5 Best Ice Fishing Heaters Reviewed (2023 Buyer’s Guide)

Geoff Stadnyk in Ice Fishing on

You can’t fish if your fingers are frozen – that’s just a fact. In cold temperatures, you’re already dealing with iced-over lines and closed up holes – you don’t need to deal with frigid fingers and toes, too.

If you’re planning to spend a while ice fishing on the lake, you’re going to need a heater, plain and simple. We’ve put together a list of the best ice fishing heaters – grab one of these before you set up your ice fishing shelter.

Table of Contents

How to Choose The Best Ice Fishing Heater

You’re going to have an incredible range of options when you shop for the best ice fishing heater. They come in all sizes, weights and capacities, so it’s best to get a feel what you’re looking for. Here are a few tips.

BTU Rating

BTU measures energy. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, and technically means the number of units of energy that are used to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit?

To put it simply, the higher the BTU of your space heater, the warmer your space can be. So if you’re in a small ice fishing hut, you won’t need a super high number – 10,000 is the most popular. This is more than enough to keep you warm on the ice, even for overnight trips.

Price Point

The price point of your ice fishing heater is going to vary incredibly. You can find them from under $100 well into the thousands.

Weigh the price of your heater against the length of your trip, the frequency of your adventures and just how warm you want to be. An inexpensive heater is great if you’re not going out frequently, but if you’re going to spend a lot of time on the ice, you might consider paying more. Buy once, cry once, right?

Low Oxygen Sensor

Most good ice fishing heaters have an oxygen sensor. That’s for good reason. Put simply, using a gas-powered heater in a small space can kill you.

When the oxygen in your ice fishing hut is slow, that means it’s being replaced with something else. That’s not good, folks. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real risk when you’re ice fishing. If the air you’re breathing is jut 1% carbon monoxide (CO), you could die within minutes.

Get an ice fishing heater with a low oxygen sensor if at all possible. Your life may depend on it.

Auto Tip Shut Off

Auto tip shut off could be called a number of things on your heater’s packaging. Automatic shutoff, tip-over switch, safety shutoff… you get the idea. The point of these switches is to prevent accidental fire or injury should your heater tip over.

While we’re talking about safety features, you might look for a heater that has an overheat sensor, too. If the components inside your ice fishing heater get too hot, the heater will automatically turn off.

Fuel Source

As you shop for the best ice fishing heater, you’ll notice there’s some variance in the size of canister you can buy. Typically, your small heater will require one pound propane canisters. However, you may find a heater that requires a different size.

When you choose your heater, think about the length of time you’ll be on the ice. If you’re just spending the day, you likely won’t need a ton of fuel. After all, you’ll be wearing heavy clothes and good, sturdy boots.

If you’ll be camping for the weekend, weigh your options. It may be worth it to you to invest in a heater with a larger capacity.

If you don’t want to use heaters and you want to have a fire instead, just make sure that you know the legalities and observe safety in having a fire while ice fishing.

Budget Pick

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is a small but excellent choice for ice fishing. Its great price makes this our budget pick for ice fishing heaters.

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Dimensions: 11 x 11 x 11
Weight: 5 pounds
BTU: 3,800
Safety Features: Tip-over shutoff, low oxygen sensor

The Mr. Heater Little Buddy is our pick for the bests budget heater, but this little guy packs a punch. The output of this guy is 3,800 BTU – plenty of heat to keep you comfortable on the ice. And we love the safety features. A low-oxygen sensor helps prevent CO poisoning while a tip-over auto shutoff prevents fire.

You’ll need a one-pound canister of propane to keep you warm for 6 hours. And when you’re not on the ice, the heater makes a great addition to your garage workspace. Or, pack it on your next family camping trip to keep the little ones comfy.

What We Like
Safety Features - The tip-over switch and low oxygen sensor are two great features to keep you fishing in comfort and safety
Long Lasting - A one pound canister of propane will provide almost six full hours of heat
Angled Heat - The Little Buddy heats at a 45 degree angle, giving your fishing hut optimal heat distribution
Know Before Buying
- The Little Buddy requires 4 inches of clearance – be sure you have the room
- Can be delicate – customers report that the Little Buddy can break – or ignite – when dropped

If you’re looking for a very portable, packable ice fishing heater, this Texsport unit is a great option. It was designed to be used on a golf cart, and even comes with its own little cup holder but works really well for ice fishing too.

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Dimensions: 10.7 x 7.4 x 7.4 inches
Weight: 2 pounds
BTU: 3,000
Safety Features: Valve will shut off if flame goes out

Fold the heater up to fit easily in your pack, then unfold to find a stable, efficient heater. You’ll need one-pound propane canisters to keep this heater lit.

The Texsport ice fishing heater doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some others. For instance, it was meant for outdoor use so there’s no low oxygen sensor. But its lightweight (2 pounds) structure and relatively high BTU output make it a great value.

What We Like
Durable - Stainless steel components make this one of the most durable ice fishing heaters we’ve found
Compact - The Texsport heater folds up compactly to easily fit into your pack or with your other gear
Versatile - This heater was designed to fit golf carts but you can use it for just about any sport or outdoor activity
Know Before Buying
No Low-Oxygen Sensor - This heater does not have a low oxygen sensor or tip-over shutoff feature, so be mindful of its behavior
Need A Lighter - There is no igniter – you’ll light this ice fishing heater with a BBQ grill lighter or similar – so be sure you’ve got that in your pack

Best All Around

We absolutely love this heater. If you’re looking for an ice fishing heater to take out on the lake, then hook up to keep you warm in your workshop at home, this is the one for you.

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Dimensions: 18.5 x 18 x 11.4 inches
Weight: 2.75 pounds
BTU: 4,000 to 18,000
Safety Features: Tip-over shutoff, Low oxygen sensor, Pilot light shutoff

The heater can be easily connected to one pound disposable propane canisters. But you can also attach the Mr. Heater to larger tanks while ice fishing if you need to.

The BTU output of this ice fishing heater is between 4-18,000. It’s likely you’ll only need to use the lowest setting on the heater, as 18,000 BTU is enough to heat a 450 square foot space.

Most units feature a fan that runs on D batteries, but customers love that even when the batteries go dead the heater still works like a charm.

What We Like
Adjustable Temperature - The Mr. Heater ice fishing heater can radiate heat from 4,000 to 18,000 BTU with just a twist of a knob
Safety Features - Your heater will turn off if the pilot goes out, if the unit is tipped over or if low oxygen is detected
Versatile - The Mr. Heater can be hooked up to portable propane canisters or the large 20 pound canisters, making it great for use both while ice fishing and also at home.
Know Before Buying
Fan Functionality Requires Batteries - Customers say the battery life on the fan is quite short – if your unit has a fan, be sure to turn it off after each use
Sensitive Tip-Over Shutoff - The tip-over shutoff is extremely sensitive, so be sure you have this heater on a stable, firm surface for optimal heating

Best for Large Shelters

This ice fishing heater can put out enough heat to warm a studio apartment! That is to say it will comfortably keep you and your buddies warm in a cabin as large as 450 square feet. In a fishing hut on the ice? You’re going to be super cozy.

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Dimensions: 19 x 12 x 17.75 inches
Weight: 16.42 pounds
BTU: 4,000 to 18,000
Safety Features: Auto tip shut-off, Pilot light shut-off, Low oxygen sensor

What ice fishing heater do you use if you’re camping in a group? How will you heat your rustic fishing cabin in the dead of winter? The Big Buddy from Mr. Heater is an excellent option.

This heater can put out enough heat to warm a studio apartment! That is to say it will comfortably keep you and your buddies warm in a cabin as large as 450 square feet. In a fishing hut on the ice? You’re going to be super cozy.

A whopping 18,000 BTUs is way too much for a small fishing shanty on the ice. But if you’re fishing with a large group and have a bigger ice house, the Mr. Heater Big Buddy is a great option.

Safety features include auto tip shutoff and a low oxygen sensor. Your unit will also turn off if the pilot light goes out. It’s adaptable, too – connect the heater to one pound canisters on the lake and 20-pound reserves at home.

What We Like
Heavyweight Heater - This heater weighs 16.42 pounds – it’s going to be a little more bulky to transport, but is stable and sturdy once you’re on the ice
Heats Large Spaces - This heater pumps out enough heat to keep you warm even in a 450 square foot ice fishing cabin
Adaptable - Connect your Big Buddy to small propane tanks in the shanty or to larger tanks in your ice fishing shelter or at home
Know Before Buying
Uses Lots Of Propane - Big Buddy tends to love propane – for maximum efficiency and to save propane, use the lowest setting possible
- Some customers have smelled gas when turning on Big Buddy for the first time, but a shot of compressed air seems to remedy the problem

This heater is going to be your best buddy when you’re in the fishing hut. That’s because it doesn’t just heat your tent, it also cooks your food.

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Dimensions: 10.2 x 10.2 x 11.4 inches
Weight: 7.92 pounds
BTU: Up to 13,000
Safety Features: Tip-over switch, Low oxygen sensor

The last heater on our list is Campy Gear 2 in 1 Portable Heater.

With a 13,000 max BTU output, this little heater will keep your shanty toasty. But when you’re ready to cook breakfast or heat up some coffee, your heater will support up to a 12 inch pan! That saves you space in your pack, and also keeps your propane use efficient.

Choose between three colors and hook this little heater up to a one pound or a twenty-pound propane tank. The included hose will connect easily to a twenty-pound tank; you’ll need a separate hose for anything smaller.

What We Like
Space Saving - This little heater isn’t just a heater – it’s also a stove, so you can pack less for your next fishing trip
Large Capacity - You can use pots up to 12 inches on this powerful, portable heater and stove
Color Choices - Customize your camp stove when you choose from orange, navy or taupe colors
Know Before Buying
Not Ideal For Large Spaces - This heater is great for small spaces, but as there’s no fan you might not feel the heat in a larger ice fishing tent or cabin
Needs Adapter For Larger Propane Tank - An adapter is needed if you want to connect your Campy Gear heater to a larger propane tank

Ice Fishing Heater Safety Tips

keep warm at your ice fishing hole with the best ice fishing heater

You’re smart, so we’ll keep this short and simple. Here are some tips you’ll need to keep in mind for safely using an ice fishing heater.

  • Keep a close watch on how you feel physically. Headache, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and vomiting are all signs of CO poisoning. Step outside if you feel ill.
  • Don’t set your heater directly on the ice – place a layer of insulation between your heater and the ice’s surface.
  • Be sure your heater is on a sturdy, stable surface to avoid tipping.
  • Ventilate your cabin properly. If your heater doesn’t have a low oxygen sensor, consider packing a small carbon monoxide monitor.
  • Use common sense. Don’t set your heater too close to flammables or your own body.

Frequently Asked Questions

You may have just a few more questions before you buy your ice fishing heater. Here are a few that we’ve found are the most commonly asked.

How many BTUs do you need for an average sized fishing shelter?

This may sound like a complicated question, but there’s actually an easy way you can figure this out. First, find the size of your shelter in cubic feet. Then, figure out how much higher you’d like your temperature to be. Say it’s 35 degrees now, and you’d like it to be 50 degrees. That’s a 15 degree difference.

Finally, take the cubic feet, multiply by the temperature change you’d like, then multiply that by .133. That’s the BTUs you need!

Is it safe to put a gas heater in an ice fishing shelter?

Yes! It’s absolutely safe to use a gas heater in your ice fishing shelter. Make use of the safety features on your heater, and be sure your shanty is properly ventilated. Follow the safety precautions we’ve listed above and you’ll be good to go.

How long will a small gas canister heat an ice fishing shelter?

That depends on your heater. If you have a heater that’s giving you 4,000 BTUs, a pound of fuel will last longer than if it’s giving off 10,000 BTUs. Roughly speaking, a 4,000 BTU heater can burn one pound of propane for between 5-6 hours.

In Summary

Ice fishing is, by nature, a cold sport. You can expect to get chilly now and then (though hopefully you’re wearing something like a suit or bib made for ice fishing). But whether you’re camping on the ice, in a shelter or just spending the day out on the lake, these portable propane heaters will keep you comfortable and performing your best.

Geoff Stadnyk

Geoff started fishing as a child in the gorgeous lakes of Mammoth, while on family vacations. His fishing experience includes the use of fly rod and reel. Guided trips along the Madison and Gallatin rivers in Montana, the Frying Pan and Animus in Colorado, and the Deschutes river in Oregon have all paid off and helped make Geoff the angler and writer that he is today.

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