For the most versatile hunting and fishing experience, chest waders are definitely the most versatile option for protection from water under a wide variety of circumstances. They are by far the most widely used gear for protecting hunters and fishermen while out in the field. The name is derived from the fact that this type of wader rides up under the arm pits and is held up by a pair of shoulder straps.
Chest waders are made of the same varieties of breathable, waterproof materials as guide pants and hip waders. They allow the hunter or fisherman to completely submerge themselves up to the chest in water. This includes a wide variety of waters from ice cold streams to deep, muck-filled duck sloughs.
They are also an excellent choice for float tubing your favorite river. Oddly enough, several varieties are flexible enough to roll them down to the waist to wear them in much the same way you might wear guide pants, an option for the fisherman who is torn between a chest wader or guide pants. As a duck hunter, I know that hunters need to move as conditions dictate. You might be ankle-deep in flooded timber in the morning, but over your hips in the cattails when the wind changes in the afternoon. You don’t ever want to be in a situation where you can’t get where you need to be.
When the trek brings the fisherman to a very cold and deep river, there is no other option than a chest wader composed of one of several varieties of neoprene wader. Neoprene is a foamed material containing gas-filled cells that have excellent insulating properties. Neoprene is not nearly as forgiving as the much lighter breathable materials, but when you are standing up to your ribs in a cold swamp with the snow flying around your head, you want the nice cozy warmth of neoprene wrapped all the way up to your armpits.
So if you find yourself torn between wader varieties, the chest wader is the most versatile choice for both hunters and fishermen. Your only major decision after choosing the type of wader is to consider the materials you prefer.