Top Portable Ice Shelter Manufacturers in 2018
When it comes to sitting out on the frozen water all day, braving the elements, your ice fishing shelter makes all the difference between a great day and a lesson in frigid frustration.
We dug into the best brands of ice shelters on the market and brought you a quick profile on each here.
Best Ice Fishing Shelter Companies 2018
1. Eskimo Ice Shelters
Another longtime leader in frozen water gear is Eskimo, a trusted brand since 1960 among the most serious fishermen. In fact, Eskimo caters only to ice fishing, unlike competitors that may spread themselves too thin with a product line aimed at all sorts of outdoor sports.
That passion for ice has paid off, as Eskimo is the number one supplier of ice fishing gear in the world and in my opinion has the best selection of ice fishing shelters. That includes being innovators in producing a new era of portable pop-up shelters that help anglers have a better experience than ever. You’ll find a range of shelters priced to attract both first-timers, weekend warriors, and seasoned anglers, starting with their low-cost QuickFish Ice 2 all the way up to the Eskimo Evo Crossover line.
Their products are always rated extremely well for durability, but if something ever goes wrong or you have a question, Eskimo also is known for standing behind their gear with top-notch and personalized customer service.
2. Otter Outdoors Ice Shantys
Otter ice fishing shelters, sleds, and tackle had a great reputation for being some of the highest-quality, most durable, and functional gear you could buy anywhere. From their Otter Fish House to their Xtreme Thermal XT PRO Series, Otter shelters are always warm, comfortable, and offer the best environment for taking home some trophy fish. They also sell a wide array of accessories that fit their shelters so you can turn your ice cabin into a cozy man cave, like attachable cargo nets, hammocks, lighting, tow hitches, seats, and, yes, the ever-important cooler. Likewise, Otter’s rough and tumble Pro and Wild Sleds now top sales among ice anglers.
3. Frabill Ice Shelters
Known as the most trusted gear in the ice fishing industry since 1938, Frabill makes gear for both fresh and saltwater angling. When it comes to ice fishing, Frabill’s impressive product line includes an array of quality portable fishing shelters, ice fishing rods and combos, tip-ups, bait containers, portable aeration, apparel and other various ice fishing paraphernalia.
In 1985, Frabill jumped into the emerging popularity of fishing with its portable ice fishing shelter, The Hideout. Since 1991, fishing gear has been the company’s main focus and it’s now well-known among anglers for their fishing apparel for cold and extreme conditions.
Frabill is one of many brands produced by Plano Synergy Holdings, a firm with 150 years of sporting experience from field to stream and everywhere in between.
Call (800) 558-1005
4. Clam Outdoors Ice Shantys
Back in 1980, passionate ice angler Dave Genz from Orr, Minnesota, built his first homemade Fish Trap in his garage, with his wife, Patsy, sewing the canvas on with her home sewing machine. Fast forward to 1993 and the Genz’s creation, Clam, had become the largest manufacturer of ice fishing shelters in all of North America.
But Clam hasn’t just become the best in the industry for ice fishing gear, apparel, and shelters, but become a true ambassador for the sport. The company culture extends to educating anglers young and old, and fostering a close-knit community of sport fisher men and women through their Ice Annual magazine, IceTeam.com website, and Ice Team Pros, which are present in 14 states and throughout Canada.
But ice shelters are what Clam still does best, and in 2014, they introduced their first-ever hard-sided shack, Clam Shack 612V, followed by the innovative Quick-Set series of screen shelters the next year.
Call (763) 231-4120
5. Eagle Claw (Shappell) Ice Shelters
A lesser known brand but still popular among seasoned ice hounds, Eagle Claw Shappell makes some fantastic pop-up shelters. Established back in 1984, the Shappell Corporation changed their name to Eagle Claw Shappell in June of 2015 after becoming a subsidiary of Wright & McGill Co.
From their home bases in Grand Ledge, Michigan and Denver, Colorado, Eagle Claw Shappell manufactures high-quality ice fishing gear. That includes their highly-touted shelters that keep anglers warm and on the ice. If you’re in the market for a state-of-the-art, dependable shelter, check out their FX200i insulated model, the Bay Runner Series, Wide House Series, or the latest addition to their shelter product lines, the FX Series Flips and FX Series Flips.
6. Cabin Craft Ice Shelters
In the heart of the Ice Belt in Otsego, Minnesota sits a small company that has a giant’s reputation among traditional ice anglers. Started in 1977, Canvas Craft makes just about anything canvas, from boat covers to awnings and, yes, ice houses. But don’t be scared off by their far-reaching product line because these folks are true craftsmen, custom making top-of-the-line shelters that have been a staple of family fishermen for generations.
Their best is probably the Northlander Cabin Style ice shelter, which is tall in the center, has a solid wood floor, and can be set up or taken down within one minute, folding into an easy-to-haul suitcase.
As their name implies, their canvas has revolutionized extreme element protection, with the NorpacR2TM Fabric with Thinsulate taking top honors. In fact, in thermal tests, these shelters stayed 40 degrees warmer than traditional shelters.
You can custom-order a shelter or shell (but it will take a little longer,) purchase their existing models, or even buy one of their ice fishing shelters as a DIY kit to save money, with detailed instructions how to put it together, including the signature wood floor.
7. Cabela’s Ice Shelters
Getting away from the traditional, small firms that cater only to ice fisherman, Cabela’s is an outdoor retail store that sells hunting, boating, camping, shooting, and other outdoor gear. But while they may stock just about everything under the outdoor world sun, fishing is still near and dear to their heart since the store chain is owned by Bass Pro Shops.
Located in Sidney, Nebraska, Cabela’s has grown to 82 locations across the U.S. and Canda. They also sell on mean ice house, their Six-Person Hub Ice Shelter. Sitting a sizable six feet by 12 feet, it has ample 80″ of headroom and comes with all of the amenities you look for in a great ice shelter, like black-out windows, heavy-duty poles and anchors, pockets for gear and tools, and ventilation for a heater. Cabela’s also offers a lifetime manufacturer guarantee for this ice house, which offers peace of mind.
Phone: (860) 290-6200
8. Ice Runner Ice Shelters
The pride of Bovey, Minnesota, Ice Runner may be small, but they are mighty among ice fishermen. If you’re looking for a serious 2-person shelter, their Explorer Ice Fishing Shelter pops up in just two minutes with only 3-poles to lock in. In fact, you can set it up without taking your gloves off!
This ice house also is fully insulated and offers more than 18 square feet of space for anglers. It may be small enough for two fishing buddies to be mobile, but it still has four windows and a sunroof so you can enjoy sunny days.
Ice Shanty Guide
If you’re brand new to ice fishing, then let me introduce you to an ice shanty, your best friend out there on a cold, wet, and windy day.
In fact, an ice shanty is just any shelter from the elements that’s erected by ice fisherman, but you’ll see a wide variety. Also called ice houses, ice shacks, fishing shanties, fish coops, bob houses, ice huts, or even dark houses, each has its own pros and cons for the intrepid fisherman.
Therefore, you’ll find everything from makeshift wind breaks, tent-style pop-up structures, movable huts that can be transported on a sled bottom, and even cabins that go up in the fall and come down again well before ice thaws in the spring. Although it’s far less common these days, you’ll still see old schoolers sitting out on the ice with a bucket and a warm parka.
But whether they’re city slickers trying it for the first time, weekend warriors, or old pros, there are more options than ever for comfortable and practical shelters, ensuring that you won’t miss the best fishing even when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.
What kind of shelters are available for ice anglers?
You won’t find the grizzled old-time anglers going to fancy sports stores to buy a shelter, but they do get creative with building their own homemade ice shanty creations, from plywood to PVC piping, chicken wire to tarps and just about everything in between. But, often, these thrown-together shanties are as useful as they are ugly!
The most rudimentary shelter is a simple windbreak, which can be little more than a seat with two or three walls thrown up. Of course, it doesn’t provide overhead protection, warmth, or any other protection from the elements or amenities, but it is inexpensive.
You’ll probably encounter more flip shelters than any other, as they’re truly the ice fisherman’s favorite. Easy to pop up on poles and anchored like a conventional camping tent, flip shanties are built on a sled base for easy transport and also offer the convenience of zipping up on a colder, windier day.
A slight step up from a simple wind break, a hub will still fit in the trunk of your car and can be hiked in to your fishing hole. It’s also inexpensive and doesn’t take up much room, but doesn’t account for a sled, heater, or chairs, etc. so it’s usually only used by anglers that get out onto the ice a few times a year.
For those fishermen who are looking for a more permanent structure with far more comfort, and amenities, a cabin is their best friend on a cold, sleeting day. Cabins are really unlimited in what they can offer, including better seating, elevated floors that still sit on a hard-bottom sled for transport, overhead space for storage of gear, tables and chairs, and the like. Of course, you’ll need a truck or ATV to pull in a cabin shelter, and it also means that you’re stuck in one place most days and can’t easily move if the fish aren’t biting.
So if you’re out shopping for an ice shanty, or even designing your own, what should you look for? Here are some important factors to consider when buying or building your ice shanty:
What materials should you use?
Most modern ice shanties are made of lightweight, wind resitatant, and waterproof synthetic fabrics, particularly, 300 Denier or 600 Denier Polyester. The weight of the fabric and how well it folds down are important considerations if you plan on packing your shelter and hand-carrying it in.
Vinyl-coated polyester is also sometimes used because it’s good at trapping heat, keeping the fisherman warm, protecting from the sun, and resisting tears from high winds.
Some ice shanties can even be made out of cotton canvas (different than cotton or canvas), which is really lightweight but not as waterproof or durable as polyester fabrics.
Ice Shanty Options
Do you usually fish alone, or with one good buddy? Or do you plan on bringing the whole family out onto the ice?
Too often, anglers build a nice, wide shanty but then they realize they can’t stand up in it. Or, some might actually prefer to keep it lower and sitting room only.
Of course, we’re not all millionaires (or, if we were, we’d want to spend most of it on new lures and beer!) so you’ll want to shop around for the best value ice shanty.
How well will it stand up against the elements and the test of time? Do you plan on fishing one day a week or every day each winter, and under what conditions?
Will you have a portable heater or even a fire in your shanty? You better plan on ventilation and look for a shanty with windows.
Weight and transport:
Are you going to carry your shanty long distances on your back? Or put it on a sled or even drive it in on a snowmobile or truck? A major factor in buying a shanty is how you’ll get it to where it’s going and how you can break it down again.
Does the shanty just pop-up within minutes or will it be a more permanent structure for the season that you’ll only set up and break down once? And will you have help or do it yourself?
Do you want to sit right on the ice or have a floor? They even have shanties with elevated floors or some with drill holes.
If you plan on pulling your shanty onto the ice behind a snowmobile or truck, etc., you’ll want to look for a shanty with a sled bottom for ease.
Do you want built-in chairs or benches inside your shanty, or will you just bring your own folding chairs or just sit on a bucket?
Do you want a shanty with zippers, Velcro, or other fasteners so you can close it up?
Are you going to leave all of your poles, gear, and bait in the shanty in some sort of storage, and will it be built-in?