Best Ice Fishing Shelters

Updated October 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
384 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best ice fishing shelters

Last Updated October 2019

Ice fishing offers a host of interesting challenges to the keen angler, but battling freezing winds and frostbite is no fun at all. Some kind of protection from the elements is a must. Small cabins or shanty huts have long been popular for permanent locations, but the adventurous angler needs a portable ice fishing shelter.

Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from, and we've been researching what's available to offer you the best possible buying advice.

Our top recommendations provide cost-effective solutions for a variety of budgets. If you’d like more detailed information, you can find it in the following buying guide.

A permanent ice fishing shack can be very homey, but a good portable shelter means you're not restricted to the same old spot.

Key considerations

Type

There are three main types of portable ice fishing shelter: windbreak, pop-up hub, and flip-over.

  • Windbreak: This is a one-person, three-sided structure usually attached to a tub/sled and incorporating a bench seat. As the name suggests, it can offer good wind protection. Some people like them a lot. However, one side is always open, so you’re still exposed to the great outdoors.

  • Pop-up hub: This is the most tent-like structure. It has a fabric skin (usually polyester or nylon) that is made rigid by the insertion of poles that stretch from a hub (or hubs) out to the corners. A pop-up is relatively quick to erect, and even large models are usually compact enough to carry on your back. These are the largest ice fishing shelters, potentially having room for up to eight people.

  • Flip-over: This type attempts to combine the benefits of both of the other versions in that you can be fully enclosed, but the front flips up when you want it to. These are quite compact – suitable for one or two people with little room to move around. Like windbreaks, a sled and seat are incorporated. These are generally of better quality than windbreaks and frequently adjustable. Flip-over shelters are ideal for towing behind a snowmobile.

Your ice shelter zipper needs to be tough enough to stand up to severe conditions. A particularly well-known and trusted brand is YKK.

Staff
BestReviews

Ice fishing shelter features

Dimensions

  • Area: One of the main reasons to choose a pop-up ice fishing shelter is the amount of space available. However, pictures can be misleading, so check the dimensions carefully before you buy. Sometimes the diagonal measurement is given rather than the length of the sides. We would suggest that if a shelter says it's for two or three people, that means comfortable for two and snug for three. If you're not sure, you might try marking out the dimensions in your yard.

  • Height: Height is another issue. In some pop-ups, someone six feet tall or taller can stand fully upright, but not in others.

  • Weight: If you're going to carry the shelter on your back, you'll want to check the weight. It's not an issue with flip-over ice shelters, which are designed to be towed rather than carried.
     

Components

  • Openings: Both pop-up and flip-over ice shelters have doors and windows. Windows are usually clear and can be opened for ventilation if necessary. They may also have covers so the interior can be kept dark. Doors benefit from sizable zippers which not only give good durability, but also makes them easier to use with gloved hands.

  • Skirt: There's no floor in a pop-up ice fishing shelter, instead it has a skirt on the outside to keep out drafts. This should be nice and wide.

  • Ice anchors: The skirt might provide anchor points for self-tapping ice anchors, which screw into the ice to hold the shelter down securely, or there will be loops on the outside to attach tie-down ropes. Ice anchors should be included, but that's not always the case, so check. Sometimes there are four, but six is better.

  • Hub poles: These are either fiberglass or aluminum. The only real difference is that if you drop something on a fiberglass pole, it can break and is difficult to repair. Aluminum will just dent or bend and can be straightened.

  • Storage: Pockets and/or storage hammocks are useful for keeping some of your gear inside.
     

Weatherproofing

  • Protection from cold: Basic ice fishing shelters have a single layer of fabric that provides excellent protection from biting winds. Insulated models add one or more layers of quilting for added warmth. If you use a portable heater, you'll save around 50% on gas in an insulated shelter compared to an uninsulated one.

  • Protection from water: If you think you might use your shelter off the ice, it's worth checking if it's waterproof. Some are only water resistant, which means if there's anything more than a light shower, the rain is likely to get in.
DID YOU KNOW?

There's a big difference between water resistant and waterproof. Many ice fishing shelters won’t keep out a downpour.

Ice fishing shelter prices

Inexpensive

There's an ice fishing shelter for just about every budget, with two-person, uninsulated pop-up models starting at just under $100. However, while some cheap models are fine, others are poorly made, with seams and zippers being the main problem areas. That said, we'd probably look at spending around $150 at a minimum. Open-sided ice fishing windbreaks cost about the same, which might be why they aren't as popular!

Mid-range

Of course prices rise as the shelters get larger. You can get entry-level six- or eight-person models for around $200, but a lot depends on construction quality and the thickness of the material. It's not difficult to spend twice that on models from the leading brands. Considering the harsh environment they get used in, we'd suggest stretching your budget to one of these if possible.

Flip-overs that are mounted on a tub/sled (and usually include seating) are more expensive. You can easily pay $200 for a single-person uninsulated version. Depending on specifications and size, these can cost $500 or more – and that's with a two-person capacity. Of course, if you're looking for speed of erection and mobility, there's nothing to beat them.

Expensive

Insulated shelters, not surprisingly, cost considerably more – close to double the equivalent uninsulated versions. Interestingly, several manufacturers produce the same size ice fishing shelter in both types, so you can make direct comparisons. Prices can go to almost $1,000 for an eight-person shelter, though in our opinion there are equally good models for several hundred dollars less.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

Portable propane heaters are a great way to warm your ice fishing shelter, but make sure the shelter is well ventilated so poisonous carbon monoxide gases don't build up inside.

Tips

  • Never venture onto any frozen surface if you're not absolutely sure what’s underfoot. Ice fishing is an absorbing and challenging sport, but never forget that ice is potentially lethal. In water that's near freezing, you can lose consciousness and drown in less than 15 minutes.

  • Dress appropriately. You can always take off layers if you get too warm, but you can't put layers on if you didn't bring them!

  • Learn the area. If you don't know the area, visit a local tackle shop and get local knowledge.

  • Listen. If the ice is making a noise, it could be on the move and is best avoided.

  • Beware of snow-covered ice. Snow can form an insulating layer that warms and weakens the ice below.

  • Carry ice safety spikes. In the event of an accident, they could save your life.

  • Fish with a friend. At the very least, make sure somebody knows where you are.

Other products we considered

One of the main complaints about low-cost ice fishing shelters is the low roof height. That's not a problem with the Ice Cube Portable Ice Shelter, which fits three and has over six feet of vertical space and measures over seven feet hub to hub. If you like to fish on your own and move fast, the Clam 9710 Kenai Pro Ice Fishing Shelter is mounted on its own tub, includes an adjustable seat, and erects almost instantly. It’s not cheap, but it offers superb quality from one of the biggest names in portable ice fishing shelters. If you fish with a group, you'll want to look at the Tangkula Pop-Up Ice Shelter. It fits eight, but despite it's spacious capacity, it weighs just 31 pounds – and it's waterproof. An excellent value.

You'll get maximum mobility from a flip-up portable ice fishing shelter. This type is usually built into its own towable tub and includes seats.

FAQ

Q. How do I look after my ice fishing shelter?

A. Mostly it's a question of being careful not to puncture it when you're putting it away or storing it (don't carry sharp items on top of or underneath it), and avoiding getting it too close to a heat source. To clean it, use warm water and dish detergent. Let it dry naturally – never tumble in a dryer. Only store the shelter once it's completely dry or it could attract mold.

Q. Can I tow an ice fishing shelter behind my snowmobile?

A. It depends on the model. Some are designed to accept a tow bar, flip-up models have their own sled. However, with such a wide variety available, it's important to check carefully before ordering.

Q. Ice fishing shelter material is measured in denier. What is it?

A. Denier is a unit of measure used for fibers, a system that's complicated, misunderstood, and often misused! Mostly, it's seen as a guide to thickness, but it's more about weight and density. Technically, it's how an individual fiber compares with the standard single strand of silk, when 9,000 meters of that silk strand weigh one gram, which doesn't mean a lot when you're choosing an ice fishing shelter! Unfortunately, there's no easier answer because you need to know fiber density to calculate actual thickness. Nevertheless, as general guide, a higher number means a thicker fiber. For polyester/nylon fibers, we'd look for 300D up to about 600D. Higher than that and the material will be strong but not as flexible and so could be difficult to fold.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey