A successful day on the ice demands a combination of know-how and the right gear. As any experienced angler can attest, only a fool would use a Polar tip-up in three feet of snow, warm their hub shelter with a sunflower heater, or fish with light, braided line in a stiff breeze on the exposed ice.
The right gear is essential, as is knowing how to choose it. That’s as true for ice boots as it is for anything else, and excellent footwear can mean the difference between an exciting day pulling crappie or muskie through a hole and the misery of fighting cold feet and numb toes.
To help you make the right decision for you, we’ve reviewed some of our favorite winter fishing boots and explained why we like them so much.
Table of Contents (clickable)
Related: Best Ice Fishing Gloves
Height: 13” from arch
Insulation: rated to -40 F
Kamik is a trusted name where the snow is deep and the winters are long, and their Canuck goes a long way toward explaining why.
These tall boots are designed to pull on, using a bungee lacing system with cinches to adjust fit. If you don’t like straps and buckles, this is a fantastic alternative. Though it technically uses laces, there’s no tying involved, and you’re not going to break a bungee cord, avoiding our usual points of criticism.
With a shaft clad in durable 1000 denier nylon and a lower built from tough, cold-weather rubber, you won’t find a boot better constructed to resist abuse.
A removable 8mm liner of Zylex guarantees incredible warmth while making care a snap. Fully waterproof, these boots cinch at the top as well, keeping snow out and your feet dry. That’s a feature we really like to see, and these boots don’t disappoint.
The Canuck provides the traction you demand from a winter boot, too.
A favorite of ice anglers and other winter sports enthusiasts, you can take to the hard water knowing that your feet are well taken care of.
Height: 11” shaft
Insulation: rated to -40 F
One look at Baffin’s Wolf snow boots will tell you they mean business. With a proprietary cold-weather rubber lower and a 900 denier nylon shelled upper, durability will never be a question.
To prevent snow entering their tops, the Wolf features a drawcord snow collar, an awesome feature when the drifts get deep. Effectively sealing the top of your boots, they all but guarantee your feet will stay dry. A five layer, removable Thermaplush boot liner ensures incredible comfort and warmth. And to protect the soles of your feet, a 6mm removable footbed provides an added layer of insulation.
That removability is more than just an added extra. Removing that liner for air-drying at the end of a hard day will keep them in tip-top shape, helping them do the work you demand, longer.
Warmth is excellent, and most people won’t experience cold feet or toes even at the end of a hard day on the ice.
Two adjustable, quick-release buckles cinch the Wolf at the ankle and calf. That’s another feature we appreciate, since they eliminate loose and broken laces. This system works well, and most people won’t have problems with fit as a result.
Traction in snow is excellent, and Baffin’s proprietary sole material is surprisingly flexible--read comfortable to walk in--even in the bitterest cold.
Height: 12” shaft
Insulation: 1000g Thinsulate Ultra
Irish Setter’s Elk Trackers are traditionally styled, but don’t let their handsome looks fool you. Beneath that old-fashioned exterior, they’re all high-tech. As their name suggests, they’re designed for hunting elk in tough, snowy conditions, and they’ll tackle anything you can throw at them on the ice.
With water-proofing provided by a layer of Gore-Tex, these boots are amazingly dry and breathable. And a full 1000 grams of Thinsulate Ultra will pamper your feet in the coldest weather. While probably not as warm as dedicated snow boots, we’d be happy to put that to the test while angling!
The Elk Trackers provide exceptional traction in snow, as you’d expect, and many cold-weather hunters and outdoorsmen swear by them. If there are weaknesses to their traditional appeal and rugged good looks, they’d be the absence of a snow collar and an old-fashioned (but excellent) lacing system.
In our experience, round laces tend to untie themselves, and we’d recommend a double knot to prevent this.
These are tough boots, featuring durability you can count on season after season.
Height: 13” from arch
Insulation: rated to -40 F
Kamik’s Greenbay 4 cold-weather boots offer yet another reason why this brand is so popular, especially among budget-minded ice anglers.
As tall as the excellent Canucks, these, too, are designed to pull on. But rather than using a bungee lacing system, they feature a strap with a hook and loop closure at the ankle. Kamik’s standard bungee cinch keeps the top of these boots sealed against snow. Fully waterproof, this system works well.
A 600 denier nylon shaft, along with a lower built from durable winter-proof rubber, promise many seasons of use. And while not as rugged as the Canucks, they’re roughly half the cost.
A removable 8mm Thermal Guard liner keeps your feet toasty in even the worst conditions, and though less expensive, Kamik’s not cutting corners here. Rated to the same -40 F as the Canucks, we’d have no reservation wearing these in bitter cold. Like all removable liners, this makes drying your boots after a long day hassle-free.
As with other Kamik products, traction is excellent.
Height: 10” from arch
Insulation: 200B Thinsulate, rated to -40 F
If you prefer a more traditional aesthetic, but want a rubber lower, Kamik’s Nationplus is a capable competitor to Irish Setter’s excellent Elk Hunter at less than half the price.
Approximately ten inches from arch to top, and lacking a snow collar, these boots wouldn’t be our first choice for deep snow without gaiters. That said, 200B Thinsulate wraps your feet in sufficient insulation for a -40 F rating, so warmth won’t be a problem.
That cold-weather rubber lower and carefully-designed upper provide waterproof protection, and as long as you’re not stepping in deep drifts, your feet should stay dry. As with all the Kamik boots we’ve reviewed, the liners are removable for easy drying--an essential step at the end of a long day on the ice.
Traction is excellent in snow, and these boots will keep your feet firmly in place.
Like the Elk Hunter, this style of boot uses a round lacing system, a nod to tradition that looks great but can lead to problems if you don’t use a double knot.
Height: 14.5” from arch
Insulation: fleece-lined 5mm neoprene/ 2mm neoprene footbed
Muck’s Arctic Sport boots are an innovative approach to winter footwear, eschewing the usual insulation for thick neoprene. That’s an awesome choice for awful weather, and we’re really impressed by these boots.
Rising 14.5 inches from the arch, think of these as a massively improved version of a rubber boot. Lacking a collar, they rely on that tall shaft to prevent snow entering the top. Generally, we prefer boots with that feature, and find the Kamik and Baffin boots that have them a bit more secure.
5mm neoprene is serious waterproof insulation, and plenty of ice anglers have put the Arctic Sports to the test. Completely waterproof and extremely warm, we wouldn’t hesitate to sit for hours in bitter cold in them.
Muck’s boots are slip ons, lacking a lacing system of any kind. Instead, they rely on a tight fit at the ankle like most rubber boots to stay in place. That’s a tried-and-true system, and we have no quibbles with it.
The cold-weather rubber lugs on the Arctic Sport provide great grip in the snow.
Height: 8.5” shaft
Insulation: 400g Thinsulate Ultra, rated to -40 F
Sorel’s Conquest is our final traditionally-styled boot, and it may be the best of the kind.
The Conquest features an 8.5-inch shaft, making it the shortest of the boots we’ve reviewed, even among its direct competitors. Normally, we’d say that’s a serious problem, but in contrast to the Elk Hunter and Nationsplus, which are both taller, the Conquest offers an excellent snow collar. We’d prefer the shorter boot with that feature to an extra inch or two of uncollared shaft, tilting our recommendation toward this boot.
400 grams of Thinsulate provide more than enough warmth for the bitter cold, and these boots are admirably waterproof despite a traditional lacing system. As with all boots of this design, beware of loose and broken laces. To ensure proper fit, they also offer an adjustment strap at the heel, which is secured by a plastic buckle.
The footbed is removable for drying and replacement, but the liner is not. We’d prefer it to be removable, and you’ll need to take care to dry these boots between uses.
Traction is excellent.
It’s important to recognize that all boots--even warm, waterproof ones--aren’t well-suited for ice fishing. You’ll see recommendations for products that we wouldn’t wear on the hard water, and we want to clarify what separates a good angling boot from cool weather rain and mud gear.
You’ll see fishermen sporting a variety of boots this winter, and some prefer insulated rubber. We can empathize. I’m a big fan myself, and I wear Lacrosse Grange boots for hunting in the fall and spring. But it’s important to recognize the limitation of that style of footwear. They’re just not designed for the rigors of ice angling.
Deck boots like the excellent Xtratuf are fantastic while working on a boat or walking through fall and spring slush. And in cool, wet weather, they’re very hard to beat. But on the ice, with the wind gusting and the mercury plummeting, we’d like something warmer and more heavily insulated than that.
The products we review are hands-down a better choice, offering the same level of protection against water while providing better grip and greater protection from the cold.
This almost goes without saying.
Not every day on the ice is bitterly cold, and late fall or early spring can certainly see warmer days. Nevertheless, we recommend boots that are rated for the worst cold you’re willing to fish.
While it’s almost impossible to rate the various high-tech materials against one another gram for gram, look for heavy-duty insulation and temperature ratings of at least -25 F. When you’re relatively stationary, your feet will get cold fast, and you’ll need all the warmth you can get.
However warm they might be, if your ice fishing boots aren’t waterproof, they’re worse than useless. They don’t need to be able to stay bone dry if you put a leg through the ice--nothing will help you there--but snow and slush should provide no challenge to their ability to prevent wet feet.
Every boot we review will keep your feet dry, as long you keep snow from entering through the top.
It’s happened to all of us--you step into a drift that’s deeper than the shoes or boots you have on, spilling snow inside them. Cold, wet feet are the inevitable result, and hours on the ice like that can spoil the best of times.
It’s essential that you keep your feet warm and dry. No matter how waterproof and insulated your boots are, if they’re too short, you’re feet will end up cold and wet. We also like to see an adjustable collar or cinch that can be tightened as a shield against the snow.
The shortest boot we’ve reviewed has an 8.5-inch shaft with a snow collar. That’s about as short as we’d recommend.
No boot will provide sure footing on bare ice, but the vast majority of the time, you’ll be trekking across hard water covered in a blanket of snow. While one boot might grip snow like it’s welded to it, another can feel like a ski--and the cause of these differences can sometimes be a mystery.
For instance, I often wear those Lacrosse Grange boots when it’s not terribly cold, and although the soles don’t feature deep lugs, their traction is awesome in snow. I wouldn’t take them ice fishing, but the point is that simply looking at the soles of a boot won’t tell you much.
We’ll assess snow traction in the boots we review, and all the products that made our short list will keep your feet firmly planted on all but the slickest ice.
Everyone wants their gear to last, no question. But it’s worth considering that bitter cold can really affect the texture and pliability of materials like plastic and rubber. -20 F is a brutal torture-test for most boot materials, and ice fishing footwear needs to be able to take a beating even when frozen.
The boots that made our list of reviews are more than up to the challenges winter will throw at them.
These are all awesome boots, and any of them will serve you well on the ice. Our favorite is the Kamik Canuck, as it combines the features and performance that we think you’ll demand this winter.
The Canucks are tall and collared, so you don’t need to worry about snow entering through their tops. That’s a huge advantage in deep snow, and something you’ll appreciate the first time you step into an unexpected drift. We like the bungee lacing system, too, as it avoids the usual pitfalls. Finally, the Canucks’ heavy-weight insulation and waterproof construction promise all-day comfort, an essential for the serious fisherman.
For anglers on a budget, Kamik’s excellent Greenbay 4 are an awesome boot at a bargain price, and we wouldn’t hesitate to take to the ice in them. But if you prefer a traditionally-styled boot, take a close look at all three we reviewed--they’re so close in performance and features that we’d be hard-pressed to pick a winner.