Guide to Portable Ice Fishing Shelters [2022 Update]

Updated on August 29, 2022 by

This article will explore the best portable ice fishing shelters available on the market right now and explain the key criteria you need to make a buying decision.

If you have ever fancied trying your hand at a spot ice fishing but have been put off by having to sit out in the freezing temperatures, then a portable ice fishing shelter could be the answer. Some might say that using a tent to ice fish is cheating.

What a load of baloney. What does it matter anyway what anyone else thinks, so long as you have an enjoyable time participating in this fantastic social sport?

Portable Ice Fishing Shelter Buying Guide

When you first go ice fishing, you’re likely to find permanent shelters erected on the ice. These wooden constructions have a couple of disadvantages. Firstly your fishing is restricted to one spot, and secondly, the ice inside the tent could easily begin to thaw. A portable fishing shelter gives you the option of choosing where to fish as they’re so easy to transport around.

It’s so easy. Just pick your spot, pitch your shelter, and get all your belongings inside, such as rods, bait, heater, clothing, etc. It is just a case of enjoying your fishing without the worry of getting frostbite or having a shower of ice pellets raining down on you.

Let’s face it. You want to be able to enjoy your fishing. Using a shelter will enable you to enjoy it without freezing in the process.

What Type Should I Get?

Unlike many years ago, when these shelters were unaffordable to the masses, nowadays, there are ice fishing shelters to meet most budgets. There are many factors to consider when purchasing a portable ice fishing shelter, such as size, type of material, style, comfort factor, and, of course, price.

Let’s start with the material. The type of material your tent is made of all depends on where you’re going to fish. It stands to reason that if your trip is taking place where high blustery winds are the norm, then a stronger material is going to be needed. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with tears and rips in your shelter.

If your location does often experience high gusts of wind, you would be better opting for a shelter made of poly-cotton. The thick and durable material will give better protection from the extreme elements and allow you to fish without the worry of finding a rip or tear in your shelter. The downside to these types of shelters is they are more expensive.

A thinner material such as nylon will suffice if you will be fishing in an area that benefits from calmer weather conditions with minimal winds. As you can imagine, shelters made of these materials will not only cost less, but they will also be easier to transport as they will weigh a lot less. There is more than just the durability factor to consider when choosing your material, such as condensation and its ability to sustain heat.

Heat, Condensation, and Moisture

Certain materials will retain the heat while others won’t be able to hold the warmth inside. Choosing a nylon or poly-cotton shelter, for instance, will ensure heat is collected and maintained within the shelter. The downside to opting for this type of material is that it creates excessive amounts of condensation and moisture inside the shelter.

Canvas, on the other hand, is a much lighter material that enables it to breathe well. When choosing a shelter made from this type of material, the drawback is that it doesn’t hold heat. Colors are just as important as materials, especially when it comes to retaining heat. Try to choose a darker color; that way, you’re likely to attract more sunlight, which will save you money on the fuel you need to heat your portable ice fishing shelter.

Size Matters

It’s a good idea to scale up. If you’re going solo, you may think a one-person shelter will do the trick, but remember, you need space for all your gear, so scale up to a two-person model. Something else that needs to be taken into account is the holes that you create inside the shelter. Again, these will take up space inside, meaning a smaller area for yourself.

The more people on your trip adds to the space needed for the extra equipment such as seating and fishing gear. Ice fishing shelters can cater to up to six people. For this reason, it would be a good idea to go for at least a five-person version if there are three or more of you on the trip.

The disadvantage that comes with the bigger shelters is it means they are harder to move around. Because of this, you may need specialized transport such as a snowmobile.


Whether you want to spend time threading poles through the material like you would a regular tent, or you prefer to opt for a popup type of shelter, whereby you get it out of the bag, and it erects itself, is again dependent on the environment you’ll be fishing in.

Although a framed shelter will be more time-consuming, it will be a lot less flimsy than a self-erecting type. Taking a popup shelter to a place renowned for extreme weather would be a bad idea.

The Importance of Comfort

Some shelters come with seating already installed, which is great if you don’t wish to be lugging around your own chairs over the ice. Just bear in mind, that some of these chairs are on the basic side and not the most comfortable.

Height is another factor to take into consideration, yours as much as the shelters themselves. With these portable fishing shelters ranging from a back-bending five feet high up to eight feet tall, make sure you choose one that will allow for headroom, or else you could have a very uncomfortable time in there.

Keeping warm is very important; after all, that’s one of the main reasons for purchasing a shelter in the first place. But take into consideration the ventilation you will need inside your shelter.

Using a propane heater will cause a lot of fumes to congregate inside your warm and cozy habitat, which could result in dizziness and lightheadedness. Choose a shelter that comes with plenty of vents enabling the fumes to escape.

Photo of author

Captain Russ Egan

Captain Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.