Sewing machines reverberating, heat presses hissing, tape machines whooshing, sporadic bursts of compressed air releasing, stacks of GORE-TEX rustling – if you’re an angler, this frenzied cacophony should be music to your ears. This is the soundtrack of Simms’ 40 year American-made heritage. For most, the first day of October carries little more significance than exactly what it is – the first day of a new month. However, for those who take pride in not cutting corners (nor expenses), October 1st is never left an empty cell on a calendar. Instead, it’s a square that’s annually marked Manufacturing Day. For Simms, it’s a day reserved to reflect on a staunch stance of never settling. It’s a day to applaud men and women who obsess over every seemingly minute detail and the merits of building by hand, heart, and soul. It’s a day to celebrate the foundational building blocks of Simms’ DNA – quality, craftsmanship, and passion.
Simms’ secret to success isn’t as much dependent on following an overly complicated recipe as it is adhering to a stringent and meticulous process. Just like in cooking, yielding award-winning end results begins by sourcing and utilizing premium ingredients. Fabrics and other components must meet a multitude of specifications before receiving a green-light for implementation. Performance, durability, functionality, comfort, mobility, fit, the list goes on and on. When collectively considered, yes, all of these attributes create a narrow lane of acceptability, but Simms has always believed when it comes to waders, the only way to achieve the desired result is to go the extra mile and work with only the finest materials possible.
The advantage of working with the highest-quality ingredients is bolstered when they’re brought in-house to Simms’ Bozeman, MT manufacturing facility. Because virtually every step of wader making from design to delivery happens under one roof, Simms has the ability to control every step of the entire process. Ultimately, harnessing this amount of control allows an unmatched level of quality. From an all-star cast encompassing designers, developers, material experts, and quality technicians, anybody and everybody who has skin in the game of the final product has a direct line of communication with the team members who assiduously transform concepts and ideas into reality. Whether it comes from the Wader Makers, the in-house testing lab, or the in-house repair center, feedback on things that could make something better can be implemented right then and there.
If there’s a single key to quality, it’s doing more on the front end. For Simms, before a wader reaches the production floor, not only have the materials passed rigorous lab and field testing, so have the designs and construction methods. Before the end result of all of the laborious, efforts are delivered, each wader undergoes a final test. Prior to leaving Bozeman, every pair of waders is turned inside-out, filled with water and inspected for leaks. Once verified leak free, then, and only then, are they turned right-side out, hung to dry and packaged for delivery.
Just like in cooking, premium ingredients fall flat unless they are put into capable hands. In Simms’ case, these capable hands belong to Bozeman-based Wader Makers. These highly skilled craftspeople are proud of their work, respect and understand the process, and scrutinize every wader they touch. Some waders require over 150 steps, each dependent on incredibly slim margins for error. On the Wader Maker’s side, there’s responsibility, accountability, and ownership. For the angling consumer, there’s great satisfaction that comes with knowing every cut, every stitch, and every seam was performed or executed by someone who cares.
There’s also a unique level of trust and reliability knowing that the Wader Makers themselves are more than familiar with the end use of the products they build. Many of these folks fish, and they fish hard. Because of that, they too demand waders that offer the best performance and have the ability to endure season after season. They respect the work and take pride in building the best for their angling brothers and sisters.
Pushing the progression of design, development, materials, and technologies to make better waders requires being done so by a company full of people that wear waders all the time. Simms’ heritage offers a distinguishing advantage, but their passion also provides a very unique strength. In addition to all of the great things that come with building waders from design to delivery in-house, a ton of their core users are also in-house. Simms employees wear what they build. Because of that, not only do they have a better understanding of how a wader moves, where it stretches, how it should fit, etc, it validates why they choose to manufacture waders the way they do. Wader Maker or not, everyone at Simms recognizes and appreciates what it takes for their waders to earn the reputation they have.
Simms waders stem from innovative design, cutting-edge materials, and tenacious testing. But they are also the end result of a painstaking process that’s accomplished by men and women who live and die by precision. Are there easier, more efficient ways to make waders? Undoubtedly. However, the end result pales in comparison to what the end user will experience. As with all highly regarded products, sometimes what is novel isn’t so much what you see but rather how it’s made and, in the case of Simms, who makes it. Quality, craftsmanship, and passion – three elements end users are sure to find with each and every wader that leaves their manufacturing floor.