Which Auger is Hungriest for the Ice? Buying Guide and Reviews

Drilling holes in the ice isn’t the fun part of fishing on hard water, and you want this job to go as smoothly and quickly as possible. Whether you prefer the lightweight simplicity of a good hand auger, or the unrivaled power of gasoline, choosing the best equipment for this hard work is essential.

Making the process even more challenging is the wealth of high-quality options and some long-standing myths. We’d like to set the record straight about ice augers, clarify your options, and offer you reviews of our favorite models:

Manual Augers

Convertible or Drill-Driven Augers

Electric Augers

Gasoline Augers

Propane Augers

Our Selection Criteria when Evaluating an Auger

Fuel type

There are five categories of ice augers, and each has strengths and weaknesses depending on your needs.

Manual Augers

Manual augers are the simplest, lightest, and most dependable option. Easy to transport, they’re driven by your muscles rather than fuel or a battery, and that simplicity has advantages.

They are nearly silent, and you can drill a hole in the ice and not worry about alarming nearby fish on a small, shallow pond. They can also be used inside an ice shelter, allowing you to get out of the weather while you penetrate the ice. Manual augers are also pretty inexpensive–an important mark in their favor for the budget-minded. Finally, they’re lightweight, allowing you to transport them from your vehicle to the ice with relative ease.

Good manual augers can drill through a few feet of ice surprisingly quickly, but they do depend on your fitness. Larger augers–think anything with a blade diameter above six inches–can be challenging unless you’re strong and fit. If you have more than a few holes to drill, a powered option is often the best choice.

Note: Manually augers can be operated while wearing gloves, just make sure you have a pair of ice fishing gloves with good grip.

video comparing Nils and Laser hand augers and demonstrating how they work

Convertible Or Drill-driven Augers

Convertible or drill-driven augers use a powerful, cordless drill to drive an auger through the ice. If you already own a drill that can produce more than 700 inches of torque or more, these are fantastic options.

A drill-driven auger is lightweight, easy-to-use, and no louder than the drill that runs it. Generally cheaper than other powered options, when spun by a high-quality drill and battery, cutting dozens of holes should be no problem for it. Like manual augers, this option can be used in a shelter, and in really foul weather, that’s a huge plus.

But it’s important to keep in mind that drill and battery quality are the weak link in this system. The auger will do its job only as well as the engine powering it, and if your batteries fail in cold temperatures or your drill is under-powered, you won’t be happy with this choice.

If you go with a drill-driven auger, we recommend that you keep your batteries as warm as you can to extend their life.

video showing two drill-powered augers at work, including the K-Drill

Electric Augers

Electric augers are gaining ground because of their ease of use.

Powered by a large lithium-ion battery pack, electric augers don’t demand spillable fuels like gasoline. And when fully charged, they have plenty of juice to cut dozens of holes in the ice. Since they’re emissionless, you can use an electric auger in your ice shelter–and they’re quiet, too.

Electric augers are also easy to start and operate, something that’s nice when time matters and the cold is biting at your hands and face.

Not as light as manual or drill-driven alternatives, electric augers can be a handful if you’ve got a long way to walk, and we recommend using a sled to tote these guys. The batteries can be problematic when the mercury drops, and the complexity of electric engines means that there are quite a few things that can go wrong, making this the least dependable auger option.

video of ice pros discussing how electric augers are replacing gasoline

head-to-head speed test of K-Drill vs. Strikemaster vs Ion

Gasoline Augers

Gasoline augers are the old stand-by.

Fueled by a gas tank attached to the motor, these augers are powerful and dependable. The more holes you need to drill, the better this option is, as you can bring as much fuel with you as you like. And if you like large holes, gas-powered augers have the torque and power to tackle that, no sweat.

Gasoline augers, like all gas-powered tools, are easy to start when they’re well-maintained. But if you’ve ever struggled to get a lawn mower, string trimmer, or chainsaw to start, you know the frustration that can result. Cold weather can make these augers hard to start unless they feature a primer, and the models we review do.

The downside? Gasoline augers are loud, can’t be used indoors because of deadly emissions, and can be a real handful to transport. But as troublesome as these drawbacks are, another serious concern is the possibility of a spill while refueling, which could potentially damage the delicate ecosystem of a lake, pond, or river.

head-to-head Jiffy 8” vs Strikemaster 10”

Propane Augers

Propane augers are essentially higher-tech replacements for their gasoline-powered cousins.

Fueled by a small propane tank that can be easily replaced in seconds, propane augers offer all the benefits of gasoline, but with easier refueling. Powerful and dependable, these augers can handle as many holes as you need, provided you have fuel on hand. And with torque to spare, even large blades are no sweat. Because propane cylinders can’t leak or spill, there’s no danger to the environment, either.

Many people mistakenly believe that propane augers are underpowered, but as you’ll see, the models we’ve reviewed have the brute force to cut even the thickest ice with ease.

Keep in mind, though, that they can be a touch more difficult to start in cold weather than gasoline-powered alternatives. And as is the case with other powered augers, you can expect them to carry significant weight. Propane augers aren’t quiet, either, but surprisingly, they’re emissionless, allowing indoor use.

propane vs. gasoline to demonstrate that propane has the power

Blade quality and type

If the engine is the heart of your auger, the blade is its teeth. The better the blade, the faster you can drill, saving time and fuel.

Only high-quality augers made our short list, but it’s important that you understand the differences between blade styles.

  • Chipper blades – are serrated, and they excel at cutting dirty, uneven ice.
  • Shaver blades – are sharp, plain edges that take paper-thin slices of ice off on each pass. They’re best for drilling clean, even ice.

We recommend that you think about the ice where you fish to make the best choice for your needs.

Auger diameter and length

Auger diameter is an essential consideration, and these generally range from six inches up to 10. The larger the diameter, the bigger the hole you cut, and the more power your auger needs to drive that big blade into the ice.

For smaller species like panfish, a six inch hole is fine. For big pike, muskie, and lake trout, you probably need that ten-inch auger. But keep two things in mind. First, the bigger the hole, the easier it is for you to drop something in it. And second, if children will be around, it’s essential to size the holes so they can’t accidentally fall through.

Another important issue is auger length. You need to be able to drill through the ice, not just into it, so be sure to select an auger that’s long enough for the ice you fish. All of the models that made our reviews are long enough for 24 inches of ice, and most can handle a bit more than that.

Reviews

Manual Augers

Nils USA High-Velocity Hand Auger

NILS HAND ICE AUGER 4.5'
Amazon 

Diameter: 4 ½”, 6”, and 8”

Length: 32” in the smaller sizes, 34” for the 8” auger

Blade Type: shaver

Weight: 8-10 lbs.

Nils’ hand auger is a well-known performer on the ice, and its sharp blades and ergonomic design help it chew through the ice faster than you’d imagine. Designed and manufactured in Finland, this simple tool is all work. In fact, fit anglers can get these shaver blades through an inch of ice per second, which is as fast as any power auger can manage.

The secret to this high-speed drilling is the offset handles, which require both arms to work the auger. That imparts more force and speed to the blades, in turn eating into the ice much faster than less well-designed competitors.

Lightweight, easy to transport, and simple to use, we don’t see this auger as entry level. Instead, it’s a viable alternative to sometimes finicky powered options and an ideal tool for folks who have a long way to walk to the ice.

Available in a range of diameters, most people won’t have trouble with even the larger diameter blades. Be careful, though: dirty ice will dull this auger quickly.

Pros:

  • Light and easy to transport
  • Incredibly fast
  • Simple and effectively unbreakable
  • Usable inside your shelter
  • Silent

Cons:

  • Relies on your fitness level
  • Drilling more than a few holes will get tiring

StrikeMaster Mora Ice Auger

Strikemaster Ice Fishing Mora Hand Auger
Amazon 

Diameter: 5”, 6”, 7”, and 8”

Length: adjustable; 48-57”

Blade Type: shaver

Weight: 6-8 lbs.

Like Nils, Strikemaster hails from Scandinavia, where cutting holes in the ice each winter is a long-standing tradition. In this case, the famous knife Swedish knife company Mora is involved, and that pretty much guarantees no-nonsense quality.

Strikemaster’s auger is controlled with one hand and cranked with the other, and as a result, isn’t quite as hungry for the ice as the Nils. That’s not helped by the relatively flat blades, either, as this auger has a tendency to wander as you try to start a hole. And like all shaver-style augers, you’ll need to be careful with dirty ice, or you’ll dull your blades in no time.

As a thoughtful feature, this auger sports an adjustable handle, allowing you to select the length that’s right for you and the ice. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially for taller or shorter anglers, or when you need the extra length to cut deep ice.

Pros:

  • Light and easy to transport
  • Simple and effectively unbreakable
  • Usable inside your shelter
  • Silent

Cons:

  • Relies on your fitness level
  • Drilling more than a few holes will get tiring
  • Not as fast as the Nils

Convertible or Drill-Driven Augers

K-Drill Our Pick!

K-DRILL 8 In. Ice Auger
Amazon 

Diameter: 6” and 8”

Length: 36” blade

Blade Type: chipper

Weight: N/A

K-Drill’s ice auger has won plenty of converts from gas-powered alternatives because it’s effective, light, and easy to use.

Attached to a powerful drill via a ½-inch chuck, this auger’s power and speed are directly related to the hand tool you connect it to. K-Drill specifies that the minimum torque needed to drive its chipper blades is 725 inch/pounds, and you’ll need at least an 18-volt battery running that drill. A side stabilizer arm is essential, too, to help you bear down and control the auger. That’s a lot of drill, and anything less won’t run this auger effectively.

With a sufficiently powerful drill behind it, this auger is a hole-making machine, and it’s not unusual to see one fully-charged battery lasting for a few dozen holes. While not as fast as gasoline- or propane-powered augers, the K-Drill is much lighter and easier to use. With a drill, this system should weigh-in at about ten pounds, which is about ¼ of the weight of a big gasoline or propane auger with fuel.

In and of itself, the ultra-portable nature of this auger is a characteristic we really like. If you’ve got a long trip to the ice or need to make holes over a relatively large area, you’ll appreciate not lugging extra weight around with you.

Pros:

  • Light and easy to transport
  • Easy to use
  • Usable inside your shelter
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Relies on a powerful drill
  • Not as fast as true powered augers

Nils USA Convertible Hand Auger

Nils master UR600C Cordless drill auger
Amazon 

Diameter: 4 ½”, 6”, and 8”

Length: 47” blade

Blade Type: shaver

Weight: N/A

Nils convertible auger is essentially the excellent high-velocity hand auger with a few modifications. While the business end is the same, you can remove the handle and attach a drill via a ½ inch chuck. Like the K-Drill, you’ll need a beefy, high-torque motor to drive these blades into the ice, and Nils recommends that your drill can generate no less than 700 inch/pounds of torque.

Nils’ blades are simply excellent, and this auger will bite the ice like it’s starving. No downward pressure is needed at all–the blades will grab the ice and get to work immediately.

Not everything is perfect, however, and this auger can slip free of the chuck while drilling. It’s saved from the water beneath the ice by a flared disk above the blade that’s wider than the hole diameter, so you don’t need to worry about losing your auger.

Finally, the Nils is so fast by hand that it’s not clear if much is gained by adding a drill to the picture. But at the very least, the handles provide a backup plan in case your drill or battery fails. Like the K-Drill system, expect a combined weight in the neighborhood of ten pounds.

Pros:

  • Light and easy to transport
  • Easy to use
  • Usable inside your shelter
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Relies on a powerful drill
  • Can slip free of the chuck

Electric Augers

StrikeMaster Lithium 40-Volt Electric Ice AugerOur Pick!

STRIKEMASTER Lithium 40v 8 Lazer LFVL-8
Amazon 

Diameter: 8” and 10”

Length: N/A

Blade Type: chipper

Weight: 24 lbs. and 27 lbs.

StrikeMaster’s electric auger is an amazing performer, often out drilling gas- and propane-powered rivals.

Available in eight-inch and ten-inch diameters and tipped with sharp chipper blades, this auger loves to eat ice. A pilot spike helps you get started, preventing the blade from wandering, and once it starts to bite, the hole is practically done. At least as fast as any powered auger we’ve seen, you lose nothing but weight and mess by moving to this battery-powered system.

Batteries hate the cold, so to conserve their power, you need to keep them warm. Simply tossing them in a small cooler with a hand warmer or two will do the trick, and we strongly recommend you take this precaution. If you do, several dozen holes in thick ice won’t even begin to test the batteries on this auger.

A great design feature is a reverse gear that helps you clear slush from the hole, something we really like about this model. Like all electric augers, the Strikemaster is quiet and emission-free, allowing you to use it inside your shelter.

This isn’t the lightest system with the battery installed, and the quoted weights don’t include that figure. Ready to cut, these augers are a tad lighter than gas powered alternatives, but not by much.

Pros:

  • Lighter than propane or gas augers
  • Incredibly fast
  • Usable inside your shelter
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Batteries need to be kept warm

Ion 19150 40V 3 amp-hour Electric

ION 19150 40V 3 amp-hour Electric 8-Inch Ice Auger, with Reverse
Amazon 

Diameter: 6”, 8”, and 10”

Length: 34” or 46” with extension

Blade Type: shaver

Weight: 21-25 lbs.

Ion’s electric augers offer a powerful alternative to conventional fuels. Driven by a 40-volt electric engine, and supplied power by a massive lithium ion battery, these augers close the performance gap with gas-powered alternatives.

Depending on the diameter of the blade, these augers vary from 21 to 25 pounds without the battery. Expect that weight to climb when you add the power pack, but at their heaviest, they’re still about half the weight of a comparable gas- or propane-powered model with fuel.

The Ion’s performance on the ice is excellent, and the shaver blades are built to cut. We’d like to see a spike to help get the hole started, but once you get going, drilling speed is roughly equivalent to other powered systems. These augers also have the added benefit of quiet, no-mess operation. And because there are no emissions, they can be used indoors.

The weak link for any electric auger is the battery. Cold temps steal their power, and we strongly recommend that you keep the batteries warm. Battery life is excellent when you take this simple precaution, and dozens of holes are well within the capacity of this auger.

Pros:

  • Lighter than propane or gas augers
  • Usable inside your shelter
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Batteries need to be kept warm
  • Needs a spike to keep the blade centered when starting a hole

Gasoline Augers

Eskimo Mako 43cc Quantum Ice AugerOur Pick!

Eskimo M43Q10 Mako 43cc with 10-Inch Quantum Ice Auger
Amazon 

Diameter: 10”

Length: 42” blade

Blade Type: chipper

Weight: 34 lbs.

Eskimo’s Mako is a real beast, and it’s ten-inch blade is driven by a brute of a 43cc engine. With power to spare, this auger is more than up to the challenge of the thickest ice.

Earlier generations of gasoline-powered augers used a simple choke to help you start them, but in freezing temperatures, they could be finicky and troublesome. Eskimo minimized this challenge by adding a primer, and as long as you prime before you choke, starting shouldn’t be an issue. Do your part, and this dependable auger will start on the first or second pull, every time.

Though powerful, its 43cc engine sips fuel, and we really don’t think you’ll need to bring extra gasoline with you. That’s a plus, because refilling on the ice without spilling is challenging, and contaminating the water with gasoline and oil is a serious issue.

Needless to say, the Eskimo’s chipper blades devour ice, but while running, vibration is minimal. If you’ve ever drilled dozens of holes, you’ll know just how much that matters!

But this auger is loud, and because it emits toxic fumes, it can’t be used indoors.

Pros:

  • Reliable
  • Easy to start
  • Powerful
  • Fuel-sipping

Cons:

  • Loud
  • Heavy

StrikeMaster 10” Ice Auger

Strike Master Honda-Lite Power Auger, 10-Inch
Amazon 

Length: N/A

Blade Type: shaver

Weight: 26 lbs.

StrikeMaster teamed-up with Honda to provide the engine for this auger, and the car-maker’s know-how is evident in its performance.

Honda’s 35cc engine isn’t as powerful as the Eskimo, and it won’t plunge through the ice with the same aplomb. But it’s quieter while running and perhaps a trifle smoother, too. Like the Eskimo, it uses a primer to help you start it in cold weather, and you should get it to fire-up in a pull or two every time.

Rather than a two-stroke engine that needs and oil/fuel mix, Honda uses a four-stroke system that burns cleaner and is better for the environment. That also saves you the hassle of mixing fuel, though you do need to check and maintain the engine oil as a result. The only problem there is that the dipstick isn’t marked, making proper oil level tough to gauge.

Performance in cold weather is admirable, and the 35cc engine’s willingness to start even when left out in the snow is exceptional.

Pros:

  • Reliable
  • Easy to start
  • Four-stroke engine better for the environment

Cons:

  • Loud
  • Heavy
  • Dipstick not marked
  • Perhaps a tad underpowered

Propane Augers

Eskimo HC40Q10 High Compression 40cc – Our Pick!

Eskimo HC40Q10 High Compression 40cc Propane with 10-Inch Quantum Ice Auger
Amazon 

Diameter: 10”

Length: 42” blade

Blade Type: chipper

Weight: 34 lbs.

Eskimo’s 40cc propane auger was designed from the ground up for this fuel type. This is evident in its performance, and plenty of ice anglers are making the move to easy-to-use propane as a result.

Fueled by one-pound propane bottles, there’s no mess and no hassle. But given how efficient this engine is, a single bottle is more than enough for a day on the ice, and you’ll have no trouble drilling dozens and dozens of holes before switching tanks.

This Eskimo uses chipper blades, and they bite the ice with appetite. Head-to-head, we’re not sure this propane auger is slower or less powerful than the 44cc gasoline model, and that should dispel any doubts about propane augers being out-gunned on the ice.

One thing we really like about this auger is that it’s easy to start and reliable in very cold temps. No priming, no choking–just go! And because propane burns with no emissions, you can use this auger in your shelter.

Pros:

  • Reliable
  • Easy to start
  • Powerful
  • Fuel-sipping
  • Easy to refuel
  • Can be used indoors

Cons:

  • Loud
  • Heavy

Eskimo HC40Q10 High Compression 40cc

Jiffy 46 X-Treme Propane w/ 10'' STX Drill Asm 46-10-ALL
Amazon 

Diameter: 10”

Length: N/A

Blade Type: chipper

Weight: 36 lbs.

Jiffy was one of the first manufacturers to offer a propane-powered auger, and the X-Treme is a testament to their experience. Driven by a powerful 49cc propane engine, this auger is up to anything you can throw at it.

With power to spare, the chipper blades cut quickly, devouring the ice. Jiffy claims this is the most powerful propane auger on the market, and we can’t argue with that! But that power does come with extra weight, and this is the heaviest of the products we reviewed. It’s also pretty loud, so expect that when you fire it up!

Generally, this auger is not as refined as the Eskimo, and it may take a few more pulls to get it started.

To help you control the torque this monster generates, Jiffy provides wide handles to improve your grip. That’s a thoughtful touch, and we appreciate that feature. Like all propane augers, switching fuel canisters can be done in a snap, though you won’t need to do that unless you drill a ton of holes in one go.

Clean-burning propane allows the Jiffy to be used in your ice shanty, a nice option when the weather’s awful.

Pros:

  • Powerful
  • Fuel-sipping
  • Easy to refuel
  • Can be used indoors

Cons:

  • Loud
  • Heavy

Our Picks – the Nils USA High-Velocity Hand Auger , the K-Drill , the StrikeMaster Lithium 40-Volt Electric Ice Auger, the Eskimo Mako 43cc Quantum Ice Auger, and the Eskimo HC40Q10 High Compression 40cc!

Cutting holes in the ice can be a challenging task, and you want it to go as smoothly as possible. Each of our top picks beats its rivals in terms of speed, quality, and ease of use.

The Nils hand auger is quite possibly the best of the bunch in terms of pure performance, weight, and ease-of-use. Lightning-fast through the ice, we were really impressed by this pick. Its sharp blades will make quick work of drilling the holes you need, and it’s no sweat to pack to and from the ice.

If you already own a powerful drill, and want a powered auger, we recommend the K-Drill system. Lighter than the alternatives, hungry for the ice, and easy to use, this drill-driven auger is so good that it has us wondering if we’d bother with the other powered options.

StrikeMaster’s 40 Volt electric auger sets the new standard for battery power, offering a brute of an engine, long battery life, and plenty of speed. Lighter and quieter than gasoline or propane alternatives, if you’re tired of fuel leaks or finicky starts, you’ll be impressed with its performance.

Among gasoline-fueled augers, the Eskimo Mako is the clear stand-out. Powerful, quick-starting, and blazingly fast, this beast is impressive from the tip of the blade to the top of the engine. It’ll start in a pull or two in any weather, and it’s efficient enough to let you drill more holes than you’ll need on a single tank.

It’s clear that Eskimo knows the auger business, and their propane model is the best of the bunch. Clean running, you can bring it into your shanty without worry, and it’ll fire-up quickly and drill with gusto. It’s also easy to refuel, easy to use, and easy to appreciate when you’ve got a lot of holes to drill.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll be well served by any of these augers.

 

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