Ice Shelter Buyer's Guide

If you’ve been bit by the ice-fishing bug, you naturally want to buy your own ice shelter. And if you want to bring some friends along, you’ll probably want to get the biggest, baddest shelter possible. This kind of enthusiasm is great, but it can lead you to purchase a shelter that might not be the right fit for you.


While selecting your ice shelter, it’s best to realize that some are designed with exceptional mobility while others are not. If you want to break ice in more than one or two spots, you want a shelter that can be broken down and moved easily. If you’re the kind of angler who commits to one spot and likes to wait the fish out, you need an ice shelter that accommodates this style. Selecting the right shelter is easiest if you know that there are only three basic styles: the Hub, Flip and Cabin. When examined individually, you’ll find that each offers specific advantages and disadvantages. Knowing these differences will help you choose the shelter that best matches your ice-fishing style.


Hub-Style Shelters:
The Hub-Style Shelter has several advantages. In comparison to the other two designs, it delivers the maximum amount of fishing space for the least amount of money. Also, its setup is fairly quick. Its internal Hub-Style framework easily pops and locks into a strong tent-like structure. However, during windier days, setting up a hub-style shelter can be a challenge, especially since its lightweight material can catch the wind. Depending on the force of the wind, this can make it difficult for one angler to handle. In the event of strong winds, the hub-style shelter might require more than one angler to set up. However, once its framework is locked in place, it effectively delivers a sheltered fishing experience.

If you’re the kind of angler who likes to move around on the ice looking for active fish, because of the time involved in anchoring the shelter, the Hub-Style Shelter is not highly recommended. Although its initial setup is quick and easy, it does have to be screwed to the ice to keep it anchored in the wind. Once this task is accomplished, you probably won’t want to break it down more than once during a day’s fishing.

You should also realize the Hub-Style Shelter does not come with an ice sled for transport or seats of any kind. These are important purchases you will have to consider apart from the purchase of a Hub-Style Shelter.


Flip-Style Shelters:
If you really need your angling mobility, if you enjoy testing out more than one spot per day, the Flip-Style Shelter is what you want. Highly portable, Flip Shelters are specifically designed to set up and break down quickly. Starting out, the Flip Shelter is its own locked-down sled that contains all of your gear. Once you’ve pulled it to your location, you simply lock its poles into place and flip the shelter over the top of your fishing area. The Flip’s interior design often includes built-in padded seats for added comfort. Many even boast handy storage areas that keep your fishing gear secure during transport. Built with a solid framework, they stand up against wind exceptionally well.

The main disadvantage is easy to guess – Flip-Style Shelters are, by far, the most expensive of the three designs. Let’s face it, an easy setup and the ability to quickly change locations is the best of both worlds. However, while selecting a Flip Shelter, a huge factor to consider is its total weight. Because they’re designed to be an ice sled and an ice shelter, this built-in convenience often adds a large amount of weight. Coupled with snow on the ice, this extra weight might be difficult to drag manually. Examine the shelter’s total weight and consider the weight of your ice-fishing equipment carefully. Perhaps you’ll be able to drag it, but you might need to use a snowmobile or an ATV to keep your ice fishing easy and enjoyable.


Cabin-Style Shelters:
What’s most distinctive about the Cabin-Style Shelter? It has a built in floor. This is a definite advantage. The floor shields you from the coldness of the ice and it boosts the effectiveness of any heaters you decide to use. Overall, this floor delivers a warmer, more comfortable ice-fishing experience. The floor of the Cabin-Style Shelter always has two or more openings in it. These predetermined openings allow for the drilling of ice holes.

Cabin-Style Shelters are lightweight. Their setup and framework is a lot like a tent. Because of this, they are fairly easy to bring out onto the ice, but because they set up like a tent, they are not quick or easy to move around, especially in the snow.

Like the Hub-Style Shelter, they do not come with an ice sled or have built-in seats. Again, these are important purchases you will have to consider apart from the purchase of a Cabin-Style Shelter.

Other Factors To Consider:

Most shelters are made of a nylon or polyester fabric. The thickness and durability of this fabric is almost always measured in deniers. For example, a shelter made of 300-denier fabric is less thick and less durable than a structure made out of 600-denier fabric. If a shelter is constructed with a high-denier fabric, it is better able to resist rips and seal out freezing winds. However, a high-denier fabric also means that the overall structure is likely to be heavier and more expensive.

Thermal Materials:
Many modern ice shelters include thermal materials. These advanced materials seal out the cold and they actively transfer the sunlight’s warmth inside. Not only that, they retain heat given off from heaters. Thermal fabric can be your best friend on days when temperatures drop below 0°. Depending on the weather, this layer is not always necessary and it does add considerable weight to the overall structure.

If you consider yourself a mobile angler, weight is the biggest factor to watch. The lighter your shelter and sled, the more likely you’ll be willing and able to pack it down in search of fish. The heavier your shelter and sled, the more likely you’ll have to have some kind of towing vehicle to move your shelter around on the ice. Generally speaking, shelters under 100 lbs. can be pulled by foot, but snow and excessive equipment can still make this a grueling task.

Size dictates how many people you’ll be willing to invite along. It’s possible that you and your fishing partner will be most comfortable in a three-person shelter. This extra space allows for elbowroom and a good amount of equipment space.

You’ll be spending most of the day sitting, so seating is important. Flip-Style shelters often have one or two built-in, padded seats with backrests. The other styles require extra chairs or buckets. Tip: 6-gallon buckets are way more comfortable than 5-gallon buckets.

Today’s wide selection of ice shelters offers the angler more features and options than ever before. This wide variety can make selecting your perfect shelter a challenge. However, aligning your fishing style with one of the three styles of ice-fishing shelters will bring you much closer to the right fit. After researching the ice-fishing shelters that match your chosen style, you’ll end up with one that will make your hours on the ice effective and more enjoyable.