Best Ice Fishing Shelters For Any Situation

Addicted to ice fishing?  So are we, and hardly anything keeps us off the ice.  Except maybe sideways snow and brutal cold.  But even then, we’ve learned that a good ice fishing shelter makes bad weather downright pleasant to fish in.  

An ice fishing hub style pop-up lets you take advantage of the few opportunities you have to get out fishing.  So, if you are in the market for a new ice shelter, you’ve come to the right place.

Picking the best ice fishing shelter for your situation is quite the challenge but in this article, we’ve taken all the guess work out of it.  Not only will we help guide you through the important features you need to look for, we’ve also narrowed down the selection of shelters that match each situation best.

Enough talking, let’s boost your comfort on the ice and get you the best ice fishing shelter possible.

How do you know what you need

Before you randomly choose the shelter you think you want, we first should sort out what features you actually need.  And no, not all features are essential.  It’s pointless to buy the biggest, warmest and most expensive shelter if you fish by yourself and only fish on days when the weather is agreeable.  

With that said, let’s review the key features of most shelters and how you know if you need them all.

Type of shelter

There are two primary types of ice fishing shelters.  Hub style pop-ups and flip-overs with a sled.  Choosing between the two depends primarily on how you transport your gear across the ice.  

For anglers with a snowmobile traveling longer distances, a flip-over is a great option.  You can simply daisy chain the sled shelter behind your gear sled and go fishing. 

However, sled shelters are far too bulky and heavy for anglers on foot to pack across any distance on the ice.  At 75 to 150 pounds, sled shelters are just too heavy.  Medium sized pop-ups on the other hand, are often less than 40 pounds and fit in an ice fishing sled.


Deciding between an insulated or uninsulated ice shelter is generally the biggest sticking point for most of us.  After all, you want the shelter for warmth and comfort.  Unfortunately, having thermal layers is heavy and you sacrifice portability for that extra warmth.  Plus, you may not always need the insulation, so why pay for it.

As a general rule of thumb, get an insulated shelter if you regularly fish in single digit temperatures (less than 10°F) and get an uninsulated shelter if you typically ice fish in regions with few sub zero winter days (10-32°F).


Bigger is not always better.  First and foremost, a big shelter is heavy.  And unless you have a snow machine, you won’t enjoy dragging a giant pop-up around on the ice.  You’ll end up really hindering your mobility and therefore, your success.  

Instead, buy an ice fishing shelter that fits the number of anglers you most often fish with.  For us, we seldom fish with more than 3 people in our group.  So, a 2-3 person pop-up is perfect.  On the rare occasion more people join us, there is likely to be someone with another shelter anyways.  Plus, not everyone likes to be confined to the shelter, preferring to hole hope instead.  


A shelter worth having is one you can actually use.  Buy one that is too heavy and you’ll dread going fishing with it.  Shelter weight is directly related to the size and insulation rating of the shelter.  Again, get only what satisfies your needs on the majority of your fishing trips.  Anything more becomes a burden.

In addition, keep in mind that everything feels heavier when you are dragging it through snow and slush.  Anyone can drag a 66 pound Eskimo Fatfish on glare ice, but throw in slushy conditions and it becomes an anchor.

Of course, well informed ice anglers build Smitty sleds like the ones we have to make that job a piece of cake.

Doors, windows and more

Further down the list of priorities are features like the number of doors, windows and gear storage pockets.  These are obviously important but not a deciding factor.  However, you may prefer specific shelters if you want no-trip doors or windows that can open for more ventilation.  

Other stuff like a snow skirt, easy setup, and durability are all pretty standard across the board.


There’s just no getting around price when it comes to fishing gear.  Everyone’s budget is different but price always factors in.  However, we recommend not letting price take priority.  Why?  Because there is no point in buying the cheapest shelter if it doesn’t keep you warm or comfortable.  

Now that doesn’t mean you have to shell out top dollar either.  Find a happy medium so you can get just what you need at a reasonable price.  

The average cost of a hub style ice fishing shelter that works for a majority of anglers in most situations is between $400 and $700.  The largest insulated pop-up shelters often cost about $800.  Flip-over sled shelters are generally more expensive, ranging in price from $600 to $2,000.   

Best shelters for any ice fishing situation

Now that you know what features to think about on your quest for a new ice fishing shelter, it’s time to pick one.  Yet, your needs and particular fishing style is as unique as you.  That means no one shelter works for every ice angler in every region.  

With dozens of options and countless brands to choose from, it’s daunting for sure.  We’ve made it easy though and selected the best shelters that work for the most common situations ice anglers encounter.  Let’s take a look.  

Best shelters for run and gun fishing

We prefer hole hopping and searching for new hot spots.  If your ice fishing style is the same, then you’ll want to stay mobile.  Only pop-up shelters under 35 pounds and sled shelters under 45 pounds make run and gun style ice fishing easy.  Here are some ice shelters to consider.

  • Eskimo Quickfish 2/2i
  • Eskimo Quickfish 3/3i
  • Eskimo Fatfish 949
  • Clam C-360 Hub
  • Lost Creek Gale Force 2 and 3 Thermal
  • Clam Kenai Pro

Our Top Pick:  Of the ice shelters designed for mobile anglers, one stands out above the rest and that is the Eskimo Quickfish 3 or 3i.  These are quality shelters with super fast setup and take down times.  Plus, they are light enough to toss in any sled for those run and gun days on the ice.

Best shelters for going solo

The lone wolves among us don’t mind going solo on the ice.  But that doesn’t mean giving up comfort.  For those on snow machines, a flip-over sled shelter built for one is just the ticket.  If you are on foot, an easy to pack pop-up is the way to go.  Browse the list below to see which shelter is your best partner on the ice.

  • Eskimo Quickfish 2/2i
  • Eskimo Wide 1 Thermal
  • Eskimo Wide 1XR Thermal
  • Otter XT Hideout
  • Otter XT or XT Pro X-Over Cottage
  • Clam C-360 Hub
  • Clam Scout XT Thermal
  • Clam Legend XT Thermal
  • Clam Kenai Pro
  • Lost Creek One Flip Over

Our Top Pick:  When you go it alone, you need dependable gear in a tidy package.  The Clam C-360 Hub delivers just what the solo ice angler needs.  Fast setup, easy to pack and still has enough room to spread out your gear.  Get the Clam Kenai Pro if you’re on a snowmobile.  There probably isn’t a better flip-over for the price.  

Best sled shelters for ice fishing with company 

Unlike the solo angler, some prefer fishing with company.  And when those friends all have snowmobiles to get them to your fishing spot, your choices open up.  Whether you have one extra person or two, you’ll want a sled shelter that lets you all fish inside without constantly jockeying for space.  

  • Eskimo Eskape 2400, 2600 or 2800
  • Eskimo Sierra Thermal
  • Otter XT Pro X-Over Lodge
  • Otter XT X-Over Cabin
  • Clam Nanook XT Thermal
  • Clam Yukon XT Thermal
  • Clam Voyager XT Thermal
  • Clam X200, X300 or X400 Pro Thermal XT 
  • Lost Creek Thermal 2

Our Top Pick:  A good time on the ice starts with ensuring everyone with you is comfortable.  Make that happen with the Otter XT X-Over Cabin (Scheels is way cheaper than Amazon!). It’s super spacious for 2 anglers but you can fit a third friend in a pinch.  It has all the comforts you would expect from a top-of-the line sled shelter without spending a small fortune to get that third seat.  It’s also one of the lighter 2-3 person flip-overs.  Anyone traversing big expanses of ice with company will appreciate this shelter.

Best pop-up shelters for a fishing party

Whether you fish with the whole family or a group of friends, you’ll need a shelter that can handle a party sized group.  Keep in mind, large shelters are not the most portable for anglers on foot but it can be done.  The biggest pop-ups handle 6 to 9 people if you are willing to get cozy with each other. 

  • Eskimo Outbreak 650XD or 850XD
  • Eskimo Fatfish 9416i
  • Eskimo Quickfish 6/6i
  • Otter Vortex Pro Monster Lodge
  • Otter Vortex Pro Resort
  • Clam X-600 Thermal Hub
  • Clam X-500 Lookout Thermal Hub
  • Lost Creek Double House

Our Top Pick:  The Clam X-500 Lookout Thermal Hub isn’t the biggest pop-up on the list but all those extra windows are a huge perk for fishing with a 4-6 person group.  Besides, not every one wants to drill a hole only 2 feet from the angler next to them.  With all those windows on the Lookout, your group can spread out their tip-ups or iFish Pros outside and still be a part of the action inside the hub.  All without missing a single flag. 

Best budget shelters

Not everyone is an avid ice angler that spends every spare moment on the ice.  However, even the casual angler needs protection from the elements.  For the few days you may spend on the ice, a budget shelter is your ticket.  These shelters still have what you need and at a price under $350. 

  • Eskimo Quickfish 2/2i/3/3i
  • Eskimo Fatfish 949
  • Clam C-360 Hub
  • BassPro XPS Angler Hub
  • BassPro Wide Bottom Thermal
  • Lost Creek Gale Force 2/3/3 Thermal
  • Lost Creek One Thermal Flip Over

Our Top Pick:  Sometimes price is the most important factor when choosing your ice fishing shelter.  But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the features you need. Among the best affordable shelters is the Eskimo Fatfish 949.  It’s durable, light weight and plenty big for a small group.  And it’s gentle on the wallet at around $300.  

Best shelters for sub zero fishing

Extreme cold demands extreme gear.  A thermal shelter is a must for those sub zero days on the ice.  Whether you are pulling a sled shelter or need a warm hub style shelter, make sure it is well insulated and super durable.  That thermal layer holds just enough extra heat to make fishing enjoyable.  Plus, durable construction withstands hefty winds that blast those frozen expanses.

  • Eskimo Outbreak Series
  • Eskimo Fatfish 949i
  • Eskimo Eskape Series
  • Otter Vortex Pro Series
  • Otter XT X-Over Series
  • Clam X-400 Thermal Hub
  • Clam X-500 Lookout Thermal Hub
  • Clam X-600 Thermal Hub
  • Clam Kenai Pro Thermal
  • Clam X200, X300 Thermal XT

Our Top Pick:  When it comes to getting out of the elements fast and staying warm, it’s tough to beat the Eskimo Outbreak 350XD.  It’s built with ultra durable, storm resistant fabric and plenty of thermal insulation to keep you warm.  The full access, no-trip door makes moving in and out easy and fast so you loose less heat.

Best shelters for fair weather anglers

If you prefer fishing only when the wind is calm, the sun is out and the mercury doesn’t drop into single digits, then these are the shelters for you.  Save weight by foregoing insulation and save money with only the features you need.  

  • Eskimo Fatfish 949
  • Eskimo Quickfish 2/3/6
  • Eskimo Sierra Flip Over
  • Clam C-360
  • Clam C-560
  • Clam Kenai Pro
  • BassPro XPS Angler Hub
  • Lost Creek Gale Force 2/3
  • Lost Creek One Flip Over

Our Top Pick:  The Eskimo Fatfish 949 pop-up is a top contender in our experience.  As one of the lightest 4 person shelters, it is a breeze to pack on the ice.  And it’s incredibly quick to setup on those fair weather days.  Plus, it still has all the features of other shelters that cost more.    

Best shelters for hardcore ice anglers

When fishing is your obsession then your only expectation from your gear is that it doesn’t get in your way.  A shelter designed for hardcore ice anglers needs to be easy to setup, handle harsh weather and keep you comfortable enough to fish every hour you can squeeze out of the day.  These are the shelters that won’t slow you down or fail when the bite is on.

  • Eskimo Outbreak 250XD
  • Eskimo Fatfish 949i
  • Eskimo Quickfish 3i
  • Otter Vortex Pro Cabin
  • Clam C-360 Thermal Hub
  • Clam Scout XT Thermal Flip Over
  • Clam Kenai Pro Thermal Flip Over

Our Top Pick:  For the most dedicated ice anglers that travel the ice, a sled shelter is the way to go.  Among the best is the Clam Kenai Pro Thermal Flip Over.  It has everything you need with nothing you don’t.  Fast setup and plenty of comfort, even the most hardcore among us can pause to appreciate it.  For those on foot, get the Eskimo Quickfish 3i.  It’s a no-frills thermal pop-up that goes up so easy you barely miss a second of the primetime bite.

Best shelters for ice camping

There are avid ice anglers and then there are die-hard ice anglers.  These are the anglers among us who are devoted enough to camp on the ice just to never miss a minute of primetime fishing.  That’s not to say they sleep on the ice in misery though.  With the right shelter, you can be down right toasty with ample space for all of your overnight gear.  If you have the need to sleep by your ice fishing hole, then take a look at these shelters.

  • Eskimo Outbreak 650XD and 850XD
  • Eskimo Fatfish 9416i
  • Otter Vortex Pro Resort
  • Otter Vortex Pro Lodge
  • Clam X-400 Thermal Hub
  • Clam X-500 Lookout Thermal Hub

Our Top Pick:  To camp on the ice, you need warmth and extra space to sleep.  With the Otter Vortex Pro Resort, you get that and more.  It has the thoughtful additions that make camping in it better than any other shelter we’ve seen.  Things like a propane hose port, condensation reducing fabric, no-trip doors, removable windows and lots of gear storage.  It really is a home away from home.

Best all around ice fishing shelter

There are bound to be some of us who don’t fit in just one of the categories we listed above.  So, what you need is a shelter that can do it all.  Whether you want to run-and-gun, fish with friends, go it alone or sleep on a sheet of ice, a jack of all trades is the shelter you need to buy.  Only a few make the cut as a one-and-done shelter that can satisfy the needs of any angler.

  • Eskimo Fatfish 949i
  • Otter Vortex Pro Lodge
  • Clam C-560 Thermal Hub

Our Top Pick:  If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve probably noticed that the Eskimo Fatfish 949i has made it on almost every list.  Well, it’s for good reason.  It is the ultimate price balanced pop-up shelter we have found. 

Whether you fish solo, with a group, in extreme weather or travel by snowmobile, the Fatfish can do it all.  Few anglers would be disappointed with the durable construction, fast setup, extra warm insulation and the appealing $400 price tag.    

Do you even need a shelter for ice fishing

If you got to this point and still aren’t sure which shelter is right for you, then ask yourself this question.  Do you even need one?

Not every ice angler will benefit from a shelter.  In the moderate climate we live in, temperatures rarely drop into single digits.  For years, we got by without a shelter.  Yet, there are just enough windy, nasty days on the ice that make having one worthwhile.

But even in the coldest climates, there are days you can skip the shelter and still fish in comfort.  Maybe you only go out if the forecast calls for good weather and warmer temperatures.  Maybe you only ice fish once or twice a year.  Or, maybe you have buddies that invite you to use their shelters.  

In those cases, you can probably skip the shelter.  Especially, if you are new to the sport.  Try ice fishing for a season to see how dedicated you are.  Then decide whether shelling out a few hundred bucks on a shelter is worth it to you.

For everyone else, a shelter is going to enhance your experience.  But only if you get the right one for your situation.  Consider our advice carefully to get the best one for you. 

One last thing

You may have decided on the shelter but to make it a notch above the rest, you need to outfit it right.  Make sure to check out our superior floor ideas for the ultimate ice fishing shelter and the best seats for ice fishing in comfort.  And don’t forget about the best heaters to make that new ice fishing shelter toasty warm!