Protecting yourself from the elements is always a top priority when you’re fishing on the ice. Harsh winds, freezing sub-zero temperatures, and heavy snowfall can put a major damper on your outing. Quality ice fishing shelters, tents, or shanties will keep you and your buddies well protected from whatever the weather gods have in store.
Ice fishing shelters vary widely in terms of size, insulation, weight, and capacity. Some are large semi-permanent structures that can hold up to 8 people, while others are lightweight flip-up tents that can only seat 1 angler comfortably.
I’ll break down some of the best shelters on the market, and explain the features you need to be aware of when picking out the right shelter for your needs.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Ice Fishing Shelters
- Best Overall: Eskimo Fatfish 3-4 Person Insulated
- Best Flip-Over Shelter: Frabill Recon 100 Flip-Over Shelter
- Best 2 Man Shelter: Eskimo Quickfish 3i
- Budget Pick: ThunderBay Ice Cube 3 Man Ice Shelter
- Best Large Capacity Hub: Otter Xth Pro Resort Thermal Hub
Why do you need an ice fishing shelter or tent
Beyond keeping you warm in harsh conditions, ice fishing shelters offer several features that make them highly useful for ice anglers.
Many feature ventilation holes and windows for properly venting your tent when using a portable heater. This is especially important when you’re using a propane heater – as carbon monoxide can build up inside the shanty without proper ventilation.
Some feature built-in padded seats, making sitting for prolonged periods more comfortable. Self-tapping ice screws are also commonly bundled, which makes anchoring your tent a breeze.
Most quality tents come with a well-made carry bag – often with backpack straps – which makes transporting them to your fishing spot stress-free. Some premium tents also feature build in sleds, making towing them across the snow and ice much easier.
Best Overall: Eskimo Fatfish 3-4 Person Insulated
Eskimo makes some of the best ice fishing equipment on the planet, and this shelter is no exception. Its spacious 94” x 94” interior is designed to comfortably fit 3 to 4 anglers with room to spare. The flared out bottom translates into significantly more fishable area than with traditional pop-up shelters.
At 80” high, you can comfortably stand up inside the shelter without touching the ceiling. The 300 denier nylon exterior provides complete weatherproofing, while IQ insulated fabric traps warm air inside.
The all metal hub and durable fiberglass poles easily pop up in mere seconds – making deployment fast and effortless. Large diameter poles and ball and socket joints provide long-lasting durability, delivering many years of usage. Anchoring the shelter to the ice with the 6 self-tapping ice anchors is easy to perform as they don’t bend under strain.
Large zippered doors and vents allow you to adjust the amount of airflow, while six large windows surround the shelter – provide clear 360° views of your surroundings. Weighing just 34 pounds, the whole tent folds up into a well-made duffle carry bag, making transportation a breeze.
If you’re looking for a well-insulated, high-quality tent that can comfortably fit 3-4 anglers, and works well for overnight trips, this shelter is an excellent choice.
- Setup Dimensions: 94” x 94” x 80”
- Weight: 37 pounds
- Capacity: 3-4 anglers
- 300 denier fabric exterior provides excellent weatherproofing
- Insulated fabric traps warm air inside the shelter
- Folds up into oversize duffel bag for easy transport
Best Flip-Over Shelter: Frabill Recon 100 Flip-Over Shelter
If you’re looking for a lightweight flip-over shelter for hole-hopping, then this shelter from ice fishing experts Frabill is an excellent option. It’s Frabill’s smallest and lightest ice shelter, making it ideal for solo anglers on the move.
The padded storage trunk doubles as a seating area, and you can also add a boat style seat if you prefer that. This bin has enough room to stash a heater, a small propane can, plus other smaller items. Despite its compact profile, the interior design maximizes fishable space, leaving you 8.5 square feet of space for jigging and housing all your electronics and other gear.
Rugged 300 denier fabric lines the shelter’s exterior, providing excellent protection from the elements. Keep in mind that it’s non-insulated, so if you’re fishing in extreme cold, a small heater is a good idea.
Deploying the shelter is super simple; simply pull on the frame and the shack stands itself up. Locking wind guards allow you to deploy the shelter halfway, so you can protect yourself from the wind without fully deploying it.
The entire shelter weighs just 40 lbs, which is fairly light for a flip-over shelter with a built-in sled. The included sled has enough room to stash an auger, several tip-ups, a 5-gallon bucket, and other odds and ends.
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- Setup Dimensions: 93” x 31” x 57”
- Weight: 40 pounds
- Capacity: 1 angler
- Well-made sled has plenty of room for extra gear
- 4 removable windows
- Maxvent ventilation system prevents C0 buildup from a heater
- Compact enough to fit in car trunk for transport
Best 2 Man Shelter: Eskimo Quickfish 3i
If you’re looking for a true two-man shelter, then you’ll have a hard time beating Eskimo’s Quickfish. It’s solidly constructed from head to toe, providing long-lasting protection from the elements in a well-priced package.
Erecting and tearing down the shelter takes just a couple minutes, simply pull out each side and roof hub, and you’re good to go. The roof hub is made from durable and high-quality metal, while the fiberglass poles are sturdy enough to provide years of dependable use.
The interior measures a spacious 70” x 70”, making it the ideal size for two adult anglers, or three anglers tightly packed. The top is 80” high, which means most people will be able to stand up completely without touching the ceiling.
Fully insulated walls provide added warmth in cold temperatures while opposing adjustable vents allow for ventilation control. Eskimo also makes the same model without added insulation, if you’re looking for a more lightweight option.
Anchoring the shanty is straightforward. Simply place the self-tapping ice anchors into the anchor slots and twist them into place.
- Setup Dimensions: 70” x 70” x 80”
- Weight: 34 pounds
- Capacity: 2 – 3 anglers
- Well-made cinch carrying bag holds entire shelter comfortably on your back
- Fully insulated walls trap heat inside
- 4 removable windows for adjustable light levels and ventilation
Budget Pick: ThunderBay Ice Cube 3 Man Ice Shelter
If you’re looking for a highly capable and durable shelter without breaking the bank, then this is the one for you. It comes with many of the same features as more expensive models at a very reasonable price point.
Made from the same rugged and weatherproof 300 denier fabric as more expensive models, this shelter works well to completely block wind and rain. Blackout windows allow you to adjust the light level inside the shelter, which means it makes a great darkhouse for spearing.
The interior measures a spacious 90” x 90” from hub to hub, with a roomy 80” ceiling height. This makes it ideally suited for 3 to 4 anglers. Setup and teardown are fast and easy, with durable cast aluminum hubs and fiberglass poles filling out the frame.
The entire shelter folds up into a compact backpack duffel bag, making transport to and from your fishing spot a breeze. Keep in mind this shelter is not insulated, so if you’re planning on using it in sub-zero temperatures makes sure to bring a heater along.
- Setup Dimensions: 90” x 90” x 80”
- Weight: 25 pounds
- Capacity: 3 – 4 anglers
- Durable and well-made shelter
- Excellent value for the price
- Blackout windows allow you to adjust light levels
Best Large Capacity Hub: Otter Xth Pro Resort Thermal Hub
If you’re looking for a hub style shelter that can easily fit the whole family, then this is the one for you. Its massive 101.5 foot square foot hexagonal fishable area puts in the upper range of ice fishing shelters, making it capable of holding 6 to 8 people comfortably.
A three-point anchoring system provides superior downforce security and reduces wind lift. This is particularly important when you’re dealing with a structure of this size, as too much wind can turn it into a giant sail!
Otter’s patented Thermal-Tec 600 denier outer shell provides some of the best weatherproofing possible, while the quilter inner thermal layer providing excellent protection from the most bitter cold. Combination daylight/lookout removable TPU windows allow you to easily adjust the amount of light and visibility.
Two propane hose ports ensure your portable heater is properly vented, preventing carbon monoxide buildup from occurring. The entire shelter folds up into a convenient poly-line 900 D carry bag, making teardown and transport straightforward.
While it’s certainly not the cheapest or lightest shelter on the market, if you’re looking for a serious ice fishing command center you’ll have a hard time beating the durability and value of this hub shelter.
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- Setup Dimensions: 131” x 131” x 82”
- Weight: 53 pounds
- Capacity: 6 – 8 anglers
- Triple-layer shell provides an ideal combination of warmth, durability, and reduced condensation
- 2 overhead cargo storage nets
- 2 propane hose ports with hook and loop flaps
- Also works great for camping, tailgating, and other outdoor events
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How to pick the best ice fishing shelter or tent
If you’ve spent any amount of time browsing for ice fishing shelters, then you’ll quickly realize just how much variability there is between different models. Different materials, insulation levels, frame designs, and price points can become overwhelming.
Let’s dive into some of the key features you need to be aware of when picking out the best ice fishing shelter for your needs.
Ice Fishing Shelter Types
Not all ice fishing shelters are created equally. There are several types to be aware of before making a decision.
- Flip-over Shelters: Flip-over shelters use a strong plastic sled base, and as the name indicates, they quickly flip over to setup. They’re favorites of run-and-gun anglers, who need a shelter that’s quick and easy to setup/teardown, as well as easy to drag across the ice. Most of these shelters will seat 1 to 2 anglers, although there are several larger models capable of holding 3 or 4 people. Most flip-over shelters also feature built-in seating, which makes them a bit heavier and more expensive than other shelters with similar capacities.
- Windbreakers: Windbreakers are lightweight flip-over shelters ideal for hole hopping. They’re designed to be as light as possible, making them easy to drag behind you from hole to hole. Because they’re so light, they don’t include much insulation, so if you’re planning to use one in colder temperatures, you’ll probably want to bring a small heater along.
- Pop-up Shelters: Pop-up shelters are another popular shelter design. They utilize lightweight frames and pop-up hubs for quick setup and teardown. Most of these shelters can be set up/torn down in just a few minutes, making them a great choice for day outings. Modern pop-up shelters typically feature frames with protruding wall hubs – increasing the amount of fishable area inside the shelter.
- Hub Shelters: Hub shelters are similar to pop-up shelters, but are larger. They can typically hold 6 to 9 anglers comfortably, so they’re perfect for longer overnight trips and using a semi-permanent base of operations. Many feature heavy duty exterior shells, allowing them to withstand seriously rough weather. They also typically feature heavy-duty rigging to keep them well anchored in heavy winds.
Ice fishing shelters are typically sold as ‘thermal’ models with added insulation, or as regular models with a non-insulated external shell. Going with an insulated or non-insulted model will depend on the local weather conditions and your intended use for the shelter.
If you want a shanty for overnight trips, or you’re fishing in sub-zero temperatures, then an insulated shelter is the way to go. Alternatively, if you fish in milder temperatures, and you prioritize mobility and weight over warmth, then a non-insulated shelter makes more sense.
If you’re not sure, I’d recommend going with an insulated model. You can always open a window or door if you’re overheating, but adding warmth is a bit more challenging.
Shelters come in a wide variety of sizes, from compact flip-overs suitable for solo anglers, to massive hubs capable of housing 10 people comfortably. Consider how much space and capacity you’ll need when you’re on the ice. If you fish in a large group, or plan to bring the whole family, stepping up to a large capacity model makes the most sense.
Keep in mind that shanties rated for 2 – 3 anglers are typically more suitable for 2 adults with gear, so if you’re in doubt, I’d recommend sizing up.
Portability is a major consideration, especially if you tend to fish with a run-and-gun style. If that sounds like you, then a flip-over shelter will serve you well. They generally come with a built-in sled, making it super easy to drag from hole to hole. The flip-over design and built-in seating means setup time takes mere seconds, which can quickly add up when you’re setting it up and tearing it down dozens of times per outing.
If portability is less of a priority for you, then a pop-up shelter makes the most sense. They cost significantly less than similarly sized flip-over shelters, so you can save a good chunk of change for other gear like tip ups, augers, ice fishing jackets and more!
The most common material used for shanty’s outer shells is high denier nylon or polyester fabric. This material is rugged, weatherproof, and light enough to keep the overall weight reasonably low. Denier fabric is rated by number, with higher numbers indicating higher levels of durability and weatherproofing.
Most shelters will feature either 300 or 600 denier nylon outer shells. Both will work admirably in harsh climates, but the 600 denier will provide a superior level of protection. Whether or not the added cost is worth it depends on how you plan to use the shanty. If it’s a semi-permanent structure, then the added durability of 600D can come in handy, otherwise, it may be a bit of overkill.
Insulation materials vary by manufacturer, and will typically increase warmth levels by 35% or more.
There are several additional features to be aware of when selecting an ice fishing shelter – let’s take a closer look at some of these handy options in detail.
As mentioned previously, flip-over style shelters often feature one or more built-in folding seats. These seats are often mounted directly to the sled’s body – making them convenient and rugged. If you get another type of ice fishing shelter, then you’ll need to pick up a few seats separately.
Windows serve several important functions in ice fishing shanties. Most shelters come with at least 2 windows, with many having many more.
Windows allow you to adjust the level of lighting inside, which can be useful when you want to darken the interior for better visibility. If you’re into darkhouse spearing, then you’ll need to completely darken the interior so you can see through the water.
Check out my in-depth review of the best ice fishing spears and decoys for a closer look at ice spearing equipment.
They also allow you to increase the amount of ventilation inside the shelter. This is especially important if you’re running a portable propane heater.
Lastly, windows enable you to view your surroundings without opening the shelter door and letting all of the heat escape!
While windows can be used for ventilation, most shelters also feature specialized ventilation holes for use with a portable heater. Propane heaters, like other fuel-powered equipment, can cause carbon monoxide buildup when there isn’t enough ventilation.
Vents are also useful for preventing condensation buildup inside your shelter, which can be a major pain. Easy to open and shut ventilation holes make this easy to deal with.
Ice shelters typically come bundled with several self-tapping ice anchors. These all feature the same basic design and aren’t too difficult to screw in by hand.
Eskimo sells an excellent universal adapter that allows you to use an electric drill as an anchor drilling rig. If you have a lot of anchors to drill, this little tool can be a serious game-changer, check it out here.
Some states require a fishing license to be displayed on the exterior of your ice fishing shelter. Several shelters feature clear plastic license holder pockets allowing you to easily display your license.