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Ice fishing shelters can make your life a breeze when you’re setting out for the lake. In just a few hours, you can have your home away from home set up, ready to camp in or return to in the morning. Stash your gear, keep warm and fish comfortably, all with a portable shelter.
Let’s look at the best ice fishing shelters on the market and at how to choose the right one for you.
Eskimo has put together a line of ice fishing hubs that are super sturdy, super spacious and super cozy - this one is no different. Highly recommended.Check Today's Price
Capacity: 3-4 people (model FF949i)
Fishable area: 61 sf
Weight: 34 pounds
The shelter is insulated with insulated quilted fabric, so in some conditions you may not even need an ice fishing heater.
We love that the design of this shelter tapers at the bottom, meaning you’ll have more fishable area. The 3-4 person design gives you 61 square feet of fishable space and plenty of room to move around.
Bear in mind that these shelters are heavy. Depending on the size of your hub, you can expect to carry an additional 27 to 52 pounds with your gear. We recommend choosing this hub if you have a good sled or are bringing your truck onto the ice.
If you’re flying solo this time around, you should consider the Clam Legend XL. This one-person shelter is perfect for long days out on the lake by yourself. It’s easy to set up and will keep you toasty warm; there are 90 grams of insulation per square meter.Check Today's Price
Capacity: 1 person
Fishable area: 28 sq. ft.
Height: 67” at center
Weight: 60 pounds
We don’t recommend that you bring a heater into a one-person shelter, so that insulation is important. What’s also important is that this baby includes a swivel chair. You can fish in comfort without worrying about finding room for chairs or buckets.
The Clam Legend XL is heavy, we won’t lie. You’ll be better off if you have a snow machine, truck or sled to tow this one out onto the ice. That said, if you’re planning to move around the ice, or just want a quick setup, this shelter is perfect.
Another of our Eskimo favorites is the Outbreak 450i. This hub is a good bet if you and a group of friends are headed out; it fits up to five anglers comfortably.Check Today's Price
Capacity: 4-5 people
Fishable area: 75 sf
Weight: 48 pounds
There are a few features we love about this shelter. First, the trip-proof doorway. No more stumbling over fabric when you’re returning to your shelter. Secondly, the height! Eighty inches of head room gives you (and your gear) plenty of room to move around.
You’ll have 75 square feet of fishable space in the Outbreak 450i, and your shelter is fully insulated. Best of all, you can easily convert the shelter to a darkhouse by just shutting the windows.
The Thunderbay Ice Cube is ideal for you and a buddy or two to camp out for the weekend.Check Today's Price
Capacity: 3 people
Fishable area: 34 sf
Weight: 26 pounds
There are 34 feet of fishable space, plenty of room for one or two holes; a 90 x 90 width offers space for your gear and even a couple cots if you want to camp.
This shelter isn’t insulated, but customers say that only minimal BTUs are needed to keep the shanty warm when you’re sharing space. That’s in part because of the extra-wide skirting that keeps your hut draft-free, even in harsh conditions.
For what it offers, the Ice Cube is pretty lightweight. At 26 pounds, you can pretty easily carry it on your back. In fact, the straps are comfy, and the shelter feels just like a backpack when you wear it.
This baby can host you and 5 of your closest friends and will keep you fishing in roomy comfort.Check Today's Price
Capacity: 5-6 people
Fishable area: 89 sf
Height: 90” at center
Weight: 58 pounds
Next on our list of the top ice fishing shelters is the Clam Portable Pop-Up Shelter.
This tent isn’t light, but it’s portable. The Clam weighs in at almost 60 pounds, so be sure to plan for the weight and tote it on a sled or in your truck. That said, the massive tent is easy to erect, even if it’s just you doing it. Customers say one man can put the tent up easily.
What we love about this tent is that you’ll get a full 89 square feet of fishable ice. That’s plenty of room for all of you. We also love the ventilation options; the shelter features two doors, six windows and six vents so you can safely run your ice fishing heater.
Benefits of an Ice Fishing Shelter
If you’ve ever spent the day out on the lake ice fishing, you know it gets cold! So cold that your lines freeze over, your fingers refuse to work and you may feel like your ears might never work again. Obviously, an ice fishing shelter can help with warmth.
There are other benefits, though. Consider getting an ice fishing shelter if you’re headed to a less populated lake with few lodging options. You can set up camp right on the ice and be ready to fish early in the morning.
An ice fishing shelter can also give you mobility. Some die-hard fishermen set up permanent shelters on the lake, but what if you aim to ice fish for walleye today and ice fish for crappie tomorrow? If you have a portable shelter, you can easily move to a different part of the water.
Your shelter is also going to protect you and your gear from rain, snow and wind. That may also seem obvious, but wet gear in freezing conditions is no fun at all.
No matter your reason, ice fishing shelters are more affordable now, so we recommend you look into investing in one before your next trip.
How To Find The Best Ice Fishing Shelter
If you do a quick search for ice fishing shelters on Amazon or any other retailer’s site, you’ll see that there are just about as many shelters as there are lures. Call them shanties, ice shacks, ice houses, bobhouses or ice huts, shelters come in all types of materials, shapes and setups.
As you look through what’s available, there are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind.
You can buy an ice fishing shelter for under a hundred dollars. Or, you can splurge and get a shanty for thousands. The price you pay will depend on your budget and on the features you’d like your shelter to have.
Are you going to be using the shanty just once, or will this be a long-term investment for you? Will you be fishing alone or with a buddy – maybe you can split the cost of a pricier hut if it has more features you want.
Figure out your budget – what you’re realistically willing to spend – before you begin shopping for your ice fishing shelter.
As you shop for your ice fishing shelter, you’ll notice that each recommends a max number of people who can comfortably fit.
Think about who you’ll be fishing with and how often. Will there be a group of four anglers on the lake? Or will it usually be just you and a buddy? Will your group be camping on the ice or only using the hut during the day?
Ask yourself how big you would optimally like your ice fishing shelter to be. Remember that a larger tent will usually be a bit more involved in the setup, while a very small shelter may not leave you much room to “stretch out.”
Hub vs Flip-Over Style
There are two main types of ice fishing shelters: hubs and flip-overs. There are pros and cons to each.
Hubs are like camping tents – they’ll take a little longer to set up on the ice than a flip-over, but once they’re set up, you’re golden. They’ll seal to the ice and block drafts, and some fans of the hub say you may not even need a heater in an insulated hub.
Flip-overs are just that. These mobile little huts just flip over your head and you’re ready to fish. You won’t have as much elbow room in a flip-over, but the portability allows you to change locations at a moment’s notice.
Both styles are lightweight and easy to transport. If you’re headed out for a few days, there’s nothing saying you can’t pack both styles.
Insulated vs Non-Insulated
Where are you fishing? What will conditions be like? How long is your trip? Do you have a reliable ice fishing heater? How many people will be sharing your space?
All these are questions to ask before you decide between insulated and non-insulated fishing shelters.
An insulated shelter can get downright toasty, even without a heater. That’s especially true if there’s more than one person sharing the space. But they’re a bit heavier and can add significant weight to your pack if you don’t have a sled.
Non-insulated shelters are generally lighter and easier to pack. They’ll also dry more quickly than an insulated shelter will.
There’s no sense in buying an ice fishing shelter that’s not durable. Nobody wants to buy any gear that won’t last past a season.
Winter is rough. Ice storms will happen. Rough terrain will, too. Cold, brittle and dry air is a fact. You’ll need an ice fishing shelter that can stand up to the elements.
Look for heavyweight, strong materials and quality craftsmanship. For example, tight stitching at the seams of your shelter may make the difference between a miserable fishing trip and a comfortable one.
Always read the reviews before you buy a shelter! Other anglers can tell you what does and does not work about a product, and they’ll be dead honest about it.
We’ve already touched on portability, so we won’t harp on it. Just think about how you’ll be transporting your tackle and gear, and how much weight you can reasonably expect to carry.
You’ll also need to think about how often you’ll be moving on the ice. If your target species will change throughout the day, a portable shelter is great. If you’re planning on staying at the same hole, you’ll do fine with something less portable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Buying an ice fishing shelter is a big decision, especially if you’re looking at some higher price points. Here are a few FAQs anglers like you commonly ask.
What do you use as the floor for an ice fishing shelter?
That is a great question! Many times, people don’t realize that most ice fishing shelters have no floor. Especially if you’re camping on the ice, you’ll need a layer of insulation between you and the lake.
For the floor of your shelter, you can be creative. You can use carpet tile, that’s the most common option. But the one we love the best is foam tiles. If you have kids, you know… those interlocking tiles that connect to form a playmat for your littles.
There are “adult” versions of these, but if you already have the tiles at home you’re in great shape. They’re lightweight and easy to customize to fit the shape you need.
When should you buy an ice fishing shelter?
Obviously, the answer is, “before you go ice fishing.” But we know what you mean.
The real answer is, “it depends.” If you’re setting out on a spur of the moment trip, it’s okay to order a shelter from Amazon Prime or a similar retailer.
That said, the off-season is the best time to buy a shelter. Plan for next year’s fishing trip and you can save 75% or more when you buy your shelter in the spring or summer.
Once fall and winter come around, you’ll start to see those prices marked up again.
What style of ice fishing shelter is the best?
The best shelter style is the one that suits your needs. That’s not a cop-out answer, it’s just fact.
If you’re going to be fishing with 4 other anglers, you’ll need a bigger shelter. Just you? You’ll be fine with a one-person flip-over.
We covered this in the beginning of the guide; go back and take a look at “how to choose an ice fishing shelter” and take those factors into consideration.
- Where will you be fishing?
- What is the climate like?
- How many of you will be going?
- Are you likely to change fishing spots?
- What is your budget?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re well on your way to finding the style of ice fishing shelter that’s best for you.
Why are ice fishing shelters black on the inside?
First things first: not all ice fishing shelters are. Some are light or even brightly colored so that they’re easy to locate in harsh conditions.
Some are, though. And there is a good reason for that. The light-blocking material your shelter is made from actually makes it easier to hunt fish. Yes, we said “hunt.”
When your surroundings are dark, you’ll be more easily able to see through the ice. That shadow you see beneath you? That’s your target.
Furthermore, when you’re in a bright shelter, you’re casting a shadow. In a darkhouse-capable shelter, your shadow is non-existent and you won’t spook your catch.
How do you secure an ice fishing shelter?
Most ice fishing shelters on the market come with anchors. And most of those are easy to use – they’re literally their own ice picks and will have you tethered to the ice in no time.
If your shelter doesn’t offer this feature, you’ve got options. Our favorite is to simply ice yourself in. It takes some time, but if you build up a little pile of slush around your anchors once they’re tethered to the ice, that slush will freeze over. You’re set.
An alternative is store-bought anchors. To use them, you’ll drill a small hole in the ice, then pop these babies through. Once they’re through the ice, “wings” will expand and your shelter will be secure.
If you’re fishing in very cold climates, or if you plan to stay the night at your spot, you’re going to need an ice fishing shelter. Whether it’s just you or it’s you and your buddies, you’ll stay warm and secure with any one of these shanties.