Every Step of the Way

The new G3 wader is out.

If you’ve ever ripped open a pair of waders, on a sharp stick or rock, you know the disappointment shared by every user of outdoor gear. The response is typically this: these darn things should’ve been able to take that without tearing. And if you’re a manufacturer of said outdoor gear, you know that the best way to ensure your products are up to spec is to let your customers be the judge.

It’s exactly this sort of thinking that guides product-development at Simms, one of Bozeman’s proudest made-in-Montana outdoor-gear manufacturers.

The organization’s history dates back to the early 1980s, when inventor, guide, and outdoor fanatic John Simms launched the operation in Jackson Hole. After 13 years, the company traded hands and new owner K.C. Walsh moved it to Bozeman, where it has been ever since.

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That same year, Simms introduced Gore-Tex waders to the fishing scene. “Game-changer” would be one way to put it. Professional guides from all over bought the product. The reviews were glowing. Thirty years later, they’re still glowing.

As of 2022, Simms employs over 150 people in a 60,000-square-foot building in Four Corners. The company manufactures all its Gore-Tex waders right here in the Gallatin Valley, every step of the way. It’s the only wader manufacturer of its size to do so. They have a testing facility on site, as well as an in-house repair team. From the concept phase to holding the product in-hand, the design process takes about 18 months.

“The testing facility is really state-of-the-art,” says John Frazier, Simms’ digital-marketing and PR manager. “There’s testing, then there’s the way Simms tests.”

John says that Simms’ testing facility has machines that analyze abrasion, machines that gauge tear-strength, and others that evaluate punctures. But even though products go through a rigorous review in-house, the lion’s share of assessment takes place in the field.

“Our field-testers examine everything from a single piece of fabric to the entire product,” John says. “And they’re not afraid to go back to the drawing board if something isn’t designed right. We’re not looking for pure glamour when it comes to feedback. If that’s all we got, we’d never improve.”

This January, Simms released the newest iteration of the G3 wader, celebrating 20 years since the model’s inception. Compared to its predecessor, the new G3 has a 7.5% increase in tear-resistance, a 23% increase in standard puncture-resistance, and an 84% increase in pinhole-resistance. The numbers, which John says were calculated at the in-house facility, speak for themselves. The new version is dramatically more durable, plus it has air-mesh suspenders that provide support and enhanced breathability. And if you weren’t already aware, Simms does not adhere to the standard small, medium, large sizing model. The new G3 comes in 19 sizes, along with a half-dozen custom sizes on top of that.

“When we do make changes to something like the G3, there’s a lot of pressure,” John says. “We don’t want to take something that’s beloved and ruin it.” Which is where Simms’ testers come back into the picture. All testing staff are devout anglers; they’re the ones benefiting from a better product (along with the larger community). And when the entire manufacturing process takes place by the consumers themselves, the outcome is hard to beat.

For more info on Simms and their new G3 wader, visit simmsfishing.com.

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