Spending hours on the ice is not always the most comfortable way to spend your day. But that’s why avid ice anglers are always on the hunt for ingenious ways to make their time on the ice as cozy as possible.
Even with high-end shelters, insulated clothing, the best boots and a stellar ice fishing seat, you will eventually get cold if you are standing or kneeling on wet and slushy ice.
You can remedy this discomfort in your shelter with superior flooring. Even if you don’t fish in a shelter, flooring provides a big boost in comfort.
It is easier than you think to outfit yourself with the ultimate ice fishing shelter setup. So, keep reading to find out what flooring is actually worth trying and what you need to avoid.
Do ice fishing tents come with floors
For anyone who camps in a conventional tent with a floor, it probably seems reasonable to assume that ice fishing shelters, like pop-ups, have floors built right in too.
In reality, most ice fishing tents don’t have floors and those that do, seldom include a floor with the purchase of the shelter. Instead, the floor is an added accessory. Clam® ice fishing shelters are among the few that even offer a floor as an add-on accessory.
While it may seem odd that ice shelters don’t come standard with flooring, there is actually a very good reason for it.
Ice fishing inside a pop-up tent is anything but tidy and you need the flexibility to adjust your setup. Want to drill a second or third hole inside the shelter? Need to scoop ice out of your hole? Where do you want to put that giant walleye you just yanked through the ice?
Simply put, built-in floors don’t often have openings where you want them and almost always end up more wet than if you just left the floor open to the ice. Therefore, manufacturers leave it up to you to customize your own flooring.
What are the benefits of flooring in a pop-up
Why would you want flooring anyway? If drilling a new hole, catching fish or skimming ice out of the hole makes such a mess, what is the point?
Well, here’s the thing. A wall to wall floor is not your only option. In our pop-up, we generally have flooring where we sit, kneel or store our gear that needs to be kept dry. That means only part of our shelter has flooring and the rest is exposed ice for dealing with fish and placing our holes
Having partial flooring has real benefits and is certainly worth packing out onto the ice. Here’s why we always bring along some type of flooring onto the ice.
- Floors provide insulation – This is an obvious one but it needs to be said. Ice is cold and standing or kneeling on it all day is going to sap some heat from you. If you’re cold on the ice, you certainly won’t have fun or fish effectively. Insulated flooring like foam pads offer exceptional insulation between you and the ice.
- It helps keep you dry – It’s no surprise that ice fishing can be wet. Melting slush, water from the hole and thrashing fish get you wet in a hurry. Having a portion of your shelter covered with some flooring material gives you a dry place stand, sit or set extra clothing without getting soaked.
- Flooring saves your knees – Kneeling on the hard ice all day gets old. Even if you think you are not so old. A little cush from some insulated flooring goes a long way towards alleviating sore knees. Trust me, keep your floor material close to the hole so when you kneel down to pluck out a fish, you don’t beat up your knees.
Cons of using floor mats in an ice fishing shelter
Flooring is not always essential on the ice. Nor is it always a benefit to have. There are occasions when you may want to leave the flooring at home and use the shelter only.
Once such occasion is when there is a deep layer of slushy snow which usually happens early in the season or during late ice. Interlocking foam tiles won’t stay together very well and the unevenness of the slush and snow renders a mat almost useless for kneeling on. It might still be nice to have for resting your feet on but that is for you to decide.
Another reason to leave the flooring at home is if you want to be mobile. Flooring is just one more thing to pack around. If hole hopping is the name of the game where you fish, a pop-up and flooring might be too much of a burden to pack around. Use a small kneeling pad instead.
Can you buy floors designed for your shelter
Lots of ice anglers prefer buying shelter accessories that are designed specifically for their pop-ups as opposed to making their own customized flooring. I totally get that, but these brand name flooring always seem to be lacking. At least, in our opinion.
Like I mentioned earlier, you can totally buy floors designed for your shelter if the manufacturer offers one but I would avoid it.
Besides, very few ice fishing tent companies even make floors for their pop-ups. Clam® is the only company I’ve found that makes a floor and it fits only a few of the shelter models.
Again, pre-made ice shelter floors that are wall to wall don’t have enough adaptability for adjusting your setup and end up just as wet as no floor at all. Other flooring options are far superior.
That is not to say a floor designed for your shelter (if available) is not a viable option. It could suit your needs perfectly. But our experience says otherwise and we’ve spent hundreds of hours on the ice testing out what works.
Important features of the ideal ice shelter flooring
You’ve decide that you want the glamour that a floor offers out on the ice. So what flooring should you get? There are plenty of choices and all the best ones have certain features in common.
We’ll be listing our top 3 picks for ice shelter floors later but lets first take a look at what makes an ideal floor in an ice fishing shelter.
- Thicker material: Ideally, you want a thicker material. Not only to provide some cushion on the hard ice but also to keep you above any surface water that forms from normal melting on top of the ice. After all, a shelter with a heater running is going to melt some slush and ice leaving a puddle of water behind. Flooring that’s at least a 1/2 inch thick is ideal.
- Non-absorbent: While you can use any material as a floor, non-absorbent flooring is essential to staying dry. Plus, you don’t want to pack out a large piece of soaking wet flooring. Closed cell foam is ideal since it won’t absorb moisture.
- Light weight: The weight of all our ice fishing gear adds up really fast. A light weight flooring option is a must to keep your setup mobile. No point ice fishing if you dread lugging all that heavy gear around in search of fish.
- Inexpensive: Cost matters to just about every angler on the ice so a cheap flooring option is almost always at the top of the list. Luckily, you shouldn’t need to spend more than $25 to get what you need.
- Durable: A good floor should last several seasons without failing you. We have found several floors that fit the bill and there are certainly materials that don’t make the cut.
3 best ice fishing shelter floors that actually work
Everyone has their own idea of how to setup an ice fishing tent with a floor. We have tried out our fair share of flooring types and this list consists of the ones we like best because they actually work.
Want to see these ice shelter flooring ideas in action? Check out our video below for an on the ice test!
One of these flooring ideas is sure to work in your ice fishing tent so give it a try and take your ice shelter to the next level.
1. Interlocking EVA Foam Mats – Our top pick for any situation
Interlocking EVA foam mats check all the boxes. These are super light weight and lock together nicely to provide a dry, insulated floor on the ice that turns any ice shelter into the ultimate setup for comfort. This is what we use most often. You can take the whole pack of 6 or just one tile for times when you need to be mobile.
ProsourceFit Exercise mats are a great value on Amazon. About $25 for 6, 24 inch squares. When you need a quality floor in your shelter quick, these mats are tough to beat.
2. Yoga Mats – Great for versatility
Similar to EVA foam mats, yoga mats are made of 1/4 to 1/2 inch EVA foam. They usually have a non-slip texture and are light weight enough to pack on the ice. It’s a slightly cheaper option too (around $20) and it’s dual purpose if yoga is your kind of thing. Plus, you can cut it to a size that suits you or get several to cover the entire space in your shelter.
The Amazon Basics Yoga Mat is an awesome EVA foam mat for only $20 and works well. We like that it roles up for easy loading in the sled. It’s plenty thick (1/2 inch) but fold it in half and you get even more insulation out of it.
3. Garden Kneeling Pad – Perfect for minimalists
Sometimes an entire pack of floor tiles is too much to bother with. If you need to be on the go in search of fish or you just need something to kneel on, then a kneel pad is all you really need.
Garden kneeling pads are big enough to kneel on when stooping down at a hole and all the insulation you need for your feet when things get frigid.
Our pick is the Gorilla Grip Extra Thick Kneeling Pad. At 1.5 inches thick, you’ll love the comfort. It might not be considered a floor but when less gear is the goal, this fits the bill. Plus, at less than $20, who isn’t willing to give it a try. We alternate between kneeling pads and floor tiles but a kneeling pad wins out when mobility is paramount.
Here are the flooring options you should avoid
Not all material make the cut as a viable ice fishing shelter floor. Some are obvious duds while others seem like a good idea until you realize they aren’t. Let’s go over a handful a floor ideas that you really should avoid.
- Pallets/plywood: These are ubiquitous and seem like a perfect thing to take on the ice. However, they are heavy, bulky and aren’t worth the trouble.
- Carpet: Don’t even think about it. You’ll have nothing but a frozen sponge by the end of the day.
- Rubber horse stall mats: Super heavy and very cumbersome to move around. Foam mats are much better.
- Open cell foam: Soft, squishy foam will soak up water and not provide the same benefits as EVA or other closed cell foam.
- Tarps: Not the worst option since they are more or less waterproof and very affordable. But they provide no insulation or padding and are very noisy.
What about a regular tent with a floor? That seems like a reasonable alternative to a pop-up ice fishing shelter and foam flooring. But find out why you might not like that option on our post where we answer, can a regular tent can work for ice fishing.
One last thing
A comfortable ice fishing setup is a wonderful thing to have. If you have spent years on the ice without trying our recommended flooring ideas for ice tents, then you are missing out. Give them a try and we promise you’ll be happy you did.
And one last thing. You don’t need an ice fishing pop-up to enjoy the benefits of foam floor mats. A couple small pieces are the perfect addition to your hole hopping arsenal as well.
Want to make your ice fishing shelter even more comfortable? Then don’t pass up our article on the best ice fishing seats for avid ice anglers and the best ice fishing heaters anglers trust It’s a quick read so, take a look! Plus, make sure you have the best ice fishing shelter for your needs. Find out which shelters work best for any situation.