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Choosing the Best Ice Fishing Shelter

Otter Outdoors hub shelter

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When the time came for me to invest in a new ice fishing shelter it was tough to narrow down what I needed given all the choices on the market. There’s such a wide range of features and options that it’s hard to decide what’s important to your particular situation. In today’s post I will walk you through my decision making process and ultimately why I chose to go with the Otter Pro Lodge hub ice shelter.

Hub or Flip Over Shelter

The first big decision to make is whether you want a hub style or a flip over style shelter. There are advantages to both but for me it came down to overall space and price. Flip over shelters offer unmatched portability and all in one convenience but they can be bulky to store at home and prices are significantly higher for the amount of space. Flip over shelters are perfect for towing around the lake with a snowmobile or ATV and housing one or two people. Beyond that, they become heavy to haul on foot and are not convenient for more than two people. On the other hand hub shelters come in a range of sizes to suit anywhere from one angler to what can seem like a dozen. Hub shelters are smaller to store, lighter to carry and as long as they are not too large, just as easy to set up as a flip over shelter.

Otter Hub Ice Shelter
There is a ton of space in the Otter Pro Lodge Hub for all your stuff. The low windows are also perfect for you and the pooch to watch for tip up flags!

So many sizes…

Choosing an appropriate size comes down to your individual situation. For my needs an 8 foot by 8 foot shelter is perfect. It’s large enough I can fit up to four anglers and still have room for a bit of tackle and a heater. Any smaller and a regular sleeping cot will no longer fit along the wall. The 8′ x 8′ hub can fit two cots with room in between but it’s perfect for one person and gear. It’s also not so large that I never want to move it. Setting the hub up and taking it down is quick, as there are only 4 walls and a roof to collapse.

My sleeping setup for the night.

Insulated or not insulated?

After having a non insulated shelter for years, this one is a no-brainer. Insulated all the way. Yes there is a weight penalty for having an insulated shelter, but if its cold enough that you need a shelter you won’t regret the few extra pounds. Having insulation also means that its easier to keep the shelter warm. The triple layer fabric on my Otter Pro Lodge Hub keeps things nice and toasty. I usually run my big buddy on low, and if I’m dressed for the conditions I will rarely have to turn it up higher than that. Keeping the heat on low also reduces my propane usage. The Big Buddy portable heater will run on two 1 lb propane bottles for about 10 hours – enough to last all day. The insulation also prevents condensation from building up on the walls and ceiling. If you’ve spent any time in a heated ice shelter you know the joy of having condensation rain down on you all day.

Otter overhead storage nets
I really like the overhead storage. It’s perfect for hats and mitts.

Why Otter?

There are a few features of the Otter tents that, in my opinion, place their products above the rest. Number one, it came with everything you would need in the bag. Some shelters only come with a hand full of ice anchors or no guy lines for staking the tent out. The bag that the tent comes in is even over-sized enough that you can fit it back in the bag when it’s coated in ice and snow. Next, the triple layer insulation means there are virtually no pin hole leaks through the fabric. I can honestly count the number of pin hole light leaks on my fingers. With overhead storage nets, pockets and rod holders built in there is abundant storage. I thought the overhead storage nets were gimmicky at first but I honestly use them on every outing. Lastly, quality material is used for everything. The zippers are robust, the fabric is thick, the windows are durable in the most extreme cold, even the poles seem to bend almost completely over without breaking. I have nothing critical to say about any of the materials used.

Reflective strips not only make it easier to find your tent in the dark but will help prevent any collisions with vehicles on the ice.

Hub Shelter Pro Tips:

  1. When setting up your hub shelter in the wind its best to anchor down a corner before trying to pop the shelter up.
  2. Be extra careful to not freeze the wind skirt into the ice. It’s pretty easy to do when the heat is cranked up in the hub.
  3. Zip the doors shut before staking down the tent completely. If you tighten the corners and guy lines first the fabric will be too stretched out to zip the doors closed. Not a big deal to fix but I hate redoing work when I could be fishing.
  4. Putting 5 or 6 twists in the guy lines before staking them down with prevent the straps from vibrating in the wind.
  5. Use a dehumidifier to speed up drying time. When I get home I usually set the tent up in the basement and run a portable dehumidifier inside. The tent will be dry in hours instead of days.
Otter pro lodge hub shelter
Pro Tip – putting a couple twists in the anchor straps before staking the tent down will prevent the strap from vibrating in the wind.

It’s easy to see that I’m a pretty satisfied with my choice of shelter. The only feature I might change is the door. The door on the Otter is the standard triangle shaped door that makes access and egress a bit tricky. If I was fishing with small children I would take a serious look at the Eskimo Outbreak shelter for it’s full sized door.

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