Updated 11/9/20 for the upcoming 2021 ice fishing season…
So you’re looking to buy your first portable ice shelter and not sure where to look? We’ve provided an in-depth look at some of the most popular and newest ice houses on the market today. We looked hard into durability, price, and features to rank them overall. Obviously, the more you spend the thicker the canvas and larger the fishing area (and more bells and whistles). But we’re hoping this guide helps you in the right direction in finding the right portable ice fishing shelter for you.
Also, we’ve revamped the reviews this year to include WEIGHT into the equation. Let’s face it, if you’re using a giant 2-man ice house, you may find yourself breaking your back getting it into the truck. So we’re considering 1-mans and small 2-mans in the mix this year. Good fishing.
Otter XT Pro X-Over Cottage Ice House
After a lot of research and looking at all the new ice fishing houses on the market for 2021, I chose this as the Editor’s Choice for 2020-2021.
What can you say about the new line of Otter ice houses this year? Probably not enough, to be honest. They have the same design in 4 models this year that range from this model (the Cottage) all the way up to the XT Pro X-Over Resort (which is really, really big).
It really all comes down to your preference in size. For me, I was looking for a LARGE 1-man ice fishing house and this one is amazing. It has 16.8 feet of fishable space. That’s huge for a 1-man ice house.
It’s also large enough where you could fit a second person if you’d like. For me, it would be my son or daughter so I really didn’t need a larger model for my needs.
If you’re not familiar with the design, they have an innovative side-door system that has a bar that “slides” so you can get in and out with ease. It also has a front door this year, so you can literally get out in any direction.
It weighs 82 pounds, which makes this the right weight to slide in and out of the back of my truck (getting over 100 lbs. can be tougher).
And the Otter sled has always been the thickest and most durable sled on the market, hands down.
- The 3-door ice house system is nice.
- Has the most durable sled on the market.
- The thickest canvas you can find as it’s made with a 1200-denier layering system. Ideal for cold weather and strong wind.
- One of the fastest setups out of the box.
- Large fishing area for a 1-man ice shanty (or can be for 2).
CONS: Honestly, there aren’t many cons to this ice house. It comes in around $600, which is a bit high on the 1-man lineups around the industry. But given the features and size, this is worth the price.
I purchased this ice house to add to my arsenal recently after doing a lot of research. This portable ice shelter just fit me best. As stated in the cons, the biggest thing is weight. But this canvas is SO WARM. I had it in -22 degree temperatures, with wind, and it still didn’t require the heat to be on high. Great sled and the Editor’s Choice for 2019-2020.
I’ve fished out of this portable ice shelter and believe me, it’s very nice. Not only does it come with a wide variety of bells and whistles, but it’s also built solid compared to ice houses of the past. First off, they use 1 1/4″ poles that make it tougher to bend (and cause issues when trying to open and close). This right there was enough for me, but of course, it gets better. They have one of the thickest tarps that I’ve seen as well. This works well for keeping in heat and reducing the amount of condensation. Then you throw in the goodies including deluxe seats, built-in lighting, front and back doors, and many more that have their place. Overall, if you have the money to spend on a quality portable ice house, then this would be the EDITORS CHOICE.
PROS: Again, as noted above, wide bars that seem ALMOST indestructible. A nice heavy sled, and a thick canvas shell. It’s 75″ tall in the center which is also nice, with a 27 square foot fishing area.
CONS: The price alone may rule out many. The location of the lighting system can drag on the ground if you’re not careful. Just keep it tucked in and you should be fine. It’s also a bit on the heavier side, I consider this a 2-man job for most scenarios unless you’re a big guy.
THIS IS ONE SLICK ICE HOUSE! You’ll find if you ask 100 ice anglers what they prefer for a portable sled house, it would be the Otter Pro Lodge. The sled is solid, the square frame just works, and they were the innovators of the side door design. It’s heavy though, but so are the others.
The flip over design of this ice house is why the predecessor was the 2018-2019 EDITOR’S CHOICE FOR BEST PORTABLE ICE HOUSE!
Why? Well, the side door design is amazing for starters. You can flip the support pole out of the way and walk in and out of the side doors WITH EASE. No more tripping over stuff and messing up your lures. It also sets up and takes down faster then any large flipover ice house I’ve used.
It uses LARGE, SQUARE poles that can take abuse. Not like the round, traditional poles found in most ice houses.
And the tarp on this is SOLID. With a regular heater, I’m in a T-shirt within 10 minutes. And the seats ain’t too bad either!
And to top it off – it’s all housed on the infamous OTTER SLED. I have 3 Otter sleds and they last the test of time (I use a couple for hauling snow goose decoys in the spring).
I spent a lot of time at sporting good stores this month and this one just stands out. I’m sure it will be copied in no time, but for now……this is the EDITOR’S CHOICE!
PROS: Best Sled on the Market. Large, square frame that boasts 30′ of fishable area. Super thick canvas and great seats.
CONS: It’s spendy, but if you fish a lot it’s worth it, in my opinion. It’s also heavy, at 124 lbs.
Alright, this is another house worth mentioning for those on a budget. The Frabill Recruit ice house is a lower level portable ice shelter that still has the insulated tarp. Usually lower end ice houses have the flimsy thin shell, but you’ll be happy with this one. This is a nice house for one person as it’s light, and it’s also large enough for 2. It does only have a 16.5 square feet of fishing area, so it’s pretty tight when fishing 2 people. It has the door in the front, and comes with decent seats. So it’s not going to really wow you compared to the higher end portables, but again, for the price tag it’s a really nice house.
PROS: Very affordable for most anglers. Has a nice tarp and the whole thing is pretty light. Really makes a great 1-man ice house when you want more room then a single, but don’t want to deal with the large bulkiness of a large house.
CONS: As with any affordable model, it does lose a few features. I love the side doors in most Frabill houses, but this one doesn’t have it. Also, the seat does site forward pretty far which can make it a bit tighter for feet room. I like having a seat sit back personally, to each their own.
What else can I say about this other than it’s a MONSTER of a fish house? It boasts all the same features of the Otter XT line but with 2 major differences. First, it comes with a third seat allowing for 3 people to sit and fish side by side. Second, we’re talking about some serious fishing area width with 35 square feet to play with. Along with the comfy seats and the thick canvas shell, this portable ice shelter has zippers in both the front and back to allow easy access. It also has the square tubing frame that is amazing as well (wish all ice house manufacturers would take note). Overall, the Pro Resort portable ice fishing shelter is one to consider if you’re looking for a 3-man ice house.
NEW THIS YEAR – The tarp is 1200-denier layering system makes it the THICKEST tarp you can buy. This thing is for those who DO NOT like getting cold in their portable ice house.
PROS: 3 seats is nice to go with their largest sled. It has one of the largest fishing areas on the market as well. It has square tubing which is nice for durability and the tarp is amazing.
CONS: Pretty tight when fishing 3 BIG guys in the ice house. It’s also on the spendy side with a retail price over a grand. It’s also very heavy so I would handle this one with a second person.
If you’re looking for a well rounded house that’s affordable, this may be the portable ice house for you. It’s lightweight, very popular for a good reason, and flips over easy. There isn’t extension tubes in this model, so it is a tad low ceiling-wise. But it does have nice swivel, and removable seats. It also has front and rear access doors which is getting to be pretty much standard in all portable ice shelters nowadays. It has a 20 foot fishing area, which is also a tad small but large enough for 4 holes.
PROS: It’s affordable, which is nice with the price tags of ice houses going up a lot in recent years. It’s lightweight, and sets up extremely fast as well.
CONS: It’s a tad low in height, making it bit awkward for the taller guys. It also has a decent tarp, but not as thick as a lot of the higher end models.
Finally, a really BIG flip over ice house with a decent price tag. They advertise it as up to a 3-man, but I really feel it’s best suited for 2 anglers. Frabill customers are avid about their Frabills, and for good reason; they’re built for the average joe. Yes it’s 28.5 square feet of fishable area, which is on the larger end, but it’s not the biggest portable ice shelter on the market (but close). It is a bit taller, which is nice for standing up but not good when it’s really windy. It has all the bells and whistles of a higher end ice house, and again, it’s at a more affordable price. And I really like the Frabill seats, nice for long days.
PROS: As mentioned a couple times already, it’s a big house at a medium sized price. It does have the nice shell, and it is built for bigger people. The seats are awesome, and it has some nice little features like storage for your fishing tackle. The side doors are nice as well for getting in and out.
CONS: Be aware that as it’s advertised as a 3-man ice house, it’s really only meant for 2.
Otter Outdoors has really stepped up on their portable ice shelters in recent years. It’s not that they were bad before, they were just a bit on the basic side. But there has been drastic features added to their houses now. Let’s take it from the top, or I should say, bottom; with their amazing sleds. I actually own 2 Otter sleds myself, and use them for various fishing and hunting outings. They’re the thickest plastic molds on the market. I’ve used other sleds and the bottoms got shreaded, the same doesn’t go for the Otter sleds. Also, the seats are amazing. They’re comfortable and swivel…sweet. And the frame is SQUARE, finally! This will make it tougher to bend. The tarp is super thick, and keeps in heat and blocks the wind. And did I forget this model has 30 square feet of fishing area??? That makes for a very roomy floor. All in all, if you’re looking for a solid house then you have to check out Otter these days.
PROS: Very heavy duty sled with any Otter ice house. Square, thick frame tubing makes it tougher to break. Comfy seats, and has a super large fishing area.
CONS: Expensive, you’ll pull out your wallet for this one.
2019-2020 Update – Sadly, they quit making this one. I left the review, but you’ll have to find it used. This was a great portable fish house.
Okay, so this is technically still a flip over ice fishing shelter…even though it’s a double flip over for up to 4 people. This unique design has been out for a few years, and they’ve been improving on it each year. Quite frankly, this thing is a beast. It has 34 square feet of fishing area on EACH side, that’s huge. It also is built with the larger 1 1/4″ poles which are much more durable then the thinner ones of the past. It is heavy, so it is really ideal for 2 people at least. However, I have a buddy who will fish out of it solo and doesn’t seem to have any issues on setup or getting it in and out of the truck (although he is a bigger guy). It now has lights in the unit, on each side. I love that addition, and it has plenty of storage built in as well. You’re going to spend a bit on this unit, but if you’re looking for the largest ice fishing shelter on the market (flip over style), this is it.
PROS: Roomy. IF YOU CAN FIND ONE USED GET IT. They don’t make them anymore. There is really nothing like it on the market that even comes close to the size inside. It’s advertised as a 4 man and they mean it. No features were cut short of this one, it literally has it all.
CONS: Pricey and heavy. It does weigh around 170 lbs. and that’s without all your gear inside. So you’ll really want to have 2 people to get this one in and out of the truck.
This is a new and interesting twist on the traditional flip over style portable ice shelter. Not only does it have the sled with a canvas that flips over…but it also has “hub style” pop up sides. This allows for more fishable room, which is always a good thing. It comes in a 1-man and 2-man model. It also has largest windows I’ve seen on portable ice houses, which makes spotting tip ups easier. It does have a decent canvas but not as thick as the competition. But for the price tag in the lower to middle price range, that is to be expected. I’ve personally not had as much experience with the Eskimo brand, but this house really intrigues me. It has a lot of features that make this portable ice house unique.
PROS: It has a wide fishing area which was the whole purpose of this design. It has ice stakes that help keep the house pinned down as well. Has a decent sled, along with decent seats. Has a retail price tag under $500 which makes it a nice option.
CONS: Thinner canvas doesn’t hold the heat as well. Also requires a bit more setup then a traditional flip over style ice shelter.
This is the high end version of the Eskimo ice shelter line. It has the wide, square tubing frame which I’m ALWAYS a big fan of since I’ve been so many of the thinner ones over the years. It also has an interesting seat setup that allows it to slide front/back as well as side to side. You can pull up on the chair easily too to get at gear. It also boasts a 70″ length sled that is one that they’re trying to advertise as being the toughest out there (although it’s tough to beat an Otter sled). And it has the thick tarp shell that helps insulate the house and keep heat in and condensation out. And it has a decent size fishing area at 28 square feet.
PROS: Nice seats and a thick tarp. Seems well built all around which should help make this unit last.
CONS: A bit spendy, and I’m not a huge fan of the window setup. It’s also advertised as a possible 3-man ice house but personally I’d just stick to 2 on this one.
For those looking for a solid ice house in the middle to slightly upper price range, this is not a bad model. It’s from the popular line of Clam ice fishing shelters, and has the new exterior which is kind of cool. But when we look deeper we find they added a good tarp, nice seats, and a decent sled. The windows are the standard size, a bit on the smaller size overall. It has a decent size fishing area, and has the durability to boot. Really not a bad ice house for the money.
PROS: Nice tarp and a sharp look to it. You’re basically getting a bigger model for a middle ground price tag.
CONS: Overall it’s hard to find cons that stick out on this model, other then the price tag is a tad high. For those looking to spend the money, they may already step up to the bigger model.
So there you have it; we’ve reviewed 10 portable ice houses from the most popular and trusted brands on the ice today. Think we’ve missed a model or forgot to test a certain feature in the line of houses? No worries, please comment below and we’ll review them in the near future. This list is always being updated, so feel free to check back next winter as we review the new portable ice houses as they become available.