Winter camping can be a magical and fulfilling experience if you take the plunge. The trails are devoid of human life, the vistas are sparkling and peaceful, and there are fewer bugs. But to set yourself up for a successful cold weather campout, you’ll need a proper shelter.
That brings us to the question—can you use an ice fishing shelter for winter camping? Simply put, yes you can. If you already own an ice fishing tent or you’re considering getting one, it’s totally possible to use it for winter camping.
This post will go through everything you need to know about using an ice fishing tent as a shelter for cold weather camping.
An ice fishing tent is a portable pop-up tent placed on a frozen lake to provide shelter during ice fishing. They’re usually dome-shaped and have ice anchors and tie-down ropes, so they don’t blow away. These are made of synthetic fabrics, woven together tightly to protect you from the brutal cold and wind, while also repelling water.
A winter tent, sometimes called a four-season or all-season tent, is designed to protect against intense weather conditions. They have heavier-duty fabrics and sturdier poles compared to regular backpacking tents and a lower profile, allowing them to withstand harsher winds and snowfall.
There are several differences between a four-season tent and an ice fishing tent. First, ice fishing shelters often have no floors, allowing occupants to drill holes through the ice and fish from the comfort of the shelter. They also have enough room to stand up in or place a foldable chair. Many winter tents come with floors and have a low peak height.
Most people only use the ice fishing tent to hook fish during the day, then pack it in and go home right after sundown. But sleeping in an ice fishing shelter is possible. Here are a few reasons ice fishing tents make great winter camping shelters.
- An ice fishing shelter like the Eskimo Outbreak 450XD offers more space to stand, sit, fish, hang out and sleep in.
- Ice shelters are secured with ice anchors, so they are less likely to be blown away by strong winds
- An ice fishing tent is less expensive compared to a winter tent. The Eskimo QuickFish Pop-Up shelter is one cheap and high-quality ice fishing tent option.
- Although larger than their winter tent cousins, they still pack down small and are lightweight enough to carry around.
- OVERSIZED, TRIP-PROOF DOOR: The Outbreak 450XD features an oversized, trip proof door that fully zips down to the ice. This means no more catching your foot on the door framework and stumbling with your gear
- MORE FISHABLE AREA: Flared, wide-bottom design provides significantly more fishable area than other shelters on the market
- STORMSHIELD INSULATED FABRIC: Three-layer, abrasion-resistant, bonded fabric with 80 grams of high-loft insulation providing maximum warmth and a robust barrier against light/wind penetration
- 60-SECOND SET-UP: Hub design makes set-up and take-down quick and easy. Shelter fits 2 people with a set-up size of 5ft L x 5ft W x 5.6ft H, with extra elbow room measuring 6.3ft x 6.3ft
- 300 DENIER ICETIGHT FABRIC WITH 59% HIGHER THREAD COUNT: Higher thread count results in a tighter weave, and offers the wind and watertight performance Eskimo is known for, at an average weight savings of up to 19% over most competitors
- PORTABILITY: Everything fits into a cinch carrying bag that can easily be carried on your back
It’s entirely possible to use an ice fishing shelter as a winter tent. Here’s how to use an ice fishing shelter for camping in cold weather:
- Picking a Campsite – Choose a flat site, avoid the bottom of hills, where cold-air troughs form, and the tops of hills, which can be exposed to wind.
- Pack Down the Snow – Stomp on the snow with your boots to compress it before setting up the tent. Packed snow insulates heat better than loose snow.
- Pitching – Make sure the tent is secured with ice anchors with the door perpendicular to prevailing winds. Use tie-down ropes and pack ice around the tent skirt using your boot or shovel so that the wind doesn’t blow underneath the shelter and lift it up. Banking the skirt with snow will also prevent cold air from entering your shanty through the night.
- Decide Whether to Use a Cot or Pad – If you’re planning to camp on ice, use a cot to protect you from the melting ice. A pad will do if you’re camping on a dry surface.
- Bring a Footprint – Since ice fishing shelters have no floors, bring a footprint to help you stay warmer. Just make sure it doesn’t reach out to the sides of the tent, so the condensing water can run down the tent and land on the bare outer floor of the tent instead of dripping on your footprint.
- Winter Sleeping Bag – You’ll need a sleeping bag rated for extremely cold weather. Many of these sleeping bags also come with additional features not found in other bags, such as draft collars, good zipper baffles, draft tubes, and advanced shell fabric.
- Winter Sleeping Pad – For winter camping, you generally want something heavy-duty with an R-value of at least 5. Alternatively, you can stack two pads on top of each other. Use a pad even when sleeping on a cot.
- Wear the Right Clothing – Bring some long Johns made of heavyweight material, thermal socks, and a warm hat.
- Heating – If you prefer to bring a Buddy Heater to keep warm, make sure the tent is well-ventilated and keep a couple of vents open so there’s a breeze. Bring a carbon monoxide detector to alert you when the levels are too high. Preferably, it should be battery operated with no wiring required. You can also choose to run the heat only when awake.
- Indoor-safe portable propane heater for rooms up to 95 square feet. THIS UNIT IS NOT INTENDED FOR GOLF CART USE OR FOR MOTORIZED VEHICLES.
- Continuous odor-free, 45-degree heating angle. Maximum Elevation (Ft) 7000 Feet. Automatic low oxygen shut-off system (ODS). Perfect solution for heating small enclosed spaces like tents up to 95 square feet
- Other Essentials – For a more fulfilling experience, you’ll need to bring the usual winter camping essentials, such as a stove suitable for cold temperatures, pots, matches, flashlight, and ice picks.
If you prepare adequately and bring the right essentials, winter camping in an ice fishing tent is possible. Set up correctly and coupled with a proper sleeping bag, pad, and heater, it will protect you from the cold and wind, and allow you to sleep comfortably in extreme conditions.