Outfitting yourself for ice fishing on calm, sunny days is easy enough—but those perfect days on the ice can be few and far between. Most of the time, the wind picks up, blowing through your clothing (even if they're the right layers to stay warm fishing) and cutting your time on the ice short. That is, unless you've brought along a portable shelter.
Ice fishing tents, shelters, shanties, and huts are all different terms for the same piece of equipment. I'm an ice fishing guide in Colorado and have used a variety of tents out on the ice. Here's why I swear by them, how to use them effectively, and some of my favorite ice fishing shelters on the market.
When You'll Want an Ice Fishing Tent
Ice anglers use ice fishing tents for the same reasons campers use camping tents: They protect you and your gear from the elements. Granted, most ice fishing equipment is water-resistant, if not completely waterproof, so ice fishing shelters are more geared towards keeping you and your fishing buddies warm from cold temps and brisk winds than dry from heavy snowfall.
Ice fishing tents come in a variety of options, including insulated and uninsulated, and portable pop-ups versus more seasonally permanent options. Depending on the types of ice fishing you do and your state's laws regarding structures on the ice, you might prefer one type of ice fishing tent more than another.
The benefits of having an ice fishing tent include:
- Protection from snow and wind
- Containment heat put off by a portable heater, helping you stay comfy (and your fish finder's batteries last longer)
- Blockage of sunlight, which makes reading your electronics easier
- A private place to use the bathroom in highly trafficked fishing spots
How to Use an Ice Fishing Tent
Much like with camping tents, using an ice fishing shelter is easy and intuitive. All you need to know how to do is get your shelter on the ice, set it up, and break it back down.
While each tent varies, they can be divided into two general types: hubs and flips. Hubs have panels that pop out when you push on them with your hand. With the walls all set up, the tent stands on its own and you can then secure it to the ground. Breaking down a hub-style ice fishing shelter is as effortless as setting it up. Just untether it from the ground, pop the panels back in, fold it up, and re-secure it to your sled. Flip-style tents are built into their own sled, and the roof and sides flip up and out for quick setup and down and in for takedown.
Modern ice fishing tents are far easier to carry than they used to be. The hub-style tents tend to be lighter and can be carried in a pack or rigged to a snowmobile using bungee cords. The sled-style flip tents can be pulled behind you as you walk or rigged up to the back of a snowmobile for even faster transportation.
What to Look for When Shopping for Ice Fishing Tents
The first decision in shopping for an ice fishing tent is whether you need a hub-style tent or a flip-style tent. Hub tents are the best option for folks carrying their tents out onto the ice themselves. The more rugged but heavier flip tents are best for those who plan to tow it out with a truck, ATV, or snowmobile. Once you've decided whether you want a hub or a flip tent, pay attention to these details:
The shell is the fabric that makes up the walls of the tent. Shells should be water-resistant and windproof, and some of them are insulated, too. Look for premium polyester and nylon fabrics that minimize condensation. Note that these fabrics are commonly measured in "deniers." A 300-denier shelter is going to be flimsier and less insulative, while a 600-denier tent is more durable and warmer.
An ice fishing tent's structure refers to the poles that hold up the tent's shell. Unlike a camping tent, these poles are integrated into the walls of the shelter. Shop for tents with lightweight aluminum or fiberglass poles. Most tent poles are rounded, but square-shaped poles are best for flip-style tents because they help prevent twisting when it's windy.
Most flip shelters have a seat built into the actual product. These seats are bench or bucket-style chairs. However, hub-style shelters do not have seats in them; you have to bring your own chair. Decide whether you'd prefer your shelter to come with a seat or if you're okay with packing your own.
Flip-style ice fishing tents come attached to a sled, and hubs do not. If you're leaning towards getting a flip, look for products with a roto-molded sled because they'll be more durable. Ice fishing sleds are also sold as their own product, so if you have a hub-style shelter, shop for a sled that is large enough to fit the tent and your fishing gear.
Best Ice Fishing Tents
- Best Ice Fishing Tent for One: Eskimo Wide 1 XR Thermal
- Best Ice Fishing Tent for Two: Clam Outdoors Nanook XT Thermal
- Best Ice Fishing Tent for Three: Eskimo QuickFish 3i
- Best Ice Fishing Tent for up to Six: Clam Outdoors X-600 Thermal
- Best Ice Fishing Tent for up to Eight: Otter Vortex Pro Monster Lodge
Best Ice Fishing Tent for One
Top Pick: Eskimo Wide 1 XR Thermal ($600)
Style: Flip | Fishable Area: 17.5 square feet | Capacity: 1 person | Insulated: Yes | Weight: 65 pounds | Fabric Weight: 600 denier
When it comes to ice fishing equipment, Eskimo is a household name. The brand's Wide 1 XR Thermal is an insulated, single-person, flip-style shelter that comfortably holds one angler and all of their ice fishing gear. In fact, thanks to the XR's expandable frame, this shelter has 20 percent more fishing area inside of the tent than other single-person flip shelter models. As a result, you can comfortably fit a fishing hole, a deadstick hole, and a heater inside without sacrificing leg and elbow room.
It's fully insulated with Eskimo's proprietary quilted fabric, helping you stay warm and use propane more efficiently. The built-in, 18-inch tall seat swivels, making it easy to check electronics, pick up your tip, and jig. This model also folds into a "windbreak mode" for safer, more comfortable angling on gusty days.
Best Ice Fishing Tent for Two
Top Pick: Clam Outdoors Nanook XT Thermal ($700)
Style: Flip | Fishable Area: 23.7 square feet | Capacity: 2 people | Insulated: Yes | Weight: 80 pounds | Fabric Weight: 900 denier
Clam Outdoors is another major manufacturer of awesome ice fishing shelters. Its Nanook XT is an insulated, flip-style shelter that comfortably fits two fishing buddies, which the brand says is the best-selling ice tent on the market.
The Nanook XT Thermal is a popular flip-over ice fishing shelter for good reasons. Its heavy 900-denier fabric is lined with a thermal skin to block the elements outside and keep things toasty inside. The built-in tub creates more room for storage without eating into the tent's usable square footage, giving you and your fishing buddy plenty of elbow room. Clam's side door system makes it easy for folks to slip in and out of the shelter without having to step over fishing equipment. Overall, the Nanook XT is durable, warm, and uses space efficiently for a good price.
Best Ice Fishing Tent for Three
Top Pick: Eskimo QuickFish 3i
Style: Hub | Fishable Area: 34 square feet | Capacity: 3 people | Insulated: Yes | Weight: 34 pounds | Fabric Weight: 600 denier
Eskimo's wide variety of quality ice fishing tents also includes the super popular QuickFish 3i. This pop-up, hub-style shelter is designed to fit three anglers and their fishing gear within 34 square feet of fishable area. At 34 pounds, it's lightweight and easy to transport in a sled and even easier to set up. Eskimo touts that assembly only takes 60 seconds.
The QuickFish 3i insulated hub shelter holds in warmth and protects anglers from the wind. Its self-tapping ice anchors each have their own designated grommet, so securing it to the ice is a breeze. Mesh storage pockets along the walls keep fishing gear at the ready, and the removable window covers can either let in light or block it out to increase the visibility of electronics. Like all other Eskimo products, this tent has oversized zipper pulls that are easy to manipulate with gloves on.
This portable shelter is also available in an uninsulated version that weighs merely 26 pounds for $200.
Best Ice Fishing Tent for up to Six
Top Pick: Clam Outdoors X-600 Thermal
Style: Hub | Fishable Area: 94 square feet | Capacity: 5 to 6 people | Insulated: Yes | Weight: 67 pounds | Fabric Weight: 900 denier
If you plan on fishing with a small group, Clam Outdoors' X-600 Thermal hub-style shelter is the way to go. This roomy ice fishing tent fits five or six anglers and features 94 square feet of fishable area.
Because it's designed for big groups, it's built with durability in mind. The 900-denier fabric is water- and fire-resistant and has a high tear strength, so if an auger blade accidentally bumps the tent, the fabric won't tear, nor should it ignite if someone accidentally knocks over the Buddy heater. The heavy-duty, 11-millimeter poles are easy to pop out and stand up against wind and snow. If the wind gets gnarly, the extra-wide skirt allows for banking snow up against the shelter to secure it in place, and the thermal insulation keeps your crew warm and protected.
Best Ice Fishing Tent for up to Eight
Top Pick: Otter Vortex Pro Monster Lodge
Style: Hub | Fishable Area: 132 square feet | Capacity: 6 to 8 people | Insulated: yes | Weight: 73 pounds | Fabric Weight: 600 denier
Folks looking for the ultimate ice fishing shelter can stop searching: Otter's Vortex Pro Monster Lodge is the dreamiest large-capacity ice fishing shelter available. Calling it a lodge is no exaggeration. This gigantic insulated tent comfortably fits up to eight people and offers 132 square feet of fishing area.
This hub shelter is a home away from home. The five-sided shape offers a wider, cozier space compared to the rectangular shape of other shelters. The three-layer shell holds warmth and fights condensation, while the reinforced corners and heavy-duty, 11-millimeter poles increase durability in all weather conditions. In addition, this tent has a long list of features including interior fishing rod holders, an easy ice anchoring system, removable windows with insulated covers, stabilizing door poles, and so much more. My favorite feature is that it has a propane tank hose port, so running a heater or a camp stove inside of the shelter is a piece of cake.
When you're ready to pack up, this tent easily slides into an ultra-durable, 900-denier carry bag. Otter truly sacrificed nothing in designing this high-quality ice fishing shelter.
Who We Are
Gabby Zaldumbide has been an avid ice angler for six years. She is currently a professional ice fishing guide with Uncharted Outdoorswomen in Colorado. During the winter, she hosts educational events where she teaches small groups of women how to ice fish for rainbow, brown, and lake trout. Gabby covers everything from how to rig up a rod, safely use an auger, and clean fish for the dinner table.
Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Spaces are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
READ MORE: A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing Gear
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