Every ice angler knows just how hard the ice is, and kneeling down to work can be murder on your knees. Worse still, the cold that seeps into your bones through your feet can be just plain brutal.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of ice fishing tents, including many of the very best options, don’t offer flooring.
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of hard-water die-hards who don’t care about flooring in their shelters, preferring snow and ice. But for the rest of us, a good floor can avoid a lot of pain and cold.
If you've considered adding some flooring to your hub shelter, we’ve got you covered, so keep reading!
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Why Floor an Ice Fishing Tent?
Hub shelters are popular because they’re easy to transport and set up. They cut the wind, provide some much-needed insulation against the cold, and generally make your time out on the ice more enjoyable.
What they don’t offer, however, is a floor.
That makes sense in two respects.
First, adding a floor to a hub shelter presents some design problems, given that you need access to the ice to drill your holes. So unless you want the good folks at Eskimo, Otter Outdoors, and Clam deciding where - and how big - to drill your holes, you’re probably OK with this reality.
Second, adding a decent floor to these hub shelters is going to increase their weight and cost, and since portability is a major selling point, adding pounds doesn’t make business sense.
That leaves many anglers with a problem, though.
Freezing feet and aching knees are no way to have fun, and a bit of padding and insulation can go a long, long way to keeping you out on the ice longer - and making sure you enjoy the time you spend there.
Heaters help, but they can’t fundamentally alter the situation on the ground. And after they run for a while, they’ll turn the ice on the floor into a wet, slushy mess.
Ice Shanty Flooring Options
The ice offers three problems flooring needs to overcome:
- Ice is really, really hard
- Ice is cold
- Ice gets wet and slushy
The solution is materials that offer serious cushioning, a degree of insulation, and are waterproof.
It’s also a really good idea to pick a material that’s easy to clean.
But weight and portability are still important. After all, that’s the whole idea behind a hub shelter. So saddling yourself with a 150-pound horse mat isn’t going to be the best bet.
Interlocking Gym Mats
The first option to consider - and probably the most popular - is a set of interlocking gym mats.
They’re economical, easy to use, and light, making them ideally portable. Made from high-density foam, they offer plenty of cushion for your knees and loads of insulation for your feet, and they won’t absorb water as the ice and slow melt.
Because they interlock like puzzle pieces, it’s easy to create the floor plan you need to fit your shelter, as well as leave gaps for holes. This is something we absolutely love about this flooring solution, because you can really customize it without cutting material or making any permanent decisions.
It’s also easy to put down and pick up and pretty easy to clean at the end of the day.
One trick to avoid them sliding is to drive short screws through them to act as ice cleats. That will definitely keep them put under your feet!
Rubber Truck Bed Liner
A second, more heavy-duty option is a rubber truck bed liner. Available in 4 x 6 and 4 x 8 sizes, these tough liners are made from vinyl PVC, making them amazingly durable. You won’t need to worry about wear and tear, and one should last for decades of ice fishing. Soap and water will get them brand-new clean in no time, too.
Completely waterproof, they’re ¾-inch thick, providing plenty of cushion and insulation.
The downside of this option is that, depending on the layout you want, you may end up cutting holes in these mats or cutting them down to size.
Flooring Options to Avoid
You’ll see some options discussed on the internet that just aren’t the great ideas they seem at first.
If you want a stinking, wet mess, this is a great option!
Indoor-outdoor carpet will inevitably get wet, and repeated doses of fish slime will have it sinking in one season. Folks ask about carpeting for portable hub shelters, but even anglers with permanent shelters avoid it like the plague.
Plywood, especially when combined with an insulating, waterproof underlayer, can make excellent flooring for a permanent ice shanty.
When executed well, it can be an awesome option - but it’s massie, hard to transport, and ridiculously heavy, making it a really bad portable option.
Rubber-stable mats seem perfect, and in many respects, they are.
Thick and insulating, they’d be ideal for a permanent shanty. But they weigh more than 100 pounds each, making them an awful idea for a portable shelter.
In a pinch, I’ve used yoga mats as a cushioning and insulating layer under my sleeping bags, where they work pretty well.
But I can tell you that without the sleeping bag (or your body) to keep them unfurled, they may want to roll themselves back into shape - even if you flip them over.
They’re also so light that they don’t want to stay in place, sliding all over the floor if given half a chance.
While they can work for some people, I’d skip the yoga mats and stick with the interlocking gym mats.
While plenty of ice fishermen skip flooring in their hub shelters, others swear by an option that offers some cushion for their knees and insulation for their feet.
We hope that this article has helped you think through your hub shelter flooring options, and we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments.