Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Choosing the Right Portable Shelter: Part 2

In part 1 of Choosing the Right Portable  we discussed the many traps that anglers fall into when choosing their first (or 5th) portable Shelter. In Part 2 we are going to look at 3 different styles of portable and the pro's and con's of each. I will be focusing on Flip-Overs, Cabin Style, as well as Hub Style portables. There are other options out there (including tents) but these 3 are the most common and the current standard in the Industry.

FLIP-OVER Shelter:

I'm starting off in the Flip-Over category, not only because of  my bias, but also because in my area it is the predominant model I see when on the ice. Flip-over shelters are that perfect mix of fishability and portability without giving up too much comfort. In my personal opinion they are the best place to start when shopping for a portable (yes my bias is showing)

                                                       (Photo by IceShanty Member: Himo)


This is an easy one, a flip-over shelter is by far the quickest on-ice set-up of the three. You get to a spot, drill your holes, and flip the lid.. bam, your fishing. Both Cabin style and Hub style shelters require assembly on the ice, and cold hands and cold fingers can make for a slow set-up

I spent a lot of my time jigging as well as tip-up fishing at the same time. The Flip-over shelter offers me what I call "the quick escape". So when I hear or see my flag pop, I just grab a side bar/arm and flip the lid back  and go running. No messing with zippers, or latches, just flip and run (and yes you will still miss Flags)

Comfort is a big perk when it comes to flip-over shelters. Most come equipped with seats that slide/spin and flip up and down. This ensures anglers of all sizes can get as close or as far away from their hole as they want. By sliding the seat back you have more legroom, and by pulling it forward you are nearly looking down the hole sight fishing. These seats do add weight and $$ to a portable, but believe me they are worth every penny for long days on the ice

The sled shape bottom that most (if not all) flip-over shelters come equipped with make them an easy pull on the ice or in the snow. Cabin style shelters are flat bottomed (for the most part) and can dig-in or bury themselves in the snow while you pull them.

                                                   (Photo by IceShanty Member: wyoutdoors)


There are more pro's then cons when it comes to fishing out of a flip-over shelter, but they are no means perfect. Two big Cons of fishing from a flip-over both have to do with the cold getting in. The first of these is the most obvious and that that there is no floor, so your feet are on the ice/slush at all times, and if you don't have a good boot, or are susceptible to getting cold toes, then this may not be the shelter for you. The second way the cold gets in is around the skirt. If the ice/terrain is not level the skirt will not always sit properly on the ice and any breeze will blow through and further chill your feet. Most anglers pack snow around the skirt to stop this from happening, this works but defeats two of the "Pros" (quick set-up & quick escape) and on lakes that get little to no snow, this is not a possibility.

Con #2 has to do with room inside a flip-over. Most of them are designed for sitting not standing and thus most of us cannot stand in our flip-overs. There is room in front of you while fishing, and most of us fill that space with Flashers, Camera's and Heaters, thus the rest of your gear needs to be stored in the sled beneath you. This can be awkward to get it (if not fishing solo) but it is better then no space at all.

The last con I will touch on is the weight of these shelters. As a "walker" Im constantly pulling a 100lb shelter packed with 30-40 pounds of gear. This can make for a long hard haul. Single man flip-overs reduce the weight, but also reduce the space (a 2 man is a good size for fishing solo. If you have a sled or ATV you will not experience this con, but we cant all be so lucky. 

Popular Flip-Over Shelters:

Clam Fish Trap: $209 - $949

Frabill: $199 - $799

Otter Outdoors: $349 - $1,049

Eskimo: $349 - $499

                                                 (Photo by IceShanty Member: deadduk)

Cabin Style (Pop-UP) Shelter:

Many anglers are drawn to Cabin style or "pop-up" shelters when making their first portable purchase. I believe this is because many of us cut our teeth in a friends permanent hut and the Cabin style shelter is modelled after these (ah the memories). Cab Style shelters have really changed in the past few years, getting larger and larger with more and more options inside and out, they are a great way to spend some time on the ice with a group of friends or family 

                                                    (Photo by IceShanty Member: Himo)


A Cabin Style or Pop-Up shelter offers many perks to an ice angler. First and foremost on this list is comfort. Cabin Style huts are roomy, and often tall enough to stand in. The various sizes make it easy to fish in large groups and still store your gear. Most if not all Cabin Style Shelters include a floor, keeping your gear and your feet off the ice. This will keep you fishing longer and ensure your gear stays dry in the process.

It really amazes me on how large these cabins shelters can get nowadays. Some companies like Clam make card tables to fit in the middle of them, these have really become portable versions of a permanent hut. The Larger the hut the more weight they carry so keep this in mind when purchasing. 

                                                (Photo by IceShanty Member: coach)


Above I stated that a Cabin Style huts share many if not most of the perks you use to only see in a permanent shelter. That being said it also shares the cons 

Because Cabin Shelters have a floor, there are limited areas in witch you are able to drill your hole, the floor actually dictates where you have to fish. If you fish with a Flasher and Camera, you need to watch the trap door size and ensure there is enough room to drill two holes side by side and in some cases a few feet apart. This is not an option in most lower end Cabin models. 

The Size of the portable dictates the comfort and the available room. Smaller 2-man shelters have little to no storage room, If you want to take advantage of  the perks of a Cabin style hut you really need to look at the larger models. When fishing from my old 2-man Cabin Style Shappell I had to leave all my gear outside when fishing with a buddy. Another issue directly related to the size of your Cabin Style hut, it how well it will hold up in windy conditions. Those large flat sides really take a beating in windy conditions and act like a kite that can see your hut blown down the ice if you step out during a gust. Ice cleats are available and will be needed in windy conditions (yet again more set-up and take down time required) 

The biggest downfall to a cabin style shelter is the on-ice set-up that is required each and every time you hit the ice (and during larger on-ice moves). This can entail packing up all your gear, un-assembling the hut, moving then reassembling the hut. Yes, each year new improvements make this a  quicker and easier process, but all in all there is always some assembly required. Furthermore Cabin Style shelters do not come with seats or the sled bottom seen on a flip-over model. This means less ability to carry gear while on the move and you will need to bring your own seats (camping chairs or buckets).

Popular Flip-Over Shelters:

Frabill: $279

Shapelle: $249 - $379

(Photo by IceShanty Member: Himo)

Hub Style

I will be honest here and state that the Hub style shelter is one that I know the least about, and one I have never personally owned (although I have fished from one). I find them cumbersome, flimsy and a pain to set-up. That being said they continue to sell and I see more and more of them on the ice each year which means guys are using them. (who am I to judge). The best thing to compare a Hub style shelter to is a camping tent. They are bottomless and requite you to use poles to put them together when you get the spot you will be fishing

                                                (Photo by IceShanty Member: woodsman)


You may think that opening paragraph was slightly bashing, and it was not meant to be. There are some obvious perks to Hub style shelters, and they include:

a very light weight design. Hub shelters can be found in the 30-40lbs range, this is dramatically less then both Cabin and Flip-over shelters which average over 80lbs and can be as high as 120lbs. Reducing weight is very important to guys like me who spend most of my time walking for spot to spot. Hub shelters like tents are "Bagged" so once un-assembled you slide them into their bag and then can carry them over your  shoulder or throw them into a sled with the rest of your gear.

Perk #2 is that they are roomy, and contain no floor whatsoever. This allows you to set-up your gear (and holes) however you want. This is great for guys fishing with flashers or cameras.(or in large groups)

Last but not least, Hub style shelters are more affordable then their Flip-over or Cabin style counterparts, this is mainly because they require far less parts (no sled, no base, no seats) This makes getting into your first shelter easier (as long as it has all the features you require) 

                                                 (Photo by IceShanty Member: adkRoy)


Like with a Flip-over shelter the fact that there is no floor is both a pro and con (you have to decide). The lack of floor means your feet are on the ice all day long (as well as your gear) in turn this means cold feet and wet gear. You can pack accordingly and work around this, but it can be an issue for anglers not knowing what they are getting into.

On-ice set-up time can be more in-depth with Hub shelters then any other style of Shelter. We have all struggled setting up a tent and that's usually during warm dry weather. Like a Cabin Style shelter Hubs require some anchoring, if your lazy and don't anchor it, any little gust of wind can send it flying down the lake. Hubs have been on the ice for a few seasons now, but early (and cheaper) models had issues of collapsing in high winds. I believe this issue has been addressed, but it is something to be aware of.

Because Hub Style shelters are bottomless, they do not have any sled or storage areas when transporting them on/off the ice. A separate sled will need to be purchased to transport your gear and hut.

Popular Hub Shelters:

Clam Fish Trap: $149 - $449

Frabill: $199-$399

Eskimo $189-$289

                                                (Photo by IceShanty Member: pikemaster1)

The Wrap-Up

Well, that wraps up our 2-part look at choosing a portable shelter. I did my best to avoid Brand recognition as many of the top brands all deliver a good product and I believe feature/benefit is more important then the name of the side. I recommend doing your homework and getting in any shelter prior to purchasing it. You can drop by www.iceshanty.com and ask the members there for thoughts and opinions or leave a comment here.

Good luck, stay warm, dry, and more importantly "above the ice"


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