People are often mistaken that ice fishing is a day spent freezing cold, unable to feel your fingers or toes. Nothing is further from the truth.
I spend my day, drink in hand, actually pretty toasty. My secret?
I use the best Ice fishing heater to make sure my ice fishing shelter keeps me snug as a bug.
In this article, I’m going to go through several that I think are great, show you their features, and then let you know what I look for when shopping for ice fishing heaters.
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If space is at premium, then you don’t want to be sat on top of your heater – or make contact with it at the wrong moment, as that’s going to hurt. So, you should look for something that is compact and still kicks out a toasty amount of heat.
This heater is great. Why?
It’s super compact and lightweight. Yet when it comes to pushing out a decent flame, you can’t ask for better. You can fine tune the output to give you a great mix of heating and gas efficiency.
What’s not to like?
This little beast can also be used to heat water or even cook your lunch. It’s capable of heating a liter of water to boiling point in just under five minutes. That’s some serious thermal efficiency, right there.
You don’t need to be too choosy about gas type either. This ice fishing heater can burn butane, isobutane and propane. If you had it fired up on high, a bottle will last you well over an hour, and it even comes with its own carry bag!
Lightweight and super-efficient.
Multi fuel burning capability.
For bigger shelters or longer trips it might not have the endurance to last.
This heater is small and mighty. Provided you don’t ask too much of it, or are planning a shorter adventure, you should be able to keep your shelter cozy for the duration of your trip.
If you want to heat a decent sized area, then you are going to have to upscale – and they don’t come much more upscaled than this. If your ice fishing shelter is on the larger side, then you need to make sure all its occupants stay warm.
This heater offers some serious power.
What do we mean by serious?
It will heat an area 225 square feet! Bear in mind that you’ll normally get around 30 square feet in even the largest fishing shelters, this should tell you how good it is.
And it’s smart too…
Concern for safety should be high on your list with gas heaters. This heater has useful redundancy to prevent unwanted mishaps. It features flame detection technology which will shut the gas off in case the light blows out.
Another additional safety feature is the automatic shutoff if the unit is tipped. This way you can avoid heating anything other than the inside of your shelter.
This heater is really easy to light. Twist the gas knob, push for a spark and you are lit.
You’re certainly getting a lot of heater for the money, and if you want to see one in action check out this video, which also includes the Eskimo fishing shelter that I reviewed here.
This heater could heat a house, let alone a fishing shelter.
You’ll use less gas as you won’t need it running constantly.
It is rather large, and as a result you will need to consider how you will transport it to your spot.
If you’re thinking big and want a heater to match, then this could be ideal. It has comforting safety features that will keep you warm, and offer peace of mind, too.
For large shelters that are designed for more than one person, this could be the best propane heater for ice fishing for your needs.
If my last suggestion was a little too big for you, but you liked the features, check this out.
It’s a little pocket rocket…
With this heater you’ll get all of the good stuff included in the larger heater (including automatic tip cut off and gas cut off in the event of the flame going out) but without any of the downsides.
It’s super compact, portable and runs on propane.
And there’s more.
It is an easy-to-use system, simply press the ON button and enjoy immediate warmth. It only has one setting so you may have to moderate the temperature by using common sense for when you put it on, but because it’s so easy to start, this shouldn’t be an issue.
A full tank of gas should last you for a day. Want to see how great it is? Watch it below.
This heater is small and light enough to fit in a box or rucksack.
It is super-easy to get going. It offers instant warmth at the touch of a button.
The base is slightly thin, and I feel like it could be knocked over easily.
The Little Buddy heater does a great job if you need something small. It is light enough to carry with you on the go, and for a one-man fishing shelter, it should easily last long enough to cover your day.
Camco 57331 Olympian Wave-3 Heater
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So, you want large, but not too large?
Allow me to present the Camco Olympian Wave heater. This looks more like a fire that you would find in an apartment than a fishing shelter. It is rated to heat around 100 square feet, so for a large area, it has got the muscle to keep it well and truly hot.
Let’s talk about features.
This heater is ideal for situations where there is little insulation. Whilst its output might seem big, you’ve got to remember that a lot of that heat is going to escape quickly so you need something that can keep up.
As with some of our other suggestions it has auto-shutoff if it’s not upright and if no flame is detected. The propane gas flame hits a mesh element which then kicks out the heat.
This heater will emit lots of heat effectively and safely.
It is an ideal halfway house between large and small heaters.
Big heaters need bigger gas bottles, so it could get heavy and bulky if you travel a long way to fish.
There’s no way to avoid a large gas bottle if you have a large heater, that’s just par for the course.
Still, I liked that you can tweak the temperature using the rotary selector, and it’s useful for fine tuning your conditions. For a medium/large shelter this will be more than suitable.
This little heater packs a real punch and means business. It’s not the most technologically advanced, but then I like my fishing gear to be functional, not fancy.
For its simplicity, I was quite surprised with the number of useful extras hidden within.
Want to know what I mean?
For a start, you can control the output with a compact twist knob. When you consider that some more established brands only have one setting, I think that this is really great. It has an electric spark starter and even some safety features such as an auto shut off valve.
The best bit?
I really, really, like the extended cross foot section. If you are wearing thick fishing boots it is all too easy to smack over your heater, but with this stable platform that isn’t going to happen.
A really simple and rugged solution to a common problem.
It might not look pretty, but it has most of the features of more expensive heaters.
The heat head is fixed at angle. This can’t be changed, which is a shame as otherwise it would have been just perfect.
I like this. For the money it’s definitely in the running as my choice for the best small ice fishing heater out there. I’m tempted to pick one up myself.
If you liked the form factor of my last suggestion, you’re going to love this. This powerful unit essentially follows the same principles, but scales things up a notch.
Want to know what’s so great?
Dyna-Glo pride themselves on reliability and safety. This heater is rough and ready, but that means there is very little to go wrong. It is mounted directly on top of your gas bottle, providing an all-in-one solution.
When you are ice fishing, a lightweight burner can very easily be knocked over by the wind. With this unit, that simply isn’t going to happen.
If it all gets a bit too hot, the side mounted rotary selection switch turns the heat down quickly and easily.
Is that it?
Nope. The heater features an inbuilt switch that will cut the gas off if the heater is anything other than upright.
For a full bottle you’ll get around 28 hours of constant heat, even on high, which is enough to cover several fishing trips in frigid temperatures.
By using the bottle as the base this unit is rock solid.
I like the variable output option. This will keep you warm for days.
If the heater has been running for a while, there’s no easy way to carry it without letting it cool first.
Another solid option. This heater is powerful enough that you could even leave it running outside and use it to warm your hands. For those on a budget it represents a worthy choice.
A Buyers Guide to Ice Fishing Heaters
We tend to live in an age where adjusting the heat is just about turning a dial. With gas heaters, it can sometimes be a little trickier than that.
There are also some things that you REALLY have to be careful of.
I’m going to tell you what you need to know, what’s hot, and what’s not.
A NOTE ON SAFETY
I’ve included this first for a reason. And I really want you to listen.
Carbon monoxide is deadly. Some other gases (such as butane) can be dangerous too. Always, ALWAYS, ensure that if you are using a gas heater in an enclosed space that you have adequate ventilation. It’s better to be cold than to put yourself in danger, so if in doubt, leave the heater off.
And it’s always worth having a carbon monoxide detector as a backup safety device. You never know when it could save your life.
OK now I’ve said it, let’s look at some things you need to consider:
Consider Storage and Transport
Buying the right heater is a little bit of a balancing act. On the one hand you are going to want something that is up to the job. On the other hand, if you go too large, by the time you reach your chosen spot you are going to be tired out (and probably just a little bit warm, ironically).
Remember you aren’t trying to roast yourself. Provided you are wearing the right gear the aim will be to take the chill off and get the air to room temperature.
So, what are we saying?
For this reason, choose a heater that fits your purpose. If you have a sled or an ATV then you don’t really need to worry. If you are someone who travels on foot then go for something more compact.
Consider How Long You Are Going to Fish For
One factor that will influence which heater you use will be the expected duration of your trip.
If you are going to be there for a long time it is better to bring one larger gas bottle and get setup than several smaller ones and end up wasting valuable fishing time constantly changing bottles.
Conversely, you don’t want to overdo it. There’s no point lugging a bottle across the ice when you are only going to fish for a few hours.
Types of Heating
Gas ice fishing heaters work in two ways.
Really? What are they?
The first type is called radiant heating. Think of shining really powerful flashlight on your hand. It would feel warm right? That’s radiant heating. Flat fronted heaters produce radiant heat and are a common example. They are generally more efficient as they don’t rely on heating a volume of air for you to feel warm.
How are they used?
Generally, you will want a radiant heater pointed at you for maximum effect.
And the second type?
This is called convective heating. It’s the type most commonly associated with home central heating systems. Convective heating warms the air itself. Smaller units rely more on convective heating as they don’t have a big directional surface area.
Understanding How Heaters are Rated
Heater size doesn’t necessarily indicate that it will be sufficient for your purpose. But luckily for us, manufacturers have agreed on a standard term of measurement so we can get an idea as to how much heat will be produced.
What’s it called?
It is called a BTU, and it stands for ‘British Thermal Unit’. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s used the world over. Let’s not get too bogged down with the science, but simply put, one thermal unit will heat one liter of water by one degree.
Let’s break it down…
The higher the BTU the more powerful your heater is. That’s pretty much as simple as it gets. An average-sized heater should kick out around 3000 BTUs. Providing you don’t need to heat a house, that will be plenty to ensure that you stay warm.
Won’t the heater melt the ice?
No, it won’t, want to know why?
I can understand your concern, but it just simply won’t happen. Air is actually really bad at holding heat. When you consider that the air in your ice fishing shelter is constantly moving around too, and not much of it is contact with the ice, it really isn’t an issue.
Ice needs about 2000 times the amount of energy to heat up when compared to air. Even the best heater for ice fishing won’t be able to raise the temperature that much. Does that make you feel better?
The truth is the only way you are getting a hole in the ice is to either wait for summer, or with a really decent ice auger. If you haven’t seen them yet, why not swing by my ice auger guide here?
Is it safe to have gas heater in such a small place?
As I said above it is, provided you take the proper precautions. If you have read my ice fishing shelter guide, you’ll already know that all of the products suggested have really good ventilation.
You’ll find that you’ll have a job keeping cold fresh air out, but it pays to always be careful, so extra ventilation isn’t a bad thing.
Although the risk of fire isn’t that great, it still pays to be careful. If you have a directional heater always make sure that it has sufficient room to heat what it needs to, without burning a hole in the side of your shelter.
I tend have mine in the middle away from sloping walls or at least make sure it is angled away from any areas which might be vulnerable to direct heat.
You’ll probably find that keeping things cool is the least of your concerns, but as general guidance, I would recommend keeping your heater head well clear of touching anything at all.
How big should my ice heater be?
This is a question with a couple of interpretations, so let’s look at them individually.
Geometrically you are going to need a heater that doesn’t get in the way of your fishing. My advice would be to use the most compact heater that you can get away with. Remember that you’ve got to include the size of the gas bottle, and if you consider other equipment and gear inside your shelter, then you’ll realize that space might be at a premium.
What other things?
Well things that will help you catch the fish, take for instance an ice fishing flasher. They aren’t small.
Secondly, you need to consider the size of the space you are trying to heat.
Think about it. If you held a candle in your hall, would you expect your hall to warm up? Probably not. Overall, the main factor dictating the size of heater will be the volume of your shelter.
I’ve got a general rule, it’s really simple.
The bigger the shelter, the bigger the heater, and the bigger the gas bottle you’ll need.
What is the best propane heater for ice fishing?
For the money, I’m going to go with the Texsport portable heater. It might not be much to look at but I can take it with me wherever I go, and don’t have to worry about hefting around a gas bottle when I’m planning what equipment to take.
The best ice fishing heater needs to be big enough to heat the area in which you are going to keep warm, but also small enough that portability is not an issue. It can be a fine line.