Best Portable Ice Fishing Shelters: Cold Weather Protection at its Finest

Whether you’re jigging for crappie or ripping for pike, one thing’s certain: you’ll have more fun and less trouble if you fish from a shelter.

When unprotected on the ice, not only are the temperatures more brutal on you and your gear, but the wind will wreak havoc on light, freezing line. And if you’ve ever had your braid start sticking to everything it touches, fought with iced guides on your rod, or had your reel freeze up, you know just what we mean.

The right clothing is essential, of course, but so is a good shelter.

In this article, we explain what we’re looking for from a portable ice hut and review some of our top picks.

Best Portable Ice Fishing Shelters

Our Criteria for Selecting a Portable Ice Shelter

Protection from the Elements

Ice fishing is hot when the weather’s cold. But when you’re out on the ice, exposed to the wind, you should expect problems with your gear.

It’s crucial to always be dressed for the weather, no matter how good your shelter is. That’s simple common sense, and it can save your life. But your gear needs protection, too. When exposed to the full force of the elements, your line will become stiffer, water it absorbs or carries will freeze, and icing will become a problem. Especially with lighter line, the wind is a major concern, as wet, freezing line will stick to anything the wind blows it into.

The whole reason you erect an ice shelter is to provide protection for yourself and your gear, and if your shelter can’t do this well–blocking the wind, providing some measure of insulation–it’s not worth bringing with you to the hard water.

To make our short list, these ice shelters needed to stop the wind, provide enough insulation to cut down on icing, and let us work with our hands without gloves. When the mercury really starts to bottom-out, though, a good heater can be a godsend, and the shelters we review provide the ventilation you’ll need for that.

Durability

Winter is hard on your equipment. That’s just as true for your shelter as it is for your reel or car.

We prefer shelters that are made from heavier-weight materials, have strong seams, and can stand up to snow and wind. This often involves a compromise with weight and cost, because the better the shelter is, the heavier and more expensive it tends to be. Exactly where that line falls for you is your choice, but we lean toward durability.

Portability

Durability and protection are our most important criteria when selecting an ice shelter, and the better models tend to weigh more. While that affects their portability, we’ve selected shelters that should be acceptably light and package for reasonably fit anglers.

Any shelter that’s truly easy to repack gets bonus points from us, too, as we’d prefer not to need to be origami masters at the end of the day!

Set up and Take Down

Setting up and taking down an ice shelter shouldn’t be a chore, and if it takes more than a few minutes, it’s poorly designed. To make the cut with us, shelters need to be up and down in five minutes or less.

Room

More isn’t always better. A shelter that’s designed for six and fished by two will be colder than it should be. You want to select the size that’s right for you and your angling adventures, but you don’t want tons of extra space on the ice.

That said, you need enough elbow room to work with your tackle, and enough height to stand comfortably and work your rod while jigging, setting the hook, and fighting your fish onto the ice. You’ll also need room for gear and a heater, so don’t forget to figure in those extras when making your choice.

Flip-Over vs Hub

The choice of styles is mostly a matter of preference, although there are strengths and weaknesses to each.

Flip-overs

Flip-over shelters are essentially large, plastic sheds equipped with a telescoping frame. You drag the sled to your hole, and by pulling the frame up and over, you create a windproof shelter with built-in seating. That’s right–most flip-overs come with swivel chairs already attached! This makes them easy and fast to set up, even in wind or when alone.

The price for this convenience is weight and size: they tend to be pretty small and they’re much, much heavier than the alternatives. Especially when there’s a lot of snow on the ground, pulling that heavy sled can be a pain. Flip-overs are also difficult to transport–they won’t fit in your car!–and lift in and out of the back of a truck.

For that reason, hub shelters are increasingly popular, and only one flip-over made our short list.

how to erect a flip-over shelter

Hubs

Hubs provide a pop-up shelter much like a modern tent, though without a bottom. Made rigid by an internal folding frame, they’re erected by carefully expanding that skeleton. Lightweight, sturdy, and easy to transport, they come in a range of sizes.

This portability makes them popular, but they have two drawbacks. First, they can be very hard to set up alone if it’s windy. And second, they don’t come with seating, so unless you plan to stand all day, you’ll need to bring some extra gear along. That may cut into the weight advantage they offer, so consider the options carefully.

demonstration of erecting a pop-up

Reviews

Eskimo Quickfish 3 – Our Pick!

Eskimo Quickfish 3 Pop-up Portable Ice Shelter, 3 person (Insulated or Non-Insulated)
Amazon 

Erected size: 70” x 70”

Center height: 80”

Weight: 35 lbs.

Interior area: 34 square feet

Eskimo’s Quickfish 3 demonstrates that this company, probably best known for its flip-overs, hasn’t ignored the hub market. Well designed and constructed, there’s a lot to like about this shelter.

Made from 300 denier fabric, it’s tough enough for what you’ll dish out, though not as durable as the Clam Bigfoot. In contrast to that shelter, however, window placement is excellent, allowing clear visibility while seated. That matters a lot if you use your shelter as a base to run multiple tip-ups while you fish.

The Quickfish 3 is advertised as a “three man” shelter. That’s probably true, and we think two to three adult anglers will find this shelter spacious enough for their gear. Three would be pushing gear and heater space a bit, but for two, this shelter’s capacious.

The Quickfish 3 is up in less than a minute in calm weather, and even less with some help. It’s secured by four interior grommets placed at the corners, and offers exterior anchoring straps as well–a feature you’ll need in heavy wind. As with all hub shelters, setting this one up in bad weather can be more challenging, and you’ll need to begin by turning one corner into the wind and securing the two adjacent sides to the ice before expanding the hub.

The great news is that once it’s up, it’s surprisingly warm. With a small heater, this un-insulated shelter is short-sleeve ready in just a few minutes. Velcro vents allow you to control heat and humidity, a thoughtful feature.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Great windows
  • Spacious
  • Lots of anchoring points
  • Nice ventilation
  • Warm for an uninsulated shelter

Cons:

  • Not quite as durable as the Clam Bigfoot

Clam Bigfoot XL2000

Clam Bigfoot XL2000 Pop-Up Ice Shelter 9128
Amazon 

Erected size: 90” x 90”

Center height: 80”

Weight: 35 lbs.

Interior area: 56 square feet

Clam’s Bigfoot XL2000 is one tough ice shelter. Made from heavyweight 600 Denier fabric, it can take the beating of the elements and keep you and your gear warm. Easy to unfold and set up, most anglers should have this shelter up in 60 seconds or less in calm weather. With a partner, the Bigfoot is up in 30 seconds, no sweat.

Like it’s competitors, the Bigfoot features four exterior ice anchors and tie downs, with one centered on each exterior wall. Inside, you’ll find four more anchors, guaranteeing that this shelter will stay put in bad weather.

This shelter’s capacity is middle of the pack, and we find it spacious enough for two to three adult anglers and their gear. Access is provided by two doors fitted on opposing corners. As a nice touch, when open, the door flaps attach via velcro to the exterior walls, allowing great access and immediate ventilation.

Our only complaint with this otherwise excellent shelter is that the windows are placed a bit high, making visibility poor. If you regularly use your shelter as a base camp to watch tip-ups, you’ll find this oversight annoying.

Pros:

  • Very tough and durable
  • Easy to set up
  • Great doors
  • Lots of anchors–can really take bad weather
  • Spacious

Cons:

  • High windows make checking tip-ups tough

Elkton Outdoors Ice Fishing Tent

Elkton Outdoors Insulated Portable 3-4 Person Insulated Ice Fishing Tent with Ventilation Windows and Carry Pack, Ice Fishing Shelter Includes Tent, Carry Pack, Ice Anchors and Storage Compartments
Amazon 

Erected size: 70” x 70”

Center height: 80”

Weight: approximately 35 lbs.

Interior area: 34 square feet

Elkton Outdoors’ hub shanty is well-insulated, and if you’ve tried uninsulated hubs and need more warmth, this model is worth a close look. We’re not sure what weight material it’s constructed from, but it seems durable and thick, and there’s no question about the insulation quality. With a small heater running, this hub tent will be toasty on even the coldest nights.

This ice tent is up in less than a minute, though again, in heavy wind, you’ll need to begin carefully. It features the usual snow skirt to prevent drafts, and offers four exterior tie-downs: one in the center of each wall. Two doors, placed on opposing corners, provide access; and like the Clam Bigfoot, they can be held open by Velcro tabs.

Like that competitor from Clam, though, the Elkton’s windows are small and high, rendering visibility less than ideal if you need to peek at your tip-ups.

The good news is that there’s plenty of space for two anglers, their gear, and a heater, and this insulated shelter should keep you warm no matter how cold it is. To provide ventilation, this tent offers four roof vents, a great feature that can let you adjust the temperature and humidity that will naturally form as you breathe.

Pros:

  • Insulated and very warm
  • Easy to set up
  • Great doors
  • Spacious

Cons:

  • High windows make checking tip-ups tough

Frabill Bunker 210

Frabill Bunker 210 Hub Top Insulated 2-3 Man Shelter
Amazon 

Erected size: 80” x 80”

Center height: 80”

Weight: 35 lbs.

Interior area: 56 square feet

Frabill’s no stranger to the ice fishing world, and their Bunker 210 shows that they know a thing or two about hub shelters. The first thing you’ll notice is its unusual shape. Rather than the usual cube, this tent has additional angles that provide more elbow room and space to work. Two to three adult anglers should find plenty of room for everything they need.

The Bunker 210 offers you an insulated top made from 300 denier material, and a strong lower section constricted from even more durable 600 denier fabric. There’s no question about whether this hub shelter can take a beating, and this insulation makes this a warmer option for really cold weather.

Four interior grommets anchor each corner to the ice, and it offers external straps on each wall, as well. To control moisture, two vents are placed high on opposite sides. The windows are also removable if even more ventilation is needed.

Two doors are placed on opposite corners, and can be secured in their open position with Velcro tabs. The Bunker 210 is easy to put up and take down, too.

Unfortunately, like the Clam and Elkton, the windows are placed too high in the walls to allow us to see out while seated.

Pros:

  • Great design provides more working space
  • Insulated and very warm
  • Easy to set up
  • Great doors
  • Spacious
  • Lots of anchors
  • Strong and durable

Cons:

  • High windows make checking tip-ups tough

Eskimo EVO 2iT

Eskimo EVO IT Portable Flip Style Insulated Ice Shelter Pop Up Hub Sides (1 2 Person)
Amazon 

Erected size: N/A

Center height: 75”

Weight: 95 lbs.

Interior area: 34.25 square feet

Eskimo’s EVO 2iT is a flip-over shelter that makes a lot of sense if you’re fit, strong, and own a truck or trailer. Stowed in a plastic sled, this shelter’s 300 Denier walls are easy to set up and take down, even when alone. That can be credited to the EVO’s revolutionary design. It’s really a hybrid hub/flip, offering plenty of space for you and your gear, as well as built-in seating.

The EVO, like all ice shelters, has a skirt that can be covered with snow to prevent the wind from sneaking under the wall. It also features reinforced grommets at each corner, creating extra anchoring points. There’s even an additional anchor strap at the front of the shelter, just in case.

It offers two doors, one to each side, and plenty of windows. Unlike the Clam Bigfoot, these are designed to provide easy visibility, and you should have no problem checking any tip-ups you may have on the ice.

Inside, the EVO offers two comfortable Versa swivel chairs and plenty of space for two anglers and their gear. Asymmetrically shaped, there’s more room at the front for hook setting and jigging, a thoughtful design element that we really appreciate.

We like this shelter, but at 95 pounds, it can be a real handful to move from your truck or trailer to the ice. In deep snow, it’s a real workout to drag this flip-over into place once you add all your gear to the sled.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Great windows
  • Nice seats
  • Spacious

Cons:

  • Heavy!

Goplus Portable Ice Shelter

Goplus Portable Ice Shelter Pop-up Ice Fishing Tent Shanty w/Bag and Ice Anchors Red
Amazon 

Erected size: 90” x 90”

Center height: 80”

Weight: 22.4 lbs.

Interior area: 56 square feet

GoPlus offers a hub shelter that’s competitive with more well-known brands like Frabill and Eskimo. Constructed from 300 denier fabric, its features and quality are comparable to the big names in the business.

Like most portables, this “three man” ice shanty really has space for two anglers and their gear. Grommets at each interior corner allow you to secure it to the ice, and four exterior anchoring straps provide enhanced protection against the wind. Up in less than a minute with the assistance of a partner, this is maong the lightest of the shelters we reviewed. If weight is a concern, this model demands a second look.

Two wall-mounted vents help you control temperature and moisture, and four removable windows offer even more ventilation options. Its doors are, as usual, placed on opposite corners, allowing easy access.

Like many alternatives, however, we find the windows to be too high to provide at-a-glance visibility, an important consideration if you run tip-ups.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Spacious
  • Lots of anchoring points
  • Nice ventilation
  • Light

Cons:

  • Windows are too high for good visibility

Shappell WH6500 Wide House 6500

Shappell WH6500 Wide House 6500 Ice Shelter
Amazon 

Erected size: 102” x 102”

Center height: 80”

Weight: 28 lbs.

Interior area: 72 square feet

Shappell Wide House is a big ice shelter, easily accommodating three adult anglers and their gear, if not four. It’s lightweight, too, and two people can erect this shelter in less than 10 seconds. It comes down just as easily.

Four exterior grommets are placed at each corner, complemented by an additional four interior grommets on each side, as well as four straps to further secure this shelter to the ice. That’s an amazing system to keep this shelter in place in bad weather, and we like Shappell’s attention to detail.

Each wall of the Wide House offers two windows at a nice height for checking your tip-ups–an important feature. Each is also removable, allowing plenty of ventilation control, augmented by two vents situated high on opposite sides.

Two large doors are also placed on opposite corners, allowing plenty of space for access.

Uninsulated, though, the fabric on this tent feels thin. While head-to-head comparisons are tough, we feel this is probably not among the warmest similar designs on our list, and the insulated models we review are certainly better for frigid temps.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Very spacious
  • Amazing anchoring points
  • Nice ventilation
  • Light
  • Good windows

Cons:

  • Not very warm

Our Pick – the Eskimo Quickfish 3!

These are all great shelters, and depending on what you need and how you transport your gear to the ice, any of these will be a sound investment for this year’s ice fishing season.

That said, our pick is the Eskimo Quickfish 3. It sets up easily, and can be transported in a car with no trouble. Lightweight enough to pack in or drop in a sled, and durable enough for even the worst weather, we really like the window design and anchoring features of this hub tent. Great ventilation options, awesome space, and surprising warmth add up to make this shanty a real winner.

If you don’t use tip-ups or need the extra visibility the Eskimo offers, Clam’s Bigfoot and Frabill’s Bunker 210 are also excellent choices.

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