SIMMS has been making waders since 1980. As the only company making fishing waders in USA and the first company to introduce breathable waders in the early 90s, SIMMS is in a class of it's own when it comes to the production of high-quality, American-made waders. SIMMS has been based out of Bozeman since 1993. Located in southwestern Montana - the heart of Big Sky's Trout Country, SIMMS moved to a new 65,000 square foot facility at the crossroads of the Gallatin and Madison Rivers on the west side of Bozeman in 2011. This state of the art facility is home to SIMMS HQ and the manufacturing facility where each and every G4, G3, and Headwaters PRO wader is manufactured by hand. Utilizing industry-leading and proprietary GORE-TEX® fabric, the waders leave SIMMS HQ and travel to over 50 countries where Simms waders are sold.
This past week, I had the chance to tour the facility and see everything that goes into producing a pair of SIMMS waders. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I want to admit some bias. I wear SIMMS G3 waders. I have for some time now. Why? Because they last. They last longer than any other pair of waders I've had previously and stand up to the abuse that I put them through day in and day out on the water. Are they expensive? Yes, $500 certainly put a dent in my bank account when I bought my first pair some 6 years ago. But, after more than 350 long days on the water, when it came time to buy a new pair, I didn't think twice.
After visiting the manufacturing facility this past week and seeing the attention to detail, the skill required, and the number of American hands that produce those waders, I can confidently say, that when my current G3s kick rocks, I'll be sending my hard-earned dollars back up to Bozeman for another pair. Let's get to the photos!
The views from the lobby of SIMMS HQ in Bozeman, Montana.
After placing a template for the GORE-TEX, Ian lays out rolls of GORE-TEX for cutting. It seemed like he rolled out what seemed like the length of a football field worth of GORE-TEX three or four times over.
Ian ran into some imperfections while he was rolling the last layer of GORE-TEX for this round of cutting. In many ways, he's the first line of defense in QA/QC in the wader making process.
Here, Ian staples the cutting template on top of the GORE-TEX and preps to cut.
1/16th of an inch. That's the tolerance required when cutting out pieces of GORE-TEX for the American Made Waders. It's all done by hand. It takes a year to train and become a Cutter.
Once the templates are cut, the GORE-TEX required for each pair of waders is bundled together for the next steps.
Fitting belt loops for the G3s.
Attaching the front pocket to a pair of G3s.
A whole pile of SIMMS G3 Waders waiting for their seams to be taped.
Taping seams...one at a time. Like cutting, taping seams requires a great deal of skill and precision. Training to become a Taper typically takes 6 months.
Streamer John applies a circular patch of seam tape to protect the junctions of seams. Each of his seam taping stations features a big, meaty streamer tied by himself. SIMMS is a fishing company, after all.
Attaching suspenders. Every step gets touched by a pair of well-trained hands.
Prepping the neoprene for the bootfoots. All components of these American made waders are built in-house.
Checking boxes off as this pair of USA Made Headwaters make their way to the finish line. Twenty-two people touch each pair of waders that goes out the door.
Every pair of American Made SIMMS waders gets this treatment. They're turned inside out, filled with water, and placed at an angle for 15 minutes to ensure that there are no leaks prior to them being packed up and sent out. As the saying goes, control what you can control and SIMMS certainly does that. A pair doesn't leave the SIMMS Wader Making facility with a hint of leak.
Filled to the top.
Waders are then hung up to dry off before getting packed up.
Empty boxes waiting for a pair perfectly folded waders to occupy them.
Walt runs the Material Testing Lab at Simms HQ. Located just off of the production floor, Walt conducts a variety of tests on all the materials and prototypes that SIMMS uses to produce their jackets, outerwear, waders, boots, and clothing. Here, he tests the tear strength of the proprietary 4 layer GORE-TEX fabric used in the G3 waders.
All of the repairs are done in house at SIMMS HQ. A couple of waders hang waiting for some TLC before they make their way back to the river.
Taking a break from his normal grind, Sales Manager Nick English sprays down some well-loved G3s looking for pinhole leaks.
Here, a pair of older G3 boots gets tended to.
Even the oldest Guide Boots are taken care of.
Who knows how many river miles these boots have seen. A testament to the level of quality gear that SIMMS makes.
Day in and day out, 60 full-time and 5 part-time American technicians produce the best waders in the business.