An ice fishing tent, also known as an ice shanty, ice shack, fishing shanty, bob house, or ice hut, is a portable shed placed on a frozen lake to provide shelter for ice fishing.
Some ice tents can be simply made by draping a plastic tarp over a wood frame, while others can be bought as a readily-made small cabin with heat, electricity, bunks, and cooking facilities.
Similarly, some ice fishing tents are waterproofed to some extent and have enough ventilation, while others shouldn’t be waterproofed because their fabrics should be breathable enough to alleviate the fumes from the heating system or burning propane.
With that being said, waterproof ice fishing tent fabrics can trap moisture inside the tent due to condensation from the heating system, resulting in dampness and a cold shelter.
To understand what factors are more important to look for in an ice fishing tent, read our guide below.
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How to choose Ice Fishing Tents
Before you purchase an ice fishing tent, you should first determine:
- How many people will be staying with you in the tent?
- How cold is the location you will be fishing in?
- Is your location your permanent spot or do you need to pack up daily?
If you already have the answers to the questions above, it is time to look at a few key characteristics to consider when choosing the right ice fishing tent for your needs.
Types of Ice Fishing Tents
Here are the different types of fishing tents that cater to different needs and preferences. Use this information to determine which kind of tent you should get for yourself.
These are essentially large, plastic sheds equipped with a telescoping frame. They are set up by dragging the sled to your hole and pulling the frame up and over, creating a windproof shelter with built-in seating.
Most flip-over tents come with swivel chairs that are already attached, making them easy and fast to set up, even in windy conditions or when you are alone.
These tents tend to be pretty small and much heavier than other alternatives. Pulling the heavy sled can be frustrating, especially when there’s a lot of snow on the surface.
Flip-overs can also be difficult to transport as they won’t fit in the car and are heavy to lift in and out of the back of a truck.
Hubs or Pop-up
Hubs are much like a modern tent, but bottomless. They are made rigid by an internal folding frame and are set up by carefully expanding that skeleton.
These ice fishing tents are lightweight, sturdy, and easily transportable as they come in a range of sizes.
Although their portability makes them popular, they have some drawbacks. First, they can be very hard to set up when you are alone or if it’s windy out there. Second, they do not come with chairs, so unless you plan on standing all day, you will need to bring some extra chairs along.
If you’re going to spend the night on top of a frozen lake, you’re going to need a good tent that will prevent you from freezing overnight. Ice fishing tents are meant to be used as a shelter while you’re fishing, but can you sleep in an ice fishing tent?
Things to Consider Before Getting an Ice Fishing Tent
Before you purchase an ice fishing tent, consider the following factors to make sure that the tent that you’ll be getting is the perfect fit for your needs and preferences.
If you plan on fishing with family and friends, you will want a larger-sized ice fishing tent. Most of them are built to accommodate two to three people, plus the equipment. This is a common size that is great for individuals too. However, if you plan on traveling with more people and/or more equipment, you may want something even larger.
Remember it is a shelter designed for six, and using it with only two people will make it colder than it should be. Thus, you have to select the size that’s right for you, your companion, and equipment, but you don’t want tons of extra space.
With that being said, you will need enough room to work and enough height to stand comfortably and work your rod and fight your fish onto the ice. You’ll also need room for your gear and heater, so don’t forget to consider those extras when making your choice.
The materials that make up your ice fishing tent should be strong, well-insulated, and able to withstand wind chill. Thus, depending on where you prefer to go fish, you may need something more durable.
The main thing to look for is the Denier number, which will give you an idea of how durable and thick the fabric that makes up the portable ice fishing tent is. A higher number will mean more durability. For instance, a 500 Denier tent provides more shelter than a 300 Denier shelter.
A heavier, denser material will also provide more warmth but will cost and weigh more. So, if you prefer colder or harsher fishing areas, a heavier tent with strong seams that can withstand snow and wind might be your best option.
The most important factor to consider when looking for an ice fishing tent is insulation.
Indeed, if you want to stay warmer inside your ice fishing tent, insulation is key. When determining which tent is best suited for you, one of the most crucial aspects is to look for the insulation R-value, which is a number represented with R in front of it.
The higher the R-value or number, the more effective the insulation. So, while two tents may be both insulated, they may not keep you warm equally. One may have a very low R-value, while the other might have a moderate to high R-value. The better the quality of the tent, the higher the R-value of the insulation may be, and the longer the warmth will stay inside the tent.
Insulation on an ice fishing tent works by creating a barrier between you or the warmth and the cold, windy outdoor conditions. But regardless of the amount of insulation your ice fishing tent has, it may never be sufficient to maintain a consistently warm temperature since the heat trapped inside the tent will always escape through the much cooler ice, which is why some people prefer to have an ice shelter with an insulated floor to try and minimize the amount of heat energy that is escaping into the coldness beneath them.
While the most important factor to consider for an ice fishing tent is insulation, a waterproof and insulated tent is even better.
The combination of both will give you peace of mind when you’re out on the ice. After all, the last thing you want is ice-cold water dripping in on you, especially when the sun melts the snow that has landed on your tent.
A reliable tent should be able to protect you from the outside elements. Thus, a combination of insulation and, for instance, a waterproof tarpaulin is important.
Most ice fishing tents are not waterproof as waterproof fabrics lack breathability, and when combined with heaters, the tent will build up condensation, which will result in moisture making your shelter colder than warm.
Therefore, if you cannot find a reliable ice fishing tent that provides a good combination of breathability and waterproofing, use a waterproof tarp and tie it up with cords to protect your tent when it rains.
Make sure you’re aware of the weight of the ice fishing tent you are choosing to avoid buying a shelter, building it, and then realizing that you can’t get it to your favorite destination. So, make sure you ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you need to walk to the shelter across the lake yourself or with an ATV?
- Are you setting it up alone or with some help?
- Can you handle carrying or dragging the total weight of your gear?
You also have to remember that the weight of the tent adds weight on the ice. Thus, any extra weight can increase the chances of the ice cracking or breaking.
A great tip is to have a good travel cover to keep your gear from accumulating dust or snow, which can add weight to it.
Ease of Assembly
This may be the most overlooked factor when buying an ice fishing tent.
Most ice fishing tents tend to need a little engineering to decipher the instructions manual, keep track of the many parts, and finally, build it.
If you are handy with tools and organized, then the most complicated ice fishing tent should take you just around two to three hours to build, including the time spent putting any weather stripping on, moldings, and screwing down the fabric to build the structure.
Some ice fishing tents are simple and fast to set up. For instance, a popular one and two-person ice fishing tent will allow you to pull down the support bars and will set up by itself.
Setup time is mostly spent in the build, but once that’s done, you can easily put up and tear down your shelter within minutes.
Windows and Doors
Different fishing conditions will tell you how much light gets into your shelter. Thus, you should have a few windows, at least one on each wall, so you can let in natural light.
A good shelter will also feature covers to allow you to block all or some of the light depending on your needs.
You also have to make sure that your shelter has a large enough door for you to get in and out of, and an extra door in case one gets jammed for whatever reason.
Additionally, if you’re using any gas augers inside, which isn’t advisable, opening all the vents is of huge help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do ice fishing tents keep you warm?
Same as with their waterproof ability, ice fishing tents also provide some level of insulation depending on the materials used. Certain materials, like heavier types of fabrics, are far better at keeping you warm than others.
Why do I need an ice fishing tent?
You need an ice fishing tent to take a break from the bitter wind or cold and help you stay on your trip for a longer time. It can also be a safe place for you to store your equipment.
Not all ice fishing tents are waterproof because, in most fishing conditions, this factor does not matter that much. However, there are still some waterproof ice fishing tents that can also keep you warm and comfortable, although they do cost more.
A good ice fishing tent should be lightweight enough to pack in a sled, durable enough to withstand even the worst weather, easy to set up, and transportable in a car with no trouble. You also have to check its windows and door design, ventilation, and insulation or heating system to have a good and comfortable shelter.
Since you’ll be sitting on a frozen lake the entire time when you’re ice fishing, we highly suggest that you pick up an ice fishing tent. This will make your activity much more comfortable and allow you to focus more on the fish that you want to catch.