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
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.
Top 6 Ice Fishing Jackets
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 scenarios – 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.
Featured image source.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.