Greetings fellow angler, welcome to my review of the best ice fishing shelters!
When you’re fishing in extreme freezing conditions, even with multiple layers of clothing, a hat, a jacket, and gloves, there’s only so long you can ice fish for – unless you have an ice fishing shelter. A good ice fishing shelter will keep the wind, snow, sun, and even rain out. This not only makes fishing on the ice a lot less daunting, but also more fun since you’ll be able to fish in comfort and for much longer periods of time. We spent 17 hours sifting through every single ice fishing shelter on the market to find the best ones. After considering each one’s space, fishable area, ease of assembly and takedown, durability, and portability, we ended up with these six.
Out of these six, I’d say the Eskimo QuickFish 3i is most likely what you came here for. The Eskimo QuickFish 3i is just right for 2 people or solo anglers who want lots of room to themselves. Not only is it spacious with lots of room to fish, but it’s also super easy to set up and take down and can handle harsh elements.
Now having said that, I know the Eskimo QuickFish 3i is a bit pricey. That’s why I included a cheaper alternative to it. And in case you want a smaller and snugger shelter for one or need a bigger one to get out there with your family, we’ve got you covered too!
Our Top 6 Picks
- Eskimo QuickFish 3i (Best For 2 People)
- Thunderbay Ice Cube 3i (Best Budget Insulated)
- Frabill HQ 200 (Best Lightness)
- Eskimo QuickFish 2i (Best For 1 Person)
- Piscifun Ice Shelter (Best For 3 People)
- Clam C-890 (Best For Families)
Why Do You Even Need A Portable Ice Fishing Shelter?
Ice fishing shelters, aka ice fishing shanties, can be portable or permanent.
The only type of permanent ice shanty is an ice fishing house, or ice shack as some anglers prefer to call it. And as for portable ice fishing shelters, there are 2 types – flip-overs and hubs. We’ll go over them in detail later on.
For now, here’s how portable and permanent ice shelters measure up against each other.
Obviously, an ice fishing tent is a lot easier to pack up and move than an ice house. More importantly though, what this means is that you can easily change fishing spots as and when you like. That’s the biggest advantage of a portable shelter.
On the other hand, permanent shelters are much more cozy and comfortable. You can have a television, a couch, a fridge (yes, somewhat ironic), and even a pan to fry and consume the fishes you catch right there and then. The catch however, is that you have to commit to just one fishing spot because moving an ice house takes a ton of effort and time.
Permanent ice shelters also have to be kept by the time the weather starts warming up (usually end February), even if there is still ice. This is because ice houses are many times heavier than ice tents.
To sum it up, a permanent ice fishing shelter provides an ultra-comfy experience, while a portable one makes for a pretty comfortable but much more versatile ice fishing trip.
Different Types Of Ice Fishing Shelters
There are 3 types of ice fishing shelters – houses, flip-overs, and hubs.
The thing is, most anglers prefer portable ice shelters because of how much more affordable they are than ice houses. As such, I’ll only be going over flip-overs and hubs.
Flip-Over Style Ice Shelter
Flip-over shelters are extremely easy to erect and take down.
As the name suggests, all it takes to erect the shelter is to flip the top side over like a piece of paper.
To better picture it in its closed state, imagine a playing card folded in half. To set the shelter up, all you need to do is unfold (or flip over) the card back to its flat state. This is where it gets its name flip-over shelter from.
The main argument for choosing a flip-over over a hub is easier assembly and dismantling.
Unlike hubs, flip-overs don’t have ice anchors and snap-in poles. All you need to do is fold them over, which means you can set them up and take them down in a flash.
Flip-over shelters can also come with a built-in bench, something that you won’t see with hub shelters.
That said, don’t forget that the bench will add more weight.
There’s also a limit to how big flip-over shelters can get. After a certain point, you’ll find flipping over the folded side a near-impossible task. This is why flip-over shelters can only accommodate a maximum of two people.
Also, flip-over shelters are a lot less sturdy as they don’t have snap-in poles.
In terms of price, an insulated flip-over will cost at least twice as much as an insulated hub.
In short, a flip-over ice fishing shelter is a lot more expensive and less sturdy than a hub ice shelter. You do get a bench for the extra cost and shorter setup and collapse times though.
In my opinion, flip-overs aren’t worth the price. Hubs nowadays can be erected and collapsed in less than a minute. You’re paying a lot more for only slightly faster assembly and takedown times, which just isn’t worth it to me.
Still, I can’t deny that flip-overs are better if you plan to change fishing spots frequently. Other than that, there’s no situation in which I would choose a flip-over over a hub. And at any rate, even in that situation, I’d still pick a hub over a flip-over.
Hub Style Ice Shelter
A hub is sort of like a giant hat with a door. Another term for hub is pop-up shelter.
While you wouldn’t be able to fit more than two people in a flip-over, you can fit up to 6 people with the pop-up design.
As mentioned above, hubs are more robust and less pricey but take a tad longer to erect and collapse.
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether paying double for a flip-over for portability is worth it. Like I said earlier, I believe that when price is a factor, a pop-up ice fishing shelter beats a flip-over any day.
If you do indeed have lots of money to spare, a flip-over may actually be the better choice. Not only is it more comfortable, but also more convenient.
We’re assuming price is a consideration for you though, so our top 6 picks are all hubs.
What To Consider When Looking For The Best Ice Fishing Shelter
Alright, now that we’ve established that hubs are superior (unless you’re really rich), let’s go over what makes a good hub.
This may not seem important, especially since we’ve already found the best ice shelters for you, but knowing this will ensure that no one and no company can ever trick you into buying a subpar ice shelter.
Here’s what to look out for to find the best ice fishing shelter.
When searching for an ice fishing shelter, don’t just get the biggest size available. You’ll end up having to spend more on heating up a larger space that you don’t even need. Instead, try to get the size that you need, no more, no less.
One very important thing to take note of when looking at the sizes or capacities that manufacturers provide is to minus one from the number. The capacities given are for people only and don’t take into account the gear you carry.
You’ll sometimes also see a range of capacities, like 2-3 people. When you encounter this, I’d advise you to take the smaller number, which would be 2 in this case.
To insulate or not to insulate, that is the question.
Insulated shelters are built with insulated fabric to retain heat much better than non-insulated ones. On days that aren’t too cold, you won’t even need a heater if you have an insulated ice fishing shelter. As the days get colder, you’ll need some heating to get by, but you’ll be spending a lot less on propane to stay warm than with a non-insulated ice fishing shelter.
With non-insulated shelters, no matter what the temperature, if there’s ice, you’re going to need a heater if you want a warm shelter. As such, the cost of propane can quickly add up. Chances are, you’ll end up spending more on heating and your non-insulated shelter than if you had just gotten an insulated one in the first place.
Moreover, when you’re fishing in -20°C conditions, non-insulated shelters are out of the question. You’re going to need a strong heater and a well-insulated ice shelter if you don’t want to end up with frostbite or hypothermia.
In essence, if you don’t go ice fishing often and don’t intend to go in extreme cold, non-insulated ice fishing tents make more sense as you won’t spend that much on propane. But if you ice fish frequently and plan to go in really cold weather, insulated shelters are without a doubt better for you.
Weight And Portability
For those who want to be able to change fishing spots at will, you should of course get a lighter and more portable ice shelter. The trade-off is that your shelter will be less insulated or not insulated at all and won’t be as tough.
Insulated shelters are thicker and thus heavier. This means they are less conducive for moving around multiple times in a fishing trip. This isn’t to say you can’t change fishing spots with insulated shelters, they just take more effort.
Basically, for those who won’t be shifting fishing spots much, insulated shelters won’t be an issue. For those who move around a lot, a lighter but less insulated and sturdy shelter may better suit your needs. Don’t forget though, you can also bring insulated shelters around, just with more effort.
Ease Of Setting Up And Taking down
The majority of flip-overs out there can be set up and taken down in under a minute.
The ones we included in this list have all been tested by us. We checked to make sure that they can be assembled and disassembled in one minute or less, so this is one area you won’t have to worry about.
The 6 Best Ice Fishing Shelters
Before we get started with the reviews, note that you’ll see differences between my capacity and that of the product pages’. That’s because I’m factoring in the space taken up by fishing gear and minusing one from the given capacities.
Also, for the Eskimo QuickFish 2i and 3i, there are 2 weights listed. They’re for the non-insulated and insulated versions respectively.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s jump right into it!
Best For 2 People
1. Eskimo QuickFish 3i
- Fishable Area: 34 sqft
- Capacity: 2 people
- Weight: 26/34 pounds
- Insulation: None/600 denier
- Height: 6.7 ft
Starting things off is the Eskimo QuickFish 3i. Light, durable beyond compare, and with unbelievably fast assembly and disassembly times, there’s no better ice fishing shelter for 2 people.
First off, this ice tent weighs 26 pounds for the non-insulated option and 34 pounds for the insulated option. Sure it isn’t the lightest ice shelter out there, but it’s light enough that you can drag it around fairly easily.
Secondly, the Eskimo QuickFish 3i is unrivalled in durability thanks to the fiberglass poles and YKK zippers. Fiberglass is strong, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant. And YKK zippers are the gold standard for zippers. These reliable zippers are hardy and will have no trouble withstanding harsh, cold conditions. Combining the sturdy poles and YKK zippers, the result is a hardy ice fishing shelter with no equal in durability. As a matter of fact, I took this shelter out during winter in 30 mph winds and it held up without any problems.
Thirdly, setup and takedown can be accomplished in short order with this ice shelter. In fact, it took me only 20 seconds to set up and just 25 seconds to collapse. That’s how easy this ice shelter is to erect and collapse.
And finally, this ice shelter’s insulated option uses 600-denier fabric. 600 denier means each thread contains 600 yarns. Most other companies only use 300-denier fabric. With the Eskimo QuickFish 3i, you’ll get twice as many yarns per thread, which translates to much better heat trapping abilities. Even on the coldest days and nights, the Eskimo QuickFish 3i will keep you safe and toasty.
Some other nice features that this ice fishing shelter has are removable vinyl windows and mesh storage pockets. The removable window panels give you a clear view of everything outside and help ventilate the room well. This ensures that there won’t be condensation on the inside, especially when you’re using a heater. The mesh storage pockets provide convenient slots for your gear and are along the wall so as not to take up any floor space.
As a bonus, taller anglers will still be stand up in this ice fishing shelter as it’s 6.7 ft high.
Now at this point, you’ve heard plenty of good things about this ice fishing shelter. We can’t ignore the bad though.
Here’s what I don’t like about the Eskimo QuickFish 3i.
There are two issues that I have with this ice fishing shelter – leaking and lights. During heavy rain, there will be water dripping, which is somewhat annoying. And there isn’t anything like velcro or loops on the roof for you to hang lights from.
Those are the only two issues this ice shelter has. I recommend spraying water repellent to resolve the issue of leaking. A good waterproofing spray like the Nikwax TX.Direct will keep every single drop of water out. And as for the issue of lights, a camping lamp that you can place on the ground will do the trick.
All things considered, the Eskimo QuickFish 3i has some flaws, but considering that there are simple fixes to deal with them, they aren’t serious problems. I’d say its lightness, unbeatable durability, and insanely fast assembly and disassembly times still place it above every other 2-man ice shelter on the market.
Best Budget Insulated
2. Thunderbay Ice Cube 3i
- Fishable Area: 34 sqft
- Capacity: 2 people
- Weight: 33 pounds
- Insulation: 300 denier
- Height: 6.7 ft
If you liked the QuickFish 3i but found it too costly, you’re in luck. I included the Thunderbay Ice Cube 3i specifically with those who need a cheaper insulated 2-man ice shelter. Don’t let the lower price fool you though, this is still very much a high-quality ice fishing shelter that’s light, tough, and easy to erect and collapse.
Weight-wise, Thunderbay didn’t include it on the product page, so I had to manually measure it with a weighing scale. At 33 pounds, this ice shelter is one pound lighter and thus more portable than the QuickFish 3i.
Durability-wise, the Thunderbay Ice Cube 3i is a bit less durable than the previous shelter. I can’t tell what material the poles are and what brand the zippers are, but it’s pretty hardy, as it stood up to the 30 mph gusts that I was fishing in and didn’t let a single puff of air through.
As for assembly and disassembly, both processes take about 1 minute each. The ice anchors provided are aggressive and go into the ice in no time at all, which speeds up the setup process.
Insulation-wise, the Thunderbay Ice Cube 3i uses 300-denier fabric which traps much less heat than the previous shelter’s 600 denier. This is why there’s a huge gap between their prices.
Drawbacks-wise, like the QuickFish 3i, this shelter will leak during rain and doesn’t have anything for hanging lights.
Overall, while not as durable or easy to put up and dismantle as the QuickFish 3i, the Thunderbay Ice Cube 3i is no slack either. This is the best ice fishing shelter with insulation you can get on a budget.
3. Frabill HQ 200
- Fishable Area: 34 sqft
- Capacity: 2 people
- Weight: 23 pounds
- Insulation: None
- Height: 7.3 ft
Another 2-man ice shelter, the Frabill HQ 200 is the lightest 2-man ice shelter on the market.
Standing at a mere 23 pounds, this ice shelter has no lighter counterpart. You’ll find bringing it around a breeze.
I’m also confident that this ice fishing shelter can take on harsh elements. I left it outside set up for months, and even with the glaring sun and heavy rains and snow, it looks as good as new.
Moving on to assembly and dismantling, it’s slightly more complicated than the previous two shelters. Nevertheless, once you understand how it works, both processes will take you less than a minute.
So far so good, but you might be wondering why this ice shelter is cheaper than the Eskimo QuickFish 3i when it’s so much lighter. Well, that’s because the Frabill HQ 200 isn’t insulated.
The Frabill HQ 200 was made for anglers who prioritise portability in their ice fishing shelter. If you value lightness above all and can do without insulation, this is the ice shelter for you.
Best For 1 Person
4. Eskimo QuickFish 2i
- Fishable Area: 25 sqft
- Capacity: 1 person
- Weight: 21.5/28.5 pounds
- Insulation: None/600 denier
- Height: 5.6 ft
Next up is the Eskimo QuickFish 2i. This ice fishing shelter is similar in every way to the QuickFish 3i, with the only difference being space.
For portability, at 21.5 and 28.5 pounds, this ice fishing shelter is light enough to drag around with relative ease.
For durability, the Eskimo QuickFish 2i is equipped with the same YKK zippers and fiberglass poles as the QuickFish 3i.
For insulation, this ice shelter also employs 600-denier fabric for top-notch insulation.
To finish it off, this ice shelter can also be assembled and disassembled in less than 30 seconds each.
By now, I think I’ve made it clear how similar both ice shelters are. Just like the QuickFish 3i, this ice shelter is light, peerlessly durable, and super easy to erect and dismantle.
Solo anglers will also be glad to hear that the Eskimo QuickFish 2i is roughly a hundred bucks cheaper. If it’s just you going fishing, you can opt for this ice fishing shelter to save some money.
P.S. If you don’t need insulation, here’s the non-insulated option.
Best For 3 People
5. Piscifun Ice Shelter
- Fishable Area: 50 sqft
- Capacity: 3 people
- Weight: 35.3 pounds
- Insulation: None
- Height: 5.6 ft
If none of the above shelters appealed to you, I’m guessing it’s a matter of size. If that’s the case, then you’re in for a treat.
With 50 square feet of fishable space, this roomy shelter has plenty of fishing space for 3 anglers to work with. And despite its spaciousness, it measures only 35.3 pounds.
I also like that there are no rods to insert anywhere. You just unfold the right parts and pop out the middle. This makes both setup and takedown extremely fast.
Also, an interesting feature that this ice fishing shelter has is fire resistance. This should give you a good idea of how heavy-duty the fabric is. Though not insulated, the Piscifun Ice Shelter does a good job of keeping the cold out at low temperatures.
As 3-man ice shelters go, you could do a lot worse than the Piscifun Ice Shelter. Just don’t forget to bring along a heater.
P.S. If you use my code SENSEI15 on Piscifun, you’ll get 15% off your first order!
Best For Families
6. Clam C-890
- Fishable Area: 89 sqft
- Capacity: 4-5 people
- Weight: 58 pounds
- Insulation: 600 denier
- Height: 7.5 ft
Last on the list is the Clam C-890.
Designed for families, this ice fishing shelter has a fishable area of 89 square feet. You can comfortably fit 2 adults and 4 children in there, which is ideal for large families.
With such a large capacity, it’s no surprise that this ice shelter will be heavier than the previous few ice fishing tents. At 58 pounds, it’s not exactly the most portable ice fishing shelter available. Nonetheless, 2 adults will be able to bring it around, albeit with more effort than the past few shelters.
The setting up and dismantling will also take longer due to the larger size. It took me about 1 minute and 30 seconds to set it up alone, but 2 adults should have it up in about a minute’s time. I’d recommend watching a video to learn to set it up as it can be confusing.
Their flex-tested 11 mm poles which prop up the shelter securely are impressive. But I have heard tales of the low-quality zippers breaking from other angler friends, though my zippers didn’t give me any issues.
I feel that the best part of this ice shelter is its insulation. The 600-denier fabric insulates so well that with a small heater, my kids had their jackets off in minutes.
For those with children, or just looking to go in a large group, the Clam C-890 is a solid choice to keep you guys warm no matter how cold it gets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unlike with rods and reels, even a seasoned angler may not know much about ice fishing shelters. Here are some questions on ice angling that I often hear.
Should My Ice Fishing Shelter Have A Floor?
You’ll notice that most ice fishing shelters don’t have a floor. The reason for this is that most of the time, a floor isn’t needed.
Whether you have a floor or not won’t make a difference if you aren’t fishing for more than a day, and even more so when you’re wearing ice boots, or even normal shoes.
Still, if you are planning to fish for days at a time or overnight, you’ll find walking on the uneven and hard ice uncomfortable after a while. I’ve found that using foam tiles are a great way to increase comfort to the point where you can even walk around barefooted.
How Do You Insulate Or Keep An Ice Fishing Shelter Warm?
I’m sure you already know about heaters, so what this question is really asking for is other ways than heaters to heat up an ice fishing shelter.
The only other way to heat up an ice shelter is with a stove, unless you want to start a fire. Fires are dangerous though, and you could end up burning down your ice fishing shelter.
If you’re using a propane heater, make sure your tent is well-ventilated as too much carbon monoxide can knock you out and even kill you.
How Do You Securely Set Up An Ice Fishing Shelter?
An erect shelter has a large surface area. This means there will be a significant amount of wind acting on it. For this reason, it’s critical that you anchor down your shelter firmly.
A hub will have eight anchor points in total.
The first four are located at each corner of the hub. These four are your first line of defense. In milder winds, these four anchor points will suffice.
The last four are usually located along the exterior of the walls. You’re supposed to thread a guy rope through them and anchor the guy rope to the ice. These four are additional anchor points for stronger winds.
The most important thing to remember is to anchor your hub first before erecting it.
How Do I Know Whether I Need An Ice Fishing House?
The fact is that you’ll never need an ice house. All ice fishing houses provide is lots of comfort, and comfort is a want, not a need.
I would say that for avid ice anglers planning to go fishing on the ice for the next few winters, an ice house is worth the money spent. But even then, it’s a want, not a need.
Other Necessary Ice Fishing Tackle
Ice fishing is a completely different ball game from regular fishing. Not only is the gear required vastly different, but there’s also a wider variety.
Given the harsh conditions you’ll be getting into, you don’t want to be underprepared. Otherwise, your fishing trip can very quickly become a nightmare. This is the complete list of gear you’ll need for fishing on the ice.
Ice Fishing Rod
First and foremost, you can’t fish on the ice without a rod – duh.
Ice rods are shorter to allow for easier fishing because many ice fishing shelters are quite cramped, and also because you don’t need the casting distance that you get with longer rods.
Here are the best ice fishing rods.
Ice Fishing Reel
Ice reels have less ball bearings than normal reels as they’re not used for casting and retrieval much. This means they tend to be less expensive.
Here’s our list of the best ice fishing reels.
Ice Fishing Line
As compared to normal fishing line, ice fishing line is stronger, has markedly less line memory, and has vinyl coating.
We don’t have a list of the best lines for ice fishing at the moment, but we’re working on it!
Ice Fishing Lures
You won’t need any special lures, but you’ll need lures targeted to the fishes under the ice. Here are the best ice fishing lures.
We didn’t cover this earlier, but a sled is awfully convenient when you go fishing on the ice. You can put all your gear inside, including your ice fishing shelter, and then pull it behind you on the snow. This also allows you to bring some extra gear along since you can just stash them in the sled.
Now you might be tired of hearing this, but we are working on the list.
I won’t be putting up any particular ice screws for you to buy because they’ll already come with the hub you purchase.
All the same, in the event that your ice anchors break and you need to get new ones, look out for self-tapping ice anchors with wide handles. I say so because self-tapping ice screws are much more secure.
A travel cover can protect either your entire sled or just your shelter. Either way, a good travel cover will make extra sure that your tackle is safe during transport.
I can’t suggest any good travel covers either because each company has its own shelters and you’ll need the correct travel covers for them. But fret not, it’s not hard to find an appropriate travel cover for your ice shelter. Just Google “[ice shelter model] travel cover]” and you’ll find the right travel cover for your ice shelter.
I don’t think I need to stress the importance of this. A heater or stove can literally be the difference between life and death when it’s you against the ice.
Our list of best ice fishing heaters is still in the works, but we are doing our best to get it up as soon as we can.
Ice Fishing Gloves
You might be thinking “If I’m all warm and cosy in my tent, why in the world would I still need gloves?”, or you might be thinking of wearing that pair of winter gloves from The North Face.
Well, sure you won’t need gloves while you’re waiting for the fish to bite, and a good pair of winter gloves will keep your hands warm. But when you reel the fish in, it’s inevitable that the freezing cold water will get onto your gloves. And when your gloves are soaked with that water or even worse, your hands get into direct contact, you’ll start to wish you had a proper pair of ice gloves.
Once again, the list of best ice fishing gloves isn’t ready yet, but we are working on it.
You may not need a chair for regular fishing but you’ll sure as heck need one for fishing on the ice – unless you want to sit on the ice.
Of course, you could use a bucket, but you might not be able to feel your bottom anymore by the end of the fishing trip.
Our list of best fishing chairs will be out in a few months’ time.
Ice Fishing Boots
Wet soles and cold toes are the last thing you want on an ice fishing trip. Ice fishing calls for warm boots that won’t let water in and that will provide traction on the slippery ice.
We’ve created this list of the best ice boots for your perusal. Enjoy!
Fishing during the winter is fun, and an ice fishing shelter only enhances the experience.
We’ve got ice shelters of every size, so I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for here. For those who can’t decide between a 2-man and 1-man shelter, I recommend getting the 2-man Eskimo QuickFish 3i. Trust me when I say fishing on the ice is a lot more enjoyable when you’ve got lots of space to work with.
With that, happy fishing and stay safe on the ice!