Portable Ice Fishing Shelters
A wide variety of portable ice fishing shelters are available today, due to the explosive popularity growth of ice fishing and the desire to be more comfortable on the ice.
Several companies participate in this competitive niche, including Clam Corporation, Eskimo, Frabill, HT Enterprizes, Otter, Shappell, Team Wild and others.
Having just gone through the process myself, of evaluating the various portable ice fishing shelters I thought I would share what I've learned. With so many companies offering so many choices, the process can get drawn out. Not only is the research very time consuming, but can be very frustrating as well.
Hopefully these pages can save you some time & frustrations in your research and evaluation efforts, as you find the best portable ice shelter for you.
Let me begin by saying that I have excluded many of the models that I simply did not have access to, including motorized models and those that hook directly onto a snowmobile. I had no way of looking at them, let alone reviewing them. I will gladly add these if and when I get to see them.
There are 5 primary types of portable ice fishing shelters, each with their own advantages along with a few drawbacks as well.
CABIN Style portable ice fishing shelters seem to suit the most people, all things considered. I usually notice more cabin type shelters on the ice than any other type. One reason for this may be that they have a hard polyethylene floor that keeps your feet off of the ice. They are generally a bi-folding floor that becomes your sled when the shelter is folded up. You simply strap or bungee your other gear on top and away you go.
The floors included hatches that lift up for ice hole access. Cabin style shelters provide additional warmth due to the floor, and you can pull them around by hand for relatively short distances without taking them down, to stay on fish.
They are lighter than most flip-over models, and somewhat less expensive. They are also more compact, requiring less room in your vehicle.Convenient access doors are usually provided on each end. They are usually tall enough to stand up in.
One major disadvantage to cabin style shelters is that most models have no seating. You'll need to figure on carrying along folding chairs or at least bucket seats.
They take longer to set up than flip-over types, but are still fairly quick and easy. The floors require firm support beneath, so if there is a heavy snow cover on the ice, you may have to shovel it out of the way before setting up your shelter.
The biggest disadvantage that I have found with cabin style portable ice fishing shelters is that the fishable area doesn't work as well for me, as I prefer to have more room between me and my rod tip, especially when using a longer ice rod for larger fish. The front wall is too close to me, even when I am seated as far back as allowed by the size of the cabin.
Hook sets are more difficult, and playing large fish is more difficult for me. I also don't like the noise created by moving around inside, on the floor, especially when fishing in shallow water.Having said all that, Cabin style shelters are still a very good choice for many ice anglers.
Flip-Up or Flip-Over Style
FLIP-OVER type shelters are among the most popular, and was my choice, for whatever that is worth. Flip-Over portable ice fishing shelters have a built in sled, typically large enough to haul the rest of your gear in as well. The sled allows for seating, like bench seating or even swivel boat seats that attach to the sled rail.
Comfortable seating is definitely one of the bigger advantages of flip over type shelters. This style is the quickest to set up, usually taking less than a minute from start to finish. This improves your mobility, giving you a better chance of staying on fish.
Flip-over shelters offer a larger fishable area than most of the other portable ice fishing shelters. Some models are tall enough to stand up in, if you get tired of sitting. They're just more roomy and it adds to your overall comfort.
Additionally, some high-end models are made of an insulated fabric that enhances comfort by reducing heat loss through the fabric walls.
They also generally have built in air vents to prevent oxygen depletion when using propane heaters. Many models also allow you to open them halfway, into a windbreak type mode.
They are the best choice if towing behind an ATV or snowmobile. Towing bars or hitches, sled wear bars and travel covers are available for most models.
Disadvantages are that they are heavier than other types, and this can be an issue when towing by hand, especially in deep snow, and significant distances.
They require more space in a vehicle, as they do not fold up into a compact stuff sack. Also, access doors tend to be less convenient, depending upon the mfg.
They also do not have a floor, or bottom, which means that your feet will be on the ice all day. This also makes them a bit harder to heat up, although I do not find this to be a problem at all.
Pop-Up Hub or Tent Style
TENT style, or Hub style ice shanties are fairly popular and come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Some models can accomodate 6 or 8 ice anglers. They are relatively inexpensive and light weight.
Some of the disadvantages that come to mind are in the set up and tear down. They take a bit more time to set up and can be difficult to set up in windy conditions. They also need to be anchored down with ice anchors.
They are not as sturdy as flip-over and cabin types and are less effective in high winds. Having said that, they are still a nice choice for many people.
CHAIR type is basically a single person pop up type shelter built around a fold-up chair. They are inexpensive and light weight and offer decent protection from the elements for a lone fisherman. They are easy and quick to set up. Nature Vision offers a model for under a hundred bucks.
Disadvantages are that they are designed for a single person. If you are ice fishing alone, you are breaking the #1 rule of ice safety. If you are fishing with a buddy who also has one of these, you can't do much visiting. Many ice anglers do fish alone, however, and that is for them to decide. This type of portable ice fishing shelter makes sense for that subset of fishermen.
WINDBREAKS are the least expensive and among the lightest in weight. However, they are not a full enclosure, which means that they can't be effectively heated. They provide shelter against the wind, but they do not protect you from the elements.
They offer very little, if any, protection from precipitation, or from cold temperatures.
This is just my opinion, but to me, they don't make much sense and do not warrant serious consideration.
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