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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 heaters for ice fishing – grab one of these before you set up your ice house or shelter.
How to Choose an Ice Fishing Heater
You’re going to have an incredible range of options when you shop for your 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 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.
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.
As you shop for your 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.
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.Check Today's Price
Dimensions: 11 x 11 x 11
Weight: 5 pounds
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.
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.Check Today's Price
Dimensions: 10.7 x 7.4 x 7.4 inches
Weight: 2 pounds
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.
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.Check Today's Price
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.
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.Check Today's Price
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.
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.Check Today's Price
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.
Ice Fishing Heater Safety Tips
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.
Ice fishing is, by nature, a cold sport. You can expect to get chilly not and then. 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.