Whether it’s a balmy spring morning, or a frigid subzero night in the dead of winter, having the right ice fishing jacket for the job makes a major difference. These jackets offer several advantages over typical winter jackets and are designed with the ice angler specifically in mind.
Modern ice fishing jackets utilize cutting edge materials like Hydrapore to create lightweight, waterproof and windproof shells. These materials retain their breathability while still retaining precious heat from escaping. Many also feature built-in safety features like flotation assist technology and built-in ice picks.
I’ll break down what you need to know when picking out an ice fishing jacket (and bibs), review some of the best jackets on the market, and help you select the best jacket for your needs.
Quick Answer: 6 Best Ice Fishing Jackets
- Best Overall: Striker Ice Climate Jacket
- Best for Cold Weather: Striker Ice Hardwater Jacket
- Budget Pick: Frabill I3
- Best Lightweight Jacket: Striker Ice Predator Jacket
- Best Women’s Jacket: Striker Ice Prism Jacket
- Also Consider: Eskimo Roughneck Jacket
Why do you need an ice fishing jacket
Why do you need a specialized ice fishing jacket? Can’t you just use any old winter coat?
While you certainly can get by with a regular winter jacket, ice fishing jackets and bibs offer several features that make them invaluable to the frequent ice angler. If you go ice fishing often, then investing in a specialized jacket and bibs will increase your comfort and safety on the ice.
Ice fishing jackets often feature removable softshell liners, which can be worn on their own, and allow you to adjust the warmth level for any temperature. Closures typically utilize waterproof zippers, fast-draining hems, and inner cellphone pockets.
Reflective materials increase safety and visibility on the ice, while lightweight insulation provides a high degree of warmth with minimal bulk – allowing you to stay highly mobile while hole hopping or run-and-gun fishing.
Best Overall: Striker Ice Climate Jacket
If you’re looking for a jacket that can handle seriously cold temperatures, then Striker’s flagship Climate jacket may be the one for you. It’s rated 10 out of 10 for warmth by Striker, and can easily withstand hours outdoors in deep subzero temperatures.
A true 3-in-1 jacket, the internal G2 liner can be worn on its own as a lightweight spring or fall shell. The main shell can be worn by itself and is essentially the same as Striker’s Predator model. Combine the two and you’ve got a jacket capable of handling the coldest climates and will keep you warm during hours of run and gun fishing on a quad or snowmobile.
These options give you a high degree of versatility when it comes to different temperatures, and make this jacket a perfect year-round choice.
As far as safety features are concerned, the same 150g Sureflote flotation assistance technology as the Hardwater jacket is included – providing floatation in emergencies. Reflective elements and fast-draining hems and sleeve cuffs are also included.
While it costs a bit more than other jackets mentioned here, the versatility and 3-in-1 design more than make up for the added in cost.
- Materials: Nylon Outer Shell
- Built-in Sureflote technology
- 3-in-1 design works well all year round
- 320D Nylon shell provides excellent waterproofing and breathability
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Best for Cold Weather: Striker Ice Hardwater Jacket
Striker makes some of the best ice fishing attire on the market, and this jacket is no exception. The Hardwater jacket comes jam-packed with safety features while being one of the warmest and toughest jackets out there.
The rugged 600 Endura Shell can withstand the roughest of conditions, while the 150g Thermadex insulation keeps you warm and cozy no matter how cold and windy it gets. Striker gives the jacket a 9/10 for warmth rating, which puts in the upper echelon for cold weather jackets.
Fast-draining hems and cuff vents are incorporated into the jacket, ensuring any water that works its way into the jacket is quickly drained off. 360-degree reflective material surrounds the jacket body – making it highly visible in low-light and poor-visibility conditions.
The jacket’s most important safety feature is its built-in flotation ability. 150g Sureflote insulation acts to trap air in closed cells which creates internal air pockets for added buoyancy. When paired with the matching bibs, the jacket will provide up to 2 hours of flotation assistance for the average person.
Unlike some other jackets, the liner is not removable, so if you’re looking for a two-piece jacket you’ll probably want to look at a different model. The jacket does feature zippered underarm vents though, which allows you to cool down when the temperature picks up.
- Material: 100% Polyester
- Weight: 1 Lb
- Built-in Sureflote flotation technology
- Fast-drain hems and sleeve cuff
- The ideal combination of safety and warmth
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Budget Pick: Frabill I3
If you’re looking for a versatile and capable ice fishing jacket without breaking the bank, then this is the one for you. It has many of the same features as more expensive jackets while costing a good bit less.
The seam-sealed 300 denier nylon outer shell provides excellent wind-proofing, waterproofing, and breathability. 150 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation provides warmth, while tapered sleeves trap in heat and allow for gloves to be comfortably layered on top. Handwarmer pockets let you keep your hands comfortably toasty no matter how cold it gets on the ice.
One feature that sets this jacket apart from the competition is its built-in self-rescue set. The set includes built-in ice pick holsters, Frabill’s self-rescue ice pick set, and drainage mesh. While you can always pick up ice picks separately, it’s still a handy feature, and the holsters ensure the picks are closeby and easy to access in an emergency.
Keep in mind the jacket doesn’t have built-in flotation assist, so if you plan to fish on relatively thin ice make sure to bring some form of PFD. Also, it’s a little shorter than average, but when paired up with bibs this isn’t noticeable.
- li>Materials: 100% Nylon
- Weight: 12 oz
- Waterproof, windproof, and breathable
- Medium level of insulation/warmth
- Comfortable hand-warmer pockets
- Built-in self-rescue picks are handy and can even save your life
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Best Lightweight Jacket: Striker Ice Predator Jacket
Depending on your local weather and wind conditions, going with a slightly lighter jacket may make more sense than a heavy-duty one. The Predator fits this bill nicely – it still offers a high degree of insulation, but not quite as much as the Hardwater or Climate models reviewed above. Striker gives the jacket a 7 out of 10 warmth rating.
The jacket features 100g of Thermadex insulation, which is less than the 150g found in many warmer models. This makes it ideal for temperatures down to around -15° Fahrenheit. The design also favors run-and-gun anglers, who fear bulk and sweat more than the cold.
The same Sureflote technology as the other Striker jacket’s come included, which provides floatation assist in case of a fall through the ice. Reflective elements surround the entire jacket, increasing your visibility in low-light conditions.
A cross-flow venting system ensures you stay cool when the temperatures start to climb, and a removable hood with a memory wire visor keeps your head well shielded.
- Materials: Nylon outer shell
- Weight: 1 Lb
- Sureflote flotation assist
- Waterproof, windproof, and highly breathable
- An excellent choice for slightly warmer temps and run-and-gun fishing
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Best Women’s Jacket: Striker Ice Prism Jacket
Designed by women for women, the Striker Prism jacket is the perfect choice for women who don’t want the bulky fit of a men’s ice fishing jacket. It features the same toughness and insulation as the best men’s jackets and includes underarm zip vents, pre-curved elbows, and fast-draining hems and sleeve cuffs.
The tapered fit provides a stylish and slim fit, perfect for female ice anglers. Striker rates the jacket a 9 out of 10 for warmth, making it perfect cold-weather fishing.
Safety features include Striker’s excellent Sureflote flotation assist technology, 360-degree reflective material, and interior watertight cell phone pocket.
Keep in mind the jacket doesn’t have a removable liner, but underarm vents allow you to cool down when it starts getting too warm.
- Materials: Nylon outer shell
- Slim and tapered fit is perfect for female anglers
- Features the same insulation, toughness, and safety as the men’s jackets
- Pre-curved elbows provide a comfortable fit
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Also Consider: Eskimo Roughneck Jacket
Eskimo makes some of the best ice fishing gear on the market, and this jacket certainly lives up to that reputation. A rugged 600D DuraDry outer shell provides an excellent water and breathability rating of 5k/5k, while the sherpa fleece lining traps body heat inside.
Eskimo’s Uplyft flotation provides similar performance to Striker’s Sureflote – which makes this jacket the best value on the market for a flotation suit. When paired up with the matching bibs, you’ve got a full floating ice fishing suit for significantly less than the competition.
With its impressive 600D shell, flotation capability, and overall high-quality construction, the Eskimo Roughneck is a fine choice for any ice angler.
- Materials: 600D outer shell
- Built-in Uplyft flotation assist technology
- Rugged exterior provides excellent waterproofing, wind-proofing, and breathability
- Best value on the market for a flotation suit
How to pick the right ice fishing jacket
With so many different models and features, picking the best ice fishing jacket for your needs can seem like a perplexing task. Not to worry, I’ll break down everything you need to know to find the ideal jacket for your particular preferences, climate, and fishing style.
Waterproofing is one of the most important factors to consider when picking an ice fishing jacket. A jacket should be able to withstand ice, water, and snow. If you’ve ever been out in slushy, wet, windy conditions then you’ll know how important good waterproofing is.
You want waterproof materials than not only shield your body from the elements but also provide fast-draining should you happen to get wet.
Manufacturers typically represent waterproofing by a W/B rating. W stands for waterproofing, while B stands for breathability. Most ice fishing jackets will have a 5000/5000 rating – which is adequate for most ice fishing beginners or pros – but some will feature higher levels of waterproofing up to 10,000.
When it comes to cold-weather fishing, good insulation is priceless. Jackets come with a variety of insulation levels, which are often measured in grams. The higher the gram weight, the higher the level of insulation provided.
Most ice fishing jackets come in 60g to150g insulation levels, with 60 to 100 grams perfect for milder days above 20°F (-6°C). Insulation levels above 100 grams are best for cold winter days below 20°F.
Thinsulate is a commonly used insulation material for ice fishing jackets and works well due to its lightness and warmth. Pound for pound, it’s actually warmer than natural down, so it cuts down on unnecessary bulk and helps to keep you mobile on the ice.
Perhaps the most important piece of ice fishing safety gear is a good flotation suit. Many ice fishing jackets and bibs feature some form of flotation assist, which helps to keep you afloat in case of a fall through the ice.
Typically, flotation assist utilizes some form of lightweight foam sewn into cells inside the jacket liner. These cells trap air inside the jacket, keeping you afloat so you can receive assistance or perform a self-rescue. The cells are fairly lightweight and compact, providing excellent mobility and added insulation in the cold.
This type of flotation generally works best with both the bibs and jacket together, but will also keep you buoyant with just one or the other.
Keep in mind that jackets with flotation assist tend to cost a bit more than those without it. If you don’t fish from a quad or snowmobile, and never fish on thinner ice, then the extra cost of flotation assist may not be necessary.
Check out this short video for a look at how a flotation suit works in action:
When picking out an ice fishing jacket, you should take into consideration how you like to fish.
Do you tend to drill a few holes and then stay put for most of the day? Or are you constantly running and gunning, drilling hundreds of holes while moving from spot to spot? Do you fish on foot, or use a quad/snowmobile?
If you’re generally more sedentary while fishing, then you’ll be sweating and exerting yourself less, so a warmer jacket will work well. If you’re running and gunning, then a slightly lighter jacket will allow you to stay highly mobile and not overheat when you’re using an auger or ice chisel. A removable liner can also come in handy here, as you’ll be able to quickly cool down or warm up as needed.
There are several other features to be on the lookout for when picking out an ice fishing jacket.
Removable liners are great for layering, and allow you to precisely adjust your clothing to match the conditions outside. If you’re like me, and constantly get overheated, then a jacket with a removable liner is the way to go. Many of these liners are extremely well made, and work on their own as a lightweight spring and fall weather outer shell.
Built-in ice picks are a handy safety feature, and could one day save your life! Some jackets come with a set of retractable picks fitted around the jacket’s neck. If your jacket doesn’t come with a set of picks, it’s worth picking them up separately.
Fast-drain holes and mesh are another excellent safety feature. These holes are typically sewn into the hems and sleeves – allowing water to quickly drain out of the jacket should it become waterlogged.
Reflective materials greatly increase your visibility on the ice, particularly in snowy, dark and foggy conditions. While this feature is often overlooked by ice anglers, it’s a fairly important safety feature and can help prevent collisions or accidents on the ice.
While this article is focused on ice fishing jackets, matching bibs are just as important. Bibs cover your lower body and torso, similar to work overalls. They typically feature padding in the knee and seat areas, making them great for kneeling and sitting on the ice.
Most jacket manufacturers make matching bibs with the same features as their jackets. These allow you to protect your lower body from elements just as well as your upper body.
If you’re interested in a comprehensive breakdown of ice fishing attire, check out my how to dress for ice fishing guide.