Gear Review: Skwala Backeddy Waders
Wader reviews are hard to write. Essentially, what people want to know is will this wader keep me dry? Is it worth the money? Will it last a long time?
I can answer the first question easily, but the last one becomes moot with how often wader lines are updated and because each angler’s definition of “a long time” is different. As for the cost-to-value ratio, that too will differ from angler to angler. $699 isn’t chump change, but when you ask if a certain wader is worth that price, are you aware of the question you’re actually trying to answer? Because each wader has to be priced to net the company a profit based on the R&D costs, production costs, shipping costs, and marketing. Add all that up, and it’s increasingly difficult to put out a quality product for less than $500.
So, the first thing you ought to know about the new Backeddy wader from Skwala is that I consider it worth its $699 price tag.
The Backeddy wader shares the same face fabric as their bomber RS wader (which was designed to be the company’s most durable). It improved immensely on the magnetic clips for the shoulder straps, to the point that it almost feels easier to take off the Backeddy waders to relieve myself bankside than the RS waders—which have a zipper. The integrated knee pads are a wonderful touch and make kneeling down on any surface that much easier. Perhaps the only complaint I have is that the pass-through pocket on the wader’s front isn’t fleece lined, which I’ll get into later.
But enough with the generalities. Let’s dive into the specifics on this wader.
Magnetic, Buckle-Free Shoulder Straps
Skwala has perfected the magnetic, buckle-free shoulder strap design. The first pair of waders I owned that used magnets instead of buckles was the Orvis Ultralight. That system was alright, but a bit finicky. The Skwala Carbon waders have a magnetic shoulder strap, but it’s not as refined as what you’ll find on the Backeddy. The magnets are strong and stay in place, even when running (I had to do a 250-yard sprint to help a buddy net a fish one afternoon) or hiking, thanks to a unique design that looks a lot like tongue-and-groove flooring. A quick pull back on the straps releases the magnets, and it’s easy to shrug out of them when you’re relieving yourself streamside or packing up for the day. Getting out of the Backeddy waders feels easier (and quicker) than getting out of the RS, which have a zipper!
Kevin Sloan, the CEO of Swkala, told me a significant amount of development time went into creating the magnetic releases on the Backeddy, and I believe him. These things are the best in the industry right now.
Side Dump Pockets
If you’ve seen some of Skwala’s other gear, you’ve noticed their “side dump pockets.” These pockets are the perfect size for dumping in fly boxes, floatant, tools, or even a drink. Bringing the side dump pockets to the Backeddy wader was a brilliant move, because it allows for more storage space without adding bulk to the front of your waders. I’m fat enough as it is, so I dislike using my big front pockets for anything more than small items. The side dump pockets give the Backeddy more versatility and add to its comfort level.
Integrated Knee Pads
When I saw an early prototype of the Backeddy waders with the knee pads, I was skeptical. The only other wader I’ve used that has the knee pads is the Orvis PRO, and while it’s a fine wader, I felt that the knee pads made the legs too tight and inhibited mobility. With Skwala’s emphasis on building gear that moves with the angler, I shouldn’t have been worried.
The knee pads are removable but even with them in they don’t cause any restriction to your leg movements. Plus, they’re comfortable as all get out when kneeling to release a fish.
Pass-Through Kangaroo Pocket
Skwala went above and beyond when building this pocket. First off—it’s huge. You could fit a whole fried chicken in there plus some napkins. I don’t have any data to back this up, but the pocket feels bigger than pass-through pockets on any other wader I’ve used.
Both openings zip up to prevent anything from hanging up on the inside of the pocket (like oars when rowing a drift boat) and to keep all your stuff from falling out, too.
You’ll also notice that the top of this pocket has a shorter pocket, complete with a zipper, built on top of it. Skwala did this because they’re aware of how smaller items—keys, wallets, floatant, nippers, etc.—fall to the bottom of a bigger pocket. This smaller zippered pocket built on top of the pass-through pocket is designed to hold those items at the ready so you don’t have to dig through your fried chicken remains/fly boxes/personal pizza to find your keys at the end of the day. It’s a nice design touch that I’ve found myself using more than I thought I would.
The only problem with this pass-through pocket (aside from being big enough to lose a small child in—did I mention it’s huge?) is that it’s not fleece-lined. On those colder days, fleece-lined pockets are a lifesaver for numb hands. Given that Skwala is all about building comfortable gear, I was surprised that they opted to not use fleece here.
Sloan has a good reason for not using fleece, though.
“That’s a big pocket, we wanted it to be able to ‘shake dry’ if you will,” Sloan told me. “Fleece pockets don’t. Fleece is a detriment if it gets wet.”
Fleece certainly holds water, and it takes forever to dry. I recently dunked my fleece-lined RS wader pockets (on accident, of course) and it took them the better part of two days to dry. So, that makes sense. But why not let the angler suffer the consequences of wet fleece?
Well, according to Sloan, when building waders, “everything is a compromise. Stacking all that fleece in there (the pass-through pocket) inhibits breathability.” Adding fleece would mean another layer of adhesive and material, which would inhibit breathability, as Sloan noted. “We (Skwala) wanted something that fell in the middle performance-wise, being the most versatile.” Keeping the wader slim and light, especially through the chest, helps it achieve Skwala’s goals of high breathability and high performance, even with that huge pocket.
After talking with Sloan, the design decision makes sense. The lack of fleece in the pass-through pocket isn’t a dealbreaker for me.
Overall Build Quality
At this point I expect exceptionally high-quality items from Skwala, and the Backeddy is no exception. It features the same 4-layer face fabric they use on their RS wader, so long-term durability shouldn’t be an issue (I have nearly 100 days on my RS waders with no leaks or performance issues, so I can vouch for the durability of this particular fabric).
As with the Carbon and RS waders, the Backeddy fits well and moves with me as I’m on the water. It moves so well that I was able to complete a 200-ish yard dash downstream to help a buddy net a fish on a recent outing. You won’t have to worry about being uncomfortable on the water while wearing the Backeddy waders.
I started this review out by saying that wader reviews are hard to write. They usually are, but Skwala packed so many great features into the Backeddy that I had a lot to say. As for the answers to my three questions?
The Backeddy waders certainly will keep you dry. That’s not an issue. And with all these features I feel like $699 is a reasonable asking price. Again, it’s not cheap to produce or manufacture a technical piece of equipment like this. As for the durability question, I’ll circle back to what I just mentioned. The Backeddy waders use the same face fabric as the RS waders, and I have almost 100 days of heavy use on my RS waders. There are no leaks, tears, or holes in the RS waders, so I fully expect the Backeddy waders to have that same level of long-term durability.
You almost always get what you pay for. The Backeddy waders are certainly worth every penny of their asking price.