A good ice fishing shelter can be a key piece of ice fishing gear. Imagine a day when the fish are biting, but so is the north wind. The last thing you want to do is miss a great day on the ice because you can’t take the cold. A portable ice fishing house solves the problem.
Good portable ice fishing houses will be easy to maneuver, allow you to stay warm, and provide the right amount of room for your fishing group – or just you – whatever your style is.
The shanty also provides you with a place to relax, sit, and even take off your heavy jacket. It allows you to spend more time fishing and less time shivering.
Best Portable Ice Fishing Shelters for 2021
Eskimo Quickfish Ice Fishing Series, 2-3 Person
The distinctive bright red Eskimos are unmistakable on the lake. Eskimo understands that the faster you get your shelter in place, the faster you get to start catching fish. That is why this Eskimo QuickFish ice shelter is designed to be erected in a minute or less.
The QuickFish is big — giving you ample space so you don’t have to fish shoulder-to-shoulder with people. It is probably large enough for 4 people if you pack them in there. The QuickFish is big enough to provide you with a 90” x 90” area of elbow room in a structure that is 70”L x 70”W x 80”H. You get a fishable area that measures 34 feet!
Storage compartments are always useful when on the ice, so there are handy mesh pockets inside the shelter for storage. You are in control of the ventilation inside the shelter as the windows are removable, and you have multiple access points to the unit.
You get self-tapping ice anchors that will hold the shelter firmly in place without bending when you are installing them. You also get metal poles that are sturdy so they can withstand the winds you might encounter. It is constructed from a 300 denier fabric with a high thread count. The shelter has YKK zippers in place so you do not have to worry about zippers that hang up, or break because of the cold weather exposure.
Just when you think that the 1-minute setup and takedown is simply a promotional line, you see the Eskimo go up and down in no time. I witnessed it go up and come down recently, and it probably took 45 seconds from an experienced user. Packing it in the case for carrying took another 45 seconds. Not bad for a unit that really does a nice job on the ice.
Unlike some of the others here, the Eskimo does not come with its own attached, built-in sled and floor. For some, they want the sled. But not having that heavy plastic floor makes the unit much lighter, and you can actually sling the folded-up shelter over your shoulder and just walk along with it.
This particular shelter model is not insulated, but the fabric is designed to keep the wind out so you stay comfortable while you fish. Eskimo makes an insulated version if you want to go that route, but we find that most fishermen simply need to get out of the wind, and insulation is a bit secondary in a portable house.
Clam Nanook XL – 2 Anglers
Clam is synonymous with ice fishing. Founded by Minnesotan Dave Genz, they have always been cutting-edge when it comes to ice fishing gear. Clam deserves to have two ice fishing houses on this list, so we went this the popular Nanook as a top choice and you will see another later on the list. This shelter by Clam is a comfortable ice fishing shelter for 2 anglers. This is a tried and true shelter that has been a popular choice of ice fishing enthusiasts for many years.
It is completely portable and has a flip and go pole system in place. It is lightweight and very easy to setup and take down. It is also rugged enough to be slid over the ice and on top of your favorite fishing spot. Tie your flasher, rods, and tackle box on, and you can pull the entire package easily by hand.
The Nanook provides you with 23 square feet of fishing space inside a protective shell with padded seats that have backrests. The seats swivel so you can easily turn to reach anything you need to reach.
The entrance door is designed in such a manner that it is very easy to enter and exit the shelter. There is an access door on the front and one on the rear so you can enter and exit your shelter in different directions.
The model that we recommend is the Thermal — a fully-insulated model that can really keep the heat in with even a small heater. On warmer winter days, the heater might only be on a for a few minutes and then you will be set for hours.
Frabill Shelter Aegis 2110
Frabill is a fishing brand that has been popular for years, and when it comes to ice fishing shelters, they are favorites of ours because of their ability to somehow make their portable shelters very lightweight.
If you are serious about wanting an ice fishing shelter to protect you from the cold wind, the blowing snow, or the drizzling rain, then you want to look closely at this one. The Frabill Shelter is a 2 person ice fishing shelter that weighs only 53 pounds, and provides you with 19.5 square feet of fishable space.
These shelters are customizable. You have a choice of three different levels of insulation (more on that below) and five different seating options. You create the ice shelter that suits you needs, and base it on budget as well.
It is light weight and this 83”L x 58”W x 61.5”H shelters folds quickly into a transportable 58”L x 33”W x 16”H product. It comes on a durable plastic sled that is roughly 8 inches tall, and it folds down small enough so you can fit it inside many vehicles. We love the weight — a light 60 pounds — which means that an able-bodied person can handle it by themselves if they have the strength.
The materials are light but strong. With proper care and careful storage, it is a house that should last you for many years. It is built to last, and built to withstand the cold weather and all that comes with it. The Aegis comes in three models — a non-insulated version, an insulated version, and a top-only insulated version (just like it sounds — an insulated roof to keep the heat from escaping). The price varies based on the level of insulation, of course.
Clam Jason Mitchell Thermal X Fish Trap Ice Shelter
Another model from Clam, a brand we love for all things ice fishing.
The set up design on Claim’s Jason Mitchell Fish Trap uses a new technology that you don’t see in Clam’s other models. It is a Rapid Pole Slide Extreme design that allows you to have your fishing shelter up and ready in just a few moments.
We know that ice fishing shelters are exposed to windy conditions, so you will love the fact that the poles are heavy duty 1 ¼” pieces.
The materials are rugged with a 900 denier construction that you can rely on. The shell is a full thermal that reduces the instances of condensation, and reduces the light penetration. The interior of the shelter is a lighter color than the exterior to improve your visibility.
You also get 2 deluxe swivel seats. They can be moved to the front or back, and side to side. Also, they can be removed.
Between the seats is a center console that has beverage holders and accessory holders designed into it.
There is a storage sling beneath the seats so you have plenty of space to store your gear.
There is a battery bracket that you attach inside the shelter. It is designed with a Velcro strap to accommodate 7A, 8A, or the 8A/12V batteries.
You also get the Clam light stick that has 560 lumen LED light output from the 8 bulbs. This light can be mounted to provide illumination where you need it.
What to look for in your Ice Fishing Shelter or House
Strength – You want to make sure the ice shelter you purchase can handle the pressure from wind, rain, and the other insults Mother Nature can throw at it. The shelter should be strong enough to withstand moving from place to place while it is erected, and resilient enough that it can be erected many times with no ill effects.
Easy Setup and Takedown – You want an ice shelter that can setup and took down in minutes. You do not want to struggle with anything that is difficult to set up because that simply eats into the time you have allotted for fishing.
Easy to pull and move around – You want an ice shelter that is light and can be easily moved. Pop-up tent style shelters are easy to move, and you want one that is light enough that you can basically skid it on the ice without having to have a truck, or vehicle to move it. You basically want the stronger shelter you can get, for the lightest weight possible.
Ice Fishing Shelter and Ice Fishing Houses FAQs
How much should an ice fishing house weigh?
If you have a tent style ice fishing house they rarely weigh more than 75 pounds. If you have a permanent structure the weight on your shelter could be as much as 5000 pounds, but we are not talking about permanent structures here.
Portable vs. Permanent Ice Fishing Houses – Which is Better?
Portables are easier to move, but Permanent shelters are usually more comfortable. Portables are cheaper, but permanents can be locked up much more securely. Portables allow you freedom to fish anywhere you choose, but a permanent limits you to one spot every few days. You have to move it.
Permanent ice fishing shelters often have to be off the ice by the end of February, but portables can be used as long as the ice is safe.
Should I get a ice shelter with a built-in sled?
That is a personal preference question. Sleds are not always better. If you want one unit that you can pull along over the ice and tie everything to, the sled can be good. But sleds add lots of weight, and they tend to plow through fresh snow instead of go over it. The bottomless shelter without a sled is much lighter, and nice if you just want to sling it over your shoulder, but you are not going to be able to carry anything on it.
Those who prefer to bungee all of their gear — everything from the ice fishing flasher to their tackle box — on to a sled and then focus on pulling it may prefer a sled-style house. Just be sure that you have it rigged-up with a good rope, and back-load the weight so that it goes over snow more easily.
Do I need an ice fishing house?
If you want to be able to fish in any weather, then the answer is yes. On beautiful days when the wind is not blowing very hard, and there is no snow or rain falling, then you can do some ice fishing without a shelter to protect you. You just need a good rod and a way to drill a hole in the ice. Those perfect weather days do not happen very often in the dead of winter in the North Country. If you want to fish in the elements, owning a portable shelter is a small price to pay for the amount of fun you will have.