Duck hunters are a rare, borderline crazy breed of folk. What compels a man to wake up at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning after a long week of work, drive an hour and stand outside in the cold? What compels that same man to launch a small aluminum boat into the icy flood waters of a muddy river and navigate through a maze of flooded trees hours before daylight in search of a place to stand in the water all morning long? What makes a man sit on the most beautiful beach with his entire family, daydreaming about the most brutal of winter weather conditions, wishing for the chance to welcome subzero temperatures the rest of the civilized world hides itself from?
To be honest, we don’t really understand the psychology that compels a duck hunter to call all of those things “fun” but at our core we share whatever it is. We are as passionate about duck hunting as you are, and even though the majority of the world finds our obsession odd...we get it.
The passion that drives us to duck hunt is the same passion that motivates us to manufacture exceptional waterfowl hunting gear, and it’s why comfort and functionality are king. We believe that your gear should keep you in the field as long as you want to be there and not what drives you back to the fireplace at camp.
In this blog, we will elaborate on three of the key features that contribute to the comfort and functionality of our patent pending Chêne Gear waders.
CHÊNE SHOULDER STRAPS
One of the first things you’ll notice when you put on our waders is the comfortable fit of the Chêne Gear shoulder straps. When we designed our patent pending waders, we developed a shoulder strap that was constructed from one continuous piece of nylon webbing. Similar to a 5-point harness used in rock climbing, the Chêne Gear shoulder strap creates an integrated structure within the wader body. This integrated structure, much like the waist strap on a backpack, appears incredibly simple. In function, our strap design displaces the weight of the wader from the top of your shoulders, distributing it evenly across your hips and core.
Women have been utilizing a similar “racer” style shoulder strap for years in the design of their sports bras and active wear to support the weight of their upper chest. The shoulder straps cross on your back before going over the top of the shoulder, distributing the weight of the wader while ensuring that the straps aren’t constantly falling off your shoulders. The nylon webbing is double-stitched to the wader body, and is supported by a thin neoprene layer which cushions the direct contact to the top of your shoulder.
We used a hook-and-loop system to secure the shoulder strap to the front of the wader. We know how annoying oversized plastic buckles are on the front of your waders and how inconvenient they are when you need to shoulder your shotgun. Those giant buckles have probably been getting in your way since you first started wearing waders, and if Americans can put an astronaut on the moon, surely we can build a better way to attach shoulder straps to the front of the wader.
You will appreciate the simple, low-profile hook-and-loop system on the front chest area of the waders. The multiple loop positions also make adjusting the height of your waders easy. The loops in the shoulder webbing are easily adjustable, allowing you to adjust the overall wader height without requiring you to modify the inseam.
During the early product testing, the shoulder strap hook faced away from the center of your chest. We quickly noticed that this made it possible for the shoulder straps to occasionally slide off the hook, especially when you are sitting down. So we adjusted the inside angle of the hook and flipped it over so that the hook now faces the center of the body and pulls against the angle of the shoulder straps. This effectively locks the shoulder strap in place, preventing the hook from coming out of the webbing before you are ready to remove your shoulder straps.
Most duck hunters probably don’t spend much time considering the design of their shoulder straps and describing straps as innovative may seem a stretch to many. The most functional designs are often perceived as simple. In reality - simple is often better.
Over the years, we’ve battled with bulky oversized plastic buckles and dysfunctional wader belts. They’ve been offered in virtually every shape and size but none of them work well. Wader belts should be designed to accomplish three things: distribute the overall weight of the wader, keep the bottom half of the waders from sagging in the crotch area, and protect you from excessive water entering your wader in the event that you fall. The single, most important element a belt must possess in order to accomplish those three functions is the ability to maintain its length. This seems very simple in concept, but traditional wader belts have proven inadequate at maintaining the correct length. They are always a little too loose or a little too tight, but they are never just right. On the rare occasion you finally get your belt length set where you want it, it seems like it never stays there long. It will inevitably loosen before the end of the first hunt because most wader belts are made of a smooth nylon webbing. Smooth webbing tends to slip when force is applied to the buckles, we’ve constructed our belt of a rigid material, eliminating this issue. The teeth on the buckle of the Chêne Gear wader belt lock the length of the belt in place so you aren’t constantly adjusting it after every hunt.
When we developed our wader belt, we wanted a durable, rigid material that would maintain the correct length, while still maintaining some flex, to provide appropriate support for the bottom half of the wader. We wanted a belt with some texture for the buckle to grip so that you won’t have to constantly re-adjust it. We also wanted a belt that would provide substantial support but that wasn’t oversized and bulky. We chose to utilize a firm nylon strap with elastic stretch to accomplish these objectives and we believe you will appreciate how the elastic material flexes and bends with your movement. You will also appreciate how the elasticity accommodates the occasional extra layering a cold morning requires or the extra “January” weight that gas station groceries tend to leave around the waistline of sleep deprived late-season duck hunters.
The Chêne Gear wader belt floats free in the belt loops so you won’t have to deal with the uncomfortable bunching and twisting of your waders. We want you thinking about the next bunch of ducks instead of the next bunch in the back in your belt line.
We’re clearly biased, but we love our belt design. It’s the Mary Poppins of wader belts - practically perfect in every way.
Without exception, every person that wore a pair of Chêne Gear waders this winter, told us the boots were incredible. In fact, most of them said that the Chêne Gear boots were, by far, the most comfortable wader boots they had ever worn and they begged us to build the same boot in a knee-high model. There are several technical factors that make our boot design so comfortable, but it’s important to note that experience always trumps a scientific explanation. Do yourself a favor and try them. These boots are legit, and we’re confident you will agree.
Our boots have a neoprene upper, which makes getting in and out of them very convenient. The neoprene provides just enough ankle support for your ankle to feel secure in rough, muddy terrain, but without the pressure and “pinch” that rigid rubber boots put on the knobby part of your ankle. Remember having to choose between a boot that was either super loose or super tight, but never “right”? Our design solves that problem without sacrificing comfort and functionality. The sole of our boot is built similar to a tennis shoe with the perfect amount of cushion, support, and tread.
There are several other wader boots with a neoprene upper similar to ours - some have covers over the boots, and some don’t. During our research and development phase we tested our boots extensively and compared them to all of the others available on the market. We found that while uncovered boots were very comfortable and lightweight, they were highly susceptible to abrasions and punctures from underwater debris. The soft neoprene area around the ankle is the area that takes the most abuse from underwater debris and that most need to be protected with a durable, functional cover.
The boots we evaluated that were covered had a different set of problems related to the dysfunctional design of the boot cover. We’ve all been in the boat with a buddy who’s boot cover dumps gallons of water in the boat every time he climbs out of the water. Waders shouldn’t red line your bilge pump every time your buddy decides to adjust the decoy spread or pick up a cripple. And when you need to move quickly through the water, your boot cover shouldn’t slow you down or create “drag” like an underwater parachute. Additionally, your boot cover shouldn’t be so large with loose, excess material that it can snag/rip on debris or cause you to trip and fall.
The objective of our design team was clear from the outset - cover the soft neoprene around the ankles with a durable abrasion resistant fabric that wouldn’t hold excessive water, wouldn’t hinder our ability to walk through the water, and wouldn’t create discomfort from rigid pressure on your ankle. We all knew that we needed to cover the neoprene ankles, but we wanted to make sure we built it better.
We accomplished this with a simple, innovative vertical vent in the heel of the boot cover. The vent has some elasticity to it that both holds the cover flat to the boot (eliminating the need for loose, excessive material) and allowing water to quickly pass through as you lift your foot from the water.
“Complex simple” is the way our design team likes to refer to it. Complex in all of the functions the patent pending design makes possible, yet simple in the overall construction of the finished product.
Simple, effective, durable, functional, and #BuiltBetter.