It’s called ice fishing, right? So, it’s meant to be cold.
If you are anything like me, when you are out on the ice, with everything you need and your rods fishing set up just right, there’s nowhere better to be.
But you need to be prepared, no one wants to end the day early because a little bit of cold and snow has got in the way.
To make sure that this doesn’t happen, you are going to need the best ice fishing shelter you can get.
And I’ve got plenty of tips and ideas, so read on to get the lowdown and buying advice for the ice!
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You’ll undoubtedly know that when you are out on the ice, the weather can change for the worse in two minutes flat. Luckily this shelter will be up and ready in one!
And that’s not all.
It’s really simple to take down, too! Everything about this shelter shouts easy! It comes with its own cinch carry pack, perfect for lugging on your back or on a sled if you prefer. It even offers a 19% weight saving against similar sized shelters.
Listen, this is important…
All the weight saving in the world is useless if your shelter doesn’t keep you dry. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue. A high-density fabric ensures that not one drop of precipitation or a gust of wind will make it through to the interior.
Speaking of wind. You want your shelter to stay exactly where you set it up. Eskimo have been kind enough to include self-tapping ice screws. They are really rugged and easy to screw into the ice. Once they are in, your shelter isn’t going anywhere.
Lightweight and portable.
Easy to set up and take down.
The height of the shelter can be slightly restrictive if you are a taller person.
Just like my fishing, I like to start strong with my shelters. This is a purpose-built solution that will keep you warm and dry on the ice, and for such a roomy shelter it’s super-light, too.
This shelter does exactly what its name says. It’s a great big cube you can use out on the ice.
What are its features?
I really liked the extra wide skirting on the shelter, it was perfect for keeping gusts and drafts out. One really nice feature is the blackout interior. When the sun is shining on the ice you can end up with eye strain if the interior of your shelter is too bright.
As with many of our other ice shelter options, it comes with handy screw-in pegs to ensure that your protection stays put. In fact, the wind will never be an issue, as the substantial 300 Denier fabric makes the shelter entirely windproof.
Is that all?
No sir. Weight can often be a problem and if you need to travel a significant distance carrying a shelter it can be tiring.
Thunderbay have done their utmost to reduce weight with this product wherever they can. A great example of this is their use of fiberglass poles as support, and you’ll get strength and rigidity without any of the excess weight.
For the money it’s a really great shelter with plenty of standing room.
Superior windproof qualities.
The windows are quite high, so you may struggle to look outside without standing up.
Whilst not the most advanced shelter out there, it should certainly serve to keep you out of the elements. I really like the bright red color for safety, as you can never be too careful, especially in remote areas.
If you are looking for a budget offering then this pop-up shelter by Pexmor could be ideal. It is easy to set up in a matter of minutes.
It isn’t the largest shelter we have seen, but providing you aren’t particularly tall, or don’t try to cram too many people in, you will have a reasonable amount of room.
There’s a possibility it might get a little dark inside this entirely black shelter, and for that reason the PVC windows allow in some much-needed light.
Looks pretty great, what’s the catch?
No catch. For the money you’ll get a budget offering. It’s pretty light, and I’m not sure how durable it would be in really rough weather, but for light to moderate conditions it should do the job admirably.
For those on a budget this shelter would be ideal.
It is quick to set up.
Super lightweight; it won’t be an issue to transport.
The black color isn’t the most visible, it’s not a deal-breaker but I would have liked a brighter color – to be on the safe side.
A three-man tent. Maybe. At a push.
Overall a good ice shelter option. I think you’ll need to be close friends if you use this as a three-man shelter, but it should fit two people inside comfortably.
Whenever I see Frabill I know that I’m going to be in for a treat when it comes to ice fishing. This ice fishing shelter is super impressive. It is thick and substantial. It’s more like a fishing house than a fishing shelter.
Let me talk you through why I love it.
Firstly, it has two doors. This is great if you have several rods set up that aren’t all in front of the shelter. The doors are easy to open if you need to egress quickly but substantial enough that they will keep out the worst of what the weather can throw at you.
And the rest…
Frabill have excelled themselves here. On opening the flap, you will be presented with two ‘boat style’ seats. Whilst this may mean extra weight in carrying, you can remove the need to bring a separate seat with you.
But listen, I could talk about it all day, or you could see it for yourself. If you are interested take a look at this video where you can see it up close and personal.
Absolutely packed with features.
I love the patented boat seat system.
I want to be upfront. This isn’t the lightest system. You’ll either need to pull this on a sled or have navy seal fitness to carry it on your back. I’d recommend bringing a friend.
This is a serious angler’s shelter. It isn’t light. But what you sacrifice in weight you gain in substance. The features make it well worth it, but I would only use it on thick ice. If weight is an issue, you may want to look elsewhere.
So, I nearly always advocate never going ice fishing alone, but if you really must, you don’t want to be heaving around a three-man ice fishing shelter. That extra weight is superfluous.
This is where the Eskimo Quickflip comes in.
This cubicle style shelter is neat and compact. Perfect for keeping you, and only you, sheltered from the worst of the winter.
For the money you’ll get quite a lot of bang for your buck. If you are going it alone, you need transportation solutions. Eskimo have included a quickflip attachment so you can drag the shelter behind your ATV, and it isn’t the heaviest shelter so carrying by hand is also possible.
Indeed, there are, Eskimo have also been kind enough to include a folding and portable fishing seat. It’s pretty comfy and lightweight. The interior of the shelter also features several mesh pockets. This makes for an ideal storage solution for all of your gear and bits. Just load it up, fold it up, and go.
As you’d expect from a company as renowned as Eskimo, the shelter is completely waterproof and windproof.
The concept of making the base of the shelter as a draggable sled is really clever.
I like that you can store items of gear in the body of the shelter, reducing the amount you need to carry.
As discussed above, if you are on your own, portability is key. Shappell have produced something lightweight that makes transport a breeze.
They boast that this shelter offers the fastest set-up available, a bold claim that turns out to be pretty true. Drag it to where you need it. Flip it open. Job done!
What you get…
The wide body sled base spreads weight, so if you are concerned about the thickness of the ice, this will help. The shelter also features two doors, as we’ve seen with other shelters this can be useful if you have more than one ice hole on the go.
Condensation won’t be a problem either as the shelter has numerous auto flow air vents keeping the air inside fresh.
A feature we really liked is the high visibility reflectors on the shelter. You’ll already know I love to promote safe ice fishing, and they will ensure you can be easily seen, even in low light conditions.
And the rest…
The body of the shelter is constructed from durable and waterproof polyester. It also features a full length padded sliding bench as standard, so you won’t even need to bring a cushion.
A wide base means that there is plenty of room even though it is a one-man shelter.
I really like the internal sliding bench. It’s really comfy and I don’t need to waste space bringing a chair.
The shelter is waterproof, but for the price point I would have liked to have seen a little more insulation.
As a one-man solution this is rather nice. If you are looking for ample room with a decent seat included then this is a really great option.
Now we are wheeling out the big guns. Got a lot of friends, or just want a lot of space? If either are true then this shelter will be right up your street.
Do you know why?
Because you can fit up to six people inside. And the fact that it is made by Frabill means that you will do so comfortably. And while I think it might be a stretch for six people to all fish at once, for three you’re going to have all the space that you could need.
The shelter is easy to put up, and even though it is relatively large (with a fishing area of 25 square feet), it isn’t too heavy.
You’ll be able to run a heater, too, as the shelter has strategically placed air vents to ensure that condensation is kept to a minimum.
If you want to take a look, you can see it below.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger shelter.
For its size incredibly light.
Perhaps a little too big?
I really like this shelter for when I bring a few buddies. The only downside is that it is too big if you aren’t going with a crowd.
This probably means you will need another smaller shelter too. But based on size alone I would say this is the best portable ice house there is.
A Quick Guide to Ice Fishing Shelters
If you haven’t used an ice fishing shelter before then it can be quite daunting.
But fear not!
I’m going to go through a few pointers that you may want to consider to help you make the best possible choice.
Big Enough or Too Close for Comfort? Consider the Size
What this boils down to is how many people are likely to be using it? This is important for a few reasons. If you pick a shelter that is too large it’s not going to be good.
Want to know why?
First, you’ll have a bigger area to heat. One of the primary functions you’ll want in the best ice fishing tent is that it keeps your warm, why make it harder?
Second, you are going to have to transport it alone. Around 40lbs is my limit, and then I’ll need someone to help. Remember that it’s not only the shelter you’ll be carrying, and you’ll likely be packing other equipment.
It’s a Wrap! Consider the Insulation
Insulation can be important, especially if you are fishing in really cold weather. The tent trapping air isn’t quite enough, especially in bigger shelters. Over time the ‘skin’ of the tent will chill. This in turn will cool the air inside. Insulation prevents this.
With one-man shelters, it isn’t so crucial as they tend to heat quite quickly. For a larger tent, the more insulation you can get the better – otherwise you are going to be cold.
If you are someone who feels the cold, but reluctant to splash out on an insulated ice fishing shelter, why not consider some toasty ice fishing gloves instead? If you check out my guide to the best ice fishing gloves here you can ensure that you’ll never have cold hands ever again.
A Breath of Fresh Air? Consider Ventilation
This is important for a few reasons. First, condensation can be a real nuisance. Your ice fishing shelter can end up wet even on a dry day if it isn’t properly ventilated.
Here is something that is really important…
If you are using a heater in your tent, specifically any that burns fuel, you MUST have ventilation. Carbon monoxide is nasty stuff. It is insidious and fatal.
By ensuring that fresh air can circulate you eliminate the possibility of being poisoned. Don’t take the chance. Either have good ventilation or don’t use a fuel burning heater.
The main function of your ice fishing shelter will be to keep you dry. Some shelters are more suited to challenging conditions than others.
When considering material look for shelters that boast a denser body fabric as they are generally the best at keeping out moisture, even during the heaviest deluge.
Ice fishing shouldn’t involve a 100-meter sprint. If it does you’ve done something wrong.
What do I mean?
If it’s a windy day and your shelter becomes detached, you are going to have to chase it down.
Or, you could just prevent this from happening by ensuring that it is pegged down from the get-go. What you really, really, need is a set of strong pegs and reinforced points on the shelter.
The thicker and the easier to screw in the better. Look for wide handles and self-tapping style ice screws to seal the deal.
What is the best ice fishing shelter?
Bearing in mind all that I have said above, when I look at an ice fishing shelter, the main thing I want is that it keeps me warm and dry.
Without those two qualities I am just hauling weight that I don’t need. I look at insulation and material. Once I’ve found a few I then look at secondary considerations like weight and extra features.
For the money and bearing these things in mind I really like the Eskimo Quick Flip shelter. It’s small enough to be easy to transport, I can fit a lot of extra gear in there and set-up is super-fast meaning I can spend more time fishing and less time ‘camping’. For me it is certainly the best flip over ice fishing shelter.
But, there’s a but…
I don’t always fish alone. If I have company, I find that I want a shelter offering room and warmth. In these instances, I prefer to bring out the Frabill Citadel ice fishing shelter. For the money, and the weight it really is the best insulated ice fishing shelter.
Are ice fishing tents waterproof?
You would like to think so. The problem tends to come during more challenging conditions. Snow has a tendency to melt.
While shelters are designed to protect against rain from above, some fare poorly if water is allowed to stand – particularly on seams.
The best way to guard against this is to pick a shelter that has a shape that allows snow and melted water to run off easily.
How do you insulate an ice fishing tent?
Look, I’m going to be honest with you. For the hassle it will cause you might be better just going for an insulated shelter to start with.
By adding layers to a tent, you are increasing the weight and maybe even reducing the waterproofing capabilities.
No, joking aside there are a few golden rules that you should consider. Here’s my number one tip…
Don’t ask me how I learned the hard way…
In particular for pop-up ice fishing shelters… Ensure that you put your pegs in and the tent is secured before you allow it to pop-up.
This is especially true in strong winds. Once the shelter is up it occupies a massive surface area, which is easily taken by the wind. By securing it before you set it up, you can make sure that it doesn’t disappear into the distance.
In my product review I mentioned Eskimo Ice shelters. I really love shelters that are easy to set up, and the Eskimo is one of the best pop-up ice fishing shelters around. You can see how easy it is in this video.
By choosing the best ice fishing shelter you can ensure you have a fantastic day.
You’ll be warm, dry and feel like you have your own personal corner of the lake. As long as you choose wisely.
Hopefully, my guide has given you some food for thought. I try my best to give you the best information and ideas.