If you love fishing and are bummed at the end of the season thinking about how long it’s going to be until you can head out on the water again, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to wait until the cold temperatures go away before you can fish again.
There is a way you can go out even on the coldest days of winter: ice fishing. It’s serene, peaceful, and quiet. Just you and whoever you want to join you, a hole in the ice, your pole, and your ice fishing shelter.
Maybe you’ve never thought about ice fishing before because it seems like sitting out on the ice might not be very much fun. That’s why it’s important to have the right ice fishing shelter to give you a safe, warm home away from home out on the ice.
Having the right ice fishing shelter is essential to enjoying ice fishing. The right one can make or break your trip. Before you buy your ice shelter, though, there are a lot of factors to consider.
In this guide, we’ll help you learn what you need to know before you dive in and shell out your hard-earned cash to buy an ice fishing shelter.
If you’re new to the sport of ice fishing, it’s likely you’re not sure where to begin when shopping for an ice fishing shelter. Here, we’re going to spell out the basic things you need to know and what to look for so you can be sure to find the right one for you.
Immediately following this guide, you’ll see our top 7 picks to help you pick the right ice shelter for you.
One thing you’ll always need to keep in mind is portability. You might be thinking that you just set up shop around your fishing hole and stay in one spot, but that’s not usually the case.
When you’re fishing, you move to where you think the fish are. The same is true for ice fishing, although it’s not nearly as simple as walking to another part of the shore or navigating your boat to the other side of the lake.
Ice shelters frequently need to be transported, so it’s important to look for one that you’re going to be able to move. If you plan to ice fish alone, make sure you can handle transporting your shelter by yourself.
Like most things, it will be a little bit easier if you have help.
If you choose a shelter that’s too large or heavy to transport on your own (or even with help), you’ll have to tow it. This is typically done using an ATV but can be successfully done with the right equipment in the right conditions with a car or truck.
There are a few different styles of ice fishing shelter you should be familiar with:
Hub-Style Shelters are similar to tents. They have an internal framework that holds the material in the shape of the shelter. They are usually quite easy to set up and give you a generous amount of fishing space.
You might have some trouble getting them up in severe weather conditions, especially when it’s windy, but they’re usually pretty solid once you put them up.
While the setup isn’t particularly difficult, it does hinder (to an extent) how portable this style is. Setting it up and breaking it down once is fine, but if you have to start doing it a few times a day, it can get pretty tedious.
The size and shape can also make it a little awkward to transport from spot to spot, especially in high winds. You’ll typically need to use ice anchors to give it stability and it’s not always easy to move those from place to place.
You’ll find that chairs are a big deal when it comes to ice fishing shelter. Hub-Style ones do not come with seats so you will need to provide your own.
Flip-Style Shelters are really portable. In fact, they were specifically designed for easy setup and breakdown. Basically, a Flip-Style Shelter has a sled-like frame that can be easily moved around on the ice.
It can hold all of your gear and usually has pretty comfortable seating. Once you’re in position, the shelter part flips up and over the fishing area, enclosing you inside and protecting you from the elements.
A great thing about these is that they usually give you a lot of storage space. You’ll often find storage areas underneath the seat and pockets along the walls. They’re very convenient and durable and hold up well in harsh winter weather.
Unsurprisingly, they’re easily the most expensive variety of ice fishing shelter, but you’ll need to take into account a few things here. One, you probably won’t need as many materials to haul it, which will save you a bit of money in the long run.
And secondly, it comes with all the seating and storage you’ll need so you won’t need to worry about providing your own chair.
Cabin-Style Shelters are unique in that they have a built-in floor. This allows them the distinct advantage of being able to keep out some of the cold and hold in the heat. The floor has openings so you can easily drill and access your ice holes.
Cabin-Style Shelters are quite similar to Hub-Style in that they set up in the same basic way as a tent. They have a frame and will require ice anchors; therefore, they have the same downsides.
Cabin-Style Shelters aren’t particularly easy to move around. They don’t come with a lot of extras and you’ll definitely need to provide your own chair.
There is a lot of variety when it comes to size. You can easily find an affordable, portable single man shelter. When you’re trying to find a one-man shelter for yourself, it’s important to keep your build in mind.
If you’re exceptionally tall, make sure you find a shelter that offers you a little more room so you can stretch out and stand up if you want to.
If you’re planning to make ice fishing something you do as a group, find an ice shelter that can fit the number of people in your core group.
You can find some that are large enough to fit up to 9 people but there are plenty of 2, 3, and 4 person shelters available, too.
Obviously, a 9-person ice shelter is going to be too much for most people. But you will have to carefully consider the size you buy. If you get a one-man shelter, you won’t be able to share your fishing space with friends.
If you get one that’s too big, it’s going to be really tricky to maneuver during those trips when you’re on your own.
When you’re ice fishing, you spend most of your time sitting down so it’s important that you have somewhere comfortable to do it. As we’ve mentioned, Flip-Style shelters usually have built-in seats.
They’re usually quite comfortable with padded cushions and backrests plus they often have extra storage available underneath.
If you choose to go with another style shelter, you’ll have to provide your own seating. This can be a camping chair or something special that you buy just for ice fishing. Or, it can be something as simple as an overturned 6-gallon bucket.
It’s really up to you. Just make sure it’s comfortable.
There are pros and cons to having a built-in seat in your shelter. They’re sturdy and usually pretty comfortable, plus they make it a little easier to move the shelter around. They’re attached to the frame and will move as the shelter does.
That said, you’re stuck with having the chair in the same spot all the time. This could be particularly annoying if you’re with a friend and the positioning is awkward for you both to get comfortable.
If you bring your own chair, though, it just adds one more thing you’ll have to carry and another thing to move;
however, you do get the flexibility to move it wherever you want to which might make it easier to get into a good position close to your hole, especially if you’re sharing a shelter with another person.
Some Other Things to Consider
If you’re new to ice fishing, you might not realize all the little things that will impact what ice shelter you should choose. Here are some tips and things to remember when you’re trying to determine which one best suits your needs:
You might be wondering why you would want windows on an ice fishing shelter if the whole point of them is to keep out the cold and the elements. Well, they make checking on weather and just seeing what’s going on around you a whole lot easier.
When you choose your shelter, make sure that the windows are large and at a good height for you to see out of. They won’t do much good if they don’t provide you with an adequate view.
We won’t get too deep into gear in this guide but you need to have some idea of the amount of stuff you’ll be hauling along with you before you can decide how much space you’ll need.
First, you’ll need a portable propane heater. There are a lot of different styles and brands to choose from but they will all need propane canisters to work. Plus, you should always have an extra just in case you run out or something goes wrong.
You should bring yourself enough clean clothes to keep you warm for however long you’re going to be out and it’s always a good idea to have more than what you need in case it’s colder than you expected or if something unexpected happens.
Don’t forget extra gloves and socks.
You’ll have your fishing equipment: ice auger, poles, lures, etc. You’ll also need a large 5 or 6-gallon bucket to hold your catch throughout the day.
Sonar is optional but comes in really handy when you’re trying to figure out where the fish are going to be biting.
Consider what safety equipment you’ll want to have with you. Your life vest is a bare minimum. You might also invest in other safety equipment for ice fishing.
Then, there’s the whole issue of food. This can be as simple as a lot of prepackaged, pre-made things like sandwiches, snacks, and even fruit. You might also consider taking a grill and meat and having something a little more satisfying.
This is just a shortlist of what you might discover you want to take with you, but it gives you a good starting point to determine what you’ll need to have on hand so you can figure out how much room you’ll need and the number of storage options you’d like to see in your ice fishing shelter.
You will need a way to haul your shelter. We’ve touched on this a little bit already, but it’s worth mentioning again. Some shelters will come with built-in sled bottoms that let you easily pull it around on the ice, either by hand or using some kind of vehicle.
If you’re hand pulling, make sure you have durable, strong ropes that aren’t going to hurt your hands because you’ll be using them a lot. The kind of runners the shelter has will determine how easy it is to move.
Large, smooth runners are ideal for moving your shelter around.
Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, let’s have a close look at our picks for the best 7 ice fishing shelters of 2017.
Ice Fishing Shelter Reviews
Eskimo is a name that appears a lot on this list because they’re one of the top brands in the industry. The Wide1 is the best one-man shelter we found.
This wide-bottom flip-style shelter is fully insulated with quilted fabric that’s 35% warmer than non-insolated shelters. It’s also designed to give you 32% more fishing space than comparable one-man shelters while still being portable and lightweight.
The expandable front end allows for the extra room and double-walled hinges keep the structure sturdy and the cold wind out. Once expanded, there’s room for a heater and a few fishing lines.
The swivel seat keeps you comfortable while you fish and the mesh storage pockets let you keep everything you need close by. There’s more storage available underneath the seat, too.
For a one-man ice fishing shelter, you can’t get much better than this. It’s warm, portable, durable, and has loads of storage.
- A lot of storage
- Insulated and warm
- More fishing space
Another offering from Eskimo, the Quickfish 2 Pop-up Portable Ice Shelter is a hub design that’s designed for 2 fishermen. Set up is quick and easy and should take less than a minute once you get the hang of it.
It’s a pop-up design and has self-tapping anchors that all easily fit into a carrying bag, making it extra portable.
The 25 square feet of space inside which is more than enough for 2 people. There are mesh storage pockets on the walls where you can put all your necessary equipment and supplies.
The windows are removable so you can control the ventilation and there’s an extra-long skirt to help keep drafts out.
The fabric has a high thread count that’s 59% more than other shelters of this size. This makes the material denser and keeps out wind and water. Corner joints are reinforced so there’s less risk of wear and tear over time.
- Great size for 2 anglers
- Waterproof and blocks wind
- Easy setup
- Difficult to get it back into the storage bag
- Not insulated
If you’re looking for something that can fit 3-4 people, you can’t go wrong with the Eskimo FF949 FatFish Pop-up Portable Ice Shelter. The insulation consists of a layer of IceTight fabric on each side for 3 layers of protection.
This provides you and your fellow fisherman with unprecedented sheltering from cold and moisture, even on harsh days.
This shelter is a pop-up design that expands to give you 65 square feet of fishing area, enough room for you, a few friends, and your gear. The large windows are removable so you can control the airflow into the shelter and a long skirt helps keep out any drafts.
Large mesh pockets on the walls give you plenty of places to store your gear, plus you get self-tapping anchors that are easy to set up.
This design has 2 doors opposite of one another for easy entry and exit. For increased safety, reflective trim is integrated into the design so you know you’ll be seen at night.
The corners are reinforced with heavy-duty material to help this shelter last for a long time.
- Large enough for 3-4 people
- Triple layer insulation for exceptional warmth
- 2 doors for easy entry
- Easy setup
- A little unreliable on windy days
Another option from Eskimo, the QuickFish3i is made with their special insulated fabric that keeps it 35% warmer than non-insulated shelters. The self-tapping anchors are easy to grip and strong enough to stay intact under a lot of pressure.
Its hub design makes it easy to put up. It’s so easy, that it can be done in under a minute.
The fabric works because it’s so dense, thus keeping the cold and moisture out. It has a really high thread count which keeps the shelter watertight. There’s also a long skirt to prevent drafts and offer a little extra insulation.
This shelter is designed to hold up to 3 people and has 37 square feet of room. Mesh pockets on the walls are a great way for you and your friends to keep all of the necessary supplies and gear organized.
The windows open using hook and loop strips and can be easily removed if need be. It’s really portable and all fits back into the bag so it can be easily carried on someone’s back.
- Effectively insulated
- Lots of storage
- Easy to put up
- A little heavy
While you may never have heard of Shappell ice fishing shelters, it’s not for lack of quality, that’s for sure! Established back in the 1970’s, this American Company started the process of manufacturing higher end, tough tents for ice fishing conditions.
The iconic outdoor/fishing equipment company Eagle Claw has recently taken over Shappell and because of its reputation as one of America’s premier fishing tackle companies, Eagle Claw makes sure the Shappell brand is made to the highest standards.
The Wide House is made for 2-3 people and features 2 big oval doors for easy entry and all anchor points are reinforced.
It features high visibility reflectors and it’s made with 600D polyester material, which is best described as not “heavy” duty, but EXTREME duty! With 6 removable windows and shades, this is a shelter to last a lifetime, and a very good competitor for Eskimo!
- Very tough
- Great parent brand (Eagle Claw)
- reasonably priced
- Not as “famous” as Eskimo shelters
- It’s blue (not red like Eskimo …. if you really like red!)
The ThunderBay is a really an off-brand bargain shelter, but it makes our list because of the price (just a tad bit over $100), because it has a 4/5 star review rating, AND because the features are pretty decent for the price!
The 300D Oxford Fabric is a generally tougher weave than a standard weave, and results in a longer-lasting material. It has an actual frost resistance of -22ºF. The 4 windows allow light in (obviously) but keep cold airflow out.
The poles are fairly heavy duty in their design. Overall, it’s a reasonable value for $100. And hey, many have used it for a tent in warmer weather, so a sturdy tent for this price is not a bad thing! It’s 58 x 58 x 66 inches when opened.
- Lots of storage
- Good size for 2 fishermen
- No name brand
- Not a lot of history or reviews to research
If you’re looking for some really big that can fit a lot of people, the Eskimo FF9416I FatFish Insulated Pop-up Portable Ice Shelter is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. It covers a whopping 109 square feet and can fit 7-9 people and their gear.
For the safety of the group, the shelter is marked with reflective trim for high nighttime visibility.
Considering its size, this shelter sets up quickly. Its ball and socket design adds the strength it needs to make sure the long walls are supported and the self-tapping ice anchors are easy to use and durable so they’ll remain steady under pressure.
Storage pockets are places around the tent so everyone has a place to put their gear.
There are 10 removable windows so you can easily control the view and air circulation. 2 doors offer easy entry and exit for everyone coming and going. This large ice shelter provides 60% more fishable area than comparably sized shelters.
The denier fabric has a dense thread count for a tighter weave fabric that will keep out wind and water. There’s also an extra-long skirt to eliminate any drafts.
Everything comes in a convenient storage bag that can be carried on your back for easy transport once you’ve broken down the shelter. The bag tends to break pretty quickly, though, so expect to come up with an alternative way to carry this.
It’s also a little on the expensive side, but that’s to be expected for a shelter this large.
- Fits a lot of people and their gear
- Adequate storage
- High nighttime visibility
- Storage/transport bag breaks easily
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
The Eskimo Wide 1 Inferno Insulated Ice Shelter with Swivel Seat is one of the best one-man shelters out there from one of the best companies in the business.
This flip-style shelter is fully insulated and has more space than most other one-man shelters thanks to the expandable front end. Plus, it comes with a comfortable swivel seat that provides a nice amount of storage space.
If you’re looking for a great 2 man shelter, try the Eskimo Quickfish 2 Pop-up Portable Ice Shelter. This hub-style shelter is easy to set up and gives you 25 square feet of space, enough for 2 people and their gear.
Mesh storage pockets provide storage while the dense fabric and long skirt are waterproof and keep out the cold.
The Eskimo FF949 FatFish Pop-up Portable Ice Shelter is a little bigger still and has room enough for 3-4 people. The IceTight fabric provides astounding warmth even on harsh winter days.
The pop-up design provides a whopping 65 square feet, plenty of room for a few friends and their gear. With 2 doors, reflective trim for safety, and plenty of storage, this is one of the best ice fishing shelters in its size.
The Eskimo QuickFish 3i is designed for up to 3 people and is made of Eskimo’s dense, quilted insulating fabric for superior protection from the elements. Set up is quick and easy and it provides enough storage space for you and 2 of your buddies.
It as protection against drafts and removable windows to control the temperature and view.
Another 2 person option is the Clam Outdoors 9714 Nanook 2-Person Ice Fishing Shelter with Padded Seats. Clam Outdoors has been in the outdoors business for more than 3 decades so you know this is a brand that makes high-quality products.
This shelter is easy to set up and to transport. The 2 padded seats are comfortable, adjustable, and removable if you’re using this as a one-person shelter and want more space.
The Frabill Citadel 3255 Insulated Flip-Over Side Door with Boat Seats is large enough for 3 people.
The sled base makes moving this shelter pretty easy and the Combo-Case Bench seating provides a sturdy, comfortable place to sit plus gives you additional storage under the bench in the form of a molded storage case.
Need something for a lot of people? Try the Eskimo FF9416I FatFish Insulated Pop-up Portable Ice Shelter. It can hold 7-9 fishermen and their gear. It sets up quickly and has superior support with the ball and socket design.
There are plenty of storage options for everyone who will be using this shelter. Compared to others that can hold this many people, you get 60% more fishable area which is sure to give everyone a chance to make their big catch.
As you can see, you have a lot of options when it comes to ice fishing shelters. Whatever one you choose, make sure you keep our buyer’s guide in mind so you know you’re making a well-informed decision.
Check out our list of the 7 best ice fishing shelters and decide which one is the right one for you. We covered a variety of different kinds of shelter in sizes that can fit anywhere from 1 to 9 people.