Monday, June 1, 2009

Cabela's Cazadora Wader - coincidence?

So Cabela's is coming out with a new women's wader, and they're calling it the Cabela's Cazadora Wader. Coincidence?

No. And today's the day I finally get to tell you all about it.

Remember back in October when my friend Sarah and I went to Cabela's in Reno to shop for women's waterfowl gear and came home disappointed? I wrote later that Cabela's had responded with both apologies for the experience and a discussion about improving women's hunting clothing.

But that wasn't the whole story.
What I've been (painfully) keeping under my hat all this time is that they invited Sarah and me to do product testing on a new, built-from-the-ground-up women's wader. In short, after all that complaining about having to put up with ill-fitting men's waders, Sarah and I would be helping to design waders made for us - and for all our duck hunting sisters out there.

Right away we started working with Cabela’s Product Manager Rob Burnett and Purchasing Specialist Joe Haddock to talk about what we wanted, and the main thing - aside from the obvious, like boots made for women's feet and length made for women's height - was Velcro straps. We were sick of how the buckles on waders sat right where we shouldered our shotguns. (Sure, you could design them to sit lower, but then look where they'd be - no thanks!)

So they got busy, made two prototypes and popped them in the mail to us in early November, with the request that we use them as much as possible. Sarah and I tore open the boxes when they arrived at our houses and tried them on.

We were really excited because they actually fit us!

But there were problems. The boots were freakishly tight on our calves - and neither of us has particularly big calves. The handwarmer pocket was so high that putting our hands in there was pretty much resting them on our boobs. (I know, men are thinking, "What's wrong with that?" But seriously, walk around with your hands grasping your pecs for a while and see if that doesn't feel a little awkward.) There was no extra padding on the knees - a feature we've loved in our other waders. And Sarah really wished it had come with a belt for safety.

We each sent them emails outlining the problems, and Rob and Joe were actually delighted that we'd offered such detailed critiques, because that's what they needed to make the product successful.

But that wasn't the coolest thing about working with them. What I really loved was how excited they were about the whole project. While Cabela's has a couple women's waders in its product line, this was the first time they'd built them from the ground up, rather than scaling down the men's product, and Rob and Joe were really enthused about it.

The interesting thing is this is what all the women's hunting clothing companies I love so much (Prois, SHE Outdoors, Foxy Huntress) talk about - the fact that they build women's hunting clothes from the ground up, rather than just shrinking men's versions. Now we had a major retailer doing the same thing - for waterfowl gear, which is the one area the women's companies haven't touched.

Rob and Joe sent us Version 2 of the waders in late December and they were just about perfect. I had some different-sized women friends try them on, including one who's much shorter than I am and another who's much taller and bigger, just to see if the size would accommodate many different body types. It did.

Then Sarah and I happily hunted the entire rest of the season in them, right down to closing day. All that was left to do after that was compile a little wish list about other features we wanted and put them into production.

And of course, we needed to do a photo shoot, because our story is going to be featured in the Cabela's waterfowl catalog that will come out this summer. So I enlisted one of my students - Andrew Nixon, who's an excellent photographer - and the three of us went out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and spent a beautiful Saturday morning hamming it up.

Now I really hope all my fellow women duck hunters out there will buy a pair of these waders when they're released this summer, and not just because it's a good product.

Why? It would be very easy for companies to ignore women waterfowlers because there are only about 131,000 of us nationwide - one-twentieth the number of male waterfowlers. (Click on that chart if you'd like to see details).

But Cabela's didn't ignore us. In fact, when I wrote a snotty blog post - complete with video! - about how disappointed we were with their selection, their immediate response was, "Work with us to solve the problem."

The only advice of ours they didn't take was the name for the waders. We came up with a few ideas, but they didn't like them, so they're the ones who suggested Cabela's Cazadora Wader.

And what do I get out of this? Nothing more than a fat head and a pair of waders (well, more than one if you count dud versions). Cabela's hasn't paid me a dime - the money continues to flow the other way, from me to Cabela's, just like it does with the rest of you.

I am recommending this product for the same reason I've recommended other women's hunting clothing: because it works. I'm just a little bit extra excited about the Cabela's Cazadora Wader because the reason I know it works is that Sarah and I helped make it work.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


Brandon Darnell said...

That's a really cool story, Holly. I'm glad you got to work with them on that, and that they actually listened to you.

Too bad they don't give you any kickbacks or royalties, but it was nice of them to name them after you, and a writeup in the magazine won't hurt either.

The Hunter's Wife said...

Holly, How exciting for you, the other ladies and outdoor ladies in general. It's nice to see an outdoor company that not only listened to it's consumer but actually did something about it.

Anna Vogler said...

That is so awesome to have the retailer respond to you in hopes of coming out with better products for us women! It is so hard for me to find clothing that fits due to my height and long limbs! So it's great to read a story where the retailer is reaching out to us who are in need! It shows they are actually listening!! I get so tired of big bulky camo clothing and i haven't been able to find waders that are tall & slim enough for me without have a croch down to my knees and having a boot too small or too big!!! I hope other retailers continue to hear us out as we voice our concerns with other huntin clothing issues!

Phillip said...

Holly, glad you get to let the cat out of the bag on this one. I know it's been gnawing at you to get out.

I can't begin to imagine how exciting this must be for you. It's awesome though, and one more reason for me to be such a huge fan of Cabelas. They actually pay attention to the customers!

Very cool!

SimplyOutdoors said...

That is awesome that Cabelas actually listened to their customers, and did something about it. In this day and age, where it seems customer service has went right out the window, that says a lot about Cabelas as a company.

And just for the record, after this I'm starting to feel like a nobody in the blogging world.

What a cool experience.

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks everyone!

And Anna, these should be plenty tall for you. I'm 5-8 I could've been easily 6 inches taller, if not more, and still had these work. (In fact, my tall friend who tried these on was at least 6-0, if not more. If you look at the picture of me with the goose, you'll see there's room for longer legs there.

If you're thin, there's always going to be extra room in your waders because with our numbers being so small, they can't really offer them in thin, medium and big sizes for each shoe size - that just wouldn't be feasible.

To me, the huge thing is not having that infernal buckle in the way, and having the right shoe size. I'm a size 10 women's, but the smallest men's waders I could get were always still too big in the boot. And don't even talk to me about children's waders - there's no child with a caboose like mine!

Anonymous said...

I really have no idea what any of this is about, but I did read it front to back. I guess the moral of the story is 'yay, easier hunting for chicks!' Now that's something I can get behind. The pics at the bottom are wicked sweet too.

Holly Heyser said...

Oops, getting behind here. Phillip and Simply, yes, it was a huge treat to have them care about us.

And Simply, don't feel like a nobody! You swim in a much bigger pond than I do.

And B-Ho, wow, amazing to see you here! Thanks for reading. And yeah, those pics were sweet. Andrew wasn't sure about the last one, but I told him, "No, that's what duck hunting's like - they come in, you shoot, you miss, and then you laugh your ass off."

Last I checked, the first photo in that sequence of three was what they'll be using in the catalog.

natalye said...

what an awesome story holly! and what a great company for being so diligent about working with you and making a quality product.

Tom Sorenson said...

Now that's cool! It's the kind of cutomer service you can't really expect from small stores - let alone a big retail giant...May it help encourage a future female waterfowler to stick with it!

Blessed said...

Just another reason for me to love Cabelas!

Congrats on being part of the product design & testing team!

Josh said...

Wow! So cool!

sportingdays said...

Amazing. That really says something when a huge, publicly traded corporation listens to its customers -- and works with them to improve its product. Congratulations. I hope the Cazadora wader is a huge, huge success.

I'm assuming that future models will be comfortable with or without socks -- for frogging and duck hunting in warm weather ...

Holly Heyser said...

Oh, we're already working on a frog-gigging wader! ;-)

native said...

Dang' it Holly!
If you would have allowed me to negotiate the deal for you, I could have gotten you at least a 10% royalty fee for the intellectual property which you just gave away to those guys. L.O.L.

Good job though, and I thought that your post and letter would ruffle a few "lackadaisical" feathers on the gravy train riders there at Cabellas.

gary said...

Neat story. Now everyone wearing the Cazadora Wader knows who to thank. We'll be looking for it in the summer catalog.

Cody K said...

I had no idea this was an issue, but this is rad. Plus you can say you're a hot/famous catalog model now.

Holly Heyser said...

Native: Story of my life. While I believe in capitalism and can balance a budget beautifully, I am horrible at making money.

Gary: Thanks! Tell all those women in your life :-)

Holly Heyser said...

And Cody: Awwwwwwww. That's very sweet of you to say about this old lady.

Anonymous said...

Good on you Holly...

That's GREAT news!

We were out practicing riflery the other day with aspiring N.W. Cazadora-to-be Susan (I think she's even contacted you?) and afterwords at dinner we were talking about the possibility of Duck Hunting in her future.

The topic of Women's sizes came up and she and Miss Lil were discussing this (which I must admit was a little Greek to me; Lil's been making do with men's sizes).

She's tall enough but she says, "I'm a Size 2 !" pretty slender, and Lil's saying, "That's going to be tough finding waders for you."

Well this url's going right over to Susan as soon as I get done here.

Oh, now all you've got to do (with your new found influence at Cabela's) is to get them to bring back their CHAMOIS SHIRTS in waterfowler's pattern camos!

(What, doesn't anyone wear shirts anymore?!!)

I've been bugging them for a couple of seasons now. All of mine are getting threadbare.

We need these for Men AND Women.

Bill C.-Orygun

brenda said...

That's awesome! I'm telling my hunting gfs--and hopefully they don't just decide to continue making do with their borrowed & converted menswear...

Too bad you didn't receive anything for your troubles--but naming the waders after you & featuring you in the catalog is likely to be good publicity for the blog, perhaps? You could consider some low-profile, tasteful & appropriate ads ;)

Jesses Hunting And Outdoors said...

Ah, it's no fun to have waders that fit and function right. There will be no memories of the 4 pair of socks coming off in mid pond because the boots were too big.

Half the stories from the marsh are about the donning of waders and the epic struggle to just stay upright.

Congrats Holly, you turned a big corporate ship around. Kudos also to Cabela's for listening to us hunters.

Deer Passion said...

Well.. I agree with everyone else.. It's awesome that you had the opportunity to be involved with bettering the design of waders for women. Sounds like you had fun too! Thanks for doing a little something to help all the outdoorsy women!

Josh said...

"Half the stories from the marsh are about the donning of waders and the epic struggle to just stay upright."
Jesse, you are a wise man.

Holly Heyser said...

And thank God for that - gives me something to write about when I can't get anything on the strap!

oldfatslow said...

Congratulations. I
really wish all waders
came with a belt. One
experience of stepping
from shin deep water into
a twenty-foot deep canal
convinced me. Floating
the hat will change your


Marian Ann Love said...

Congrats Holly - that is awesome! Way to go girl! Great pictures of a great huntress!

Albert A Rasch said...

Nice work Holly!

They couldn't have picked a better field agent than you.

Maybe they'll make a whole line based on your suggestions!

Learn to Shoot, Break the Flinch

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks, Albert. I feel very blessed, really, to be in a position to do this. I feel like I'm living a charmed life at the moment.

Unknown said...

This is so awesome on so many levels! I'm definately putting a pair of the waders on my Christmas list! Too bad I won't be able to hunt this fall, unless they're making maternity sizes in the Cazadora wader. lol.

I think I'm about to send an email to Cabela's thanking them for listening to what women really want and need in the field.

Holly, thank you for being such a great voice for the female waterfowler. And LOVE the photos!:)

Do you know if the waders will come in a choice of 3.5mm or 5mm neoprene, and if the boot will be insulated at all? It can get a bit chilly in Michigan.

Holly Heyser said...

They already have a similar model (Velcro strap) in 5mm - in fact, that was the one we were complaining about in Reno, because we wanted 3mm. (We hunt refuges where you have to do a lot of walking, and it rarely gets below the low 30s.) I just don't know if they're going to develop the Cazadora model in 5mm - I hope they do, because we're really happy with this design.

Boots have insulation, but honestly, I forget how much - we tossed around a lot of numbers when we were getting started. I might have to wait until the catalog comes out - like everyone else - to see the full specs.

I'm sure they'd love to hear from you though! And I'll pass your comment along to Rob and Joe (though I'm pretty sure they're following along already).

Holly Heyser said...

Ah, the answer has come to me! 600 grams Thinsulate on the Cazadora and 1000 gram on the Women’s ultimate wader.

Shannon, if you email me here, I can connect you with them directly if you like...

Gretchen Steele said...

Absolutely wonderful!!! I'm a wildlife and hunting photographer/writer who has struggled mightily to find affordable and well fitting hunting clothes for years.. it's time for new waders..and these look like hey would fill the bill. hmm Wonder if they would give a set to try, review and write about on my blog at Prairie State Outdoors?
At any rate - I cannot say thank you enough for helping to design a set that works for us!