Tent easily fits in duffle bag. Portable enough to carry on your back. Unbendable, self-tapping, gripping ice anchors. Tent skirting designed with sturdy grommets for ease of use. YKK premium zippers for unbreakable wear. Removable window improves ventilation.
For some, the carrying case is impractical. Anchors are too short for windy days.
One-minute pop-up and takedown. Water and ice-proof. Measures 5 feet each way. Tent easily fits in duffle bag and is portable enough to carry on your back. Unbendable, self-tapping, gripping ice anchors, and sewn-in grommets at skirting for set-up. Window removes for ventilation.
Careless use will lead to fabric ripping and anchor bending. Tricky teardown requires ventilation release.
Fiberglass poles and sturdy ice anchors with reinforced tie downs support heavy-duty use. Strong, well-constructed material. Has 2 doors, 6 PVC windows for extra visibility, and wide skirting. Windows close for warm, dark spearfishing. Straps to your back for ease of carrying.
Shelter is floorless. Insulation makes tent heavy and fiberglass poles may break quickly.
Black roof for thermal trap and natural heat retention while reducing condensation. Well-insulated, roomy sides. Corner pockets for gear storage. Durably designed for cold and wind. Improved stability with tie ropes. 11 mm-thick poles and extra-wide skirting for snow banking.
Too heavy to carry and no backpack-style portage. Poles unsuitable for extreme snow.
Quick setup tent offers improved ventilation and easy viewing with 2 well-layered PVC windows and 2 doors. Ample room to bring additional fishing equipment or heating supplies inside. Stakes and cords included for stable fishing on windy days. Best suited for daytime use without rain.
For some, zipper catches on fabric. Stitching looks unstable.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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. Before selecting the best shelter for your next ice fishing trip, there are a few things you'll want to consider.
There are three main types of portable ice fishing shelters: 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.
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.
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 make 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.