.
I ordered the large size even though I'm just 5'6" in order to be sure they easily fit over any of my heavy duty hiking boots. A month ago when Yosemite Valley was flooding during the highest Merced River flows, I waded about some of the flooded meadow flooded areas that gave me access to otherwise difficult to approach spots. However this last week was my first opportunity for a decent stream crossing. The Tuolumne River is still running huge through Tuolumne Meadows. Not a river one would try crossing even at the end of summer. The river splits there into the Lyell and Dana forks with the latter smaller at maybe a third of the size of the former. But that is still quite a lot of flow. Up at the lowest Dana Meadows where one gets good views of Mount Dana, Mount Gibbs, and Mammoth Peak, I wanted to cross the river in order to reach a small turf pond on the other side of the meadow where I hoped for a reflection photograph of those peaks late afternoon. In my younger days, I usually crossed larger streams barefoot wearing shorts. But long ago found how treacherous such crossings tend to be while carrying gear. The water is ice cold sapping one's ability to move and the loose river stones are always very slippery and unstable. Bare foot crossing in the cobble sized stones is always painful as one's cold feet jam between the stones. Better to wear some kind of shoes. Shallow areas of high flow that push one over with every awkward step are as bad as deeper areas of slower flow that chill to the core and can get gear wet not held high.
With the Wiggy's waders one can only protect to the crotch so one needs to cross at areas not much above the knees. Because water in a fast flowing river tends to push up higher against one's leg as one walks across, one needs to cross at areas safely below that depth. I had to be quite conservative because my 4x5 camera gear is expensive. Not something I want to take chances of getting wet and if so certainly ruined. I found a spot about 35 feet wide flowing over foot sized cobble stones where I could cross at a diagnonal and would not be deeper than my kneecaps. Before carrying my gear across, I just tried walking around out in that area without gear. The fast flow made it difficult to keep my balance, as each step came down atop slippery stones that my feet would slide around on before settling in between the stones. Back on shore I looked at my camera then thought maybe another day. But then thought about the pond I wanted to reach. Wearing my 24 pounds of camera backpack would of course help me some against the flow. But I had another idea that I had not bothered with on my initial test because it was my tripod as my expensive camera was still atop it. I could have folded it up and put it into my camera daypack but that takes time and I was impatient.
Now I have a big Gitzo G1325 carbon fibre tripod that with the ballhead weighs 6.5 pounds alone. I opened the legs to chest height, put on my daypack, and without bothering to remove the camera from the tripod walked out into the river to test how much advantage was to be gained using that for stability. Of course I've always used sturdy sticks when crossing rivers with my backpacks in the past. Well I'd just planned to walk out a little ways as a test. However so remarkable was the advantage of the tripod that I soon felt what the heck and was soon on the other side. The sturdy tripod absolutely removed any stability problems. Far better than using a stick. One problem in crossing fast flowing streams is when one lifts a foot to step forward, the flow can be too strong for holding position with the remaining now unbraced foot which can then be pushed downstream. Especially difficult when in waist or deeper water as the buoyant effects can also float one up and away when lifting that bracing foot. Well with the tripod I'd get a stable braced standing position, lean forward across the river, quickly lift up the tripod and quickly push it down to the bottom where it would immediately help brace my position before the current had a chance of moving me. With the tripod finding a new spot, it was easy to then lift up my feet and move forward to its position. Later after exposing three sheets, I went back across with like ease.
The Wiggys are lightweight at just 9 ounces. The base of the boot position has a more durable and grippy material however that is obviously the weakest part of the product and one needs to walk about carefully. I was especially careful to avoid gritty granite surfaces. On the other side of the river, I didn't bother to remove them since I just needed to walk about turfy vegetation areas about 100 yards. One straps the top to one's belt and there is a cordlock to cinch the top. Putting them on and off just takes a minute or two. For travel they wad up into a small stuff sack. Not only are they going to be useful for crossing streams from now on, but I expect to find photography situations where I will be able to wade out to shallow areas on lakeshores. ...David
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