When some folks think of hand augers, images of old Granddad on the ice drilling with a heavy, ancient, wood-handled tool come to mind. This may have been the standard back in the day, but newer hand augers utilize lightweight materials, efficient design, and durable construction to make punching holes through the ice easier than ever.
While electric and fuel-powered augers get most of the attention these days, hand-powered augers offer a number of benefits that make them indispensable for many ice anglers.
I’ll break down some of the best hand augers on the market today, explain how to pick the ideal one for your needs, and hopefully answer everything you need to know about hand ice augers.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Hand Ice Augers
- Best Overall: StrikeMaster Lazer
- Convertible Hand Auger: Nils Master UR600C Cordless Drill Auger
- Best Value: Eskimo Hand Auger
- Also Consider: StrikeMaster Mora
- Also Consider: RAZR 8″ Hand Ice Auger w/Stainless Steel Curved Blades
Why go with a manual Ice Auger
A hand auger – sometimes called a manual, hand crank, or hand drill auger – offers a number of benefits that bulkier electric and fuel-powered augers simply can’t match.
First off, hand augers weigh significantly less than either type of powered auger. Typical hand augers will weigh a third (or less) than powered augers, making them far easier to throw in your sled for transport.
If you fish in remote locations or need to pull a sled for long distances, then a hand auger makes sense.
While a fuel-powered auger can flood, run out fuel, or suffer other mechanical problems – hand-powered augers have none of these complications. They’ll work in any environment, no matter how cold it is or how rough the conditions get.
This makes bringing a hand-powered auger on every outing a smart move – even if you run into trouble with your powered auger, you’ll have a perfectly capable backup ready to go.
If you fish in shallow lakes – where fish are easily spooked – then the quiet operation of a hand auger can be a major advantage.
Hand augers essentially silent, making them far stealthier than noisy gas and propane-powered augers.
Let’s face it – ice fishing gear isn’t cheap! If you’re just starting out, going with a hand auger can save you a good chunk of money until you’re ready to step up to a powered auger.
A top quality hand-auger will only set you back $100 or so. That’s significantly less than a good powered auger, which can easily top $500.
If you only dabble in ice fishing (is there such a thing?), then shelling out the money for a powered auger may be slightly overkill.
Depending on your fishing style, a hand auger may be more than adequate for your needs. If you mostly fish early or late in the season, where ice is still on the thinner side, then using a hand auger may be your best option.
Also, if you primarily target panfish like crappie, perch, and sunfish, then a smaller diameter auger (in the 4-inch to 6-inch range) would be sufficient for your needs. These smaller diameter hand augers are super easy to use and don’t require the same physical exertion to operate as larger diameter models.
Best Overall: StrikeMaster Lazer
StikeMaster’s been a household name in the ice fishing world for decades – and for good reason – they make some of the best gear out there. The Lazer hand auger is no exception. It rips through the ice with gusto, making quick work of even the thickest ice.
Available in five different diameters, from 4-inch up to 8-inch, there’s an ideal model for every situation. The auger features chrome-alloy stainless steel blades, which come razor-sharp right out of the package.
Powder-coated paint protects the auger from ice build-up, and ergonomically designed handles allow for comfortable and easy operation. The handle adjusts from 48” to 57”, allowing you to adjust the height for different ice thicknesses and angler heights.
Like most other hand augers, it tends to catch a bit at the last inch or so, but this is fairly minor, and you’d need to step up to a much more expensive electric auger to avoid this.
- Razor-sharp blades out of the package
- Cuts through ice with the speed and efficiency of a more expensive auger
- Available in 5 different diameters: 4”, 5”, 6”, 7”, 8”
- Adjustable length handle: From 48” to 57”
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Convertible Hand Auger: Nils Master UR600C Cordless Drill Auger
Nils is the top of the pyramid when it comes to hand augers. The Finnish company has been manufacturing precision cutting tools for decades and has a reputation for making the sharpest, smoothest-cutting augers available.
The blades come razor sharp out of the box and require very little effort to cut through the ice. This model gives you the option of using it with the handle as a traditional auger, or removing the handle and attaching a cordless drill via a 3/8 to 1/2 inch chuck. It’s designed to be used with a beefy, high-torque drill (at least 18V, preferably 20V).
An offset handle allows you to use both hands while drilling – which greatly increases speed and efficiency. It may take some time to get used to, but you’ll be able to drill much faster once you get the hand of it. The auger and handle together weigh just 9 pounds, making them easy to carry out on the ice.
One downside – when using it with a cordless drill, the auger bit has been known to slip off. Luckily, Nils designed the auger with a large flared disc near the top, preventing it from falling inside a recently drilled hole.
While it costs significantly more than other augers reviewed here, the form and function are outstanding, and more than justify the added expense.
- Length: 47”
- Diameter: 6”
- Convertible hand and drill-operated auger functions
- Offset handle allows for speedy and efficient drilling
- Flared disc prevents loss down the hole
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Best Value: Eskimo Hand Auger
If you’re looking for a lightweight, functional, and durable hand auger without breaking the bank, then look no further. The Eskimo makes an excellent entry-level hand auger or a perfectly capable backup to an electric or gas-powered auger.
It’s surprisingly lightweight, weighing in at just 6.5 pounds for the 6-inch model, and 7.5 pounds for the 8-inch one. This makes it great for longer treks out on the ice, or for kids to use.
The stainless-steel blades come super-sharp, enabling you to cut through the ice with minimal effort. A cross-bolt takedown/mounting system prevents overtightening when you drill and makes taking the auger apart for transport a breeze.
The handles easily extend from 49” to 58”, allowing you to adjust the height for any sized angler or ice depth.
- Lightweight, razor-sharp, and durable at an affordable price
- Available in 6”, 7”, and 8” cutting diameters
- Adjustable length handles: From 49” to 58”
- Weighs just 6.5 pounds (6-inch model)
Also Consider: StrikeMaster Mora
Similar to the StrikeMaster Lazer in many respects, the Mora offers similar performance and cutting efficiency in a slightly less expensive package. The Mora uses high alloy carbon steel blades instead of stainless steel, cutting down on costs, but sacrificing a bit of cutting performance.
These blades will cut nearly the same as stainless steel out of the box but will dull faster, so will need to be re-sharpened more often.
The auger comes in three different cutting diameters – 6”, 7”, and 8”. You can also easily adjust the handle height from 48” to 57”.
Overall, the Mora is an excellent option for the occasional ice angler or anyone that wants a capable drilling auger at a reasonable price.
- Available in three cutting diameters: 6”, 7” and 8”
- An excellent option for the occasional ice anger
- Ergonomic handle can be adjusted between 48” and 57”
- High carbon steel blades will require more frequent sharpening than stainless
Also Consider: RAZR 8″ Hand Ice Auger w/Stainless Steel Curved Blades
RAZR may be a newcomer to the ice fishing game, but they’ve made a name for themselves by producing high-performance gear at a great price point. The RAZR hand ice auger certainly lives up to that reputation.
The auger features curved stainless-steel blades which bore through the ice with ease. An ergonomic and comfortable free-spinning handle allows for efficient drilling – reducing strain and discomfort during operation.
A three-point height adjustable handle allows you to quickly change the overall length – making swapping the auger between kids and adults a breeze.
The auger weighs in at 9 pounds, putting it near the middle of the pack in terms of overall weight.
- Curved stainless steel blades blast through the ice with ease
- The ergonomic and comfortable handle can be adjusted to three different lengths
- Cutting diameter: 8”
- Overall weight: 9 pounds
How to choose the best hand ice auger
While hand-powered ice augers are fairly straightforward in their design and function, there are a few important features to be aware of when selecting one.
Cutting diameter refers to the width of the auger/blades, which determines the size of the hole you can drill. For hand-powered augers, typical diameters are 6”, 7”, and 8”. You can also find a few models with 4” and 5” diameters out there.
The right diameter for you will depend on your fishing style and personal preferences.
A 6” diameter hole will work well for yellow perch, crappie, bluegill, as well as most walleye and small to medium-sized lake trout. 6-inch augers are also very easy to drill with, as they require less force than their larger diameter counterparts.
If you’re targeting pike and big lake trout, then an 8” hole will most likely be necessary. These require a bit more force to drill with than smaller augers, so you’ll work up a good sweat when drilling with them.
As mentioned previously, one of the major advantages of hand augers is their lightness. Most hand augers weight less than 10 pounds, with some weighting closer to 6 pounds.
If you’re traveling a long distance to your fishing spot, then going with the lightest possible auger makes sense. Otherwise, most hand augers are light enough that you won’t notice much difference.
Being able to attach your hand-auger to a cordless drill can make your life much easier, especially when you need to drill many holes in one session.
While the only model reviewed above with this feature out of the box is the Nils Master, you can easily adapt most hand augers for use with a hand drill with a simple adapter. Check out the Vendetta Precision Ice Auger Adapter for an easy way to attach your auger to a cordless drill.
Keep in mind that drilling through ice is a power heavy task, so you’ll want to go with a heavy-duty, high-torque drill (nothing less than 18V). If you need to drill dozens of holes, then make sure to bring a spare battery along just in case.
If you’re looking to drill a lot of holes, you might want to consider stepping up to an electric ice auger. Check out my in-depth review of the best electric augers here.
There are two types of handles found on most hand ice augers. Inline auger handles, and offset auger handles.
Most hand augers use the more conventional inline auger handles. These handles have a free-spinning top handle that’s in line with the main stem of the auger. The turning portion of the handle extends out to the side.
To operate an inline auger, grip the top handle firmly with your left hand, and with your right hand turn the auger clockwise until you’ve drilled through the ice.
Offset auger handles allow you to use both hands while operating them – making them more efficient than traditional inline auger handles.
If you need to drill a lot of holes quickly, offset handles are the way to go.
These handles have a top handle that’s offset from the main stem of the auger.
To operate this type of auger, you grip both the top and bottom handles firmly and rotate them in opposite directions until you’ve drilled through the ice.
Most hand augers feature adjustable handle lengths, allowing different sized people to easily change the overall auger length to their preferences. An adjustable handle also comes in handy when drilling through really deep ice.
While hand augers are pretty simple in their design, there are a few accessories that can really enhance their functionality and durability.
Most hand augers come with some sort of blade guard, but many are on the cheaper side and can be a pain to attach to the auger – especially in the cold. A good aftermarket cover like the Strike Master Lazer Blade Guard or the Cold Snap 8 Inch Auger Cover are easy to use and will protect your blades from accidental damage.
As mentioned previously, a cordless drill adapter can be especially useful, allowing you to turn your hand auger into an electric-powered drilling rig.
Lastly, a good pair of ice fishing gloves is key when using a hand auger. You want to have as much dexterity and control as possible, while still keeping your fingers warm in -20° temperatures.
Obviously, price is an important consideration when you’re buying ice fishing gear.
When it comes to hand augers, you can get a well-made and efficient auger for less than 100$. High-end hand-augers like Finnish made Nils will run you 200$ or more, but are extremely well made, and will cut through the ice like butter.
The question of whether to spend the extra money on a high-end hand auger ultimately comes down to how often you plan on using it. If you’re out ice fishing every weekend during the season, then shelling out the extra money for a best-in-class auger would more than justify itself.
Hand Auger Maintenance
Keeping your hand auger in peak condition will not only extend its lifespan, but it also ensures it drills through the ice more efficiently.
To maintain your auger, make sure to:
- Keep your auger blades clean and dry. Wipe them off thoroughly before putting away in storage. A quick coat of oil every so often will help to keep them from corroding.
- Use a blade guard. When transporting or storing your auger, make sure to replace the blade guard over the cutting end. This will protect the blades from accidental damage, and also protect your other gear from getting shredded.
- Sharpen blades when they start to dull. You can use a sharpening stone, take the blades into a tackle shop for re-sharpening, or just order replacement blades.