There is doubt that ice fishing is cold, but it doesn’t have to be if you are dressed appropriately and have the right gear with you. I am a firm believer in there is no bad weather just poor clothing choices.
Ice fishing gear has changed a lot over the years. You can get thermal shelters, heaters, warm suits and the list goes on. There are more products out now then ever before to help you stay warm out there on the ice.
As anglers we make that cold trek out across the ice, carrying our gear and pulling it in sleds trying to find that perfect spot where the fish will be hanging out. We need to brave those elements so warm gear is an absolute must.
A good base layer is an absolute must. Merino wool as well as something made out of polyester in some nature is great for wicking away the sweat. A good thing to remember is that thicker and heavier doesn’t always mean warmer. There is honestly nothing worse then getting all hot and sweaty from lugging all your gear across the ice, making holes with your auger (we have a hand one and trust me when I say you definitely work up a sweat) setting up your tent etc. then sitting there while your body cools down with sweat dripping down your back. You are then miserable and cold the rest of the day and that is no fun for anyone. Just think, jeans and cotton tube socks are not going to wick away that sweat on your skin. That is why a good base layer is recommended for optimal warmth.
MEC and Meriwool Layers both carry several different options for a base layer to choose from, from light weight right up to heavy weight. My personal favourite is the Meriwool Layers. The base layer along with their socks always keep me warm out in the cold. I don’t know about you but it is not fun when your feet are freezing from being out in the cold. Now that you have your base layer just add a hoody or fleece top along with a pair of sweat pants under your winter gear and you are good to go.
Ice Fishing Tents
As for pop up ice fishing tents Eskimo is at the top of every list for warmth and durability. They are easy to set up even in the wind. Living in Northern BC we can get some pretty high winds up here and you definitely do not want a shelter that is going to topple over, collapse on you or blow away in the wind. Eskimo Ice tents also come with self-tapping ice screws so that the tent stays in place.
Clam 14476 C-560 is in a close second. Again another one that is easy to setup as well as take down. Like its competitors it has four exterior ice anchors and tie downs guaranteeing that this shelter stays put in the harsh weather. The only bad review that I could find on this tent was that the windows are placed up a bit high making visibility poor and tough to check on those tip ups.
Frabill tents were in the top five of best ice fishing shelters. They are one of the more affordable options in the ice fishing world. These shelters are easy to put up as well as take down and fit nicely back into the bag when you are heading home. You might notice its unusual shape, its not your basic cube like other ice fishing tents but has additional angles. This provides anglers with a little more elbow room and space to work with.
We have the Frabill HQ300 ice shelter and with a family of four it is really nice to have all the extra room and head space. Its not insulated but it does block out the wind, and warms up fast with a heater on. The one complaint that I do have is that it did partially collapse on a relatively windy day hitting my son in the head. Reading other reviews it has happened to other people as well. Not knowing if we were really going to love ice fishing or not we didn’t want to go all out and buy anything too expensive and then find out we didn’t enjoy it. The issue with the collapsing tent can be solved by adding extra tie-downs on either side of the tent. If you don’t have any extra tie downs with you and the wind picks up filling your sled up with snow can improvise as the tie-downs (as you can tell we have had to get creative this past winter.) If I were to buy a different tent I would definitely pay a bit more and go with the Eskimo brand, it has great reviews, is at the top of the list for pop up ice tents and is extremely durable.
While some anglers prefer to go old school and make do with just a stool and a hole in the ice, more and more anglers are starting to choose shelters and warmth to make their day more comfortable. There is nothing worse then frozen lines and fingers that are too numb to tie on a new jig. Keeping your shelter nice and warm at a comfortable temperature isn’t about being a soft angler its about giving your gear the best temperature possible so it can preform the way it should be.
When buying a heater for your ice shelter, make sure you choose an appropriate sized for your space. You do not want to freeze or make a tent like a sweat lodge by investing in an under or over sized product. Another very important thing to remember is to buy a heater that will automatically shut off when it senses oxygen levels are too low. Never use an outdoor heater indoors. Outdoor heaters can produce deadly levels of carbon monoxide in large amounts and quickly kill anglers in ice shelters.
At the top of the list is the Mr. Heater Buddy. It is safe, reliable and worthy of your money. It has a convenient carry handle for portability, and with its accidental tip-over safety shut off it is safe to use around kids and pets. This heater can run 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. We have this heater and I can honestly say it keeps our tent nice and warm even in the most extreme weather conditions. Last year we hit -41 and that was without the windchill.
Coming in a close second is the Mr. Heater Big Buddy. This one also has the auto-shut off when the heater tips slightly. It heats up a space very quickly as well as having an easy to carry handle. The only con I could find on this one was the weight. At 17 lbs it is much heavier then its other competitors.
Rounding off the top 3 is the Mr. Heater Little Buddy Heater. This one is a compact heater which is very easy to transport and quick and easy to set up. It warms an area quickly by using radiant heating technology, and can heat an area up to 100 square feet for up to five and a half hours. At only 5.2 lbs it is incredibly light and obviously easy to pack around.
As you can see Mr. Heater dominates the propane-fueled portable heater market!
If you are bringing someone along that has never been ice fishing before make sure you bring along a little extra to help them stay warm and comfortable as this makes for a much better day. You definitely can’t go wrong with a mug of hot chocolate! How lucky are we that there are so many amazing options for us to stay warm and cozy out there on the ice!